Ilford Delta 3200 35mm Film Review

You could never accuse Ilford of not covering all the bases with their Delta range of films. Delta 100 is there if you need something crisp and clean, while Delta 400 gives you a little more speed, albeit with a little more grain.

And then this one we’re looking at today, Ilford Delta 3200, takes care of pretty much everything at a higher rating than that. Don’t worry about that number on the box being a huge jump from the 400 film either. Because as we’ll see later, it’s something of a misnomer.

But whilst making sure every lighting or speed situation is accounted for is a good thing, the question of is Delta 3200 worth shooting remains. You’d imagine it must be very grainy at that ISO level. So does it deserve to stand alongside its very good Delta 100 and Delta 400 siblings?

Read on to find out, and to learn all there is to reasonably know about this film. And if this review does make you want to try some Delta 3200 for yourself, you can always pick some up from Analogue Wonderland, from B&H Photo, or from Amazon.

Ilford 1887710 DELTA 3200 Professional, Black and White Print Film, 135 (35 mm), ISO 3200, 36 Exposures
  • Produces high quality prints
  • Compatible with all major processing systems
  • For making quality photographs in difficult exposing conditions

What is Ilford Delta 3200?

Back in the heady days of 1988, Kodak released a film onto the market with an eye-catching box speed – the since-discontinued-and-then-reintroduced T-Max P3200.

Ilford, who had already brought out their Delta 100 and Delta 400 stocks to compete with the existing T-Max 100 and T-Max 400 offerings, felt the need to respond.

And so they did, just ten short years later in the heady days of 1998, when they too released a stock with the number 3200 emblazoned on its box. Its name was Delta 3200 and it replaced the old Ilford HPS film.

I’ll just point out that neither T-Max P3200 nor Delta 3200 have been described as an ISO 3200 film here, by the way. That has been deliberate. Because despite what it says on their packaging, neither of them are.

Ilford Delta 3200 is really an ISO 1000 film with very wide exposure latitude. It can be pushed to 3200 and beyond – comfortably to 6400, with anecdotal evidence suggesting good results at 12,500, and Ilford’s own datasheet saying even 25,000 is possible too.

It can also be pulled the other way and shot at ISO 800 or down at ISO 400. For the record, all the results you’ll see in this review were shot and developed at 1600, and with the Nikon FM3a I borrowed from a friend.

As Kodak T-Max P3200 is only really an ISO 800 film, I believe that Ilford Delta 3200 is the highest ISO film in production today.

There were a few Fuji films that had it beat in that respect for a while, like the monochrome Neopan 1600 and the colour Natura 1600, although these are no longer being made.

As you’d expect from a high ISO film like this, Ilford Delta 3200 is a terrific choice for night time and indoor photography on those occasions where you don’t want to or cannot use a flash.

Think street portraits or scenes lit by streetlamps, at concerts or wedding receptions, and when doing indoor architectural work.

Even an ISO 1600 film can be shot in daylight too though, as this roll of Natura showed, which means Delta 3200 is versatile enough to be shot outdoors under the sun too – so long as you’re not pushing it too far beyond its native ISO 1000 rating.

As I split this across various lighting conditions, you’ll see a few examples of what’s possible with Delta 3200 in the next few sections of this review.

Before that though, let’s recap the what is Ilford Delta 3200 part of it.

In short, it’s an ISO 1000 monochrome film with a wide exposure latitude that can be pushed to 3200 and beyond. It’s the highest ISO film in production today and gives good results without a flash in all lighting conditions.

Ilford Delta 3200 image qualities

Generally speaking, the higher ISO a film has, the more trade-off there is with the image quality in some way.

Of course different films do bring their own characteristics and you could probably find a nice ISO 400 one – Kodak T-Max, perhaps – that gives cleaner results than a particularly grainy ISO 100 one that you may have shot.

As a general rule though, we do sacrifice some image quality to allow us the versatility of a higher ISO. And so it makes sense that perhaps the first thing I noticed about Ilford Delta 3200’s image qualities was the grain. Especially when I was shooting it outside in daylight.

This graininess is mitigated somewhat though by this film, like all of those in the Delta range, featuring a tabular grain structure. This refers to the way the silver halide crystals sit on the film, flat like floor tiles as opposed to the rounder construction of traditionally grained films.

This gives the crystals increased surface area, which makes them more efficient in gathering light, which in turn leads to better sharpness and finer grain.

Tabular grain isn’t exclusive to Ilford, who call their version of it its Core-Shell crystal technology. On their range of tabular grain T-Max films – and remember how Ilford’s Delta range competes with those – Kodak simply called it T-grain.

As mentioned, I did notice the grain straight away when reviewing the results I got from this film. But looking at them now and considering this is an ISO 1000 film that I shot at ISO 1600, I feel like the grain is at most what you’d expect from the film speed, and possibly not even that much.

