It is particularly useful when using extended development times to push process fast films. This is the developer you want if you regularly push your film. It will help keep a smaller grain size despite the extra development. So, you get to shoot at higher speeds without an increase in grain.
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And one film in particular has garnered a reputation for being just such a cheap copy- Ilford HP5 Plus. But is HP5 Plus really just a crappy Tri-X cover band, or does it deserve to headline its own world-tour? For me, Ilford HP5 Plus wrongfully suffers lazy comparisons to Tri-X, and the needlessly reductive judgements that follow are equally misplaced. Those who judge it so are missing the entire point of HP5 plus, and indeed, much of the beauty of this particular film.
The HP line of films would go on to see a long history of updates, culminating in the creation of our modern speed HP5 Plus in Why am I immediately diving into this historical minutiae? Case closed? If Tri-X is the straight-A student with a squeaky clean reputation and an Ivy League scholarship, HP5 Plus is the street-smart kid from public school who somehow manages a 4. HP5 Plus possesses a stark, intense tonality that finds itself more at home in the streets and alleyways of the world than in flowerbeds and well-lit studios.
One thing that jumps out about HP5 Plus is its unique rendering of shadows. Instead of details predictably fading gently into the shadows, it seems the entire image gets sculpted from out of those shadows. Dark tones in general seem to be painted onto the emulsion in India ink with a broad but supremely accurate brush. It would be easy at this point to accuse HP5 Plus as merely being an unsubtle battering ram of visual intensity, but that would be misguided.
And boy, can HP5 Plus be pushed. While HP5 Plus is an old-school film with an old-school look, it retains a usability that is distinctly modern. The good people at Ilford made sure that HP5 Plus behaves well in both the scanner and the enlarger, and they did so with one simple trick — they made it dry completely flat. For avid scanners of film, there is no greater blessing in this world than a negative that is already completely flat.
No sorcery or ingenuity is required to get the film to straighten or lay flat, which shortens scanning time considerably.
That means more time working with the actual image, more time editing, more time shooting. If ever there was a black-and-white film for the shooter on a budget, HP5 Plus is it. The answer is yes, sort of. Sure, we shoot it for that grainy, stark look, but the film falls a little short when used for sweeping landscapes or portraits where we expect a smoother tonality and a more precise sharpness. Its characteristic high contrast and deep shadow rendition means that some fine detail gets lost in the emulsion, and that may serve to bug more technical shooters.
But expecting clinical precision from HP5 Plus misses the point. Are there other films that can give us that atmosphere? Are there films that are more technically impressive?
Of course. But do they do it like HP5 Plus? Shoot some Ilford HP5 Plus!
Ilford Microphen Film Developer 1L
These are some photos taken 2 weeks ago intended to be used as promotion shots for a band. I wanted to take tight head shots but I knew that the portraits would come out a bit… harsh. This lens is not the most forgiving lens for portraits. It captures everything… the good and the bad. Indeed a Softar filter softens things a bit specially when also using an extension tube.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)