Ilford SFX 200


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think “infrared”? For most people, it’s probably that scene in Predator where he’s stomping around the jungle, cutting down dudes with machine guns like a drunk lumberjack. He’s got the upper hand thanks to his alien super sight. And with a roll of Ilford SFX 200 and a Hoya R72 filter, you too can take pictures with Predator-vision. Kinda.

For anyone not familiar with what infrared is- it’s part of the spectrum of light that’s invisible to the human eye. It’s basically above the wavelengths of red that we can process with our naked peepers. To capture this light photographically, you need to use a film (or digital sensor) that is highly IR sensitive, and a filter to block out all other wavelengths of color below infrared (about 700nm). You can have digital cameras converted to shoot IR with no filters and all that, but that is a topic for another blog. This is a post about my first experience shooting with SFX 200, and by no means a tutorial or how-to. There are a lot of great resources on the topic, and I’ll list a few at the end of the post for anyone wanting more info.

Just as a reference, here’s a quick comparison of the difference:



I shot the majority of the roll as infrared images, but I also did capture a few scenes as just straight black and white (adding a Hoya R25A filter for contrast), and I really like how SFX rendered everything both ways. It’s a pretty sharp film with good contrast even without using any filters. The one thing I wasn’t too crazy about was the grain from the scenes where I shot with the IR filter. Because of the extended exposure times (30 sec – 2 mins) it becomes really pronounced as opposed to using a fast shutter.

Thankfully, I ran into a problem shooting some 10 to 12 minute long exposures on the roll right before this- there were some pretty heavy light leaks that rendered the shots unusable which I think were coming from the lens mount. I say thankfully, because it ruined a $5 roll of Tri-X instead of a $10 roll of SFX! However, one trash bag and rubber band later I had a solution.

Along with the roll of SFX, I also took my D750 to get a few IR ‘false color’ images. The purple cotton candy magic in the digital shots is all in the post-processing, though. This is what you start with straight out of camera. I’ll link to some good references on post processing digital IR images below. The best tip I can offer (especially for Lightroom users) is- create a new color profile with the Adobe DNG Profile editor. It’s free from Adobe. Until I did that, I couldn’t get the correct color temperature to convert over in my RAW images.

So, we’ve reached the end of my very un-technical non-how-to post about IR photography. What’s the verdict? I will definitely be shooting SFX again, in both IR and as straight black and white. Now I’m looking forward to running a 120 roll through the Yashica, and see what neat things happen there.

Below are the keeper images. The film was shot on an F3, the digital using a D750.


Ilford SFX 200 with Hoya R72 or R25A filter
(Click any thumbnail to open gallery)


D750 with both stacked Hoya R72 and 25A filters
(Click any thumbnail to open gallery)



Some good resources for IR film shooting:
Vivid Light – Understanding IR Photography
Freestyle Photo – Film IR Tips

Resources for Post processing digital IR files:
Tutsplus Infrared Photography Processing
Adobe DNG Profile Editor (Free Download)