An appreciation of Ilford FP4 Posted On 2nd November 2017 To Magazine, Stories & Film specific
An appreciation of Ilford FP4
The greatest pleasures can be taken from the simplest of things. An appreciation of something old that gets passed by while everyone tries to keep up with the crowd or the relentless progression of technology. For me Ilford’s FP4 is one of those little pleasures.
I was a photographer in the Royal Air Force from 1986 -1995. At my RAF unit we had little choice of film stock. It was FP4 and HP5 for black and white. Being stationed at a headquarters unit meant we had some colour film too, Kodak’s VPS. That was it. Learn to use it and love it. So that was pretty much what we did, we knew what it could do under sometimes the toughest of conditions and familiarity bred confidence and respect.
When I was posted to serve with the British Army for what turned out to be my last six years of service I had way more film stock to play with along with a range of developers. This allowed more flexibility in process combinations and techniques, along with a film development chart which I still have, and use today, in conjunction with most peoples turn to source:
Eventually the military entered the colour age and we had our own mini-lab, but black and white photography has never left my heart, even though digital has invaded our very being. I still edit in B&W when the opportunity arises, as can be seen from much of my work on my website: http://adykerry.photoshelter.com/index
Back to FP4
This leads me back to FP4. Which, in my opinion it has to be the most reliable, consistent and flexible 100ISO film out there. Before you shout, I know box speed is 125ISO, but I've always exposed at 100, and processed for 125ISO. Process it in ID11 and it produces a realistic rendition of the scene. Use APH-09 (Rodinal) and you can make it moody and grainy, and with Ilford’s LC29, contrasty subtle tones with great depth. Works as effectively with long exposure times as it does with short. Reciprocity failure isn’t its enemy like with Pan-F. No clumping of grain and weird process defects, just beautiful results every time.
For those who have never tried it, you must give it a go. For those who moved to newer more hip pastures, the grass isn’t always greener
FP4 is the “comfy slipper” of the film world. beautiful tones, easy to handle, consistent and reliable, a safe haven.
About The Author
I have been a professional editorial photographer since 1986, having joined the Royal Air Force in the UK as a Photographer (Ground). I left the comfort of employment in 1995 to become a freelance and have been based in Kent covering news, sports and features in the UK and abroad ever since, for a range of clients, including national and regional news organisations, sports NGBs, PR companies and corporate clients. My day-to-day work is shot almost exclusively on digital bodies, but for my own pleasure I continue to use film.
Having lusted over a Pentax 67 for as long as I can remember I decided to buy one in 2014 and have slowly added to the kit in the subsequent years. Recently I acquired a Hasselblad 500CM, which was the workhorse of the photographic section when I was in the RAF and so am very familiar with this camera too, though currently this is a one lens camera.
My photographic education in the military was in black and white, so my film work is still predominantly in that medium, though I do dabble occasionally with colour. Ilford’s FP4 is my turn-to-film in the 100 ISO range giving great tones, being easy to handle, flexible with choice of developer but most importantly totally reliable.