Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus Black-White-Fine-Fine-Fine

The black-and-white film Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus is now one of the classics of analogue photography. It is a technical and very fine resolution film with high contrast. We took it on our trip to the northern Åland Islands and tested it with and without orange filter.

The History

Ilford’s history of high-definition film began in 1948. Ilford launched the Ilford Pan-F with an extremely low sensitivity of ISO 16 on the market. But it was always the desire to increase the resolution, but also the sensitivity. Thus, in 1956, the Ilford Pan-F with a significantly increased sensitivity to ISO 25 replaced the first series and should remain on the market for 11 years. In 1967, another noteworthy breakthrough was achieved, the sensitivity could be doubled and the fine grain increased. A last revision with insignificant improvement was the Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus in 1992 and is offered in this version until today unchanged.

When I informed myself in a forum about the Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus, I read the recommendation that this film should not be used for landscape photography because of its high contrast. Now the Internet is full of half-truths, and it was precisely this statement that moved me to choose and use for that very reason. From previous use, I know about the contrasts, now I felt encouraged.

The Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus when traveling

Our destination was the Åland Islands with their sometimes very rocky and barren landscape, the sometimes abandoned buildings and old fishermen’s huts. Åland is a demilitarized and autonomous region that is Swedish in heart but belongs to Finland.

If the Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus is an ideal film for diffused light, it unfolds its true black and white behavior, especially in bright blue sky and quite harsh shadows. The gray tones are then less drawn, here is the real emphasis on black and white.

With or without filter?

It is certainly a matter of taste whether the behavior of the high-contrast Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus is enhanced with an orange filter. We like to use this filter, have used it only for this comparison and otherwise largely omitted.

It is noticeable that even without a filter, reds are rendered very dark, and greens are quite bright. Cloudless blue is discreetly packaged in medium gray shades. And now it can make sense to use the orange filter to lighten reds. This also includes the use in cloudy weather to bring out reds from the dark area.

In the following pictures, the first subject without and the following subject with orange filter in bright blue sky are taken. With the second pair of pictures, the lightening of the red wooden houses becomes clearer through the use of the orange filter, the picture lights up rather. The other images shown in the gallery were created without filters, but noteworthy are the plastic clouds and the dark sunny sky.

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Gray clouds, gray land

Now the temptation is great to photograph in the sunshine. But even in cloudy weather, it would be a shame to the motives, which may unfold their effect only under these conditions. We are surprised how strong the pictures are with the Ilford Pan 50 Plus, even if you prefer to stay home because of boring gray.

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Handling tips

The Ilford Pan-F 50 Plus should be developed very promptly (within about 30 days) after exposure. He has the reputation that otherwise the latent image is weakened over time. The negatives get thinner across the whole spectrum. As an ideal and quite contrast-enhancing developer, the classic Rodinal has proven itself, which is also used by the laboratories like.


Conclusions are always very subjective. And they always depend on their preferences. And yet, there are areas, this movie is great. For example, in the depiction of highly polished vehicles, or in dramatic ruins and churches. In architecture with clear lines or in industrial photography. In the picture of technical objects or the drama of the high mountains. Yes, the movie Ilford Pan 50 Plus has a clear urge to drama. It wants to be controlled. A deliberate and targeted use of filters can be useful if you want to throttle the tendency to dark tones something.

The Ilford Pan F 50 Plus is a movie that wants to be mastered. He demands the right exposure and a short development. The film is not for cheap lenses and also for the development of the discount store. The right choice has to be made between dramatic contrasts or balanced shades of gray.

We will expose a film roll with ISO 40, so slightly overexpose and report on the results.

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