Film Review: Ilford HP5+ 400 B&W Film Profile

Revised 2017-12-07

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Ilford HP5+ Film, or HP5PLUS. This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and various sheet sizes. It is a panchromatic black and white negative film with a nominal rating of ISO 400. HP has been around in various versions (HP4, HP3, etc.) for a really long time and is basically the long standing all purpose 400 speed film in Ilford’s lineup similar to how Tri-X is Kodak’s long standing 400 speed film in their lineup.

Development

There are many ways to develop HP5PLUS. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop HP5PLUS with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 13:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for HP5PLUS:

ILFORD_HP5_400_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner, meaning raw ADC integer values. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

HP5PLUS has excellent dynamic range. You can safely shoot it at ISO 50-400 using the development process described above. The chart above (and the corresponding film scanner profile for Simple Film Lab) has been updated to linearize the toe area of the film in an effort to get a bit more black performance out of the emulsion. The toe of the film is from EV -4 to EV -5 where the film base plus fog starts. As before, by EV -6 we’re well on our way to fully clear film base if not there already with film/scanner noise down to EV -7. On the highlight side, it’s hard to see on the chart above, but there is a very gentle shoulder at EV +5. From there, we have exposed film density samples up to EV +11 with film/scanner noise samples all the way up to EV +13, though the step from EV +10 to EV +11 is only 12 discrete tone values, which isn’t really enough to use without posterization, though you won’t actually use EV +10 to +11 unless you shoot the film at ISO 25 with more than 12 stops of subject brightness range.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting 2 stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 400, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.

If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.

HP5PLUS has reasonably black blacks at ISO 400, though if you want really black blacks, it’d be better to shoot it at ISO 250-320 or even 200 (the equivalent of +1 exposure compensation). If more development time is given, it can probably be pushed pretty easily to a solid ISO 800-1600, but at the expense of ISO 50-100 and a different linear reference curve, which means a different film profile if processed and scanned in here at Simple Film Lab. You can shoot it at ISO 800 with no other changes, but that will result in the film fog moving up by one stop so your blacks will be more like really dark gray.

Resolution/Grain

HP5PLUS has good resolution for a 400 speed film. Ilford’s spec sheet doesn’t quote spatial resolution or have an MTF chart, however, with that being said, it looks a lot like Kodak 400TX. It’s not exactly the same, but I’d probably confuse the two if I didn’t know which was which when looking a sequence of images shot on both films back-to-back.

In terms of grain, again, it looks a lot like 400TX. HP5PLUS is in many respects totally interchangeable with 400TX as a film and if they’re both shot and developed exactly the same are said to be nearly indistinguishable from each other. I’ve not yet done that comparison, however, from what I’ve seen of the two films that I’ve shot thus far, that appears to be a fair assessment.

Sample Images

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Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Ilford HP5+. I’ll add more images as I have them available.

Film Review: Lomography Lady Grey 400 B&W Film Profile

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Lomography Lady Grey 400 Film, or LOMO_BW_400. This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, and 120 roll. Lomography repackages emulsions from other manufacturers to sell as their own, and research on the internet shows that at one point LOMO_BW_400 was Kodak’s 400TMY2, however, as of mid-late 2017, the emulsion is the same emulsion as Foma’s Fomapan 400. In addition to Fomapan 400, this film is also repackaged as Arista.EDU Ultra 400. This review will serve as a review for all three films as they’re the same emulsion.

Development

There are many ways to develop LOMO_BW_400. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop LOMO_BW_400 with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for LOMO_BW_400:

LOMO_BW400_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

LOMO_BW_400 has a good amount of dynamic range, though by my estimate, it’s barely a 400 speed film, at least in D-76. You can safely shoot it at ISO 100-400 using the development process described above. The film base plus fog starts to happen most of the way through EV -4 and is fully clear film base by the time we hit EV -6. On the highlight side, it stops getting denser most of the way through EV +10 and doesn’t quite make it to EV +11. This gives a dynamic range of -5 to +10 EVs as a worst case.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting two stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 400, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.

If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.

If you want to add an additional stop of light to the shadows and push the blacks down so that they’re blacker, then you can subtract one stop from the darkest part of the scene you want to capture detail in instead of two stops. LOMO_BW_400 has enough over exposure latitude that this will still result in a good image once scanned in and density corrected for all but the highest contrast scenes.

