View Full Version : FP4 or HP5 that is the question?

05-19-2009, 11:32 PM
Finally got cash together to finish putting together my long wanted 12x20, just in time for the Ilford ULF order.

I realize this is a very very subjective question, but given the choice between FP4 & HP5 which would you choose & why?

The film will be processed in Pyrocat for for use in contact printing on both silver papers & alt processes. I had read somewhere, (though I cant currently find the link) that FP4 was more desireable due to its expansion & contraction properties. But, HP 5 has nearly a two stop advantage in speed. For my 8x10 work, I have been satisfied with FP4 & Acros, but in 12x20 all the stopping down which is necessary might benefit from the speed advantage of HP5, but if FP4 has better properties then maybe thats the way I should go.

Thanks for any input!


Kevin Caulfield
05-20-2009, 12:25 AM
I'm not an LFer but will offer an opinion. You've pretty much stated it yourself. HP5 gives you the two stop speed advantage, but FP4 gives you finer grain. Having said that, for a 400 ISO film, HP5 has reasonably fine grain. I'd say use both. When and if you need the speed, use the HP5, and when you have a "slower" subject and more time, use the FP4.

05-20-2009, 12:33 AM
I use it both in 4x5 and MF, but never in anything this large. Since everything will be contract printed I am not worried about the grain, more the suitability for alt process work. Somewhere I had read HP5 wasn't as suitable as FP4 for that.

Thanks for input.


05-20-2009, 12:35 AM
Remember to consider that grain will be no issue whatsoever in this case, due to the lack of magnification. Even in medium format, I think the grain differences are minimal in 11x14 prints.

HP5 is a flatter film in the shadows, and a steeper film in the highlights than FP4. This is my experience, in any case.

I find that HP5 is more versatile, especially in larger formats where grain is not an issue. I say this because the contrast is lower over all. It expands and contracts just fine, if not better than FP4, IMO. However, FP4 does have a different look, with less shadow detail and more highlight detail in a given composition when compared to the same shot on FP4.

I would use both, personally; probably HP5 for silver prints and FP4 for alt processes requiring a high CI.

If I had to pick one, it would be HP5, for the lower contrast and two-speed advantage. These things help with latitude, malleability, depth of field, action stopping capability, and can help minimize your entry into reciprocity failure land. If it is too flat, you can develop it more. It will take it just fine, especially in such a large format.

Michael Kadillak
05-20-2009, 04:24 PM
Couple of suggestions based upon my journey down the road of 12x20.

First thing I would do is to actually acquire some small quantities of FP4+ and HP5 in either rolls or say 4x5 sheets and do some small scale printing for various trials of expanding development and normal development to see how the film responds on a smaller less costly scale. Evaluate the negatives over a light table closely and do your best to make some prints with these. Even 4x5 contacts are remarkably vibrant when executed properly. Take good notes and keep the costs at a minimum.

That said if all you were doing would be silver printing either film would be likely adequate and HP5 will shine as the extra film speed comes in handy.

Any of the alt processes are challenging for HP5 because the film curve at the top end turns flat and your ability to generate a net density to hand off to your prints becomes inhibited. This is not as much the case with FP4+. If you conduct your visual print beta test above this tendency will become very visually apparent.

Last thing I would suggest that you do with your new 12x20 is to make yourself a scale for your lenses that provide you with a reference point for infinity and a scale beyond infinity at measurable points so that you can make sure that you check for any bellows extension corrections that need to be dialed in. These big cameras regularly get into bellows corrections with photographs that one would not intuitively even check for these issues - but they are there. Ask me or anyone that shoots these formats how they know? The scale provides a quick reminder to add exposure to keep you on the straight and narrow. Sheets this size are much to expensive to unintentionally leave under exposed and then have to resort to over development as the last man standing.

If you have small light leaks at the flap edge of your holders, use some thin black fiber tape to cover the flap seam on both sides of the flap on the top surface of the holder.

Good Luck!

Allen Friday
05-20-2009, 04:42 PM
If you are going to do platinum or other alt processes with a long tonal scale, your are better off with the FP4+. As others have mentioned, HP5 is difficult, but not impossible, to develop for a long enough scale for alt prints. I like HP5 for silver printing, but I find it too hard to work with for many of the alt processes.

05-20-2009, 05:03 PM
Gary, what will your top shutter speeds be like in ULF. 1/25 or longer? If so then I'd go for the fp4+. Consider that under sunny-16 light you'd not be able to shutter fast enough to use the hp5+ at apertures larger than f/64, and that'd be a waste of the resolution of your film and probably also your lens.

As for grain... non issue at 8x10 already IMHO.

05-20-2009, 07:21 PM
Thank you all for the help, it pretty much confirmed what I had been thinking. I have used enough of fp4 & hp5 in MF & fp4 in 4x5 & 8x10, but I have never tried hp5 in LF/ULF sizes. Honestly, I wasnt sure how well it was suited to dual process or alt process. I think I will go with FP4.



05-21-2009, 03:00 AM
Ian Leake uses HP5 at 800 in Rodinal for his high key platinum prints (I believe) so it's doable. FP4 in Pyrocat-HD at 80 for me makes it quite difficult to use in 7x17. Throw in a filter and the problems are greater. These beasts are big and very wind affected. My plan is to try some Max-Pyro and hopefully use HP5 at 400, which would make a big difference. Can always use an ND filter if your shutter speeds are not fast enough. All that said, I've not tried any Pt/Pd prints with HP5 in PyroHD.

Anyone now where Lodima fits in the CI scale compared to Silver and Alt prints such as Pt or Pd?

Andrew O'Neill
05-21-2009, 11:20 PM
I use both films in 4x5 and 8x10 in pyrocat-hd. HP5 is my main film, so I would probably go with that if I had to choose. HP5 expands no problem up to N+2. I rarely have to give that much expansion. Usually it's N or N-.

05-22-2009, 12:23 AM
Thanks for the information.

Andrew, if I may ask. Do you find HP5 to be any harder to work with than FP4. I have shot alot of FP4, but the only HP5 I have used is in MF.



Andrew O'Neill
05-24-2009, 10:48 PM
Hi Gary,

Sorry for my late reply. No I do not find HP5 any harder to work with than FP4. It is actually easier to work with. A lot more forgiving.

05-24-2009, 10:56 PM
I would go with the faster HP5, cannot beat a little speed.

05-25-2009, 07:43 AM
Hi Gary,

Sorry for my late reply. No I do not find HP5 any harder to work with than FP4. It is actually easier to work with. A lot more forgiving.


Thanks very much! I greatly appreciate the info, it helps alot.


Andrew O'Neill
05-25-2009, 07:38 PM
Hi Gary,

Where abouts are you in Japan? I lived in Kurume (Fukuoka ken) for about 12 years...going back there this summer.

05-25-2009, 09:20 PM
Hi Gary,

Where abouts are you in Japan? I lived in Kurume (Fukuoka ken) for about 12 years...going back there this summer.

Hi Andrew,

Way up north in Niigata on the Sea of Japan, about as far away from Fukuoka as you can get; been here for 11 years, plus 4 more for uni. I have been to Kurume once actually nice area, but too hot for me. If you are going thru Tokyo or Nagoya drop me an email. I travel to both of them every couple of weeks.



Andrew O'Neill
05-25-2009, 11:45 PM
Tell me about it...I am not looking forward to the hot humid summer. I spend most of my time dodging from one air conditioner to the next.