Just for comparison, I ordered two 36 exposure rolls of Kodak BW400CN film. This is a black and white film that, like Ilford XP2 Super 400, can be developed anywhere using the C-41 process. That means cheap film development at Costco.
Somehow the Kodak B&W film is cleaner. I’m going to explain it poorly, but the Ilford comes out developed with dust particles. Not every frame but some do.
At first I thought it was just a bad day at the developing machine but it’s not that. Every Ilford Super XP2 400 roll I have used has samples where you get that look of scratched film or small particles of dust.
I don’t mind it as it adds character, but the Kodak doesn’t have that. It generally looks sharper and cleaner to me.
Shooting in B&W remains a surreal experience. It’s not like using Photoshop to make the image black and white, it’s got a separate character to it. With digital photography I almost always do some adjustment. It’s an automatic part of my process and makes for better images.
Not so with film photography. Even though it’s digitized and modified by the developer/scanner I never make adjustments. I don’t crop or change anything although I have re-sized the images for presenting here.
I’ll keep ordering both B&W films but for now I think I appreciate the Kodak more than the Ilford version.