Simulating the Look of Ilford FP4 Black and White Film with Your Sony Camera

When you consider the history of Ilford film, Delta probably gets the most love despite another film like Ilford FP4 being highly capable and perhaps even better at delivering a look that so many modern digital photographers try to emulate. Through lots of experimentation though, I’ve been able to find a way to mimic the look of the film with a Sony a7 or Sony a7r II. It’s a fact, if there is one thing beyond battery life that photographers complain about with Sony cameras then it’s sometimes the colors. The camera company has been known to deliver incredibly saturated (sometimes a bit too much) colors in their images. This partially comes from the lenses that they work with. To get the best absolute best colors that you really want, I suggest leaving Lightroom for Capture One 10. But if you’d just like some great images which you’ll be fine with when it comes to the JPEGs then consider this short tutorial.

Sony’s Creative Styles

So before I really get into this, I’m going to reiterate a few things:

  • This works only with JPEGs. Which if you’re a film shooter who shoots film and then gets their JPEGs or TIFFs scanned, you’ll understand that there usually isn’t a whole lot of latitude with the scans anyway.
  • This isn’t AT ALL meant to replace the experience you get with film and the sensor output doesn’t completely emulate the look of Ilford FP4. But it comes pretty darned close due to how it renders both highlights and shadows.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s actually do this, right? With your Sony E mount or A mount camera, go to the Sony Creative Styles and scroll down to black and white. Dial in the contrast +1 and the sharpness +2. Lock it in and set your camera to RAW + Fine or RAW + JPEG. Now you’re ready to shoot.

Ilford FP4

Ilford FP4 gives a bit more detail from the shadows typically–which is really nice. When I shoot in Sony’s aperture priority, I tend to overexpose by a full stop. But when in full manual, I’m typically overexposing by just a tad of 1/3rd of a stop.

Of course, part of the fun in getting these looks has to do with how you develop the images. These are what Ilford FP4 could look like when developed with Rodinal according to my research.

You’ll also want to typically shoot at ISO 400.

Example Images

Now, I’m going to end this post like this: don’t consider this a replacement for film. It’s close, but it’s not perfect and it won’t give you the actual, real experience that you get when shooting film.