One of the reasons for buying a large format 5×7 Walker camera was to learn the craft of paper negative photography. In my last post on paper negatives I discussed the control of contrast. However I am finding Ilford WarmTone paper a little too slow for indoor portrait work so I decided to test Ilford Ilfospeed RC De Luxe in grade 2 with a pearl finish. This post records how I got on …

Judging by the H&D curves for these papers published by Ilford, two things jump out:

  • Firstly Ilfospeed is faster by dint of it showing density earlier than Warmtone and reaching maximum density earlier too.
  • Secondly the maximum density of Ilfospeed is slightly lower and the slope of the curve is less steep, possibly enabling easier contrast control.
Sketch of H&D curves for Ilford Warmtone FB (filter 2) vs Ilford Ilfospeed RC grade 2

My speed for Ilfospeed RC DeLuxe grade 2

Test set up using a Walker Cameras 5×7

The first task was to work out my personal speed for this paper for scanning purposes with my combination of lens, light meter and development process.

I metered my test scene using a spot meter, placing the centre of the vase on zone 5. I took 3 exposures at ISO 6, 12 and 25. From a previous bungled test I had already eliminated ISO 3 and 1.5. The scene had an EV range of 8 to13, a tonality range just capable of being represented by paper, although that depended where I placed zone 5 of course. In hindsight I should probably have placed the vase on zone 4.

The Ilford technical information suggests a development time of 45 seconds to 1 minute in Multigrade 1+9 at 20 degrees C. However I found this time was too long leading to blocking up, so I ‘snatched’ the negatives after 30 seconds for each of the test negatives.

I then scanned the negatives into PS, altered the histogram for white and black points and inverted the image. No other adjustments were done other than minor spotting.

Here is the result at ISO 12: quite nice.

5×7 paper negative on Ilford Ilfospeed RC DeLuxe grade 2 at ISO 12 – no post processing..

I quite like the mottling effect which I assume is caused by the light bouncing back from the back layer of the paper. I also like 5×7 in portrait mode.

Next post

In the next follow up post I will examine the effect of under-exposing and over-developing the paper negative along the lines of Mortenson’s 7D negative. Quite a bit of the skill of paper neg work seems to lie in development by inspection, so looking at varying the snatch point will teach me something. It reminds me of Lith work.


I was not sure about the blochiness, so I re-ran the test at ISO 12. This time after some changes to tonality I got:

Rerun ISO 12

So I put the blochiness down to uneven development in the developer.