Finding Film part 12: Ilford Delta 100 and 400 Professional

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Before I begin this month’s #FindingFilm, I’ll give you advance warning. Go and put the kettle on, make a brew, and settle in. This is going to be a long one.
Ah Delta……Delta, Delta, Delta. The film that I have heard so many photographers rave about, and the one that almost got away (well, it did get away, and unrolled in front of my eyes…as per article 7 – Delta Disaster). When I try a new film stock, I always buy 2 rolls (just in case one is a dud, or I mess it up). However, for some reason, I stocked up on Delta, and still had some left from last time.
At the time of the shoot Delta Def Jam was around the corner, so I hatched a plan to head out and capture some of the Norfolk countryside. Except, it rained, a lot, and was generally quite miserable that week. Coupled with my return to work (the school holidays just aren’t long enough!), I didn’t have much time to go and take photographs. Well, anywhere that was much of a travelling distance from my house, due to the increasingly early sunsets, with autumn drawing in. However, I found myself with a couple of hours, one sunny afternoon, and grabbed the camera and headed out. There were quite a few clouds in the sky, but the sun was still shining through, giving some lovely soft light, with the odd burst of sunshine.
I live in a small town in Norfolk, and in all my years of living here, or in the surrounding area, I have rarely photographed it. I am not sure why, but I find it funny how we can often overlook what is just around the corner. So I ditched the car, and went for a walk around town. I walked down a country lane I often walk down, and see things that catch my eye, but never seem to stop and take the image, until today.
So I worked my way through a roll of Delta 400 Professional first, and I hadn’t even made it into town (I really like the 8 images to a roll on the 690, it means I can shoot a roll rather quickly, and helps with the series). I wasn’t feeling inspired in town itself, and walked a different route home, firing off a roll of Delta 100 Professional, as I walked through some trees (couldn’t resist, sorry).


That evening, son in bed, I hit the darkroom. This was the first time in a long time, where I entered the darkroom in daylight, and came out to dark sky. I love it when that happens.
This is where it all got a bit weird.
Unknown to me, the Delta 100 and Delta 400 Professional can be developed for the same length of time when using Rodinal. According to the inside of the box, Rodinal, 1+25, 20c, for 9 minutes, on both rolls. Great, I thought, I can develop both at the same time. So I put both rolls in my big Patterson, with the Delta 400 going in first, Delta 100 going in second.
The development went smoothly, with no issues whatsoever. I went with my usual Fotospeed SB50 as my stop bath, and Fotospeed FX30 for the fixer. The negatives didn’t curl one bit, even when fresh out of the tank.
However, during the hanging to dry process, I noticed the Delta 400 was really foggy. This is where I got confused, as both films were shot at the same time, same camera, same weather, same development tank, fresh chemicals, using the recommended dosage and timing. Everything was by the book (it usually is).
Now I could understand if the Delta 400, being on top, was different than the roll on the bottom. However, the Delta 100, the roll on top of the Delta 400, came out perfectly, with no fogging. I gave the Delta 400 another round of fixer to see if this was the issue, but still no change.
I reached out to the oracle himself (EMULSIVE to you and me), and even he was stumped.
So I tweeted ILFORD. And they were stumped, so told me to email their technical team.
I am assuming that they too are stumped, as I haven’t had a response from them at the time of writing..
So who knows what went wrong with the roll. I am guessing it was a faulty batch, and maybe something went wrong in manufacturing. It could happen to anyone, and any film stock, so I can’t hold this against ILFORD (nor will I, this is the first roll out of nearly 100 that has gone wrong).
So it would appear that the Delta gods are against me, again. Maybe someone out there doesn’t want me to shoot it and is willing me to fail.
Anyway, the Delta 100 scanned fine, and the Delta 400 scanned fine on some frames. Other frames on the 400 scanned fine, but have a flat look to them, that I promise hasn’t been added in post. Only one frame of the 400 didn’t scan, which is a pain, but can’t be helped with the mysterious roll.

The results

Here are the results from the 2 rolls. As always, I have only corrected crops, straightened wonky images, or removed dust that was picked up during scanning.
As wth the other parts of this series, you can view each of the images below at their full size by clicking or tapping on each one.

ILFORD Delta 400 Professional

The images above are the only 2 images from the roll of Delta 400 that scanned well. The tonality is good, and I really like the shadow/highlight detail. The grain isn’t to my taste, unfortunately.

Due to the fogging, many of the images scanned like this on the Delta 400. Which has annoyed me, as I can see the potential in the film, if it had turned out alright.

ILFORD Delta 100 Professional

The Delta 100 fared slightly better. The shadows and highlights were excellent again, and the lower amount of visible grain was better, in my opinion.

I was very impressed with some of the results I achieved with the film. It is sharp, contrasty, and looks excellent at a 100% crop.

Given the wide variety of sunshine vs cloud, outside of trees vs under trees, I used the films for, I have found the results to be very consistent, despite the massive differences in lighting.
TLDR; once again, it seemed to go wrong for me when shooting Delta. However, the Delta 100 really impressed me. The shadows were excellent, the highlights were pleasing, and the overall tonality/fine grain was to my liking. The Delta 400 is a slightly harder call to make, as this was the film that went wrong. I can see the potential in it, but the additional grain was not to my liking.
The price of Delta is very reasonable, for the quality of the results produced. I liked the results of the film, and can see myself using it again in the future. I really want to like the Delta, and it isn’t my absolute favourite film to date, but I can see that if I shot it exclusively for a year, and really learnt it, I could get much more out of it than I managed on one afternoon. For me, it’s a bit like the student that has lots of potential, but did OK on their last test…I know it could be better, I just need to find a way of getting it there with more time.
You can keep up to date with the film I cover in this series by following the links below:

Thanks for reading!
~ Tom Rayfield

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Finding Film part 13: ILFORD HP5 PLUS

Having finished my rolls of ILFORD Delta 100 and 400 Professional for part 12 of this series, I decided to carry on with the Ilford theme, and shoot some HP5, the last of Ilford’s offerings I am yet to try.

Photography: Cubed #02 – Shot on Lomography Color Negative 800 at EI 800 (120 format)

Photography: Cubed #03 – Shot on Lomography Color Negative 800 at EI 800 (120 format)


2 thoughts on “Finding Film part 12: Ilford Delta 100 and 400 Professional”

  1. I was also going to suggest something like a DD-X or even a d-76 for the 400 instead of Rodinal. In my somewhat limited experience, Rodinal hasn’t played nicely with 400 speed films in general. Since nobody with more experience than I seems to know what’s going on with your fogged film, that might not be it.

  2. You really need to use Ilford DD-X, especially for Delta 400, it’s much better. I’m not a big fan of Rodinal unless its for stand development, I use DD-X for all my Ilford films and it’s excellent. Ilford themselves recommend DD-X for Delta 400 for best overall results, it’s great for push processing as well. I also use it for HP5+ on 35mm up to ISO 1600 and it does a great job.


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