When I think of slower film speeds, “versatility” is not the first word that comes to mind.
On one hand, they are generally the sharpest film stocks around with the lowest amount of grain, but on the other, ISO speeds of 50 or 100 make shooting in lower light tricky, unless you’re using studio lighting or have a tripod.
With Ilford FP4 Plus, however, you get the best of both worlds.
With an ISO of 125, Ilford FP4 Plus is a “black and white professional film for high print quality and flexibility in use…[It’s] an exceptionally fine grain, medium speed black and white film…ideal for high quality indoor and outdoor photography, particularly when giant enlargements are to be made.”
OK, so its flexibility enables you to shoot indoors and outdoors, while still maintaining a fine grain and sharpness, even with large print sizes. Sounds wonderful! But wait, Ilford isn’t done:
“FP4 Plus is robust and will give usable results even if it is overexposed by as much as six stops, or underexposed by two stops.”
Yes, you read that correctly. You can overexpose this film up to SIX STOPS and underexpose it as much as TWO STOPS and still get useable results!
If you’re just starting out with film, or if you’re someone who likes to roll the dice when it comes to metering your images, this should be music to your ears. With FP4+ you basically get 8 total stops of wiggle room when it comes to getting a decent exposure. Talk about versatile!
With so many accolades to its name, I had to give Ilford FP4+ a try for myself.
I ran a couple of rolls through my Hasselblad 500 C/M, testing the film’s versatility shooting a variety of different shots and techniques.
I must say, FP4+ did not disappoint. Even though it’s only 125 ISO, FP4+ was able to capture long exposures of the moon and stars with really spectacular results, in very low light conditions.
Down on the beach, I took some more traditional shots. But even here, I was shooting late afternoon and the winter light was fading fast, so I was forced to underexpose the seagull shots by a stop so I could still shoot hand held.
Despite this, I didn’t notice any significant evidence of underexposure once I developed the negatives, and I was really happy with how the scans turned out.
I tried a couple of intentional camera movement shots at around 1/2 a second, which was a good 3 stops more than my meter reading gave me (so 3 stops overexposed).
The negatives on these shots were noticeably denser than the other shots, but as Ilford advertised were absolutely “useable.”
Characteristics of Ilford FP4 Plus
Looking over the images once I had scanned the negatives, there is something classic about the look of FP4+ that I really like.
The contrast is incredible (as someone who loves contrast), with deep blacks and plenty of details in the highlights. It definitely isn’t as sharp as Ilford Delta 100, but it doesn’t claim to be.
And what grain there is, I found very soft and pleasant.
Ilford FP4 Developing Notes
I developed my rolls of Ilford FP4+ in Kodak HC-110 dilution B for 9 minutes.
Ilford also claims that the versatility of FP4+ extends to development, being extremely forgiving in different temperatures and “will tolerate less than ideal processing conditions.”
I have never been one to experiment with different developers or agitation methods, but if you are, FP4+ is also versatile in it’s ability to achieve different looks depending on how you process it, making it a great film for experimentation!