Ilford Spots and Mottle

Fisherman, Baiter, Poole Harbour – Ilford Delta 100

A while back I ordered up a roll of Ilford’s Pan-F, it’s a film I’d used ages ago, but not for many years, I’m sure before it was “plus-ed”. I thought I’d give it another go. I used it in the small seaside, hillside, town of Clovelly in Devon. You can read about that here. Although it was a bit of a challenge using a film that slow in a bulky 120 camera, I was pleased with the results except for some pesky white dots. What could they be? I assumed it was either hard wash water, or some dodgy fix and didn’t think too much about it. Since I’ve used other films – all without issue. Just recently I broke into a new “brick” of 10 Delta 100 120’s, and used the first roll in my Zeiss 6×6, the spots were back! You can see them in the image above, especially in the sky. This time however I was sure that my chemistry was good. Just to be sure I shot another roll in my Rolleicord Va and sent it for commercial processing – still the spots. I pondered and decided to write to Ilford. (Harman Technology)

Now before I go any further, I’ll put my cards on the table, I am a bit of a Ilford fan, I’ve used ALL their films, one or two don’t suit me, most do. I’ve been using them for about 45 years. The first roll of film I ever processed was an FP4 (not plus) when I was 7 – I’m now 53! (Somehow!). I have no intention of stopping using them. I wish them continued success. I believe I’ve read somewhere that they’ve commented that they’ll be the last people standing, making film. If that’s the case, I’ll be using it!

However, the spots are a bit of a pain, so I wrote to them.. (extracted from a slightly longer letter)

“It cannot be the case that my storage is at fault, FP4 seems fine, as does Fuji Across (original and further out of date!), I’ve also used up a couple rolls of TMAX and Foma that I’ve had for a while – all of which were fine. The film was purchased from a reputable dealer, i.e. not Amazon. I’m sure the chemistry (your own Ilfosol or DDX and Fixer) is fine. In any case the commercial processing showed the same. Through the wonder of the internet it looks like many people have experienced the same issue with this film, and we can’t all be doing the same thing wrong, including a commercial lab! I therefore feel that the fault does lie in the manufacture. The fact that I have also used this same emulsion in 35mm and 5×4 without the issue, leads me to believe that it must be either the backing paper, or the films reaction to it.”

I forgot to mention that by the time I opened the pack of 10 it had gone out of date, although it was fresh when I brought it… I posted the letter.

A few days ago I received a package. Enclosed was a lovely, generous, selection of Ilford 120 films, two printed statements and a letter from Sue. I hope she won’t mind me posting a couple if lines…

“….. But we definitely know that in more recent years – due to external paper manufacture changes (i.e. the wrappers) beyond our control, films are now less robust to getting interaction effects, if the films are old/have exceeded our guide expiry dates, or if they have been stored adversely (heat/high humidity). “

Sue goes on the say “we’ve made numerous changes to the wrappers in terms of what we can do – to help protect films from interaction. eg we lay down more lacquer, dry the wrappers longer, to name a few changes”.

So it would appear that my thoughts were on the right track – it does indeed seem to be an interaction between the backing paper and the film. That would explain that 35mm or indeed 5×4 seems unaffected, despite being the same emulsion. They don’t have backing paper!

I’ve decided that, especially as you know I’ve just brought a Hasselblad (!), I’m going to use MORE Ilford film in 120. I will however be buying it in smaller quantities, more often and from a reputable supplier.

As a foot note, we just this weekend gone, had the “Pilford Heath Transport and Heritage Show”. It’s rare in the UK that we have what I now call a PANF day. It was hot and sunny, so this was it! I took my Rolleicord Va with two rolls of PAN-F along with my Canon EOS also loaded with PAN-F. I’ve processed them today, all looks good – I’ll scan tomorrow and of course the results will appear here in due course! Next post… more photo’s less text 🙂

with my sincere thanks, and best wishes to Sue at Ilford

Some links:

My use of Ilford XP2-Super in Cathedral’s

I use some HP5-Plus

I use Delta 400 out and about!

Up-dated 120 statement from Ilford (Harman Technology)

4 thoughts on “Ilford Spots and Mottle

    1. Hi Jim, yes indeed, so easy for firms these day’s to just ignore the end user and carry on – too big to care. It seems that Ilford/Harman are different and actually care about their product and the community they serve! I’ll be using more to support that attitude. -all the best -Andy

      Liked by 1 person

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