Speeding Things Up a Bit (with Ilford Delta 3200)

Time for playing with some faster film. For agency shots 100 ASA grain is about as extreme as I like to shoot as too much grain can be distracting. Recently I started wondering if it might be worth challenging that assumption and as a consequence there’s now a healthy stock of fast grainy goodness in the fridge waiting to be used.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This looks like a brilliant start – though the grain is very well disguised by the textured nature of the subject. Don’t worry – there is some grain!

Starting with the fastest film in the tupperware box, Ilford’s Delta 3200, here are some of the results from the first roll, all shot in or around Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire UK) on an overcast winter’s day. A bit of research indicates that this film is best shot fresh and developed quickly after – something done here and I’ve no complaints.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Smidge of camera shake here even at f3.5 – oops.

The first problem is that the OM2N used for this only runs up to 1600 ASA. However, when you look up dev times you realise it’s not that much of a problem as this film can be exposed at all sorts of high speeds with appropriate development.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Can’t complain at this at all. The figure is Sir Richard Colt Hoare – a pioneer of archaeology and owner of Stourhead in Wiltshire in the 1700’s by the way.

All shots on the OM2N, a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 lens or a Zuiko 35-70 f.4, scanned on a Plustek 7500.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

With the contrast tweaked up this is starting to look nicely gritty.

Developed in stock D76 at 20 degrees centigrade for 9 1/2 minutes as recommended by the ever useful Massive Dev Chart. These were all then cropped and had dust and scratches removed in Photoshop – not that there were that many as  this film doesn’t seem to attract too much muck when drying.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The central font – a 3 metre wide modern engineered masterpiece which is quite hypnotic.

Outdoors against clouds the grain shows up much more clearly. I like it but others may not. If you’re in the former camp it opens up some creative opportunities for some atmospheric shots.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The spire from fields nearby. The height doesn’t really come across in a photograph – it’s huge!

In most cases the contrast needed a boost in Photoshop as expected – faster film is usually less contrasty than slower film. What did come as a pleasant surprise was the range of tones captured using just basic development. Depending on taste you can go for a darker look bringing out the grain or keep it subtle – though the grain is always going to be heavier than slower film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Crop from the centre and a look at that grain structure.



The Cathedral towering over the houses of Salisbury. The grain here I think adds to the shot looking quite atmospheric.

All in all a bit of an eye-opener. The range of tones captured is very good, and for subjects with some texture the grain isn’t that much of a problem at all. Where the grain becomes more obvious – outdoors against a cloudy sky in these examples – it can be use to create either a soft romantic effect at low contrast or a gritty dark look with the contrast turned up. However, if you’re planning to make 20 inch prints it may be worth considering something slower!

Based on this I’ll try some winter landscapes for which it should be well suited.

Hope you find his useful – thanks for looking!



16 thoughts on “Speeding Things Up a Bit (with Ilford Delta 3200)

  1. Although I dont shoot film I thought the post was very interesting for two reasons. Firstly its useful to compare ‘film v digital’ grain particulary as far as black and white is concerned. And secondly it reminded me of a trip to Salisbury when I took some shots of the Cathedral and the reflections in the font. It is quite magnificent. Happy New Year.

  2. I really enjoyed this post in all its grainy goodness. Ilford Delta 3200 is some amazing stuff. I typically rate it at ISO 1600 and over develop a bit from what the Mass Dev chart says with D76. Its interesting to note that, for me at least, the grain doesn’t seem so noisy when shooting it in medium format. Anyhow, excellent post. I look forward to seeing more. Happy New Year!

    • Hi Pjbrez – I remember a quote from years ago which went along the lines of ‘medium format photographers never worry about grain’ so it must be true! Haven’t shot medium format for years due to the cost of the scanners, but I’d like to.

      • It’s true not only with high speed 3200 but with pushed ISO 400 films. 35mm can yield so much chunky grain – especially with warm developing temps and prolonged agitation. I do like the way it looks though when coupled with the right subject! For scanners, I bought an Epson V500 a few years back and it’s done the job well enough for me. I use it for 35mm, medium format, polaroids, slides, black and white, and color negative. You might be able to find one pretty affordably since that model is a few years old.

      • I’ll have a look at a V500 – thanks. Unfortunately it does mean buying some medium format equipment but I could live with that I suppose!

      • I was introduced to medium format through picking up a $20 Holga toy camera. There’s nothing professional about it, but it is a really fun camera to play around with at times. However, I love the depth and quality of medium format film. With an old beat up Rolleiflex Automat K4A and the Mamiya, I’ve come to shoot medium format more and more often. 35mm has its perks too, of course.

      • Hi Pjbrez,

        Medium format is very tempting I must admit but the weight and size of 35mm Olympus kit is enough to hold off the temptation for a while.

        The other factor is that I’ve been using the Oly OM1/2 cameras for so long (my first was my 16th birthday present way back in the last century) I don’t even need to think about how to use them which means they don’t get in the way of taking pictures. I can’t say that about any digital kit – my 5D MK2 is the source of a lot of cursing even though I’ve used it for a year or two. It could of course be that I’m a lazy luddite at heart!


    • Thanks Postcardcafe – I’ll be using more of it, though I’ll need some sort of filter (ND/Red 25A) for the summer – 1000th second minimum shutter speed is too slow in bright light even at f16.

      • I’ve packed a variable ND-filter in front of my lens. Use a stepupring to take up a 52mm or bigger diameter and you will still be able to use a redfilter underneath without beeing stuck to using upward from 50mm focal lenght.

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