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Ilford HP5 Plus: Is This Iconic Film For Everyone?

I've decided to try this film after reading wonderful things about it but I found out some things I didn't know before. I'll let you guys decide if they're pros or cons.

Photo by virtualflyer

I have read enthusiastic reviews about this emulsion and I really wanted to try a black and white film since so many people still use film just because the b&w is so much better than the digital version. Then I decided to start with the one I had heard of. I bought the Ilford HP5 Plus for about 8€ a 36 roll. It’s quite pricey but this American trip was very important to me so I wanted the best film available.

At that moment, I didn’t have any color roll so I just put one of the two I had bought and started shooting in LA, San Diego, Las Vegas and Bryce Canyon. Yes I know that a canyon isn’t the perfect subject for a black and white photo but that was what I had. So let’s see how everything came out.

I love many of these photos but they look very old. You see, there’s heavy grain in almost every photo and this is both a pro and a con. Obviously it gives the photos a particular effect but they also tend to become less usable when you want to enlarge them (I have one as wallpaper on my 15" screen and it doesn’t fit very well) Let’s say it can seem like a photo taken at very low resolution and enlarged to fit the screen.
Then I used some color rolls I found and kept the second and last Ilford film for San Francisco and New York where I thought the urban landscape would prove better for black and white photography.

Have a look:

I really love these photos. I would have just liked them to appear more high-res. I’m not saying the HP5 Plus is a bad film. That wouldn’t be true and won’t do justice to the effects of the film. You just need to know beforehand what you’re going to use and get after developing the film.

Hope you liked the results! Let me know if you have different thoughts about the HP5 Plus!

written by virtualflyer


  1. metobi


    I love the Canyon shot and I don't know why... And the shot of NYC has a nice 20's vibe to it.
    A nice review!

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  2. neutral-grey


    I like your pictures. I just want to say that my experience with that film is much different, I didn't get that much grain in my photos. Maybe its the developer/scanner combination?

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  3. herbert-4


    Wonderful article!! Ilford HP5 is generally medium grain. The extra graininess can be developer too warm. Who developed it?

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  4. clownshoes


    Cool. I like HP5 when I have it. Not the cheapest; but it's available in a variety of formats. Guess if I bought it i'd be in 4x5 and I've had good results with it.

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  5. alex34


    I concur-it may be the developer, Ilford films need Ilfsol developer IMHO. The heavy grain is not normal. I have also got great results shooting ISO 400 B&W at ISO 200-in fact I do nothing else now. The darkness and lack of contrast in the canyon suggests the exposure may be off.

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  6. virtualflyer


    Thanks I brought it to my lab and they sent it to a big italian lab I think. I'd like to bring it to the lab and ask them to scan it for me since this were my first scans and don't know if I did anything wrong... I'll try another roll and ask another lab to develop it. I don't really know...

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  7. sirio174


    HP5+ is my preferred film for sport and street photos!

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  8. virtualflyer


    @sirio174 do you have the same grain?

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  9. sirio174


    @virtualflyer I use R09 Special as developer to contain the grain!

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  10. virtualflyer


    @sirio174 la usi a ISO 400?

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  11. sirio174


    @virtualfyer A volte la tiro anche a 800 ISO in Microphen. Grana abbastanza contenuta. A 1600 la grana diventa evidente

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  12. virtualflyer


    @sirio174 approfitto solo ancora un seconda della tua sapienza :) La grana nelle mie foto ti sembra normale?

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano & Československy.