Ilford Delta 400
At present, I am hooked on the 6x12 format, and have been lugging around my 4x5 fitted with a rollfilm holder. I have been using TMax 100 for a while, but the highlights details and the contrast leave a bit to be desired. In my never ending quest for the perfect film, I tried other ASA 100 films (Foma and Lucky) until I come to the conclusion that I should be trying out ASA 400 films instead.
I did some tests with Delta 400 last Friday. One roll with my Hasselblad (80mm lens), and one roll with a Polaroid Land camera modified to take 4x5 film or my rollfilm holder. Developed in highly diluted HC110, the negatives show very good tonality, but only so so sharpness, when viewed through a loupe. I thought I was not focusing properly, or the lens on Land camera not good enough (it is a Rodenstock Ysarex, and probably 40 years old). Just as a control, I tested again using TMax 400 film. The resulting negatives show so so tonality but great sharpness, for both cameras.
Yesterday, I did another test with Delta 400. As before, good tones but so so sharpness. The images look out of focus.
It is highly unlikely that I should focus poorly on 2 different occasions using the same film, but focus properly when using another film. Also, I tested on 2 camera systems and it is unlikely that both systems have the same problems. I tend to rule out camera and focusing errors. That leave only one conclusion: either there is some problem with the film, or problem with processing. I have to say that the film feels significantly thinner than TMax 400, but not much thinner than some other film I have tested.
A search on the internet showed no mention of either problem. In fact, there is almost no info on the film. Nobody seems to be using it.
I like the tonality of Delta, but I just can not understand why it is not sharp. What is you experience of this film?
Thank you for your help.
It's my film of choice. I have never experienced any problem with lack of sharpness that wasn't down to my poor technique. It could be that it doesn't respond well to your choice of developer. Consider using Ilford's recommendation to start with, this should give good results that will act as a reference for this film.
I also use this film fairly often in 35mm and 120 sizes and have never experienced lack of sharpness. On the contrary, I find it to be sharper than TriX, another favorite of mine. Developer is usually ID-11 or Perceptol, both diluted 1+1.
Like David and Ooze, this is certaintly my film of choice in the 35mm and 120 formats. I used to favour HP+ but I now prefer the smoothness and finer grain of the Delta emulsion. With regard to its shapness I certainly have no complaints.
I dev. in PMK pyro (120) and Pyrocat-HD (35mm).
It's my overall favourite too, but for pictorial work on account of its tonality. I develop it in ID-11 1+1. Sharpness can mean different things to different people, and it's possible that you are looking for edge effects, which other films may demonstrate more easily. If I am specifically aiming for "sharpness" over tonal scale and transition, I prefer Delta 100.
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I used it for 35mm with Ilfotec DD-X and its sharp enough, though not as sharp as a Rodinal or Diafine.
Thank you for your prompt reply, and the reply from all the others.
Originally Posted by Roger Pellegrini
The whole thing started this way. I have been shooting with TX400. I was in a photo shop and remarked that while TX gave me good tones, it could be sharper. The salesman, whom I have known for over 20 years, advised me to try out Delta 400. He said that it is the sharpest ASA 400 film on the market. Well, I like the tonality of the film, but it is just not as sharp as I thought.
I tried a roll of TX yesterday, and the TX is sharper!
Of course the images shot with the Hasselblad are sharper than those shot with the old Land camera, but the ones with Delta 400 are just not as sharp as those with TMY, no matter which camera I used.
What is the difference in sharpness of the images shot with each film? I have set up a place in my office as a film test target, with objects of various textures, reflectivity and tones -- among them, a leather anklet for Indian dancers festooned with brass bells, a dark brown cloth bag folded so that a part of it is absolutely dark (Zone 0), a statuette of white ceramics, a half filled plastic water bottle with white on blue fine prints and a glossy white box with light green lettering. All these are rendered sharply with TMY and all the details are easily seen, slightly less sharply with TX, but the details are visible, but with Delta 400, I can hardly see the texture of the leather, the sharp edges of the bells, let alone the fine prints on the bottle and the light green lettering.
That is why I use the term "out of focus".
Is it a problem of exposure and the developer? I have bracketed my exposures in my tests over and under by half a stop. There is no difference in sharpness between the bracketed exposures. Will I get better images if I change developer, say to the famous DDX? Probably, but I have never seen or heard of a film not giving sharp images because of the developer.
I shall keep trying, perhaps I have done something wrong. But I just can not figure out what went wrong, especially since the film works well for so many people.
My personal opinion is that this is one of those cases when we perceive sharpness as a function of contrast. Most of the time I feel that Delta is simply too flat. It's easy to interpret this as not being sharp. I have seen it do amazing things in staining developers, though.
As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Originally Posted by maxbloom
Looking through a loupe is not conclusive enough. So I have just spent Sunday afternoon making prints from the different negatives.
Prints from Delta 400 are sharp, the ones shot with the Hasselblad being sharper. The 6x12 negatives give softer prints, which is to be expected, since the camera is made 30 to 40 years ago. Sharpness is adequate, but some areas are sharper than the others.
The 6x12 TMY negatives give prints significantly sharper, and the sharpness is even all over the print. That is why, when viewed through a loupe, the Delta negatives look out of focus.
The TX shots are between TMY and Delta400 in terms of sharpness.
I think the reason is that Delta 400 has a much thinner film base than TMY. It works OK with a 6x6 back, but with the Horseman 6x12 back, the film does not lies flat all over.
So, I suppose I have found out where the problem lies. It is too bad that the Delta 400 seems to be incompatible with the 6x12 back. I shall have to stick with TMY. Who knows, with some tweaking of development timing and contrast grade when printing, I may come up with a decent print.
Thanks for your interest in this episode.
Thank you for following it through and publishing your results.