The question is : is Ilford's "XP2 Super" a long-lasting enough black & white film for archival purposes?

I ask this because from what I have read, it is more of a "color" film without color, than a "real" black & white film. And since I read that color film is less likely to withstand the weight of passing years, I wanted to know if that also applies for this particular film.

Can the processing affect its life-span? Will there be a benefit to process it with typical black & white chemistry (like Rodinal for example) than a C41 processing?

  • Do you have specific requirements for the archival purposes? E.g. how would it be stored, how long should it last? – Grebu Mar 22 '16 at 13:08
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    @Grebu I would say "practical requirements": long enough to show pictures to my children when they are adults and still be able to make prints out of them, so at least 20-25 years. 50 years would be perfect... The film would be stored in acid free paper at normal humidity levels and temperature. – Meclassic Mar 22 '16 at 13:11

If you want long archivability characteristics then you should stick to regular B&W film. XP2 is chromogenic film which uses dyes during development to produce the image. These dyes do fade out with time. There was a research that I read once about color negative films life and I believe (not sure though) it was red dye who start fading first, I can't find this article right now.

But for 20-50 years (short period relatively) the chromogenic will serve you, however you must know that it's better to process it using C41 based on Ilford recommendations. The Blex step in C41 is important to process the dyes and fix at the same time, this bleach step is missing from the conventional B&W processing.

Can the processing affect its life-span? Absolutely, and that goes for each film. Short fixing for B&W negs will make them less stable and certainly not archivable.

So To summarize, if you want max archivability then stick to regular B&W negatives (print then on FB paper if you want). If you still want to use Xp2 then do C41.

Check Ilford publication for more info

PS: you can mix conventional B&W film developers with C41, just switch the developer soup in C41 with what you want and experiment. However you must do the C41 bleach to process the dyes.

  • From what I understand, stability of film over time is mostly affected by the fixing process rather than by whatever developer is used. Is that right? – Meclassic Mar 23 '16 at 3:16
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    @jrojasqu. Yes and no. Improper fixing and washing of film will definitely have a negative affect on archival lifespan of film, but as akram has said above, so does the type of image layer in the film. With traditional B&W film the image is made up of silver halides (i.e oxidised metal), rather than coloured dyes found in typical colour negative (C41) or most colour positive (E6, K14) films. Naturally the metallic silver image can be expected to last longer than a dyed image. – HamishKL Mar 23 '16 at 23:49
  • @jrojasqu I also wanna add that there are other factors too, for one how you are storing your negs? in archival acid free files or not? are they stored in a humid place? .... archivability is really a huge subject that many people tried to tackle. In your case you have to bleach the color dyes and fix using Blix (C41) for proper fixing – K'' Mar 24 '16 at 1:50
  • @akram Negs are stored in acid free files for sure. Humidity levels are that of a normal household (around 50%). But in fact, I posted this answer to know if I would make this film one that I would repeatedly use. I like its tonality for sure, and the fact that it scans so well... But not enough to take even the smallest risk. Your answer has convinced me to stick to regular B&W film for long lasting memories and important stuff (there is plenty of choice out there). I will shoot XP2 from time to time just to enjoy its "convenience" though. – Meclassic Mar 24 '16 at 2:10
  • @jrojasqu good luck and enjoy – K'' Mar 24 '16 at 2:11

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