The world is never black and white. Except when you’re shooting monochromatic film, then it very much is.
I’ve been on a mission this year to shoot as many black and white film stocks as possible, with the ultimate goal of shooting every B&W film currently purchasable on the market…
However, what I didn’t realize when starting this project is that there are over one hundred B&W films currently in production, so it’s safe to say that this has turned into a multi-year endeavor.
In the meantime, I wanted to share an overview of some of the Ilford films I’ve shot thus far, and compare and contrast them with example images so you are able to choose the best Ilford black and white film to match your specific shooting style and preferences.
Comparing Ilford Film Stocks
Here are the B&W films we will be comparing in this article:
Quick rundown on Ilford black and white films, most of their current offerings are bisected into two distinct lines – PLUS and DELTA PROFESSIONAL.
According to Ilford, the main difference between the two is that DELTA PROFESSIONAL films use a newer emulsion. This gives them the advantage of a lower grain-to-speed ratio (marginally cleaner, sharper look).
Whereas the PLUS films use their classic emulsion technology, which has more exposure latitude than DELTA films (making them better for push and pull processing and less sensitive to over processing, which is ideal for learning film photography).
To sum this up:
DELTA PROFESSIONAL = less grain at equivalent speeds, cleaner and sharper look
PLUS = more grain, better for pushing/pulling, more forgiving for over-processing.
Note: All example pictures are shown as originally scanned with no post-processing whatsoever for greater objectivity in comparison.
Find me on Instagram if you’d like to see additional example shots or if you have comments or questions!
Ilford Delta 3200 is a forgiving film that is both hungry for light and handles overexposure like a champ.
As the name implies, it can be shot rated at 3200 ISO (which is how I was able to capture an image of the NEOWISE Comet below without star trails). But most of the time, it’s better suited to be shot at ~1000 ISO.
It’s speed makes it ideal for low light photography or capturing fast moving subjects.
Ilford FP4 Plus is a good all-purpose film that performs best in good lighting conditions.
The original FP4 was launched in the 1960s, so it has definitely stood the test of time. It has since been updated in the 90s to the new and improved FP4 Plus.
Personally, I prefer using FP4 as a general purpose daily-shooter type of film.
Ilford FP4 Examples:
Ilford HP5 Plus
If you’re looking for a film stock that takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’, then look no further…
Ilford HP5 Plus has been one of the most popular Ilford films for a while. And for good reason – it has medium contrast, a wide exposure latitude, and is perfectly suited for action or documentary style photography.
HP5 was originally introduced in the 70s, and upgraded to HP5 plus in the late 80s. It is seen by many as Ilford’s response to Kodak’s legendary Tri-X 400.
This is a notably slower speed film (ISO 50), but the way it renders landscapes with exceptional tones and details is second to none.
It boasts exceptionally fine grain, outstanding resolution and sharpness, and is best suited for bright conditions and sunny days.
Ilford Pan F Plus Examples:
Ilford XP2 Super
Ilford XP2 is a rather unique B&W film since it doesn’t fall into either the PLUS or DELTA PROFESSIONAL camps.
This film is developed using C-41 chemistry, which is normally used for color films. Also, you can actually shoot it at any speed between ISO 50-800.
It’s one of my favorites since, not only are the tones and aesthetics great, but it’s also the cheaper option for shooting black and white since most labs can batch develop for color film chemistry, which cuts down on costs.