One important voice has been missing from the crowd of new film announcements these past few years, that of 140 year-old ILFORD PHOTO. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the company began teasing the launch of four new products. What could they be?

Speculation as to what these four images represented sent members of the film photography community on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to posit anything from the return of Ilfochrome black and white slide film, to new infrared film (based on the red images), ILFORD DELTA 3200 Professional in sheet film format (based on the purple images) or even a new colour negative film stock (based what I can only assume was sheer lunacy).

They were all wrong. Here’s the official line-up and UK web pricing:

  • ILFORD ORTHO PLUS (ISO 80 in daylight, ISO 40 tungsten) film available for the first time in 35mm and 120 format: £8.35 / £7.99 for 135-36 and 120 respectively.
  • ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE (5th generation) photographic paper available in Glossy, Pearl and Satin finishes: £-Slightly higher than current MGIVRC pricing.
  • The ILFORD + Paterson Film Processing Starter Kit, a 15+ set that does what it says on the tin: £92.26.
  • The HARMAN CAMERA (Reusable plastic film camera + 2x 35mm Kentmere 400 films): £29.99.

ILFORD’s UK web pricing is typically slightly higher than dealer prices, so you can expect retail web prices to be slightly lower than those above.

Here’s everything in pictures:

Photo credits go to Natalie Oberg for the 4×5 landscape and Matt Parry for the 120 frames. Give them a follow on IG using those links. You can also read Matt’s interview right here on EMULSIVE.

I was lucky enough to procure a box of the new Pearl finish MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE and teased it on Twitter back in September (the label cunningly hidden by a Leica M2. I was truly expecting someone to call me out based on the new photo on the box… no one did. Here are the covered/uncovered shots for my amusement as much as yours 🙂

I was tempted to keep the paper for a future giveaway, instead, I asked a few folks if they’d be interested in testing out a handful of sheets of “Brand X” and giving me their thoughts and photos/scans in return.

The results shown in this article from Craig Pindell follow below and will be supplemented by a complete article with contributions from more testers over the coming weeks. Before that, here’s a bit more on those new products from ILFORD directly.

ILFORD Q&A

I dropped Michelle Parr at ILFORD a line and asked her a few questions about the upcoming new releases:

EM: Someone’s been busy, then…

MP: “Just a bit! Hopefully, when this all comes out on the 24th, people will realise why we’ve not been as active on tweets/emails and social recently. It’s been absolutely manic and feels like there is still so much more to do before we go live! It’s not just the new products, though. We have been working with the organisers of PhotoPlus to try and drive a bigger film presence at the show this year. Our distributor Roberts happens to be on the next stand to us and there are plenty of other film/supply-side businesses there including Intrepid, ars-imago, DubbleFilm, Freestyle Photographic and others. Lot’s going on!”

“We’ll be co-running darkroom taster sessions four times a day on the Beseler stand (they have a portable darkroom!) We’ve also co-organised a big analogue meet-up in NYC on the 24th (7-10pm) and we’ll be doing a photo walk this Sunday (27th) with Intrepid, Dan Rubin and a few other photographers.”


EM: So why orthochromatic film? Was it to complete your existing product offering or is there another reason for releasing it now?

MP: “Ortho is an existing emulsion that we have in sheet film format. It was created to be used as technical copy film and we have never pushed this as film for shooting with. All of our ILFORD and Kentmere films are panchromatic so we thought it was different enough to our other films and we know film photographers love to try something different so we thought it would be interesting to see how it looks.

We’re also really keen on getting people to develop their own film, and ORTHO makes this process even easier with the ability to develop under a dark red safelight.”

EM: Still on ORTHO PLUS, can you suggest a few good subjects and uses for the film?

MP: “It is a fine grain, sharp film so we think it is perfect for landscapes, cities, architecture etc. Ortho films work differently to panchromatic films in that they are blue and green-sensitive but not red so oranges and reds appear darker.”

EM: …and about the all-important price. What’s the expected retail price and when can people buy it?

MP: “The film will be available for order by our distributors/dealers from 3pm UK time on October 24th 2019 and stock will be available early November. Our UK web pricing for the ORTHO PLUS which will be £8.35 for 135 36 and £7.99 for 120 (both inc VAT). Our web prices tend to be higher than the prices that our dealers. The ILFORD & Paterson Film Processing Starter Kit will go on our website at £92.26 (inc VAT) and the MGRC DELUXE should be just slightly above the current MGIVRC.”

EM: The Simplicity chemistry products you released last year are an excellent way for new and low-volume film photographers to try out home developing. The new kit with Paterson expands on that. Will you be partnering up to offer starter packs which include an enlarged or contact printer in the future?

MP: “We want to see how the market reacts to this product before we start looking at others. The idea behind this kit is that it contains everything people need to get started and it is at an affordable price point that people can buy it as a gift without breaking the bank.”

“We want to make all parts of film photography more accessible and as Simplicity was primarily tested with Paterson tanks and the strong relationship we have with them this was a good place to start. Moving forward we are keen to get people interested in printing so our focus may look down that route.”


