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Sunday, 23 December 2018

XP2 super meets Zero pinhole camera and then mugged by Kodak HC110

All of this film is beyond it's best
before date.

They say that fact is stranger than fiction - but this is not fiction! I have processed XP2 super 400 in Kodak's HC110. It has produced some wonderfully smooth toned negatives with just the right amount of contrast. I really will not know how good these negatives are until they are darkroom printed.


This adventure started with my pinhole camera and the crazy idea that I would like to use the out of date XP2s sitting in my film cupboard. I have used this film in the past and been completely under whelmed by the flat looking photographs I received back from the lab. That is why I think I am being crazy!




So for the first time I am going to see what others have done and said about this film. I started with a bit of research something I do not usually do. When using a film product for the first time I like to approach it fresh without all the hurly burly from other people.


HC 110
Not to be mistake for golden syrup. 
First I should explain that XP2 super is a chromogenic black and white film designed to be processed using the C41 process for colour film. Super is the updated version of the original XP2 first released in 1981.



With a quick search a number of references came up, the first one I went to was the online photographer blog. Written by Mike Johnston. I took two things away from this blog. First was how to get the best from the film in different light if you are using the C41 process. He suggests altering the ISO depending on the lighting conditions as the film can become very contrasty. Not from my experience.




  • For regular shooting in normal lighting ISO 200
  • For shooting in extremely bright and or contrasty light ISO 100
  • For shooting in low and low contrast lighting indoor or out ISO 400
  • He does not recommend using it at ISO 800

The other bit of information that took my eye but was not part of the post was about cross processing using the monochrome chemicals. This made me sit up and take note. I like the idea of using black and white material to process and print the film because I could do it in my darkroom without a costly upgrade.

I found the write up about using black and white chemistry on the Ilford photo web site. It is very informative and took some time to read. The author Chris Moss has not only developed XP2s in HC 110 but has also used Rodinal and Ilfotec HC. He has posted a lot of images to back all his work up.

HC110 in syringes
It became apparent that he preferred HC110 as most of the work described is devoted to this developer. It was at this point I decided to use HC110 myself so I could in part test his results and cut out a lot of trial and error on my own account - a short cut so to speak. I was however disappointed to find that all his negatives had been scanned and not printed in the darkroom. The short cut in the beginning means I will have more time to experiment in the darkroom.

Lastly before I move onto my results it is worth mentioning Erik Gouldproject web site and in-particular his article on using HC 110 to control contrast by varying the dilution of the developer. This is mainly in response to Mike's assertion that XP2s can get very contrasty in certain situations. Most of this he relates to the C41 processed negatives he has produced. This could be the case for monochrome work.


lts just check those setting again
What have I gotten myself into! this was going to be a straight forward article about using XP2s and my pinhole camera. I'm pleased to say we are now getting on with the photography. The good thing about it is that I will be able to take part in world pinhole Day for the first time.

 I was able to go out over a number of days with my Zero that included world pinhole day to make the images. The sun was out which made a change from the dullness we had been experiencing, but it still had a bite.

I used three rolls of XP2s that I rated at 100 ISO I did this because it was a bright day and I wanted exposures that were seconds long rather than part seconds that a faster ISO would have produced. It also occurred to me after exposing a roll of delta 100 that I could do a comparison between the two films. In most cases it took about eight seconds for each exposure or round about as I can be quite cavalier when it comes to closing the shutter. This does lead to over exposing the film, something I should take in hand because I end up with longer printing times in the darkroom.


XP2 S 400 negatives this shows
the colour of the neg base.

 It is the first time I have experienced scepticism and anticipation in relation to the results. A bit of an April fool feeling, no matter what happens I have a plan B or do I?


Right! I loaded the first roll into the tank. Developed it for 5 mins as suggested being a first for me, I develop one film at a time so I can adjust the dev time if needed. I used the HC110 at a dilution of 1+49. Woe! this stuff is so concentrated it is like syrup. I was warned, which means using a normal graduated measure is out. You will need to use syringe/s to get the right amount of HC 110 out of the bottle if you are not going to end up with sticky fingers etc everywhere. They should be marked out in mls and part mls as the 49 works out at 12.3 mls in 600 mls of water. I wanted it to be the exact amount that was used.

Contact print. 2 sec using white light.
When it came to processing the film I kept to my standard method 12 inversion for the first 30 seconds and then four inversion every minute there after. the stop was for two minutes with the same inversion count as the developer. I did the same for the fix, fixing for 5 mins and then checking to see if the film base had cleared. I did this partly because there can be an issue with under fixing if the fix is old which mine was having been used for five previous film. When I looked the base appeared a little foggy so I put it back in for a further two minutes.

While I was checking the film base I was revealed and pleased to see the tell tail squares that images were there. I now had the unspooled dripping wet film in my hand. To be presented with some wonderfully toned negatives on a pinkish magenta film base, was something I had not been prepared for. What wonders are to be had in the darkroom! Let the fun begin!? 



If you are interested The second part of this post: