Shooting at night with Ilford Delta 3200

After a long hiatus from film, I have recently returned to my favorite medium, and I almost exclusively shoot film these days. For the past month I shot only C-41 and E6 color films, but what I had really missed was shooting black and white. 

Digital cameras have come a long way, and today’s digital cameras have amazing abilities. But I still find black and white film to be unique. Converting digital to black and white can give great results, but I always get the look I want for black and white when I shoot film.  And it comes easily, just scanning and a very subtle process, mainly in contrast. I’ve seen people getting amazing black and white results from digital, but I don’t have the patience to make the necessary post process in Photoshop or Lightroom, and the b&w presets don’t really give me the look I want. So, it is much easier for me to just shoot film and get the look I like.  

A week ago, I went to a local event at Greece, where great fires are lit in various parts of the city of Giannitsa. It’s a local custom that goes on annually just before Christmas. Fires are lit at night, so it was a difficult decision between digital or film . I own a Sony A7s which I use for my video work, and it is the indisputable “Night King”. I can easily shoot at crazy ISO levels and get a good picture. But, I opted for my film camera at the end.

With film , it is not just the look. It is the whole process that I really like. When I shoot digital, I will probably return at home from an event like this with a few hundrend images. I will also be tempted to check my screen between shots to see framing and exposure. With film , I work in a completely different way. I think carefully before I take an image, and when I press the shutter I just continue my way without checking anything. This allows me to enjoy more an event, and I am sure many film shooters will agree with this. 

So, since the event was at night, I chose two rolls of Ilford 3200 Delta

I rate this film at 1600 ISO, but when my shutter speeds are very slow, I will shoot it at 3200. I was between my Nikon F801s and Leica M6, and alhough I knew the Nikon would be much easier to work with  since it is an auto focus camera with a great meter, I opted for the Leica M6. It was a cold night, and the fully mechanical camera seemed like the better choice. In addition to that , shooting with the M6 is something I really love, rangefinder cameras are my favorite for various reasons. 

I took two lenses with me, the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4, a classic fast street lens, and the Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5, since I really love this focal length. Now, at f/4.5 it is not easy to shoot at night, even with a 3200 ISO film , but since the fires would always be in my frames, I thought I could get away with it. 

Shooting in these conditions without having the luxury of checking in preview your shot is not easy. Focusing was not easy. I could focus on the fire or people near it, but in many cases it was a difficult process. I haven’t used the auto focus Nikon F801s in night conditions, so I don’t know how it would behave, but I don’t think it would be an easy task, since it’s an old technology camera. 

The most difficult part of course was getting the exposure right. The Leica M6 has a kind of centered weighted meter, and of course it is not on par with the modern exposure metering systems. I found myself in many situations choosing the exposure setting by instinct and override what the camera’s meter was showing me. I have shot hundrends of rolls with the Leica M6, so I consider myself an experienced M user, and when I developed the film , I found that my instinct  in most of my shots was right. There is kind of satisfaction you get, when you see your developed roll and find out that your choices were right !!

I shot a total of two rolls that night, which is 72 images, and I am quite happy with the number of keepers.Many more than I would had with my digital camera. So, I am very happy from the images I got. 

Delta 3200 has grain, it is natural for a 3200 ISO film, and many people who are used to super clean digital images, may find it “noisy’. But film does not have  noise, it has grain , and it looks very different from digital. Personally, I like grain , especially when I view printed images. 


I developed the film with Ilfotec DD-X (1:4) for 10 minutes at 20C. Normally, it is 9 minutes and 30 seconds, but I gave it half a minute more. 

Overall, it was a great night. We had a good time, I got the images I wanted, and I really enjoyed the event. 

Enjoy the rest of the images.

©2017 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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