5 Frames with Ilford Pan F on the Olympus XA – by Tiffany Perez

Some people are color shooters, others are black and white shooters. Then you have that part of the Venn diagram that has both color and black and white shooters. Most people favor one or the other. I am personally a color shooter. The only way I can describe it is that I “see” in color. And I don’t mean that I am not color blind. Rather that I am attracted to color and that is what I usually shoot. Others can “see” in black and white. They are attracted to light or the lack of light in certain scenes. It is hard for me to see in this way but I know that there should be a balance in my shooting.

The Method

To really get the full experience out of film photography and be able to truly learn the lessons it can teach you, I believe a person needs to challenge themselves with the medium in as many ways as possible. This means, for me at the moment, that I need to switch up my film stock every now and then. In particular, shoot black and white. So I have made it a mission to alternate between color and black and white film stocks in my main and side cameras (I usually carry two cameras on me at all times, one SLR and one compact).

The Gear

To start this cycle off, I went with my trusty Olympus XA for the first roll of black and white film. I did this so that if I was going to go somewhere and didn’t want to bring my entire bag, I could just throw the XA in my pocket. Now onto the film stock. I had dabbled in HP5 and Acros before I made a point of doing this mission but really wanted to use a stock that I had never used before. Also as the seasons have changed and California gets sunnier, I wanted a lower ISO film stock. For those reasons, I went with Ilford Pan F 50. I had seen one video online of this film stock prior to shooting it.

Shots Fired

Gateway to Knowledge

Footsteps of a Titan

Strive for the Top

Courtyard View

Palm Tree Reflection


First Impressions of Pan F

This film stock renders so smooth. I am not a huge fan of grain in my photos, black and white or otherwise. So when I saw how smooth the photos turned out I was blown away. The contrast was also something that I did not expect. I had a limited understanding of black and white films before this. And with that limited understanding, I thought that contrast of that sort was reserved for film pushed to 1600 as I typically saw on Youtube and Instagram. I really liked the level of contrast on these photos and how the shadows turned out because of that contrast. Almost like the shadows took on a life of their own.

Closing Thoughts

My experience with this film taught me a lot but I think the most important thing it taught me or rather reaffirmed in me, was that I need to try more film. I say that because my understanding of black and white film was so off. I did not know that photos like this were achievable outside of the ways I had seen other people do it before me. But it is only through going out and doing it myself that I was able to find out what this film was truly capable of. It is one thing to see other people’s photos on the internet. It is another thing to have created the shot and have it come out in a way that was totally unexpected.

I am now off to try all the black and white film stocks that I can now along with the color film stocks that I always have around. What is your favorite film to use? What is the next film stock that I should try? Let me know in the comments! I am so fired up after this to try out more and more different film types.

Thanks for reading and following me on this film stock adventure. Check out my other articles here on 35mmc or my Instagram for more of my work and the film adventures that I have been going on.


Tiffany Perez
The Drive-By Film Shooter

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23 thoughts on “5 Frames with Ilford Pan F on the Olympus XA – by Tiffany Perez”

  1. Geoffrey Rivett

    It is good to find people coming back to film – I developed my first film around 1948. Your next step in learning abut film is, of course, completing the process by developing your own (if you do not already do that), and printing it properly as all of us amateurs did until some 20 years ago. In many ways it is much easier that the bother of scanning and the difficulty of getting consistently good prints on ink jets.

    Ideally you will now buy a Leitz Valloy or preferably a Valloy II enlarger on ebay. they come up with patience. Ilford sell good paper and you can buy graded paper – I develop my films to print on Grade 22 consistently. It is by printing and studying your prints that you will take the next step in learning about film.

    Don’t let anyone tell you its too hard. Until around 2000 we all did it, professionals and amateurs alike.

    1. Thanks for the wise words, Geoffrey! I will slowly start upping my game with the end goal being able to do the whole process. For me, the next step is developing on my own so that I can start scanning and printing on my own as well. Thanks again for reading!

      1. Hi Tiffany, enjoyed the article. How are you currently developing these prints, what’s your method? They looked really good!

