Infrared Photography with Ilford SFX 200 Film

April 24, 2021  •  Leave a Comment


Palo Duro Canyon
Yashica-Mat 80mm, 1/8 sec, f/22, Ilford SFX 200 with R72 filter. 

Before I had my a6000 converted for infrared, I bought a roll of Ilford SFX 200 to use in my Yashica-Mat TLR and a cheap, off-brand R72 filter. But I was afraid to shoot the film because with the cost of film and development, it was almost a $30 roll of film. Then I quit shooting film in 2018 and got the a6000 converted in 2019. So the roll of SFX just sat in the fridg. This spring my interest in shooting infrared on film has been renewed, so I’ve just been waiting for a break in my work schedule so that I could spend an afternoon wandering around with my camera.



Mesquite, Palo Duro Canyon
Yashica-Mat 80mm, 1/4 sec, f/22, Ilford SFX 200 with R72 filter. 

I finally got around to shooting that roll of film yesterday afternoon at Palo Duro Canyon. The film expired in 2019, but it had been stored in the refrigerator most of the time, so I figured it would be OK. I was also unsure about exactly how to rate the film for infrared exposure with the R72 filter. There’s surprisingly little information online, and I found a variety of different recommendations out there. Based on the most reliable sources I could find, I decided to go with 5 stops of additional exposure, rating the film at ISO 6, resulting in exposure times of about 1/4 second at f/22.


Yashica-Mat 80mm, 1/15 sec, f/8, Ilford SFX 200 with R72 filter. 

I bracketed a few of the shots using a larger aperture, f/16, and even f/5.6 for the photo of the bush. I had mixed results-one of the images was definitely over-exposed with blown out pure white clouds, but others were inconclusive because the clouds were moving quickly and I didn’t pay enough attention to taking the images in full sun. But generally, f/22 at 1/4 second, based on rating the film at ISO 6, seemed to work fairly well. The Yashica-Mat is not focus-marked for infrared, so I was hesitant to use a larger aperture for fear of getting out of focus images.

I messed up when I bought the cheap R72 filter. I bought a 72mm filter so that it could be used on my digital lenses and the Yashica-Mat with step-up rings. The problem is that the filter is so large that it covers the shutter release on the Yashica-Mat so that the cable release can’t be attached. For these exposures I leaned on the tripod and tried to hold the camera steady while I pushed the shutter button. I didn’t notice any camera movement, so I think it was alright. (The cheap filter seems to have performed wells, but I have listed it on eBay and am planning to buy a 55mm Hoya R72. I have a set of nice Kolari 72mm filters for my digital infrared now.)


Mesquite and Moon, Palo Duro Canyon
Yashica-Mat 80mm, 1/8 sec, f/22, Ilford SFX 200 with R72 filter. 

I also had my a6000 with a 28mm Minolta lens attached with a 720nm filter. This focal length is equivalent (42mm in 35mm terms) to the 80mm on the Yashica-Mat (~44mm on 35mm), so I tried to take all of the film images with the a6000 also. When I was reviewing the shot of the dead mesquite tree, I realized that the moon had risen within the branches. I quickly scrambled to get a better angle with the film camera, but the shot just didn’t turn out well. The photo presented above is much better. (And I’m sure the digital images will be better still.)

Shooting infrared on film was a learning experience, and I benefitted immensely from two years’ experience using the infrared-converted digital camera. Plus, I used my digital camera to check some of my compositions and several times decided to move on without taking a shot with the TLR. I came away with 5 good images on a 12-shot roll and bracketed several frames. I don’t think I could have been that successful if this had been my first experience with infrared photography.



Moonrise at Palo Duro Canyon
Yashica-Mat 80mm, 1/4 sec, f/22, Ilford SFX 200 with R72 filter. 

SFX 200 gets disparaged by some reviewers for not being a “true” infrared film, but these photos look pretty good to me. Although it is light-colored, the vegetation doesn’t really show the Wood effect, but that may have as much to do with it being juniper and dead grass as the film. It is a grainy film, especially in the skies, but the grain is not excessive in most of these images. On 35mm it would probably be excessive. I’m unsure how much being expired for a couple of years affected the grain. I developed the roll in Df96 Monobath, and I have no idea if that is good or bad for this film. Some of the negs looked a little thin, but most of them scanned well. I processed these photos in Lightroom using Negative Lab Pro, I think using the Linear-Gamma profile setting for all of these photos. It really darkened the sky and added some nice contrast without making the photos too dark.

I’ve had a great first experience with infrared film photography, and I’ll be doing a lot more of it in the future.


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