It’s naturally less noticeable on the low light shots, both at night and indoors, and even on the daylight ones it’s kind of comparable to what the much lower ISO Ilford Pan 400 gave me.

Aside from the grain, this film seems nicely contrasty and pretty sharp. If you want something uber-clean like a Rollei Retro 400S, this isn’t going to fulfil your needs. But it isn’t trying to either.

If you like grain and contrast though, and want a film that can perform both in daylight and at night, Delta 3200 is arguably your very best bet.

ilford delta 3200 night shot

Shooting Ilford Delta 3200 at night

Despite being good in the daylight if you want some grainy photographs, I feel like the main reason you’d buy Ilford Delta 3200 would be if you wanted a film to shoot under light sources that aren’t quite so bright as the sun.

To test my roll, I shot it in three parts:

  • outside at night
  • indoors, night and day
  • outside in the daytime

The next five photographs show some results from that first of those and, in my opinion, show Delta 3200 doing quite well too.

Shooting film at night without a flash is nothing to be scared of. The reason shooting film in the day is easier is that you’re almost certainly going to have enough light.

But light is light, and it doesn’t really matter where it comes from. If you have enough of it, you have enough of it. And on the city streets, it’s not hard to find enough artificial light to use at night.

That’s all I did here. You can notice the light source in each shot. And you can hopefully see that our Delta 3200 used that light to give us some half-decent results too, with good contrast and actually not-too-overbearing levels of grain.

Shooting Ilford Delta 3200 indoors

Shooting indoors is the same as shooting outdoors at night in that you only need to have enough artificial light to illuminate your scene or your subject.

Some places will use spotlights to shine on certain points only, like items a shop is trying to sell, while others – like a subway station – will have a more uniform lighting arrangement.

In both cases, you can use what they’re giving you in your photographs. And with a high ISO film, you don’t need it to be at the level you’d expect when shooting outdoors with an ISO 100 or 200 film, for example.

Again, I think this Ilford Delta 3200 did well with what I pointed it at in the shots below, giving a similarly high contrast and noticeable-yet-nice grain as it did with the night time shots above.

Shooting Ilford Delta 3200 in daylight

One good thing about Delta 3200 is that if you keep your ISO set somewhere reasonable, like the 1600 I shot all these at, you can shoot the same roll in most lighting conditions.

If you want to use it to tell the story of a night and day you spent somewhere, you can. If you want to do a 24-hour photo challenge, it would be a fine choice. And if you’ve shot most of your roll at night or indoors and you want to finish it off in the daytime, or vice versa, feel free to do that too.

Yes, the shots below do show more grain than the night time and indoor ones above, but they’re not unusable by any stretch of the imagination. If you like grain, you might even think that adds to their feel.

I wouldn’t recommend you buy some Delta 3200 just for daylight shots though. For one, you can buy cheaper grainy films than this. And for two, it’d be a shame not to play with it in low light if you had some.

But it does hold up well for the photographs you also shoot in daylight if you include some of those in a set of images with a variety of lighting levels.

Street photography with Delta 3200

Shooting with a film as versatile as Delta 3200 gives you the opportunity to try some different kinds of street photography projects than you could with lower ISO films.

While it’s possible to do some low light work with an ISO 400 film, you’re going to have a lot more leeway and a bigger safety net as far as exposure and shutter speeds go if you use a high ISO film like this one instead.

Instead of walking around during the daytime only, or at the morning or evening golden hours, you could head out to the busy shopping streets after dark.

Or, as mentioned, you could give the 24-hour photo challenge a go, where you’d stay awake for 24 hours and shoot something on the hour, every hour. A film like Delta 3200 would be ideal for that.

And as we’ve already explored, you can include indoor spaces in a street photography project too. Traversing the city? Shoot in the subway as you do. Stopping for a drink in a bar? Get some shots in there too.

I feel I’m repeating some points from earlier in this review now, but I wanted to make sure this had its own section.

A film like Delta 3200 opens up more doors for different street photography projects than low ISO films. Maybe spend some time thinking about how you can take advantage of that.

Delta 3200 specs and development

Paraphrased from what Ilford themselves say and with some extra adjectives thrown in, Delta 3200 is a high-speed panchromatic black and white negative professional film that’s ideal for action and available light photography, allowing you to make quality photographs in difficult exposing conditions.

It’s available in this 35mm version we’re reviewing here, which comes in a DX-coded cassette with the barcode number 017384, and in 120 medium format too. At the time of writing, Kodak’s rival T-Max P3200 is 35mm only.

Despite it really being an ISO 1000 film, Ilford also state that it’s designed to be shot at ISO 3200 and given extended development.

