5 Frames with Ilford Delta 100

By Geoff Chaplin

I have adopted stand development in Rodinal 100:1 as my developer and process – easy, cheap, reliable, not fussy about temperature, and producing high acutance (strong edge contrast) negatives. This costs a few cents per film, and I use a plain water stop shaving a tiny bit more off the cost. But in the past my goto film was FP4 and I was a little concerned by the more prominent grain (because of the high acutance of Rodinal) in for example clouds and sky. I was interested to find out if I preferred a finer grain film like Delta 100.

Exposing at box speed in my Leica MP with Zeiss 50mm Planar and Voigtlander 15mm lenses with yellow and red filters, I took a collection of sky shots and a few building shots trying to explore the characteristics of the film in different lighting situations and contrast ranges. The featured image was shot in bright sunlight. Some adjustment to the contrast curve to darken the image as a whole but lift the highlights on the wall was needed to produce an image to suit my tastes, probably at least as good as could be produced on FP4.

The second image was shot at about the same time but in open shade. Even with considerable curve adjustments I find the rendition less satisfying than I get from FP4 or some other traditional films.

Delta 100 open shade
Delta 100, open shade

The following image shows bright sky next to the sun (which is hidden by the pillar) and the very dark interior of the viewpoint building. The straight scan showed the interior as black and the sky burnt out near the pillar. Curve adjustments recovered a satisfying amount of information inside the building and revealed clouds near the sun. Would FP4 have done better? I suspect it would but I’ll retake this shot to be sure.

Delta 100 high contrast
Delta 100, high contrast

Now a sky shot to check the grain. Yes, its finer, but I can get a punchier image using FP4 so in one way satisfied but another not.

Delta 100 slouds
Delta 100 slouds

Finally low light performance, sky after sunset. Looking at the other sky shots I took I’d say while accurate renditions they somehow seem to lack something I get from FP4.

Delta 100 after sunset
Delta 100, after sunset

So what is my conclusion? Based on results so far I’d say I still favour FP4 despite the more apparent grain, but it’s early days, I clearly need to retake the high contrast shot on FP4 while for the others I have very similar shots on FP4 which I prefer. I have four more films which I’ll use over time before finally deciding. One question is ‘do I like FP4 simply because I’m used to it?’ I think there is only one film I have fallen in love with after only a few rolls, and its not FP4, but Fomapan Classic 100! Technical accuracy is one thing – great for scientific or record keeping work – but character is another.

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About The Author

By Geoff Chaplin
Primarily a user of Leica film cameras and 8x10 for the past 30 years, recently a mix of film and digital. Interests are concept and series based art work. Professionally trained in astronomical photography, a scientist and mathematician.
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Comments

andy hertig on 5 Frames with Ilford Delta 100

Comment posted: 18/12/2023

Hello Geoff I have been using Foma 100/400 almost exclusively for over five years, all developed in Adonal 1:100 for 40 minutes (turn carefully once after 20 minutes). I often use FP4 with 120 film, but I'm no happier with it than with Foma. Andreas Resulst on: instagram.com/f16.ch
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 18/12/2023

Thanks Andy, I too really like Foma. Fp4 offers more flexibility I think on the rare occasion when I might need it.

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Wouter Willemse on 5 Frames with Ilford Delta 100

Comment posted: 18/12/2023

I really like Delta 100, but to me, Rodinal didn't show it at its best. It's absolutely brilliant in Perceptol. Since Perceptol doesn't last that long, though, I found a nice alternative in Beutler's formula (which I can mix up myself and the stock solutions stay good for quite a while). It just got a nicer tonality out of it without loosing out much on sharpness. Since Delta 100 isn't a economic-friendly choice, I'd never saw the use of trying to save some cents on development with a film that costs euros more. If I spend good money on good film, I'd prefer to get the best out of it that I can - even if that means more expensive chemicals and less convenience. Frankly, current prices make Delta 100 not that appealing to me - it just got too expensive to my taste. For the look I could get out of Delta 100, I actually like Fomapan 200 as replacement (also in Beutler) - it's maybe not as good, but it shares a lot of qualities with Delta 100. Clearly those qualities are not those of FP4, HP5 or Fomapan 100 - that's the whole point I guess. There is a time and place for both.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 18/12/2023

Thanks for the comment on Perceptol and Butler. I've given up making my own developers, at least for now. The main reason for using Rodinal is not cost but simply convenience. If delta 100 matched my preferences better I wouldn't be concerned about the cost, but it just doesn't.

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Scott on 5 Frames with Ilford Delta 100

Comment posted: 17/12/2023

Yes, I prefer the tones wth FP-4 or Hp-5 and less grainy developers like D76 or HC110.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 17/12/2023

I used d76 a lot but my preference for a variety of reasons, not least appearance of the negative, is Rodinal stand development. But if we all did the same thing it would be very boring.

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Doug Anderson on 5 Frames with Ilford Delta 100

Comment posted: 16/12/2023

It really is all about our individual preferences, isn't it. I have also settled on Rodinal as my standard developer, at 1:50 in my case. Over time I have used it with a variety of ISO 400 films. I find the cubic grain films like HP5, Tri-X and most recently Kentmere 400 more able to deal with challenging contrast situations than Delta 400 or Tmax 400, and I prefer the appearance of the grain. I shoot 35mm and print relatively small (8x12 max). For me, cubic grain ISO 400 films in Rodinal are the sweet spot.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 16/12/2023

Yes, I agree strongly. In photography and art we should all do what we like not what someone or marketing tells us to do.

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