Ilford Delta 100 / FP4+ comparison for LF

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by tim_bradshaw|1, May 7, 2015.

  1. I've just bought a slightly insane whole-plate camera, for which I'm going to have to make use of the Ilford ULF once-a-year offer. Ilford offer Delta 100 and FP4+ (and HP5+ which I'm not interested in for this purpose). I've used FP4 a fair amount in 4x5 but never Delta 100. A box of either is a significant investment so I want to not make the wrong choice (or buy two boxes: I've spent enough already on this thing). I'm tempted to stick with what I know: it doesn't seem to me that finer grain will matter at this scale (making not-huge prints), and I understand FP4 pretty well.
    I have looked around in the usual places for images but it's very hard to tell by the time scanning/monitors/&c are taken into account.
    Has anyone used both films, specifically for LF (35mm or even MF is not so interesting as things like better grain make a much bigger difference) and can comment? I'd be interested in both stories about significant neg-quality differences at this sort of size and processing issues if any.
  2. I've used FP-4 in 4x5 but Delta only in 120. I like the FP-4 myself. You're right about cost, it will be a significant investment (on my budget anyway) and my tendency would be to stick with what I know. I'm assuming you will only be either scanning or making contact prints from these negatives so grain really won't be an issue. Sounds like this will be interesting.

    Rick H.
  3. With that kind of expense I'd stick with what I knew. I've used both Delta 100 and FP4+ but only in 35mm and 120. I never developed a taste for Delta 100. The grain isn't as fine as T-Max 100 and lacks the melodramatic tonality of TMX. It doesn't seem to respond to differences in developer and technique quite as readily as FP4+.
    FP4+ is very adaptable. At EI 64 in ID-11 it has very fine grain. And it responds readily to different developers and times to get the desired contrast and overall look.
  4. I've shot a fair amount of Delta 100 in 4x5 some years ago. Good tonality and great sharpness but I liked the shadow quality of Tmax 100 better and ended up using mostly that for studio work where I controlled the light. For outdoor work, however, Tmax 400 was my mainstay. It seems I was always wanting higher shutter speeds or wanting to stop down a bit more in the field. You're right. grain isn't much of an issue in LF so you may think what speed would suit your application the best. Whatever you get, you'll want to cut a sheet down to do a mini ring around with your shutter, meter, developer and personal technique before serious work any way to get things dialed in.
  5. The only who could know if Delta suits your taste are you... I haven`t used it, but at this point, and specially if it is a significant investment, being used to FP4+, I`d not change. The learning process is somewhat long, so it`s not worth to me to "test" a new film in this situation.
    Internet images are worthless; the choice of developer and dilution give very different results, but at the same time all subtle; low resolution, most of them highly processed images are useless.
    Same for descriptions. Most of the times the very same words could apply to any film on the market... fine grain, good tonal range, high sharpness, etc. It could give you an idea, but you have to check it by yourself to know if it really works for you.
    I`m stucked to FP4+ and D76 (Perceptol, some times) for all formats. When I want something different I simply use extreme dilutions. I like TMX for its finest grain, but at the end, specially shooting larger formats, it is not of an issue, so I don`t use it. With FP4 I can get prints that are beyond my eyes perception capability.
  6. For 5x4" I use FP4. I have shot both FP4 and Delta 100 in medium format and on balance prefer FP4.
  7. If Ilford FP4+ works for you, why change? You know how it acts and how to process it. Changing film gives you one more thing to take your mind off composition in the field.
    No matter what you do, knowing how your material handles allows you more freedom when you photograph. Some excellent photographers use film and developer combinations many would never touch and may even poke fun at. Knowing the material makes a big difference and great results can be had from almost anything film once you learn how to finesse it.
  8. It's me who precipitated the modern wholeplate renaissance, engaging HARMAN to first offer the film, Ebony to make the camera and Lotus (later Chamonix too) to build holders. I've used FP4 Plus, HP5 Plus and Delta 100 whole plate film in the years since then.

    I'd like to think that it was my pleas to Simon Galley that resulted in HARMAN adding whole plate Delta 100 a few years back. In my opinion, it has several advantages over the other two emulsions. First and foremost, tonality. While purely a matter of taste, I haven't found another first-tier quality film, in any format, that has a more satisfying look while simultaneously not exhibiting so much emulsion gloss that newton's rings become a problem. Then there's physical handling. Delta stays flat, both when dry (loading/unloading holders as well as into Jobo Expert drums) and wet. Moving processed sheets from drums to washer to wetting bath to hanging clips is a breeze. In my experience, the other two curl and are much more difficult to handle.
    I process three sheets of wholeplate Delta 100 in a Jobo 3005 drum using XTOL 1+3 (250ml stock solution plus 750ml water). After a 5 minute presoak, 7 minutes 40 seconds development at 75 degrees F with a rotation speed of approximately 45 rpm is my normal. This results in an EI of 160 and contrast index of 0.50. A Pentax digital spotmeter that reads exactly when used for lab-developed transparency film, calibrated shutter speeds and a calibrated densitometer were employed to reach those data.
    I've found the wholeplate Delta 100 negatives made this way print beautifully on both Ilfobrom Galerie and Multigrade Warmtone FB papers. This is the best unmanipulated film/developer/paper match I've ever achieved, and is far more pleasing to my eye than either of those papers with FP4 Plus or HP5 Plus in any of the many film developers I've tried with them.
  9. Thanks to all the responses, especially to Sal, who has given me a lot to think about!
    I had not made clear (which I should have) that although I have used FP4 a fair amount I'm not enormously keen on it: recently I've been using 320 TXP and Rollei Ortho 25 for LF (I realise these are not similar films!) and hardly any FP4 at all, and for small-format I pretty much use only Tri-X. However I suspect my dislike of it is partly/completely because when I did use it a lot I was even less competent than I am now.
    I think I probably will stick with it, but I am considering if I can afford a box of each (as I hope to manage more than 25 exposures in a year, and generally do comfortably more than that on 4x5).
    I am mildly terrified of the developing: I do 4x5 in a Mod54 which is fine, and I'm hoping to be able to do single-sheets of this this in a print-processing drum.
  10. No problem. I use to develop larger films on a Jobo print drum quite successfully. One or two at a time on a Jobo processor, that is.
    And there is always a chance to perform tray developing.
  11. Use FP4 if you are doing traditional darkroom prints, either enlargements or contract prints. Delta 100 if you are going to scan. Delta is film has a new style emulsion similar to T-grain Kodak. The modern films have flat silver grains which scan better. I know people are using Delta and Tmax in the darkroom without issues but I find these films very difficult to process and print. If you use Delta I would also recommend Kodak Xtol. Personally I shoot FP4 4x5 with D76 1:1 and enlarge to 16x20 with no grain.
  12. Here is a response from Ilford themselves (with permission):
    The key differences are in grain structure and exposure latitude. Delta 100 has a more uniform and finer grain structure and can produce very sharp images. It is a little less forgiving with regard to exposure and processing, whereas FP4+ has fantastic exposure latitude and is suitable for a broad range of developers.​

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