Film Photography

Shooting Ilford FP4 Plus

This post is sponsored by Analogue Wonderland, who make film photography fun and accessible for everyone.

Tulips

You’d think I would have shot Ilford’s FP4 Plus by now. It’s a traditional-grained ISO 125 film, much like Kodak’s lamented, discontinued Plus-X, which I loved. Also, Ilford films are easy to buy in central Indiana given that their US distributor, Roberts, is located here. I can walk into their store and buy any film Ilford makes.

But it wasn’t until the nice people at Analogue Wonderland asked if I’d like to write some sponsored posts for them in exchange for some film from their extensive selection that I thought, “Here’s my chance to finally shoot some Ilford!” FP4 Plus was at the top of my wish list.

On the pond in the office park

As much as I miss Plus-X, I’m not going to compare the two films. It’s been overdone. Search “Plus-X vs. FP4” and prepare for the link avalanche. No, I’m going to evaluate FP4 Plus on its own merits, through the lens of my Olympus XA.

On the pond in the office park

FP4 Plus is a very good medium-speed black-and-white film. Its blacks are inky rich and it authoritatively captures a full range of middle tones. Best of all, it does not tend toward blown highlights like so many other ISO 100-125 black-and-white films I’ve tried. I’m looking at you, Kentmere and Fomapan.

Central Park

Even in mixed lighting, FP4 Plus delivers the details. Its grain is almost undetectable, it’s so fine. It leads to delicious sharpness.

Little Tree

The only time I wasn’t thrilled with FP4 Plus was on a particularly gloomy day. An ISO 400 film would have been a better choice, but FP4 Plus is what I had in the camera and so I shot it. This photo conveys the feel of the day all right, but lacks detail in the deepest shadows.

Wet parking lot

I plowed ahead shooting on this dim day. I had to run an errand in Lebanon after work, so I photographed around the town’s square. You can drive only one way down this alley.

One way

The original Boone County Jail is now a bar and restaurant. You can have dinner in one of the cells.

Cell Block 104

This seriously old house is about a block off the square.

Old house

Down another side street off the square is the First Baptist Church. Just look at the great tones and all that detail!

First Baptist

FP4 Plus is a lovely, lovely film. I regret not trying it sooner. I need to always have some cooling in the film fridge.

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17 thoughts on “Shooting Ilford FP4 Plus

  1. P says:

    I agree. FP4 PLUS is a truly wonderful film. I certainly look forward to seeing more of your work with it. Those two photos of the office buildings reflecting in the pond (or lake?) are very nice. The water had just enough movement in it to work out perfectly. Good stuff!

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  2. Andy Umbo says:

    When it came to 120 medium speed, I was always a Verichrome Pan fan and shot it extensively, even for professional jobs. When they killed it (or it was hard to get), I went to Ilford FP-4, which was also a very wonderful film, the base seemed to be crystal clear, so the prints were very “sparkly”; BUT, it had a few emulsion tearing problems, that other photographers I knew were seeing as well. When they changed over to FP 4 Plus, the tearing disappeared, but the base seemed to have a pronounced gray tone to it which I found more difficult to print. I then got a source for Agfa 100, so I changed over to that until it disappeared.

    I recently bought a bunch of Ilford HP-5 plus, even tho I like Tri-X, I feel that I should support those who are supporting black & white photography, like Ilford, so I should learn to use it better! Your story here makes me think I should go back and revisit FP-4 plus and check it out again!

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  3. I find it amazing that in this post film age there are more emulsions generally available then there were when Kodak ruled the film world. In the ’50’s and ’60’s local photo stores only carried Kodak film which meant Panatomic-X, Plus-X and Tri-X. Other emulsions (Ilford, Agfa) were not so ease to buy.

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    • I never heard of Ilford until I started shooting again in the mid-2000s. In the 80s it was Kodak, Scotch, and store brands available at the drug store.

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      • Andy Umbo says:

        I grew up in Chicago and Milwaukee, and started buying film in about 65-66. Because of the Germans, lots of Agfa available in both cities at professional stores, as well as Agfa processing chemicals and printing paper. First full time commerical studio I worked in after college was entirely Agfa printing paper in the darkroom. The boss loved it, and that was 1974.

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  4. Some wonderful tones here, especially the inky black. I must try this film. I still have some Plus-X in cold storage. After that is gone, this film might be the ticket!

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  5. Heide says:

    Your images make me want to rush out and stockpile cases of this film, Jim — that’s how good they are. Tip of the hat to you for this beautiful work.

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