Black and White Film / by Thomas Kercel

I was asked a while ago which were my favourite black and white films to shoot with. This is a bit of a leading question and you'll know if you've ever thought about it, that there isn't really a short answer!

So far I have shot with the following black and white films:

  1. Fomopan (100 and 400 ISO),
  2. Kodak Tri-x (400 ISO),
  3. Ilford Delta (100 and 400 ISO),
  4. Ilford HP5 Plus (400 ISO)

To be honest these are only a few of a great number of films which are available on the market today, as well as being the most commonly used black and white films.  I've shot these both in 35mm and 120 (medium format), the format can change the end result a lot as well as the processing method, but I'll not discuss that here I'll leave it for another post.

Fomopan; I discovered this out in the Gulf, my local camera shop stocked it, so I thought I'd try using it in 120. I found it has great detail in the highlights and low lights.  When shot on 35mm the grain really starts to appear, If you like grain this is the film for you.  I've found Fomopan not to be very forgiving, but if exposed correctly can give some amazing results with very deep low lights.

Kodak Tri-X; this is the black and white film that many judge other black and white films by, it has such a cult following.  It produces very precise and sharp images, with great contrast.  Tri-X has great flexibility and forgiveness, it also has the ability to be pushed (adjust the iso from it's rated iso) well beyond what you would expect and still give great results.

Ilford Delta; this is another fine grain film with great tonal ability, producing shots with superb depth of field.  With its fast iso, rich and deep black like velvet, it's great for capturing action and low light scenes.

Ilford HP5 Plus; this is one of the greatest film emulsions of all time, in my opinion. It is especially worth trying if you want to support local British manufacturing.  With fine grain and medium contrast, this is a film for every occasion, with great ability to push and pull.

In conclusion (I said it wouldn't be a quick one liner!), all the above film emulsions are world class and produce great results. The only outlier would be the Fomopan as you need to get to know it well to achieve high quality shots.  It's a case of finding the image you like and playing with the different options to discover your favourite or even shooting with them all.  There are many other black and white films on the market and in a few weeks time I'll write about a few more obscure emulsions I've recently ordered.

A selection of film

A selection of film