As Michelle pointed out, ORTHO PLUS is an existing (and long-standing product). The primary difference between the new 35mm and 120 format versions is that they’re coated on triacetate vs polyester. The new 35mm and 120 formats are roughly in line with what you can expect to pay for DELTA 3200 Professional in the UK.

The processing starter kit is a logical move for both Paterson and ILFORD. It at ~£93, it’s got quite a bit of bang for the buck. It contains, ILFORD’s Simplicity Film chem sachets as well as a Paterson 2-reel dev tank, 2x spirals, 3 x 600ml measuring cylinders, a thermometer, stirrer, 2x film clips and ILFORD cassette opener. The Simplicity chemistry includes a developer, stop, fix and wetting agent. Pretty much the only thing missing is either a darkroom or film changing bag. They are in stock at the time of publication!

For the new HARMAN CAMERA think: reloadable disposable. Similar in vein to the “Simple Use” cameras sold by Lomography the camera is available to order now but is expected to sell out fast and it’ll be closer to the end of the year before additional stock becomes available.

Testing ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE

Regular readers will be familiar with Craig Pindell, large format photographer extraordinaire. Craig was one of a few folks I asked to perform a “blind test” of the new MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE paper, compare and contrast the results to other stocks, and share his thoughts.

Craig referred to the paper as “Brand X” in his original description below. I have since updated that to reflect “ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl”. If you’re not familiar with Craig, here’s him taking an 8×10 selfie on January 1st 2016 (click to view full screen).

I’ll let Craig do the talking from here on in:


Goals

My goal was to provide an accurate and impartial comparison of the test paper sent to me by EMULSIVE, using a known negative and known comparison photo paper to eliminate as many variables as possible. Due to the limited amount of test paper available, I choose to not bleach any areas of these prints.

Methodology, equipment and chemistry

I selected my negative number 980 for the enlarging tests. This negative has a very long tonal scale, especially in the brighter zones, as well as dark areas that are challenging to show in prints. I will use the same negative, enlarger, enlarging lens, easel, developer, stop and fix for all prints.

I followed my standard printing procedure exactly for all prints:

I started by making an 8×10 test print, with multiple 3-second exposure strips to determine the appropriate printing time. I then developed, stopped, and fixed the test strip print exactly as I do the final print.

Once I determined the correct printing time, I made an 8×10 test print at that time, with no burning or dodging, then processed and washed. From this print, I confirm that contrast is correct and determine the burning and dodging scheme.

In my process I decide the contrast is not correct, I adjust the filtration in the enlarger and make another test strip to find the correct exposure time. Once I am satisfied with the contrast and exposure, I make the final print with the chosen burning and dodging.

For this test, I choose to compare MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl with MGIV because it is the only RC paper I use. I made a duplicate of each final print in order to compare the effect of selenium toning. Here are all four contact prints together.

In the gallery below, the top row (left to right) are ILFORD MGIV and ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE, untoned. The lower row is ILFORD MGIV and ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE, both toned in selenium toner diluted 1:20 for 10 minutes. Click to view in fullscreen.

I had a few sheets of ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl left after making the enlargements, so I made contact prints of an 8×10 negative using the paper and current ILFORD MGIV. These were made by placing the negative on the paper, emulsion to emulsion, in a glass contact printing frame, and then processing the paper as normal.

The papers used were:

  • Adox MCC 110 8×10 Glossy Fiber Based paper
  • ILFORD MGIV 8×10 Glossy RC paper (4th gen)
  • ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl (5th gen)

Some may consider the Adox paper a strange choice for comparison. I choose the Adox because this negative was made to print on Agfa MCC – visualise for the print, after all. Adox MCC 110 is the closest available alternative to Agfa MCC. As with the enlargement test, I choose ILFORD MGIV because it is the only RC paper I use. So, you have a print on paper as close as to what I originally intended, plus the current ILFORD RC paper I use and the new ILFORD RC paper.

In the gallery below, the top row (left to right) are ILFORD MGIV and ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE, untoned. The lower row is ILFORD MGIV and ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE, both toned in selenium toner diluted 1:20 for 10 minutes. Click to view in fullscreen.

The equipment and chemistry I used is as follows:

  • The enlarger is a Saunders/LPL Super Dichroic 4500II, with a glass negative carrier.
  • The enlarging lens is a Rodenstock Rogonar-S 150mm f/5.6.
  • The easel is a Beseler Universal 20 16×20 4 blade easel.
  • The developer is fresh Kodak Dektol, diluted 1 part Dektol to 2 parts water. Development time is 2 minutes at 68 degrees F.
  • The stop bath is Kodak Acetic Acid extremely diluted. Stop bath time is 30 seconds at 68 degrees F.
  • The fixer is Kodak Kodafix, diluted 1 part Kodafix to 7 parts water. Fixing time is 4 minutes at 68 degrees F.
  • The selenium toner is Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner diluted 1 part toner to 20 parts water. Toning time for this test was 10 minutes at 68 degrees F.
  • I used 11×14 Cesco-Lite trays for the 8×10 prints.
  • Prints were washed in a 16×20 Calumet Archival washer.

