Ilford FP4 Plus @ 500

Ilford FP4 plus is a great lower speed film that pushes nicely to 500 in a tight pinch.


Ilford FP4 Plus @ 500

Ilford FP4 plus has long been my favorite film. Low grain, great contrast, and I honestly don’t mind the low(er) speed of ISO 125.

But ISO 125 is not very versatile. I have used it in low light conditions—but that was before I learned you’re not supposed to. The shots below were taken handheld, and despite the passage of decades I can still recall the feeling of exhaling slowly, gently pressing on the shutter, finding the right moment when my body was perfectly still. It works, but not great.

Last year, I decided to do something I had never done before—try pushing film. I was traveling, and had only brought FP4 plus with me—but by this time experience told I would get better results if I had film rated for ISO 400 (give or take).

So I pushed my FP4 two stops to ISO 500. And you know what? I like it.

There is actually plenty of detail in the shadows here, I've just jacked the contrast because I like the effect.

The dynamic range is reduced by a few stops, sure. But the increased contrast gives the resulting images a punch that I love. And of course the grain remains fine as ever.

Along with the decreased dynamic range, the exposure latitude is reduced, meaning you really have to nail exposure, or anyway not under-expose in order to get a usable image.

Underexposed. Lots of selective burning in the depths of this shop to get the shadow detail back.

But that increased contrast can also be helpful on foggy days.

I actually had to increase the contrast, which enhanced the grain but the results are still nice I think.

Sample Photos

More contrast that can be reasonably handled @ 500

Technical Details

I used my new testing technique to produce the charts below. Film was exposed for Zone V, and developed in Adox XT-3, dilution 1+1, for 14'30" with intermittent agitation (+2 development).

Metered @ ISO 125
Metered @ ISO 250
Metered @ ISO 250

The analysis reveals no real surprises. At ISO 250 we see a clearly compressed dynamic range, with shadows only really appearing in Zone II or III. There is increased contrast from Zone III to VI with a long gradual shoulder that will result in middy highlights. We still have one or two stops of exposure latitude when over-exposing, but (although I didn’t measure it) experience tells me we have nearly (but not entirely) zero latitude when under-exposing.


I am really into the contrasty, just slightly grainy look that FP4 plus gives when pushed to ISO 500 (not to mention its increased versatility), but I wouldn’t use it without an accurate light meter or a camera with a trustworthy auto exposure—the lack of exposure latitude means that guessing exposure is going to disappoint.

New Film Analysis Page

Having now looked at two different films through the lens (ahah, get it) of my new analysis technique, and with plans to do a lot more of this, I’ve added a new page collecting my findings. I’ll update this page every time I perform a technical analysis on a new film. Of course, you can continue to read all of my film-related essays on the film tag page of this site.

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