HP5 Plus in HRX-3 New

Al fresco diners at the Crieff Hydro Hotel.

Since I began using Spur developers, I'd say that Ilford Delta 100 in Acurol-N has been my favourite combination. Nice and sharp, fine-grained and robust tones. Sometimes, though, a little extra speed is desirable for hand-holdability when out with the family since it can be anti-social expecting people to hang about while I set up a tripod - and I'm already anti-social enough as it is. So I've been having fun with some HP5 Plus.

These pics are from a roll of the faster Ilford film which has to be rated at 250 ISO when developed in HRX-3 New since this fine grain developer - as do many others of its type - causes a slight loss of speed. The camera was my old Nikon F. The first two pics were shot using the 35mm Nikkor-S Auto whilst three and four come courtesy of a 24mm Nikkor-N Auto. Both lenses date back to the mid-to-late 1960s.

Mill pond at 19th century Barry Mill

The 35mm is a lovely lens to use. It's sharp enough but there are lots sharper. It also exhibits just a little flare which lowers contrast around highlights and - dare I say it - endows pics with a little "Leica glow". I think it "draws" something like a very good copy of a pre-war Elmar. The Mill Pond shot above shows some of that lovely character.

The 24mm is a more business-like lens which is sharp and contrasty when stopped down a little. The photograph below is of a large patch of burdock growing close-by the mill pond. The sun was shining down on it so I held the camera just above ground level, pointed it upwards and just guessed at the framing.

Beneath that is a snaking boardwalk on the Carnoustie golf links. At the far end of it is the 17th green of the Buddon course while the end I was standing at leads to the 18th tee.

HP5 Plus is a very fine film and it's tempting to standardise on it for just about everything. In a fine grain developer like HRX-3 New, it's perfectly suited to 35mm photography. I've yet to do any wet prints from these negs but, just looking at them on the enlarger baseboard, grain seems very well controlled. As others have pointed out in the past, notably Barry Thornton, films such as Tri-X and HP5 Plus can also appear sharper in a print than naturally fine-grained, slower emulsions.

In 120 size, HP5 Plus might be just about perfect. In D76 it can be rated at 800 ISO with pretty good results for indoor use or night-time snaps with a fast lens. HRX-3 New, which I've found produces slightly smaller grain than D76, would be ideal for all other shooting. There's a lot of good, sound, common sense in sticking to just one film possibly with a couple of developers, one for normal shooting and one when pushing it a stop.

HRX-3 New and HP5 Plus is another great combination. We may have lost some photographic materials over the years like Plus X film and lots of much-lamented enlarging papers but it's good to know that there are still plenty of film/developer pairings out there to keep life interesting.


  1. I say, those are wonderful. I can't ever remember HP5 being so smooth. Is it possible that your scanner cancels some of the grain? :)

    The Mill Pond and burdock pictures are lovely. Don't know whether Nikon changed sth in their lens designs in the 80's, as their Ais wideangles from that era don't impress me at all. The results from these 60's lenses on the other hand look very special indeed (although one probably should not pass judgment from a scan).

  2. Hi Bruce

    The Mill Pond shot is a wee cracker! What a lovely atmosphere - a really nice lens / film /developer combination.

    As for the Burdock - the "guessed framing" technique paid off! Did you crop on the baseboard - surely you weren't that lucky (oops! I mean naturally talented...) straight from the film frame?

    I'm a big fan of HP5 - I'll need to give this developer a trial run.

    Thanks for posting your results.



  3. Michael Stevens26 July 2013 at 10:04

    Lovely pictures. I've standardised on HP5+ largely for the reasons you mention. I rate it at 200 and develop in D76 1:1 but these results make me think I should give this new stuff a go as well.

  4. Thanks, lads.

    Omar: I don't think the scanning software does any noise reduction but I'll check just in case. I think the older Nikon lenses are softer and smoother than the more recent ones. It depends what you're after, I suppose.

    Eddie: I did indeed get lucky with the guess framing! Took three shots in total and they're all usable. I put it down to clean living.

    Michael: If you can get your hands on some of the Spur developer you should give it a try. It keeps well so you'd be able to use it concurrently with the D76. Would you see the difference in prints? Hard to say without a side-by-side comparison.