Observations

The new ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl paper is lighter and more flexible than the ILFORD MGIV paper, but is still easy to handle and was no problem in the trays. The new paper was about 1 grade more contrasty than the Adox paper, and about ¼ grade more contrasty than MGIV paper.

MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl has better separation in the light tones than either the Adox or ILFORD MGIV papers, while still showing good separation in tones in the dark shadow areas. In this respect, this paper reminds me of the old Forte Elegance paper, that I used to love so much!

Before selenium toning, new MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl is not as warm as the Adox paper and appears slightly cooler in tone than MGIV.

The new paper toned faster than either the MGIV or Adox paper. I toned all three for 10 minutes and at 5 minutes I could see the MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl’s tone changing, while the other two took at least 3 more minutes before the toning became apparent.

This characteristic reminds me of the old Forte paper as well.

My preference is to use glossy paper, and the MGIV and Adox are both glossy. The MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE paper supplied by EM was a pearl finish. Not dull like a matte paper, a bit of shine to it, but an obvious texture. It is not at all offensive and it seemed to scan fine.

One of the strange things, to me, occurred when I made the contact prints. The MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE Pearl prints definitely look sharper. I don’t see the same difference in the enlarged prints, but in the contact prints, the leaves are more distinct and the rocks are clearer. I checked with a loupe and with magnifying glasses and there is a difference between the prints. It is more pronounced when the prints are toned.

Conclusion

After using these few sheets, I am convinced I would try more of this paper, especially in a glossy finish and fiber base. It held up very well to both of the comparison papers and tones very nicely. I will be very interested to hear the story behind this mystery paper.


Well, you know now, Craig. Thanks for going to all this effort. It’s difficult to judge any artistic process as “the best” but to me, framing a result (such as these tests) in the context of a well thought-out, repeatable and consistent process like Craig’s is as close as we can get to providing good, solid and useable information – and that’s a pretty damned close, “close” in my humble opinion.

Over to you then. What do you think? Are you disappointed that there wasn’t a new IR or slide film announced? Are you planning on trying out ORTHO PLUS or MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE? Perhaps you’ve just nailed the Film Processing Starter Kit as the perfect gift for someone you know.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

~ EM

What is ILFORD ORTHO PLUS?

ILFORD ORTHO PLUS is a fine grain orthochromatic black and white film rated at ISO 80 in natural light and ISO 40 in tungsten. It is technical, high-resolution copy film and can be handled in deep red safelight conditions. Its lack of red sensitivity means that reds and oranges are rendered darker than panchromatic films.

What formats is ILFORD ORTHO PLUS available in?

ILFORD ORTHO PLUS is available in sheet film format, 35mm (135-36) and 120 roll film format. In sheet format, the film is coated on a polyester base. In other formats, the film is coated on a triacetate base.

Where can I buy ILFORD ORTHO PLUS

ILFORD ORTHO PLUS is available to purchase from ILFORD dealers. Stock will be publically available from early November 2019.

What is ILFORD MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE?

ILFORD’s 4th generation MULTIGRADE IV RC were launched 25 years ago and have now been supplemented by new MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE (5th generation). The new papers have a slightly warmer base tint than their predecessor as well as better, deeper blacks, improved mid-grade spacing for easier printing and more consistent contrast throughout the tonal range.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. The paper comparisons by Craig are really useful. The Ortho film examples, unfortunately, don’t really tell you much by themselves, as we have nothing to compare them to. This isn’t a criticism of the article, as it’s true whenever a single image is displayed. I would have thought it would be in the interests of Ilford to show a few subjects shot on their different film stocks, so that the viewer can see a side-by-side comparison and choose the film that suits them best. Of course, to avoid differences in lighting, you’d have to use artificial light, or you could line up a few identical cameras in front of a scene (maybe Half Dome !) and count 3,2,1, shoot.

  2. I had hoped that @ILFORDPhoto might actually release a new alternative to Cibachrome/Ilfochrome. That printing process was without equal when it came to color printing. No paper reproduced blacks the way Cibachrome did and the color rendition was so saturated it was the perfect compliment to Kodachrome, Fujichrome, Agfachrome and Ektachrome. Every single slide film looked glorious printed on Cibachrome. I thought that given the re-release of Ektachrome that @ILFORDPhoto might follow suit and release something comparable to Cibachrome. I’ll keep hoping and keep a candle in the window (of my darkroom….hidden out in a light proof box)

  3. Right on the the money with Craig to try the paper, I’m glad to read his thoughts on it.

    And ortho? I have been looking forward to this for a long lime haha. I hope they’ll come as bulk rolls too one day 🙂

  4. Thanks EM – Especially for Craig Pindell’s superb review of the, then, mystery paper.
    Besides being thorough, methodical and informative, Craig’s report came as close as one can to applying objective evaluation to an inherently subjective pursuit, without wringing the art out of it.
    Also, his cliff dwelling image is absolutely stunning!
    Reading that made me want to race to the darkroom and work on my own printing skills.

  5. Did you say 4×5 landscape? I though the new film was 120(mm lol) and 35mm? Great product announcements, and a really good review of the paper. I’m crossing my fingers for an FB version soon. Sneaky on Twitter last month ;o)

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