It is quite difficult to practice film photography due to its high cost. I studied and used these two different kinds of film over the past few months. I compared and evaluated which one results better images.
As you may know, Ilford is well known film manufacturer around the world along with Kodak. Ilford is known for their HP5 lineup that provides great latitude when processing. On the other hand, Arista, a.k.a. Fomapan rebrand, is an European film manufacturer that offers great film for at a lot more affordable price. Arista films are almost half of the price compared to Ilford 4×5 sheet films. Is Ilford really worth its extra cost? Is Arista any good for professional shoot? Well, let’s take a look!
After some tests, I noticed some inaccurate ISO speed on the film. Arista EDU film tends to be a lot darker and have less black and shadow details compared to Ilfrod HP5. According to several opinions from the professionals, Arista seemed to have 1/2 to 2/3 stops slower speed than the Ilford. So, if you shooting with Aristia 400 films, do your metering at ISO 250 or 200. It’s always better to overexpose than underexpose using films.
If you often shoot in low light environment, you might want to stay away from Arista films. When shooting outside, I haven’t noticed too much of base fog; However, image shot inside the building looked hazy and/or have heavy grains. On the negative itself, HP5 gave clearer results. Seeing below comparison, as you can see, Arista yields milky base fog compared to Ilford. Also, to make Arista look as clear as Ilford, there were some hefty grain added to the photo.
If you want the sharpest results for product and landscape photography like myself, it is really important to get a sharp film. They both came out extremely sharp, but Arista came out to be ever so slight sharper.
Don’t be fooled! Technically speaking, Arista is sharper because its real ISO is rated at 200 or 250. This means Arista has finer grain than HP5 causing images to look sharper. Although above comparison after level adjustment shows superior sharpness on Arista film, but for day to day basis, it shouldn’t really matter unless you’re doing close-up product photography like this.
Both films are very capable. Although Arista yields poorer result, once it is properly edited, as simple level adjustment in Photoshop, it can give out an exceptional images.
As I mentioned earlier, just be careful with the base fog and possible under exposure using the Arista film. If you want to save some time in post, maybe Arista isn’t for you. However, if you are a student, who wants to save little more than half of its film cost, there is nothing wrong with this film.
Below three images are shot using Arista EDU 400 4X5 sheet film. Based on my experience, I personally enjoyed using Arista more thanks to its greater contrast ratio. Although heavy grain is its drawback, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me. If you are a film photography student this film is an exceptional film to use. On the other hand, if you’re a professional looking for the best possible results, HP5’s legendary wide exposure latitude itself is a deal maker to purchase.
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