Ilford Delta 3200 at 1600 vs Ilford HP5 at 1600: High Speed B&W Film Comparison by James Baturin

Portrait of a man for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Written by James Baturin

For years my go-to high speed black and white film has been Ilford Delta 3200, shot and developed at 1600.

Pulling it one stop softens the contrast and grain just a touch, and for situations where lighting conditions are low (like indoor portraits), 1600 ISO is still enough to get sharp results without a tripod.

But as much as I’m happy with it, it’s always good to have options. So I decided to do a little comparison to see how another popular black and white film, Ilford HP5+, would hold up shot at the same ISO.

Find Ilford Delta 3200 and Ilford HP5+ 400 on Amazon.

Image of a lake for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Delta 3200 vs HP5 Black and White Film Comparison
Delta 3200 vs HP5 Black and White Film Comparison
Delta 3200 vs HP5 Black and White Film Comparison

Pushing Ilford HP5

Ilford HP5+ is a 400 ISO film, which means shooting and developing it at 1600 is pushing it 2 full stops.

This means I’m intentionally underexposing my film in camera, and adding more time in development to compensate. (You can learn more about pushing film here!)

Usually pushing your film will increase the grain and contrast, so I was expecting the HP5+ results to be approaching the level of grain and contrast of the Delta 3200.

Image of a lake for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Method for Comparison

So my method to compare Ilford Delta 3200 to Ilford HP5 was to shoot two rolls of film back to back on my Hasselblad 500CM, shooting a similarly composed shot on each roll for the comparison.

I shot both rolls at ISO 1600 and kept apertures and shutter speeds consistent as well.

Both films were developed in Kodak HC-110 (dilution B), using the Massive Dev Chart times for both rated at 1600.

If you want to learn more about developing your own film, this article has great step-by-step instructions for developing black and white film at home.

Image of a statue for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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The Results

Once the negatives were developed and scanned, the results were more or less as I expected.

For the most part, Delta 3200 showed more tonal range in the shadows and highlights, with the Ilford HP5+ having stronger mid-tone values.

There were some exceptions to this, namely in the portrait shots, and in the indoor shots of the house plant, where HP5+ had more contrast and deeper blacks.

But this could be due to photographer error (especially in the case of the portrait shot on Delta 3200, where after shooting the last frame I forgot to wind the roll before opening the back and ended up with all kinds of light leaks; it looks cool, but it could have affected the overall exposure).

Portrait of a man for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Image of a house plant for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
Click to enlarge

The grain is where I noticed the most difference between the two films.

I expected that after pushing the HP5+ two stops that there would be A LOT of grain. And while the grain was definitely more pronounced than HP5+ shot at box speed, it was nowhere near the amount of grain in the Delta 3200 shots.

This also means that the HP5+ shots are much sharper than the Delta 3200.

So if you like lots of grain, Delta 3200 is still your best bet!

Image of a lake for a B&W film comparison - Ilford Delta 3200 Pulled vs Ilford HP5 Pushed by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
Click to enlarge

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think I prefer the look of the HP5+ shot at 1600 over Delta 3200 shot at 1600.

While I’m all about contrast and grain in my black and white photos, HP5+ does it with a little more subtlety, and gives you a sharper image.

Nevertheless, I am happy to have both as good options for when I need to shoot a high speed black and white film!

Thank you so much, James! James is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out his other articles here, including Understanding Reciprocity Failure in Film Photography and Fujifilm Acros vs Acros II Film Stock Comparison. You can also check out James’s work on Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Ilford Delta 3200 at 1600 and Ilford HP5 at 1600 below in the comments, and you can pick up both of these film stocks for yourself on Amazon here: Ilford Delta 3200 and Ilford HP5+ 400

Check out more film stock reviews and comparisons here!

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James Baturin

James Baturin is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find his other articles here, including Hasselblad 500 C/M Film Camera Review and Long Exposure Film Photography Tutorial.

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Blog Comments

Thank you for writing this! I have been searching the web for exactly this info – which B&W stock to shoot indoors at a higher ISO 🙂

Thanks for this! I’ve been trying HP5+ at 800 and liking it a lot, and also have shot Delta3200 at 400, which is also interesting. But never rigorously tested them side by side. So this is helpful!

I would like to try to shoot hp5 @ 800 or @1600 iso with my rollei 35. The shutter speed max is 1/500 and the aperture is f22. With sunny 16 rules this is not possible. How can I make it possible?

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