It has a very wide exposure latitude, which means it can be shot from ISO 400 all the way up to ISO 25,000 – again, according to Ilford themselves – and features unobtrusive grain thanks to Ilford’s tabular grain Core-Shell crystal technology as well as rich tonality.

There’s a whole host of information on all things Delta 3200 on the official datasheet here, as well as the interesting point that Ilford advise this film not be subjected to airport x-ray scanners. If it has to be, they recommend to always carry the film as hand luggage.

Higher ISO films like this are more susceptible to being affected by x-ray scanners in places like airports than lower ISO ones, and Ilford state that all of their films except for Delta 3200 should be okay going through the ones that check your hand luggage.

However, the newer types of CT scanners being installed in many airports are said to fry any film that gets put through them anyway.

If in doubt, get it hand-checked whatever the ISO. But especially so if it’s something as high as Delta 3200.

Another thing to remember with this film is that your lab won’t be able to assume what ISO you shot it at like they would other stocks. If they receive a roll of Portra 400 for example with no special instructions, they’ll develop it at box speed.

With Delta 3200, it’s going to be less clear what you shot it at, so be sure to tell your lab when you drop it off or send it in to them. Some tick boxes on the back of the cassette let you easily do this.

As far as developing by yourself goes, you can again refer to Ilford’s own datasheet, look at this film processing chart they produced, and check out the always useful Massive Dev Chart from Digital Truth for all the information you’d need.

For chemicals, Ilford recommend their own Ilfotec DD-X, Microphen, and ID-11 developers on that aforementioned datasheet.

Ilford 1887710 DELTA 3200 Professional, Black and White Print Film, 135 (35 mm), ISO 3200, 36 Exposures
  • Produces high quality prints
  • Compatible with all major processing systems
  • For making quality photographs in difficult exposing conditions

Where to buy Ilford Delta 3200

I’d suggest that Ilford Delta 3200 sits somewhere in the middle in terms of widespread availability in brick ‘n’ mortar shops. You’ll perhaps not find it in your local pharmacy that only really carries more normal stocks like HP5 Plus and Kodak Gold et al.

But on the other hand, if you do have a photography shop near you that sells a large range of film, there’s a good chance they’ll have some in there. It’s far more likely than them having some of this Oriental Seagull 100 that Harman also produce, for example.

That said, you’ll never not be able to get hold of some Delta 3200, because it’s always available through the usual suspects online. From the small independent businesses to the behemoths, there’s always a roll or three just a click or three away.

You can check current prices and availability through the links below.

Final thoughts on Ilford Delta 3200

Something I try to avoid on this website is telling anyone what to do with their photography. I talk about what I do, and give advice on how you can do similar. But never in a way that’s this is how you must do it.

You can do what you want. So long as you’re getting out and doing something rather than nothing with your camera, I don’t really care what that thing is.

I’m also not one for espousing how any given stock should be used to shoot a certain subject matter.

You can shoot Ektachrome E100 out in the streets and CineStill 800T out daylight if you want. There’s more to those films than shiny classic cars and petrol stations at night.

All that said though, I am going to leave you with a gentle nudge and a small recommendation of sorts for shooting your Ilford Delta 3200 as we wrap up this review.

And that, if you have some Delta 3200 and are reading this before you shoot it, is to not waste the opportunities its high ISO capabilities give you that most other films don’t.

There are plenty of ISO 400 – including Delta 400 – and lower ISO monochrome films out there if you just want to walk around outside shooting in daylight. You could do that with Delta 3200 too of course, but I don’t think you should limit yourself to just that.

This isn’t about shooting a film wrong or any other negative gatekeeping nonsense.

It’s a positive message about wanting you to not limit your own potential for creativity. Especially if you’ve never shot at night or indoors before, and especially handheld in fluid and unpredictable environments as opposed to with a tripod.

Ilford Delta 3200 gives you the opportunity to do that, and I think it’d be a shame to not even try – whether you’ve ever considered doing so before or not.

So if you’re reading this and don’t have any of this film in your stash yet, why not pick some up from Analogue Wonderland, from Amazon, or from B&H Photo and give it a shot?

Shooting it in the situations described above will only help you grow as a photographer, will give you some different results to if you only ever shoot under the sun, and will be a lot of fun also.

What’s not to like about that? 🙂

Ilford 1887710 DELTA 3200 Professional, Black and White Print Film, 135 (35 mm), ISO 3200, 36 Exposures
  • Produces high quality prints
  • Compatible with all major processing systems
  • For making quality photographs in difficult exposing conditions

If you found this Ilford Delta 3200 review useful, why not take a look at these other fantastic films too:

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And if you think others will also enjoy or benefit from this film review, help them find it by sharing or pinning. 😀

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