Ilford HP5+, 15 November 2009


Yes, that’s right…I finally shot Ilford’s HP5+ at it’s ISO rated speed! [1] As I’ve previously mentioned in various posts regarding Exposure Indexing, my earliest experience with HP5+ was actually as a “pushed” [2] film; Ilford’s literature indicates that HP5+ is specifically formulated to respond well to push processing, and my own experience has confirmed that. In fact, I’ve shot HP5+ at EI 800, 1600, and 3200, but only now have I shot it at it’s officially rated speed.


Photo Information:

Camera: Canon AE-1 Program
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4 FD
Film: Ilford HP5+ ISO 400 (35mm)
Metering: TTL

The subject of this photo is an in-progress stone knee wall / planter “box” in the backyard of a house in Chicago, on which my roommate worked (hence, my access to the location while it was under construction). [3][4]

As you can see from the photo, the film grain is much more noticeable than it would otherwise be in a slower film – as one should expect from a faster film. Personally, I’m not overly fond of grainy images (which is why I typically shoot with slow film), but that said, having seen digital approximations of the same, I find that I much prefer the original to it’s digital incarnation. [5] In this case, the grain isn’t so noticeable in the rough texture of the stones, but it is quite obvious in the out-of-focus background. I find this a little distracting, but the effect isn’t horrible, either. Though I will probably continue to use slower film on a regular basis, I certainly wouldn’t mind using this stuff, too.



[1]: Intersting note: Ilford’s own literature does not identify the rated speed as part of the film’s name (which is listed simply as HP5+) – unlike the two Fuji E-6 films I’ve recently posted, both of which incorporate the film speed into the name (e.g. Fuji Velvia 100F – the film’s rated speed is ISO 100). It’s like the folks at Ilford expected photographers to shoot it at speeds other than its rated speed…

[2]: In case you’ve forgotten (or haven’t read those other posts), “pushed” film has been shot at a faster speed than its official rating, i.e. shooting ISO 400 film at EI 1600. Because you’re manipulating the exposure of the film itself, there are processing implications inherent in pushing or pulling (shooting at a slower speed than its official rating) any film. Additionally, some films are better at being manipulated in such a manner, while others do not respond as well; there are also processing chemicals that are specifically formulated for pushing and pulling film.

[3]: In deference to the owners’ privacy, I’m not going to list the location of the project, other than to say that it’s in Chicago – yeah, go ahead and try to find it based on the limited visual information in the photo, and the size of Chicago itself. I challenge you.

[4]: I will say, however, that the project was designed by Hudson Home Inc., a design-build firm that specializes in custom single-family residential design. I could say more, but if you’re interested in their work, check out their website.

[5]: Ironically, film manufacturers went to great lengths to minimize the appearance of film grain, even in their higher-ISO products, while digital camera manufacturers seem to be obsessed with providing “realistic” film grain in their products. This is readily apparent in the marketing for these products; go ahead and check if you don’t believe me. I’m amused by the contrast, anyways.


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