With that being said, having good blacks requires that the film base plus fog not start to happen until EV -5 at least, so if you want that while shooting this film, then treat it like a 200 speed film and you won’t be disappointed. If you want that dreamy old time film look, then by all means, shoot it at ISO 400 or ISO 800, which will really accentuate the film fog in the blacks.

Resolution/Grain

LOMO_BW_400 has OK resolution for a 400 speed film. Lomography doesn’t publish a spec sheet for it, but Fomapan does for Fomapan 400. At 50% contrast, Fomapan 400 is about 25 line-pairs per mm of film. Putting a 135 format frame up side to side next to 400TX in Adobe Lightroom at 1:1 viewing shows that it doesn’t look to have as much spatial resolution as 400TX (both frames shot through a Sigma 35mm ART prime lens, it’s a really sharp lens). I’d rank it as ever so slightly on the softer side of middle of the road for resolution.

In terms of grain, it’s in 400TX territory as far as grain size is concerned, though 400TX grain is a bit smoother and more pleasant looking than the grain of LOMO_BW_400. In short, in 135 format, the grain is very present but not obnoxious. In medium format 120 roll, it’s significantly less visible but still there. Overall, it has a very film look to it and is quite pleasant.

I personally don’t shoot a lot of LOMO_BW_400 as it’s better suited to candids or street photography and most of what I shoot is studio work with strobes where I go for maximum resolution and/or shoot in 4×5 large format.

Sample Images

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Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Lomography Lady Grey, Fomapan 400, and Arista.EDU 400. I’ll add more images as I have them available.

Film Review: Kodak TMAX 400 B&W Film Profile

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Kodak Professional TMAX 400 Film, or 400TMY, which is it’s film code (for brevity, we’ll refer to it by its film code from here on out). This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and 4×5 sheet form. Kodak released a revision to this emulsion in the early-mid 2000s that reduced it’s development time and reduced the amount of grain it had. The newer version is commonly referred to as TMY2 by the film community, but Kodaks documents still refer to it as TMY. Here in this review, we’ll refer to it as 400TMY.

Development

There are many ways to develop 400TMY. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop 400TMY with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for 400TMY:

400TMY2_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

400TMY has a very good amount of dynamic range. Following the development practice described above, the film base plus fog starts to happen most of the way through EV -5 and is fully clear film base well before we hit the end of EV -6. On the highlight side, I’ve reached the limits of how much exposure I can pump into the emulsion half way through EV +13 and can’t quite get 400TMY to EV +14 in terms of density. This gives a dynamic range of -5 to +13 EVs as a worst case.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting two stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 400, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.

If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.

If you want to add an additional stop of light to the shadows, then you can subtract one stop from the darkest part of the scene you want to capture detail in instead of two stops. 400TMY has enough over exposure latitude that this will still result in a good image once scanned in and density corrected for all but the highest contrast scenes.

Resolution/Grain

400TMY has very good resolution for a 400 speed film. Looking at it’s tech sheet over at Kodak Alaris shows that it is at about 80 line pairs per mm of film at a 50% contrast response. In short, it has more resolution than most lenses can project onto it, so it’s not really a limiting factor when it comes to resolution. 400TMY is my default 400 speed black and white film choice and I’ve shot a lot of it. It has enough resolution that I can see the differences in lens resolutions between the various lenses I own. I can’t say that about most other 400 speed films. 400TMY is on the stellar end of the spectrum in terms of resolution.

In terms of grain, it’s very fine grained for a 400 speed film. It’s actually not very visible until you get into scanning it at 4000+ dpi, and even then, it’s very fine. It’s not at the effectively grainless level of 100TMX, but, it has significantly finer grain compared to 400TX and to most other 400 speed films.

In 135 format, you can get into grain if scanning with enough resolution (4000+ dpi) to make a 12×18 inch print, but even at that print size for a 135 format (35mm) frame size, the grain is visible, buy really fine and pleasant. In 120 roll medium format, the grain is difficult to see with most film scanners that can scan medium format film, so is effectively grainless for most enlargements in medium format 120 roll, and non-existent in large format sheet form.

Sample Images

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Here’s a Flickr Album of images shot on 400TMY. I’ll add more images as I upload them to Flickr.