View Full Version : Ilford FP4+ VS. Other B/W

Bob Phipps
8-Mar-2007, 17:42
Hi All,
Having been out of B/W film use for sometime [15 + years], I do not find my old standbys on the market. Could someone compair IlfordFP4+ [grain, tone, contrast, etc. characteristics] against some other films you might recommend. I like high contrast, with crisp blacks and bright whites. Remembering T-Max gave me gray everywhere, I will not use it. My main interest for the film use is barn, antique auto, and landscape.


Ralph Barker
8-Mar-2007, 17:53
Although the interpretation of film characteristics is somewhat subjective, I find FP4+ to be moderately fine-grained, producing good tonality, and fairly responsive to contrast control via development. I use Ilford's DD-X developer in most cases for this and other Ilford films. Other developers may produce distinctly different results.

Bottom line, though, I'd say FP4+ would be a good place for you to start with your own tests to get the results you describe.

Scott Rosenberg
8-Mar-2007, 18:27
bob, are you going to be doing your own developing? if so, what developer are you going to be using? if not, what developer does you lab use?

John Kasaian
8-Mar-2007, 18:59
I agree, FP-4+ is the standard, though Fomapan 100 is also very good IMHO. I'm not a Tmax100 user, but Tmax400 is great stuff. I've heard that the 100 is more finicky but I honestly don't know. I only bring this up because maybe that is why your experience was dissapointing. Tmax100 users can make knowlegable comments. HP-5+ is also an excellent choice however I used it once with TmaxRS and the results IMHO weren't so hot. With other developers though it performs like a champ and I really like it for my 5x7 cameras. One of my all time favorites is TXP in D-76 (not HC-110 as many sheet film users recommend) I tend to get the best deals for Ilford and Kodak products from Badger Graphic. Another good film I like is Efke 25---its slow as a glacier but I find the look very appealing and distinctive---it prints kind of almost like 3-D (if you've got a hyper- active imagnation!) Its worth trying out just for ya-yas. AFAIK, the hands down champ for high contrast is ortho films like APHS. Very slow (ISO 4) but beautiful results as long as theres no sky in the scene. Using diluted paper developer gives more apealing contract. I have heard that Ilford has a fast(iso 80) continuous tone ortho which I'd love to try but I haven't had the opportunity yet.

You can't go wrong with FP-

Ken Lee
8-Mar-2007, 19:26
Everyone has their own favorite film/developer combinations, just as artists prefer their own materials, and musicians find their favorite instruments.

Here's a non-rigorous method to find out for yourself how you like the film.

Devise a standard subject. For example, a person standing next to a building, holding a standard greycard.

Shoot 3 sheets of film at a speed of 25, another 3 sheets at 50, another 3 sheets at 100, and 3 sheets at 200. You now have 3 sets of shots.

Choose a developer. Determine the recommended time/temperature. For example, let's say it is 8 minutes at 70 degrees.

Develop all the sheets together. Pull the first set out after 5 minutes. Another after 8 minutes, and the 3rd set after 11 minutes.

Print all the prints according to the the black film edge. Choose the one which feels most like the light of the scene.

Choose a different developer and do the same. Or choose a different film.

Now you can compare the best "normal" prints that were made with 2 different developers or films. The differences will be qualitative. You can decide which look you like the best.

steve simmons
8-Mar-2007, 19:44
IHO FP4+ works well with staining developers. PMK is my favorite but there are others. If you are going to do some trial and error, or more rigorous testing with more than one developer pick a staining developer for one of them.

steve simmons

Ron Marshall
8-Mar-2007, 20:43
FP4 is moderate grain and moderate contrast. An easy and forgiving film to work with in terms of exposure and development latitude.

I've developed FP4 with HC-110, D76, Pyrocat-HD, Rodinal and XTOL and the results were good and very similar with all, but Rodinal was my favourite.

Wayne Crider
9-Mar-2007, 21:27
I think you would really like it in Xtol 1:3. Exactly as you mentioned.

9-Mar-2007, 22:20
I don't have nearly the experience of others here, but I have used FP4+ and HP5+ fairly extensively. Grain is a non-issue in 4x5 for me. I develop it in XTOL 1:1, though I'm probably going to start using 1:3 instead, just to rein in highlight density a bit.

FP4+ and HP5+ are basically idiot-proof films, which is why they're so perfect for me. And XTOL is one of several idiot-proof developers. As long as you don't underexpose, the learning curve for both films is extremely forgiving, and the results are great. The tonality for FP4+ is very smooth and the highlights delicate.

Ed K.
9-Mar-2007, 22:24
Everyone has their own favorite film/developer combinations, just as artists prefer their own materials, and musicians find their favorite instruments.

Amen to that, and a good disclaimer too.

Short Answer - Like Ken says.

Recently, I've grown very, very fond of 100 TMAX, even souped in DDX. I don't find any of the finicky comments applicable - in fact, just the opposite. It's hard to get it to block up, and it has really wonderful middle gray tones and a nice spectral sensitivity for much of the type of stuff I shoot. For scanning, it is a dream come true, darned near made for it. For more contrast, Acros 100. If you don't need as much speed as 100, and can live with EI 64 or so, try Acros 100 pulled N -1 -in DDX - really very wonderful long scale, fine grain and sharp too.

I'll probably be the "Lone Ranger" around here, but I don't care much for FP4 in sheet film. Too grainy for the speed, but otherwise okay. I like the smoothness of the TGrain films when using small 4x5 sheets. But then, I love traditional Efke 25 in Rodinal, which is not all that fine grained, however it is sharp with good tones for desert scenes. TMAX films dry faster too, if that makes any difference.

