5 frames with...

My First Time With Ilford Delta 400 – By Gavin Bain

Historically, when it comes to my black & white work I have only shot Ilford’s famous HP5+. And normally I’m not a portrait photographer either. I find it to be an over saturated and rather boring genre, thank you for that Instagram. My normal subject matter is just day to day documentation of the streets I walk and the things I see. But a few weeks ago I thought I would break both traditions and shot some images of my friend Andrew on Ilford Delta 400.

The following images were shot in my Canon AT1 on Ilford Delta 400 at box speed. Our town recently went through a devastating once-in-500-year flooding event which has unfortunately resulted in a bunch of abandoned properties, sheds and warehouses. Bad for the town, great for some film photography! We also went to the loading dock of one of the shopping centres in town.

I have also been experimenting with home developing. I have a bottle of Ilford’s Ilfosol 3 (the first developer I bought) that I develop as 1+9 at all sorts of time lengths. I also have a bottle of Rodinal R09 that I’ve only done 2 rolls in. When it came to developing the first 2 rolls of Delta I shot I was feeling lazy. I also had to clean the house, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dabble in semi-stand developing! As such, these were developed in Rodinal 1+100 semi-stand (1 hour development with an agitation at the 30 minute mark):

A perfect test scenario would have seen me develop a roll in Rodinal the traditional way and then a roll semi-stand to compare the differences – but I didn’t have that luxury at the time (my stop bath is about to run out) and frankly didn’t think of it at the time.


But, I was pleasantly surprised with the results! The grain is present but not overbearing, the images came out much sharper than any images I’ve developed traditionally on HP5, and the contrast is very pleasant.

I haven’t tried enough scenarios yet to determine whether it was the Delta or the semi-stand that I liked but I’m now finishing my second roll of Delta underexposed a stop to push a stop, which is how I always shoot my HP5, so maybe I’ll post an update in a few weeks…

Please reach out if you have an opinion on Delta v HP5

Instagram: @gavinbain

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  • Dan Castelli
    Dan Castelli
    June 29, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Gavin,
    I hope that there was no loss of life due to the flood in your town.
    I have used HP-5 since photography was invented, around the time the last dino’s roamed the earth. Last fall, my wife & I took a trip to Ireland, and on a whim, I took along a brick of Delta 400. When we got home, I processed a couple of rolls and was taken completely by surprise. HP-5 and Delta 400 may share the same speed and the same name, but the Delta 400 negs were so much easier to work with in the darkroom. I process my film in ID-11 [1:1]. I found that by increasing my developing time by 25% I produced a great negative (for me.) I shot the film at ISO 400. It’s now my new standard film.

  • Avatar
    Charles Morgan
    June 29, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Semi stand is my principal developing technique if I shoot at box or push. You get excellent edge effect sharpness and ok grain, although Delta 400 to my recollection is grainier than some. I also love Delta in FX39 for a lot less grainy, more polished look. I also love shooting Delta 400 at 200 and developing in Perceptol 1:2 for 10 minutes, which produces really suave results. I’m ambivalent about HP5, it has a very strong look which I’m not so keen on, but pushed to 1600 it is beautiful. Just keep at it and trying new things!

  • Avatar
    R D Williams
    July 2, 2019 at 10:36 am

    So semi stand… tell me more

  • Avatar
    July 4, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve tried Delta 400 in 135. The worst idea is to develop it in Ilfosol 3, next is Rodinal. They get very grainy, but in Ilfosol is damn sharp. ID11 1+1 gives good results but this film shines in X-TOL 1+1, and skin looks best in Perceptol 1+1. This is based on my personal experience with 135 film and Foma RC Standard Contrast Paper.

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