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 asĀ  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!


A Few More Rollei Blackbirds

Bruce Robbins on his blog theonlinedarkroom recently raised some interesting ideas about one of my favourite films – Rollei Blackbird. Having been concentrating far too much on digital (especially video) lately it seemed a good excuse to get out the OM2N and shoot off a few rolls. It was pure heaven!

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Zuiko 85mm F2, closed down to f16 to give a shutter speed of 1/30th, plus some panning.

All shots at 100 ISO (25 ISO is too contrasty for me), developed in ID11 stock (identical to D76) for 10 minutes.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

Interestingly these two rolls seemed a little less contrasty than normal, and the developer didn’t turn end up with a dark fine sludge after use – in fact it turned yellow. This may be due to old developer (4 months old) or possibly the formulation of the film has been changed. Whether this confirms the speculation on Bruce’s blog that Rollei Blackbird is re-branded Rollei Retro 100 is open to debate, though it does muddy the water (if not the developer).

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

There was a mixture of lenses used here. The Vivitar Series One 70-210 performed wonderfully as it always has, but I’d forgotten how heavy it was. The day became increasingly overcast which made focussing at F2 with the 85mm easier than the 70-210mm at f3.5.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

All of these were taken on one day at a local fair, the vintage cars and carousel horses being the best subjects around.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

There’s something very attractive about some of the lines of old cars. New ones seem bland by comparison. 85mm F2.

Thanks for the link Bruce. I’m not sure I’ve answered the Blackbird/Retro question, but to me at least it doesn’t matter. Blackbird is still a favorite (along with Ilford PAN F) which produces results which are difficult to accurately ‘fake’ in digital, making its continued use worthwhile.

A few more examples of Rollei Blackbird shots are here and here.

Hope you like these – thanks for looking.


Adox Silvermax – Second Impressions in D76/ID11

Following on from an earlier post which detailed the results from my first roll of Rodinal developed Adox Silvermax, I thought some film users might want to see the second. No artistic masterpieces here I’m afraid (are there ever?) – these are test shots!


This seems like a good result – an excellent range from highlight to shadow.

The difference here is the developer – Ilford ID11 (identical to Kodak’s D76). I wanted to see how much the Rodinal developer which enhances sharpness was increasing the graininess of the final images – so ID11 seemed worth a try as it produces results which have less apparent sharpness, but also less grain.

On with the results – all taken on an Olympus OM2N and various Zuikos, developed for 9 minutes in ID11 stock. Scanned on a Plustek 7500 scanner using the ‘Agfa APX100’ profile which seemed to give a better result than the ‘no profile’ scans of the last test.

First shot – you may have seen this location before in previous posts – and a nice clear day with a pale blue sky.


Nothing to complain about here – nice dynamic range – similar to APX100,

And a small section enlarged.


The IDll developer has done a very nice job here – noticably more even than Rodinal.

Next one – again a standard test subject for me – and another sharp, fine grained result.


There’s an odd band of lighter grey along the very top of the frame here – it’s not on any other shots so I’m not sure what caused it. Easily cropped out if required though.

An enlargement from the centre of the frame.


Good sharpness again – this is good!

And one from the top left.


This small sample shows a more pleasing grain than the Rodinal developed film – more even and less ‘clumpy’.

The verdict then – as a confirmed Rodinal user I’m reluctant to admit that ID11 has done a better job. The grain is more even and less obvious, but the sharpness isn’t noticably reduced. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s significant. As an aside, to see just how good Adox CMS20 is (at the expense of 3 stops of film speed at ISO12) check here which is the same subject.

One odd thing – the film counter numbers on the film edges of this roll were ‘doubled up’ so the roll finished on shot 78. This obviously makes no diffence to the final shots.

Whatever you develop it in, Silvermax is an excellent B/W film, with a good balance of speed, grain and sharpness with some evidence from this second roll of it’s increased dynamic range. The weather being as it is at the moment, it might be a while before I can give it a test under really bright sunshine….

Hope you find this useful.

p.s. if you need development times for any B/W film with any possible developer try here – The Big Dev Chart – a truly useful website!