Film Photography Tutorial: Choosing Your First Ilford Film

ILFORD PHOTO offer the biggest and broadest range of black & white films on the market today. While this is perfect for experienced film photographers who love having a choice, we appreciate that it can be a bit confusing for people new to film photography.

If you are looking to try film photography for the first time and are wondering where to start, then you have come to the right place.

We should start by pointing out that there is no ‘wrong’ choice when it comes to ILFORD films. They are all fantastic, and your choice will boil down to a combination of personal preference (for example grain structure) and how/what you plan to shoot (speed and exposure latitude).


Ilford HP5

The majority of our films break down into 2 distinct lines: The PLUS films (FP4 PLUS, HP5 PLUS and PAN F PLUS,) and the DELTA PROFESSIONAL films (DELTA 100, DELTA 400 and DELTA 3200).

DELTA PROFESSIONAL films use the latest film emulsion technology which give them the advantage of a lower grain to speed ratio. This means that you get less grain at the equivalent speed when compared to PLUS films presenting a marginally cleaner, sharper look.

However, PLUS films, which use an established emulsion technology, have more exposure latitude than DELTA films. This makes them better for push and pull processing. They are also less sensitive to over processing making them ideal for people learning about film photography.

There is no right or wrong choice when choosing between DELTA PROFESSIONAL and PLUS films. Both are professional quality ranges and the fundamental differences are down to the available speeds, exposure latitude and the look of the grain structure.

Ilford Delta 400

For a good starting point try HP5 PLUS (or FP4 PLUS if in a studio or bright light environment) and, as you get more confident with exposures, then try the Delta films to see if you prefer the look.


ILFORD PHOTO also produce specialty films outside of the PLUS and DELTA PROFESSIONAL ranges. These have unique characteristics that differentiate them from the others.

SFX 200 – this medium speed film has extended red sensitivity so when coupled with a [deep red filter] can produce infra-red style images. This is a popular creative style with black & white landscape photographers as the skies become a deep black and green vegetation a snow-like white.

Ilford XP2 Super

XP2 SUPER – This fast speed film shares many characteristics with the DELTA 400 and HP5 PLUS films. The key difference is that this film offers the convenience of C41 colour processing which increases your processing options. You can drop it into almost any local lab, supermarket or chemist that offers film processing while your standard black & white films need to go to a specialist lab – find a local one here or try our award-winning ILFORD lab service.

Another feature unique to XP2 SUPER is the ability to shoot different speeds between ISO 50 and 800 on the same roll and still process as standard. (If you push or pull other films you have to keep the ISO settings consistent and process it against that ISO).

Be sure to see our review of the Ilford XP2 Super disposable camera.


The Kentmere brand, which includes the Kentmere 100 and 400 black & white films, is owned and manufactured by HARMAN technology. These films sit alongside and benefit from the same rigorous production and quality control processes as all ILFORD PHOTO films.

Kentmere films are a great starting point for students or anyone learning film photography, before stepping up to ILFORD films.


Ilford Delta 100

Film Type: The ‘type’ of film you need will be determined by the camera than you are using. We have created a short animation which explains the different types of film you can buy – 35mm, 120 roll or sheet film (sheet film is available in different sizes). Please note not every ILFORD PHOTO film is available in all of these formats.

Film Speed: Film speed or ISO is the measure of the film’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO number the slower the film i.e. ISO 50 is a slower film than ISO 400. The amount of available light (either natural or created) will determine which speed you should be using. If light is limited, then a fast speed is best to keep things sharp. If there is plentiful light you can use a slower speed. As a general rule the slower speed films have a finer grain structure (when used at their recommended ISO). We have created an animation which looks at film speed and the different applications for each speed.

This is a syndicated blog post from the official Ilford Photo blog. It and the contents here are being used with permission. Be sure to also checking out Amazon to purchase some Ilford film.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.