Week 34: Ilford Super XP2 400 review

Sometimes a random or 'no theme' photo walkabout works best, and with this in mind I enjoyed shooting Ilford's Super XP2 400 - here are my impressions.

I've been meaning to review Ilford's Super XP2 400 review for a while. This film is special in that it's black & white, but is developed using the C-41 process, so basically as if it were a colour film. Practically speaking, this means you can develop it anywhere, in any 1 hour cheap lab. Whilst black & white developing is super easy to do at home, many labs only offer C-41 colour processing as there are automated machines that do this quickly. Pure black & white requires more time and different chemicals, and also costs more to develop.

I have tried pretty much all of Ilford's black & white films, so I was keen to see how this one stacked up. According to Ilford, it has the following characteristics:

ILFORD XP2 SUPER is a fast, sharp, black & white film with fine grain and a wide tonal range. It is extremely versatile to use making it an excellent all-rounder to have in your camera.
It has a particularly wide exposure latitude and delivers excellent results, including well-defined highlights and shadows, even in unpredictable lighting or high-contrast scenes where there can be wide-ranging subject brightness.

So back to the photography plan, or lack of it. As I said, sometimes the best shots come up when you just go for a walk, and that is exactly what I did.

Always remember to look up. I remember the sun coming in and out of view on this cloudy day. Although parts of this image are quite dark, it is still razor sharp, especially the buildings. Good start!
Shot in the bright midday sun with my Hasselblad and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 lens. I am always surprised by this lens, how sharp it is. It's so old it says "Made in West Germany" on it - wonderful!
A neo-gothic 19th century tower in Rotschild Park, in the centre of the city.
I couldn't resist this cool looking convertible. Look how clear the wheels are - this is sharp film indeed!
My friend's Leica M3 - what a camera!
Another shot with my Car Zeiss 150mm lens from above. Pretty good overall rendition, given how bright it was outside.
If you look closely you can see my reflection 5 times around the circle. This came out very dark, I probably should've exposed it better. Still, pretty cool wheel!
Side shot of the cool convertible with my friend Daniel taking a shot with his Leica M3.
'Die Welle' office complex.
Street sculpture. I like how the shadows come out here on the ground.
The JP Morgan Frankfurt run in full swing. Apparently it is the largest JP Morgan race in the world with over 60,000 runners. Not bad for a city with a population of 750,000.
Nice portrait of Tony, owner of the Fox & Hound English Pub and restaurant, conveniently located at the end of my street! Highly recommended, good beer, great food, nice people.
Nice shot of the lads at the Fox & Hound.
 
Solitary figures.

Overall impressions

The film performed really well, handling most indoor and outdoor locations with ease. It is also a big plus that it can be developed with the colour / C-41 process, for both cost and time savings (in comparison to standard black & white film development). Certainly a good film to have in your back pocket should you be looking for a decently priced black & white film and can have it easily developed.

That being said, with Ilford's vast array of other black and white films, as well as tough competiion from the likes of Kodak Tri-X and T-Max or Bergger Pancro (to name but a few), it is hard for me to justify this as a 'go-to' black & white film (over and above the convenience of how it gets processed). But then again, it is all very subjective, as I quite like the grainy nature and "big personality" of other black & white films. In comparison, this film is good, but not great. I have also heard it can suffer from some browning effect on the final image sometimes, which I think  has to do with the type of chemicals used in the colour / C-41 process.

Don't get me wrong though, I really like some of the shots I took and will definitely print them out. But if I had the choice between this or other Ilford films, I'd go for Ilford FP4 or the Delta range.

So there you have it, how to find something special in the seemingly mundane views of everyday life - that's why photography can be so cool!

As I am progressing steadily towards Week 52 of this project, we have plenty of great films coming up including Lomography 'Lady Grey' black & white film, some very bright Rollei film for special macro photography, and a very curious Revelog film that changes colour depending on how you expose it!

See you next time, and remember, pick up your camera gear and start snapping!

Neil