Ilford XP2 Super Film Stock Review

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Shooting black and white film is completely different from shooting color film, in my eyes at least, I know many photographers that shoot either film whenever, and to extent I will shoot either film whenever too. However, after shooting black and white film for a little while now, I realized that if you shoot black and white film like it’s color, you won’t always be happy with your results.

The way light and shadows work is very different when there is only two colors on your palette – and it will show in your negatives.

One film that is great for photographers shooting both black & white and color films is Ilford XP2 Super. This is an amazing, diverse film stock that can be used in many different scenarios. Let’s get into the review to learn more about the capabilities of Ilford XP2 Super black and white negative film.

All photos © Moloney Creative Agency.




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Photo by Matthew Moloney

Ilford XP2 Super

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Ilford XP2 is a fast, sharp, fine grain black and white film that can be used for any photography experience and is perfect for shooting any subject. The XP2 Super film stock is an upgraded version of the Ilford XP2 stock and has improved exposure latitude and gives incredible sharp, crisp prints.

XP2 Super is also incredibly  easy to expose and process. The highlights and improved shadows of Ilford XP2 Super are also another benefit, as they will give you enhanced negative contrast for the best black and white print quality!

Chromogenic Film Stock

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Ilford XP2 Super is in fact a chromogenic film stock. For those of you that may not know what this means, I’ll give you a brief breakdown.

In short, when a film stock is chromogenic, it means that the images are formed during the development process, rather than being presented in the film or added later.

The relationship between exposure and grain content in chromogenic film stocks results in an extremely wide exposure latitude, allowing you to capture deep shadows and bright highlights. See an example of this wide latitude below.

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As per Ilford’s recommendations, the film stock’s best balance of sharpness and grain is obtained when exposed at EI 400/27. However, when the film is down-rated or over-exposed, there will be a much finer grain.


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One of the best parts of Ilford XP2 (as someone who shoots and develops color film) is that Ilford XP2 is processed in the standard C-41 color negative film process. This means you can develop black & white and color film sid by side. You can also make proff prints on color paper to see what looks the best and then make your final print on black and white paper to help save a bit of money.

Another benefit of using the C-41 processing method is that the high level quality control will always ensure well-processed negatives and no spotty, damaged exposures!

Developing XP2 Super film will not affect the quality of the color film processed nor the equilibrium of the chemicals involved. For this reason, I have asked myself many times why more black and white negative films are not C-41 processed.

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Exposure Rating

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The last feature of Ilford XP2 film stock is its exposure rating and light capabilities.

XP2 has a speed rating of ISO 400/27° to daylight – this speed rating was measured using standard C-41 processing. Although this is the set exposure rating, you also have the option to use a wide range of other speeds from ISO 50/18° – 800/30°. For fine grain, or when speed is not important, it is recommended to rate the film at 200/24°, although for the maximum finest grain, the film can be rated as low as 50/18° if necessary.

The practical implications of this wide exposure ranger are very important and knowing them can make all the difference in your photos. Exposing at a certain setting will definitely suit your job, but being able to adjust and use the variable settings when there is inadvertent over- or under-exposure is a huge benefit.

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We hope that you give Ilford XP2 Super a try and if you do, feel free to let us know what you thought! We love hearing your feedback on film stocks and are more than happy to help if you have any questions regarding the film stock and its many features!

For more analog inspiration, check out some of our other articles and videos:

10 Replies to “Ilford XP2 Super Film Stock Review”

  1. David Murray says:

    After shooting colour, both C41 & E6 for many years, the introduction of XP2 brought me back to mono, this is what I started with in 1960, aged 8 with a Kodak Brownie 127. The vast majority of my mono pix are still fine 1960 – 1972 whereas the early colour efforts, 1972 onwards are turning “a funny colour!” So, a mono film I could take to a high street lab sounded marvellous. Of course, there were initial difficulties: “We don’t do black and white” you do this one. “No we don’t ” yes you do, this is a C41 film that goes in with the colour films. “But we don’t do black and white” Look, ring your head office and tell them it’s a Chromogenic film that’s processed along with colour films.
    So. She rang, she said “I’ve told this man that we don’t do black and white films” no, I shouted, tell the person on the phone what it says on the film. She put the phone down. “We don’t do black and white films”
    This was Max Spielman, Crystal Peaks shopping Centre and the girl was about 17 and very naff, chewing gum all the time.

    I went to Jacobs in Sheffield. Ah, said the young man, XP2. What a difference. The young man was very well groomed. Collar and tie with cuff links. All the staff were very smart. In short, a professional outfit providing a professional service.

    The XP2 has a marvellous latitude. On my old Leica M3s I sometimes forget to carry a meter, so I guess. XP2 allows me to do this AND get away with it. So yes, I strongly recommend this film . Also, like Barbour clothes, Billingham bags and MINI cars, Ilford is BRITISH!

    1. Matt Moloney says:

      Hey David, thanks for sharing your story! I’ve had some similar things happen to me because many labs and photo shops just jump to the assumption that XP2 is a normal b&w film.

      This British film stock is definitely one to keep in the arsenal!

    2. Toby Madrigal says:

      I know the young man in Jacobs, Sheffield, he is very knowledgeable and very well trained. Perhaps , in future, Mr Murray, you will avoid Max Spielman in Crystal Peaks and patronise a proper photographers shop. Same young man, sold me a Billingham 335 that I’ve taken twice around the world and a large Manfrotto tripod that’s ex-South Yorkshire Police scene of crimes outfit. I can only imagine the scene you describe…… Vicky Pollard? Now I wouldn’t mind waking up to find the young man from Jacobs lying next to me!

  2. Richard Golonka says:

    Ok. But how does it respond to different types of filters

    1. Russ says:

      It responds quite well to filters.

  3. John Corrigan says:

    Just after shooting a roll of ilford xp2 super black and white film is the time 6 and a half minutes dev time OK

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks for the comment John! We have a new tutorial on developing Black and White Film here:

  4. David Murray says:

    One point I’ve not been able to understand is this: if I exposed XP2 Super at 50 instead of 400, is there an adjustment needed somewhere along the developing or printing line? I understand pushing and pulling from my days at Sheffield University but not done it or needed to. Perhaps someone viewing here might help me out. DM.

    1. Craig Ferguson says:

      Apparently you can shoot it at anything from ISO50 to ISO800 on the same roll!

      1. Ken Hardy says:

        Yep, I’ve been doing just that – shot several rolls of XP2 Super. Every shot came out perfectly exposed, despite exposing for ISO ratings from 100 to 800, all on the same roll, no pushing or pulling needed. I do feel, however, that it has a “different look”. Hard to describe but, to me, mid tones seem to come out lighter than what you’d get on FP4. With my lab scanned negs, I usually find myself putting a bit of an “S” curve on the Tone Curve graph in Lightroom to compensate.

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