Jim Simon  the world in black and white
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9th March 2018
I'm always being asked... I'm often asked... Someone asked me once "What's your favourite film?"
Well, there is obviously more than "just" the film that contributes to an image, but, if pressed, I have to say that for black and white it's HP5. For colour it happens to be Portra 160, but I've just realised the tag line at the top of this page says "the world in black and white" so I'd better behave.
"HP5?" I hear you incredulously exclaim, "...But what about Tri-X? What about FP4, or Fujadokodagfa?" Before all my readers run for the hills (if it's not too late) let me explain myself. I do like Tri-X and often use it. I like FP4 too, and I've had perfectly good and representative results with many of the usual suspects, but when I feel like really investing my all into an opportunity I confidently load up with HP5, importantly set the meter to 250 asa, and ensure I have plenty of one other secret ingredient...
Perceptol. Neat Perceptol. Ilford's own take on Perceptol is that it reduces grain-size and enhances sharpness and detail. To coin a phrase; what's not to like?
Try it. Don't start messing with 1+1 or 1+3; just neat does the best job in my opinion. Expensive? Hmmm... Here in the UK a 35mm / 36 exposure roll of HP5 costs me £4.93, with equivalent Tri-X coming in at £7.04. They used to be much the same price, but now, who knows why?, there's £2.00 difference. I develop my Tri-X in HC-110 which I regard as free because it virtually is, and a 1 litre pack of Perceptol is £6.01. Doing the maths, 300ml of Perceptol with a roll of HP5 costs - wait for it... £6.73 give or take a micropenny, and is therefore cheaper to use than Tri-X. I rest my case.
Of course one could, if a few rolls of HP5 were lined up ready for the tank, re-use the same neat perceptol for a total of 3 times, adding 10% time for each use, and then the neat route becomes almost as possible to ignore as using HC-110, but I'm afraid (and I'll expand on this at some future point) I simply don't take that many photographs.
So, what's going on with this HP5/Perceptol combo?
Here you go. Nothing special about the first image, unless you're into bicycles posing seductively in woodland, but the image does demonstrate the range of tones deep into the darker areas, together with the definition which are not typical of HP5:

Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|HP5|neat Perceptol

The confident placing of the tones just seem to me to be perfect. See how the lighter tones resist blowing out, and the gradient to black just looks right. Not to mention the sharpness retained by Perceptol - after all HP5 does, normally, have large grain, but here the grain size is smoothed out and isn't apparent even in the really light areas:

Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|HP5|neat Perceptol

To give you an idea of the sharpness that seems to go with this combination, and the way that the brightest areas are almost grain-free here's a full resolution (Coolscan 5000) section of the above image:

Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|HP5|neat Perceptol

What's that you say? A Leitz lens will give you that look? Here are a couple of frames from my Trip:

Olympus Trip 35|HP5|neat Perceptol

Again:

Olympus Trip 35|HP5|neat Perceptol

I could go on with loads of examples, but they simply continue to show the same thing and, besides, I'm halfway through making some bread, I've got soup to do for lunch and meatballs to conjour up for supper all of which activities I enjoy more than sitting at my computer.
I do have plenty of satisfying photographs taken with other films, as I said at the top, especially Tri-X and FP4, but now that I've lit upon this HP5 @ 250 asa/Perceptol thing, well, that's what's in my cameras right now.
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And, just to pre-empt a future blog...oops... oh dear...  Maybe I should say "The world more or less exclusively in black and white..."

A walk round Urbino - Italia - around dawn:

Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|Portra 160


Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|Portra 160


Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|Portra 160


Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|Portra 160


Leica M2|Summaron 2.8|Portra 160

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