Ultimate Black and White Film Comparison Guide

I went through a couple months in 2016 trying out a lot of black and white (B&W) emulsions before I finally settled on Ilford HP5. I dug up these image examples and give my take on what I enjoyed and disliked about the films. Hopefully you'll find this helpful and links to purchase the films are in the titles. 

Fomapan 400

It's a little bit muddy and dull. I pushed 2 rolls to 1600 and really didn't like what came back, it could be that I underexposed some images but even properly exposed images didn't have any punch or character either. Not a fan. 

Ilford FP4

At ISO 125 FP4 is a great film for landscapes and still life subjects. It is perfectly fine but never really captured me. It's classic and simple but lacks the punch in contrast that I'm going for. 

Ilford Delta 400

I had one roll come out spectacularly and another come back a dud. Delta 400 is a step up from HP5 with a finer grain and possibly more dynamic range. Is it $2 better than HP5? I'll have to try a couple more rolls to be sure. 

Ilford HP5

My favorite and I've covered it in depth before. It gives my images a look I really like and I rarely have to do any adjustments in post. For me that's enough. 

Ilford XP2

It may sound like blasphemy to have a C-41 B&W film in this list but I liked the look of what I got back. Images were extremely contrasty with a quick gradation from black to white. It looks and feels a bit noir. Disadvantage is that you really can't push it easily. 

Kentmere 400

Made by Ilford this is the cheaper version of HP5. Looking at these images now make me want to go back and give it another try, the images have a similar character as HP5 with nice contrast and tone but one issue is a little less dynamic range.

Kodak Double X 5222

Kodak Double X is a motion picture stock that was given to me by David Hancock. I've had a great time with Double X, and the images have a flat overall look but show great detail and character. One of the more subtle films I've tried and it would be great for still life images and portraits. This has also been rebranded by Cinestill as bwxx. 

Kodak P3200

The roll I had was super expired, 10 years, and I should of shot it at 800 rather than 1600. These aren't the best examples but do show what expired high speed film looks like. 

Kodak Tmax 100

I had purchased 20ish rolls of this for $2 a roll when I left Kansas. Being the first B&W film I used I really loved the smooth gradations and classic tones it produced. It's a versatile and forgiving film as well, it looks pretty good pushed at 400 and handled all sorts of weird photo assignments I did very well. 

Kodak Tmax 400

While I loved Tmax 100, I never fell for Tmax 400. The images came out fine in terms of detail and sharpness but I felt there were a bit lifeless in impact and contrast. Even when pushed it felt a bit too restrained for me. 

Kodak Tri-X

While I didn't like Tmax at 400 I really like Tri-x. It's a classic look that borders on being too contrasty but I prefer a B&W film to have a bit of punch. It pushes really well too and is incredibly sharp. The only reason it doesn't beat HP5 is because I like the tonal range of Ilford slightly more. 

Ultrafine 400

It could of been the day but my images with Ultrafine 400 were a bit flat and muddy. I prefer a bit of tension in the negative and this didn't deliver. 

Thanks for making it this far. If you have any other B&W films you'd like to see me try please put it in the comments. Also what's your favorite and why?