This year, I've tried a number of different films, with various development techniques. While each one has strengths, more and more it seems that just getting a good feeling for what a particular film does well seems to make just about any film great under the right circumstances. It's almost like, "which is better, an apple or an orange?".

After spending a lot of time bemoaning the modern TGrain films, I've come to appreciate them more and more every single day. When you try your FP4, try one of the TGrain films too - that way, you'll appreciate the FP4 more or perhaps, the TGrain film more.

I found FP4 easy to underexpose, and generally low in contrast. Also, unlike the new designer films, it does have more reciprocity failure to consider, so do check that if making long exposures in your tests. You might want to work out your exposure / development before getting into it more, just like Ken Lee suggests.

Ed K.
9-Mar-2007, 23:21
Oops - white whites, crisp, black blacks - try 100 Acros, develop normal in DDX 1:4. Plenty of contrast, crisp if you like snap. My current trend is more toward "longer scale, nice grays", sorry.

Neil Purling
10-Mar-2007, 00:43
I started with HP5 and FP4 when I got a 4x5 camera. I already knew these films after using them in 35mm and 120 roll forms. I developed them in Paterson Aculux that is probably not available in the USA. I have not used a alternative to FP4.
I have tried Classic Pan 400ASA sheet film. It had more contrast & more grain than HP5 IMHO.
I think this may be because it is a old type of film and its dev time is 30% longer than for HP5 when both are rated at 400ASA.

I have not used any 400ASA sheet film recently.The stuff I have used has been of glacial slowness: 25, 12 and 3 ASA. Landscapes don't move as a rule, neither do street scenes. The 12 ASA and 3 ASA are both Ortho films.
I haven't had any problem with the colour sensitivity of the two ortho films, but I don't shoot portraits anyway.
I haven't used an alternative to FP4, like EFKE PL100, Foma 100 or the two Chinese films. If someone has done a proper test of these films against a the likes of FP4 please share your findings.

Richard Kelham
11-Mar-2007, 10:44
FP4+ is an excellent film with good tonality and it's quite tough compared to the older fashioned films like EFKE/Adox. If you prefer the newer T-grain emulsions Ilford do their Delta 100 in 5x4. In either case DDX is a reasonably idiot-proof dev and it saves the hassle of mixing up ID11/D76.

I've heard that FP4+ is also good in pyro devs, but I've not tried it. Yet.

For your proposed subject matter it would be an excellent choice, IMHO.


13-Mar-2007, 07:30
because it's very complicated to buy FP4 here in Czech republic, I have started with Fomapan 100 developed in Rodinal 1:100. I'm absolutely satisfied with the results.

Scott Davis
13-Mar-2007, 08:09
I really like FP4+ for an all-around film, especially when used with a staining developer (my personal choice is Pyrocat HD, YMMV). I am also a big fan of Fomapan 200 (aka Arista.EDU Ultra), but it is more blue and less red sensitive. That's probably fine for your stated choice of subjects.

I used to be a huge Tmax 100 fan when I shot more 2 1/4 rollfilm. While it can be difficult to tame contrast with it, I never had a problem with bad midtones. I did much of mine with Edwal TG-7 (a developer that no longer is made), and at some point switched over to Rodinal 1:50. If you are thinking of doing any alt-process printing, look at Tmax 400 instead of Tmax 100 - the 400 has no uv-blocking coating on the film base. Recently Kodak added a uv-blocker to the base of Tmax 100, rendering it all but useless for most alt-process printing methods.

Gene McCluney
13-Mar-2007, 08:29
I have not shot T-max 100 in sheet film, but in 35mm and 120 I absolutely hated it when I developed it in t-max developer, however I like it quite a bit, when developed in D-76 1+1, which is my favorite non-staining developer for small format film. For sheet film, I currently use HC-110b in 3.5 gallon tank, but as of yet, no T-max thru this.

John Berry
18-Mar-2007, 11:33
I tried T-max when it came out and hated it. My mentor worked with a Kodak engineer for three days and told him to get the crap outa there. They were using HC-100. T-max developer came out later. Highlights were very flighty, and blow out easily with a flash. I have tried it again with Pyrocat and the results were much better. If you want to use a tab film, as Ed sugested try Acros. Gene, I think you will get much better results with somthing like dilution E. I haven't tried it but that is a dilution thet I see sometimes. If Fp-4 and Hp-5 are idiot proof and I can make a bad negative with it, does that prove I'm not an idiot. ( idiot question) My standad film is Fp-4 and use Hp-5 when I need it. Developed in Pyrocat-P.

20-Mar-2007, 22:13
the best combo I ever have till now is FP4 and PyrocatMC, dev in pvc tube, excellent tonality and sharpness

Turner Reich
22-Mar-2007, 02:55
What size and are you contact printing or enlarging you prints? FP4 is OK but there are other films in that speed and at a lower cost. You should try a couple and compare them on the materials you are using. Finding the right combination is personal. What you may like someone else may not.

Gary L. Quay
26-Mar-2007, 21:05
I didn't have time to read all of the other replies, but I have something you may want to try. If you're taking pictures of barns, autos, etc., you want a film with good edge separation. Try Fuji Acros 100. I know that it comes in Quickloads, and perhaps loose sheets as well. I've used it in low-contrast situations and found that detail did not diminish as much as with other films, including T-Max. It also has almost no reciprocity failure. I've developed it in PMK Pyro, and Clayton F76.