5 Frames with Ilford Delta 3200 (at EI8000-ish) – by Simon King

I recently covered a series of protests in London, shooting film only aside from two days where I decided to give my beater M240 a chance. During the day I was lucky to have superb conditions, and was able to shoot very happily on 100 and 400 speed films. However these protests were in place around the clock, and I had plenty of work to be doing after dark, which meant I had to consider my options. I wanted this project to remain entirely on film, for consistency and to maintain a gritty aesthetic throughout.

I’d been playing with the idea of severely pushing my film for a while, and had been satisfied with my low light results so far, shooting Delta 3200 at either 3200 or 1600 and developing as recommended. However I wanted to really push the envelope and go to something like 10,000, where even some of today’s digital sensors start to struggle.

Once I’d made the decision to start this experiment here and now my next decision was to take a hands off approach to the actual exposure of this film. I intended to stand develop my rolls, which meant I had some freedom with the accuracy of my metering, as I expected it would “work itself out” in the end.

I fixed my shutter speed at 1/125ths and my aperture at f/1.1 on my 7artisans 50mm, and every single image shown here was shot with that exposure. I used to be quite wary about the way I exposed my film, for fear of underexposure, but now that I’ve had a lot more experience I rationalised that as long as I overexposed I would have something to show for it.

I think my efforts paid off, and I’m really quite happy with the results. I was pleasantly surprised by the grain especially – I was expecting blocky contrast and large granular structures, but aesthetically the images are actually quite clean. Sure, grain is present, but in my opinion it adds something to the image rather than making it dirty, or obscuring anything in any meaningful way.

I think the natural softness of the 7artisans lens gave some really interesting effects, especially to the highlights, and also helped to even things out with the grain.

I’m really glad I decided to take the risk in shooting these, rather than shooting a “test roll” to see how the images would turn out. I think the images would have suffered from being shot digitally, and would not match up to the rest of the images I shot over the course of the two weeks. Now that I know it’s possible I should be shooting a lot more low light scenes like this going forward. Especially looking forward to street photography the winter with this approach!

If you’ve enjoyed my writing here please consider following me on Instagram, and possibly heading over to my personal blog for more in depth writing about my day-to-day as a photographer! I buy all of my film from Analogue Wonderland.

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13 thoughts on “5 Frames with Ilford Delta 3200 (at EI8000-ish) – by Simon King”

  1. Thanks for sharing, your results look great! I’ve never tried to shoot film above EI 1600 so this is very interesting. Time to get more ambitious with my low light shooting…

  2. I love low light film photography. Very inspiring and very nice results. I had thought that stand developing was not recommended for high speed or pushed processing though. I presume it worked as you might have “over exposed” the images (at least for the EI). Or did you have a particular stand recipe that you would recommend (would you be willing to share the recipe)? Appreciate your thoughts. bill

    1. I hadn’t heard that, I thought was a “catch all” for many different kinds of exposures. You’re right that these may be slightly overexposed – it isn’t an exact science. There are plenty of chemists sharing their dilution ratios online, it would be better to try a few of theirs as they probably know what they’re talking about!

      1. Thank you. As you say, the grain is present but really well controlled. My (albeit limited) experience with stand developing is that it tends to emphasise the grain, particularly with high EI exposures. I was actually wanting to know if you thought it was your exposure strategy or your particular stand development technique that gave the great technical results? (Sorry for pushing the technical questions – I do love the aesthetic).

        1. I don’t know that I can say with confidence that it’s either – but I’d suggest less agitation if you are finding too much grain.

  3. Hi Simon,

    I love the aesthetic of these pictures. Also, wow that you nailed focus with f1.1 in these.
    Could you elaborate more on the developing method? I’m intrigued about stand developing, but never tried it myself. What’s the biggest benefit of it compared to regular developing (with agitation) ?

  4. Hi Simon, thanks for sharing. And the shots look great! I’ve been struggling to get results I like with P3200. Did you use rodinal for the developer?

    1. Thank you! P3200 is an incredible film, excellent sharpness and rich tones – very different to this Delta which I feel is less contrasty. Rodinol is a classic developer, and should give you great results. I’d recommend playing with your exposure, and maybe going slightly over or under and seeing which you prefer!

  5. Great. Very great.
    Which Leica M do you use ?
    Just remembered me to check if there is a film in my M3. I have checked light closed : there is one : 100 iso. When I will have finished it I will use my Delta 3200 to the same ISO with M3 and Canon LTM 1’4-50mm.

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