Landscape photography is a great way to use your camera to slow down and see the world around you in a new way. It’s the beauty of the outdoor landscape that initially drew me to photography, especially rendered in black and white film.
And just like with other genres of photography, landscape photography has its own set of rules and considerations to take into account when choosing your film.
What to Consider When Choosing a Film for Landscapes
Grain and Detail
Landscape photographs are often taken of vast scenes with lots of important details that you want unmuddied and in sharp focus.
This makes fast speed films with less grain ideal for landscapes in order to capture as much of this detail as possible, especially with 35mm.
Using a tripod for landscapes helps with framing your shot, but also allows you to use faster film speeds even at slow shutters and low light.
Put simply, a film’s dynamic range is the difference between the lightest and darkest tones a film can render without losing details in either the shadows or the highlights.
Scenes in landscape photography often deal with wide tonal ranges, especially those that include the sky, clouds, or fog, so a film with a wide dynamic range is important to capture details in all parts of the image.
Best B&W Films for Landscape Photography
Based on these criteria, here are three of my favorite B&W films for landscape photography!
1. Ilford Delta 100
To start my list, Ilford Delta 100 is a fast speed black and white film, with extremely fine, almost imperceptible grain and very sharp detail.
I have shot a number of wide landscape scenes with this film, and I couldn’t believe how sharp and detailed the images were. Even distant background details popped, and were rendered sharp when zoomed into the negative scan.
Of the three films I’ll mention here, Delta 100 has probably the highest contrast with very deep blacks. Yet despite the high contrast, I also found the dynamic range to be quite good, having good blacks in the shadows without blowing out important highlight details.
Overall, if you’re looking for crisp, high detailed landscape images, I would highly recommend Ilford Delta 100.
Another film that’s hard to beat when it comes to sharpness and low grain is Fuji Acros 100 II.
Like Delta 100, Fuji Acros 100 is an extremely sharp film, bringing out every important detail in your landscape images.
It also has a good dynamic range, rendering details in both shadows and highlights. Acros 100 is less contrasty than Delta 100, but the range of tones is still incredibly pleasing.
If you are looking to take long exposure landscape shots, Acros 100 has an extremely low reciprocity failure, meaning less time compensation for exposure times over 1 second. Acros 100 is one of my favourite films for long exposure waterfall shots for this reason. (You can learn more about reciprocity failure here.)
The one downside to Across 100 II is that it costs about $4 more per roll than Delta 100.
I probably shoot Ilford HP5 400 more than any other film on the market, for landscapes and otherwise. It’s such a versatile film that there really isn’t much it isn’t good for.
It’s not as sharp as Delta 100 or Acros 100, so fine details in a wide landscape shot will be more subtle with added grain. As one who shoots a lot of experimental and abstract landscape photography techniques (long exposure, intentional camera movement, etc.), I am not always as concerned with crisp details, so grain is something welcome for me.
As a mid-contrast film, Ilford HP5+ also has an incredibly wide dynamic range, which allows you to maintain details in both shadows and highlights easily.
It also responds really well to push processing. You can easily push it by 1, 2, or even 3 stops if you are after more contrast.
If you’re looking for a versatile black and white film, with a bit more grain and that responds really well to more experimental techniques, Ilford HP5+ is a safe bet.