Film Photography

Ilford HP5 Plus at EI 800

Ilford HP5 Plus has a solid reputation for versatility. I’ve been shooting a lot more of this film lately to prove its reputation for myself.

Until I started developing and scanning black-and-white film at home, I was dedicated to Kodak black-and-white films. I put a lot T-Max and Tri-X through my cameras. But HP5 always turns out great in my preferred developer, HC-110. Crucially, HP5 dries nice and flat. It pops into my scanner’s film holder with no fuss. I miss Tri-X, but that stuff curls a ton, and it’s a fight to get it to lay in the film holder.

I’ve shot plenty of HP5 Plus at box speed. I’ve also shot it at EI 1600 to see if it would make a good substitute for films like T-Max P3200 when I’m shooting indoors. This time, I wanted to see what HP5 would look like shot at EI 800. On my January trip to Chicago, my last morning in the city was dull and gray. It was the perfect day to try HP5 at 800.

I made this photo inside Macy’s on State Street, the former Marshall Field flagship store. The building features a glass mosaic ceiling designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. It’s spectacular in color (see my photo here) but still very interesting in black and white.

Tiffany ceiling at Macy's

I shot the rest of the roll while walking around in the Loop. HP5 at 800 handled this very gray scene nicely.

In the Loop

I shot this roll in my Olympus OM-2n through my 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S lens. This was a wonderfully compact kit that fit nicely inside my coat on this 15-degree day.

Up the el

After scanning, I boosted contrast on all of these images in Photoshop. That’s the only post-processing they required.

In the Loop

I am pleased with how managed the grain is in these photographs. It is much more noticeable at EI 1600.

Two one ways

I’ll keep experimenting with HP5 Plus. I’ll try it at EI 200 and EI 3200 yet. I feel sure I’ll get a good look at 200, but 3200 might be pushing it too far. We shall see.

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18 thoughts on “Ilford HP5 Plus at EI 800

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I’m a big fan of Tri-X asa 400 (not the “professional” asa 320), but have to say, I haven’t shot it in a number of years, mostly because I’ve been using Ilford HP-5. I decided to switch over because Ilford has made a concerted effort to support film, and film users, even offering a once a year service of being able to pre-order sheet film slit to odd and vintage sizes! You can spend the rest of your life happily shooting HP-5, FP-4, and Pan-F.

    As a professional, I’ve had to weather literally years of Kodak telling us what they were going to do for us, and we should be ‘grateful’, rather than giving us what we wanted and even needed. Eliminating film stocks and paper stocks I was using and valued, not because they weren’t making money on them, but they weren’t making the amount of money they wanted to make or control the percentage of market share they wanted. The “meh” attitude of their tech service reps in regards to transparency films and what the professional wanted, virtually allowed Fuji to sweep into the U.S. with their line of transparency films and have them accepted by professionals almost immediately!

    Support those who support you!

  2. nwellons says:

    Jim, your photos and stories are great. I have really enjoyed them since I found you last year. Like you, HC-110 is my favorite developer and I’ve moved to HP5+ for most of my B&W 35mm work after trying many other films. (I just bought a bulk roll.)

    I just tried it at 3200 with some night hand-held shots with a 21mm f/4 lens on one of my Barnacks. Yes, it is grainy, mostly depending on the scene. I like the results, though and won’t hesitate to try it again, if I need the speed. I look forward to your results, if you try it.

  3. Christopher May says:

    Not sure if you’ve seen how much those Zuiko 40mm lenses are selling for lately but you might want to use more than a coat pocket to transport it. ;-)

      • Christopher May says:

        Back in my early digital days, I was shooting Canon EOS bodies. I came very close to buying a Zuiko 21mm f2 since Oly glass was easily adapted to the EF mount and that lens was a full stop faster and optically superior to Canon’s own EF 20mm f2.8. Alas, I decided to pass. Had I spend a couple hundred back in 2006 or so, I’d easily be able to sell for several thousand right now. Those f2 Zuikos have gone crazy in the past 2 or 3 years!

  4. The only downside for pushing HP5+ (for me, at least) is the extended development time – especially if you go beyond 1600asa. The great results make it worthwhile though and I prefer the look of pushed HP5+ to dedicated fast films like Delta 3200 and P3200 as it has much nicer grain (unless you’re really going for that “golfball grain” aesthetic). I use Ilfotec DD-X as my developer and that handles the pushed film really well.

    • I really should say this stuff in the article itself. HC-110, Dilution B, 6:48 min at 21.2 C. That’s a 7.5 minute time at 20 C adjusted for the 21.2 degree temp of my developer. I develop in my bathroom and it runs pretty warm.

  5. HP5 is my go to film in both 35mm and 120. It’s not as contrasty as Tri-X, but has much better mid tones, and as you point out, can be shot at a wide range of speeds. Tri-X is very expensive here in the UK and I like the way Ilford have continued to produce a very wide range of B&W films in both 35mm and 120, even when times were hard.

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