What I learned Shooting #02: Ilford Delta 100 (35mm)

Ilford Delta 100 (35mm)

Background and Bias:

So here we are back again, and I’m running my mouth about the emulsion I probably should’ve started this series with. I’ve shot 3 100ft reels of this film (let’s say ~50 rolls, accounting for spillage and other random fuckery), so I believe that puts me over my 20 roll minimum for this series. I’ve shot a couple commercially packaged rolls of this as well, it was pretty much the same as the bulk rolls. I’ve also shot about ten rolls of Delta 100 in 120 as well, but that’s below my minimum review threshold by about half.

It’s what I used for most of 2017, and at least a quarter of 2018, and it’s most of what I used for my upcoming short photobook (or long zine) “Crux” along with a reel of Ilford Pan F+. Admittedly that usage is probably closer to film abuse and a rarified or overly specific use than an honest look at the film, but I’ll throw in a few images from that period.

Generally I like t-grain film, and at medium speed too. Should be a winner.

Technical Considerations:

I usually experiment with pushing and pulling, or rating at non-box, but I always without fail, shot my delta 100 at 100. Go figure. Shot on my Minolta XD, Rokkor 50mm 1.4 MC, 24mm 2.8 MD-X, and 85mm F2 MD. Most of the time I was developing in Xtol 1:1 or in 1:2 to save some money. I’ve run a few experiments with it in Rodinal (stand dev at 1:100, regular dev at 1:50). All of it (spare one roll) was scanned by myself, and mostly uncorrected in an epson V600.

What I learned:

Having a large supply of the same film that you use on a daily basis, or at least on 99% of your work is essential to learning about a film, and also is pretty essential in learning photography (honestly actually a huge mark in digital’s favor -- it’s consistent). That lack of variance starts to get you into the habit of seeing beyond basic superficialities (variations in grain and tone, the occasional dust or scratch) and pushes you further into seeing “how did my development technique fuck up this batch?” or “do I need to factor in for more contrast?” or most importantly: “why are my photos boring?” Because you’ve established a consistent baseline to work from. (some of my favorite delta 100 images)

Notes about the film itself:

I’ve realized something anticlimactic --- I actually don’t really like this film that much in 35mm. Even switching it up in Rodinal, it’s lukewarm: and on the whole It’s too grainy for a T-grain film, too balanced for most of my output, and a little soft. I like the soft-gray even tone look (look out for my eventual Agfapan APX 100 review), but I just don’t think the film is soft enough to excel at it. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my favorite shots in 2017 were shot on it -- but I think that’s more a function of “it’s what I was shooting” rather than “this film is really exceptional, and delivers exceptional results.”

I generally prefer my results in 120 with the film (I’ll stick a few up here), but that may largely be due to “the medium format effect,” or just that the Pentax 67 and assorted lenses render better with Delta 100. I haven’t really run enough rolls to render a complete statement. (pictured to the right)

Would I shoot it again? and other closing thoughts:

Maybe. Not a first choice though, and definitely not in 35mm.

It’s not a bad film, in all reality , but I honestly think that for most of its intended properties and applications it falls short of its goals or I no longer want what it’s giving me. From what I’ve read -- I think both Acros (RIP) and T-Max (apparently — I actually haven’t shot it) do what Delta does, but better.

As of putting this up this, I have a 35 roll supply of Acros in 120 that I’ll probably use for project work, but after that’s gone, I’m going to need to pick a new 100 speed film. I’ve liked it enough in 120 format to give it some consideration, but I mostly use 400 speed for 35mm now.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

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