        1. Hello Curt. Thank you very much but I can’t take credit for developing these photos. I sent mine out to The Darkroom Lab here in California. They do most of my developing and scanning right now.

  2. I would give Fomapan 100 a go if you like high contrast. It’s also one of the cheapest BnW films there is. I use it quite a lot for family snaps and currently for high contrast “vintage” BnW landscapes and British livestock photos.

  3. Tiffany, glad to see that you’re challenging yourself to exploring both colour and monochrome workflows! The pictures look great! My work flow is perhaps the opposite of you, in that I shoot mostly monochrome and sometimes colour.

    You’re impressed by the smoothness of Pan F, but it’s unsure whether you like the contrast or not. What I may suggest to you a ‘faster’ yet more mellow combination – if the contrast is in fact too much for you. I’m not sure what developer was used for your photos but I have used Pan F a lot and understand well the contrast it can give. My main stock now is HP5 in diluted Acufine. I don’t mind seeing grain, but sometimes I’m looking for less. In which case I can dilute the developer 1:4-5 (unheard of dilution ratios) to get a super smooth grain. I mean, it’s no Pan F, but at 4 stops over (I often shoot at 800 EI, because Acufine is a speed enhancing developer of sorts) the low grain amount (and fine-ness) are great! And the resolution is incredible. A much lower contrast combination for sure – hence why I said mellow. But the gradation is the beauty of this combo – a totally different curve to that of HP5.


    1. Thanks for the tip, Lorenzo. I am not opposed to the contrast. I think I am just trying to find out what each film stock can do naturally so that I know what to shoot when I want specific effects. Thanks again for the development tips and thanks for reading!

  4. Tiffany, I think you underestimate your vision in black and white. Usually, I find the photos accompanying many of these posts quite pedestrian. Not so in these examples. I found most of them imaginatively composed and worthy of extended viewing. The little XA and your eye work very well together. There are many films to try, but I think you may have found a favorite already in Pan F. I encourage you to keep shooting in black and white or converting select color shots to b&w as it seems you may have found another avenue of expression.

    1. Thank you so much, Paul. I find it hard to see in black and white but your comment is definitely encouraging. I am still testing out other film stocks but Pan F is definitely on the top of the list for me right now.

  5. Tiffany, really good results here. What developer did you use?
    As a generality b/w films’ follow a simple rule of thumb with regards to contrast: low ISO has more contrast and as you go up the ISO range contrast tends to get lower. The contrast of the slow speed films sometimes will need to be controlled, so unless you’re after a “soot and whitewash” effect develop carefully so you don’t overdo it. From the images here looks like you have it under control.

    1. Hello Terry, I actually got these developed by a lab. I am starting to move into developing things on my own so your advice is definitely helpful and I will keep it in mind once I start developing my black and white work. Thanks for reading!

  6. Nice photos. Generally speaking, the best way anyone can improve black & white film images taken outside is to use a medium yellow filter on or behind the lens. I personally like orange filters.
    But be aware that you lose a stop or so of light depending on which filter. Also it can be difficult to fit a filter on a point & shoot camera. It’s also possible to make very good B&W images using color neg film. Its built in orange mask has a similar effect to an orange filter used with B&W film.

    1. Thanks, Graham for the advice. I haven’t tried working with filters in my film work yet. I have a few SLRs so maybe I’ll invest in a few and give it a go. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  7. Tmax 400 and 100. Especially since you’re like me and not super excited to see grain. Obviously both are better in medium format.

    1. Thank you for the recommendation Phil. I have shot one roll of Tmax and I do like it. I need to experiment with it more to see if I like it. Thanks again for reading!

  8. My new favourite bnw film is Rollei Retro 80S. Smooth tones, rich shadows and a medium-format-like look even in 35mm. (I also have a medium-format roll which I’m yet to try).

    1. I have yet to try any of the Rollei film stocks! I will have to try and get my hand on some as the examples I have seen look really nice. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Pretty nice pictures, do you know what canon model is this?
    (sorry for the long link, is a photo from facebook) I’ve been searching with no results on ebay and google. My guess, is some autoboy model, seeing the black & red band.
    If you can help me,


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