On a roll – Expired Ilford FP4+

Ilford’s FP4+ is a medium speed panchromatic black and white negative film with a fine grain structure. Like its sibling, HP5+, the film exhibits a medium level of contrast and pleasing midtones.

While browsing eBay, I had stumbled upon a deal that I just couldn’t pass up and obtained a 400 ft spool of expired FP4+ in 35mm format. Given the expiry date of 1996 and the one stop per decade rule, the film should have been rated at 25 – 50 ISO compared to the 125 ISO of a fresh roll of FP4+. However, I had previously tested the film at the box speed of 125 ISO and the film did not appear to suffer from a reduction in sensitivity even after all these years.

Looks like it’s from way before 1996

I shot the film during a sunny day trip in Berwick where the low to medium film speed wouldn’t be too restrictive. I decided to shoot the film at 125 ISO but metered for the shadows to compensate for the possible slower film sensitivity. The bright sunlight also allowed me to use faster shutter speeds while still having narrower apertures to keep the majority of the objects in the scenes in relative focus.

I set out to capture scenes with high contrast and detail in order to test out the film’s capabilities. To be quite honest, I did not have any particular scenes in mind and just shot whatever caught my interest.

Being a slower film stock, I needed to be careful with my selection of subjects as I would not be able to shoot fast-moving subjects without having some degree of motion blur. I was lucky to be able to catch the butterfly at rest as it was stretching out its wings to absorb the sunlight.

The film is also great for capturing scenes with patterns and textures as showcased in the following images.

Although I chose to slightly overexpose the shots with an intent to adjust the images in post, the expired film was still quite versatile and handled a few stops of under or overexposure with ease. Having previously shot fresh FP4+, the expired film yielded a comparatively softer level of contrast while maintaining a similar level of fineness in the grain.

My choice of developer was Ilfosol 3 as this developer provides a high level of detail and sharpness with films shot at box speed. The already beautiful rendition of the midtones in the scans meant that I had to spend a minimal amount of effort on editing.

This particular spool of FP4+ has aged like a fine wine. The reduction in contrast in the final images is desirable and the film retains most of its positive aspects such as the fine grain and film speed. Due to these attractive qualities, I look forward to shooting more of this expired film stock in the future.

The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II lens. The film stock used was an expired 35mm Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) and developed according to ISO 125. The majority of the photos have been taken using manual settings with a tendency for overexposure by 0.5 – 1 stops.

The film was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 at a dilution of 1+9 for 5:00 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was then fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 2:30 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.


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