Film review: Bergger Pancro 400 35mm – First impressions at EI 400 (bracketed +/- 1 stop)
You may have seen this recent article covering all the films announced and released in 2017. One of the films featured was Bergger Pancro 400, a totally brand new emulsion for 2017. In fact, if my research is correct, it’s the first totally new black and white emulsion for over a decade (and yes, that includes ADOX Scala 160, which is apparently a reformulation of APX 100). Since getting my hands on a few rolls of Pancro 400 in both 35mm and 120, I’ve been hard at work testing out a batch of the 35mm for this mini review of Bergger Pancro 400. I’ll be covering my first impressions on the film – take from it what you will
I won’t be going into the history of the company in any detail in this mini review. As that will be covered in an article you can look forward to in the near future. I will be talking a little about what Bergger themselves say about the film and the results from my first roll, shot at ISO 400.
There will be future additions to this article, which will cover Pancro 400 pushed to EI 800 and 1600, as well as a possible article discussing the film developed using a black and white reversal process to produce slides. Of course, you can expect the same treatment for 120 and eventually for large format sheets, too.
About Bergger Pancro 400
Taken from this article covering all the films announced and released in 2017:
BERGGER, Pancro 400 is a two (panchromatic) emulsion film, each emulsion being composed of silver bromide and silver iodide. Apparently the result of these two emulsions together is a very wide exposure latitude, and the sample images immediately below show off these claims pretty well.
Bergger are offering the film in 35mm, 120, plate and large format / ultra large format. To be honest, the range of formats available is a little mind boggling, and that’s without even mentioning custom ordering options, details of which I am assured will be available soon.
In 35mm, Pancro 400 uses a 135 micron acetate base, which is switched out for a 100 micron PET base for 120 roll film and a 175 micron PET base for sheet versions. It’s an interesting choice, and means that in 120 and sheet form at least, it should be possible to create some crystal clear slides with a black and white reversal process (stay tuned for more!).
Here are a couple of sample images below via Aurélien le Duc:
If you’d like to have a crack at trying this film out for ourself, my friends at Camera Film Photo have a special promotion for readers of this article. Simply enter the coupon code “emulsive” without quotes and get 10% off Bergger Pancro 400 in any format until March 12th.
First impressions: Bergger Pancro 400 at ISO 400
The roll discussed here was shot at box speed (ISO 400) using a Nikon F100 set to manual and a Nikkor AF-D 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 zoom/macro lens, which was consistently shot at f/5.6. The camera was used in spot meter mode and each frame was bracketed by a single stop of under exposure and over exposure.
The film was developed at 20c in Rodinal 1+25* for 8 minutes as per Bergger’s datasheet. During development, it was agitated continuously for the first 60 seconds and then again for 10 seconds at the top of every minute thereafter.
Ilford’s Ilfostop and Rapid Fixer were used at the manufacturer’s recommended dilutions and as per Bergger’s datasheet, the film was fixed for an additional minute before being dunked in Kodak Photoflo and then rinsed for five minutes.
I have provided a few examples of frames from the roll, showing the underexposed frame, correctly exposed frame and over exposed frame.
Weather conditions were dull and the light was incredibly flat, so please consider the results below with that in mind.
* EDIT: I originally incorrectly stated 1+50. Thanks for spotting the typo, Antonio Gimeno!
The order of images for this and other samples is overexposed one stop, exposed per meter reading, underexposed one stop.
I’m a lover of high contrast film and underexposing this film by a single stop when shooting subjects in open light really bumps the contrast in a way that really appeals to me. The film is very reminiscent of Eastman Double-X. Very.
It’s incredibly tempting to underexpose an entire roll based on these results, as the tonality is generally preserved but blacks hit a very deep tone.
As I mentioned, it wasn’t a particularly bright day, so the first frame below suffered a touch from camera shake. As with sample 01, the underexposed frame (third), catches my eye the most. That said, its worth talking about the correctly exposed frame, which more accurately represents the bottle of wine in real life.
This sample shows how subtle differences some differences were in my three-stop bracket (in open light). I would expect the result to be a little different in brightly lit scenes but at the very least, these frames do an adequate job of showing the range of tones this film is able to captre. I hope to do a better job and provide greater detail in the next test article (EI 800).
Flicking through this roll, it’s my feeling that this film could be easily under or over exposed 4-5 stops in open light with little risk of totally destroying the final image – for scanning at least.
This final sample is my favorite and uses the macro mode of the ageing Nikkor 28-105 lens I used for this test. When I first saw the negative I asked myself when I’d shot snake skin but quickly remembered that it was actually a torn seat cover on a motorcycle used by neighbourhood street cats as a scratching post.
As with the other three samples in this mini-review, the underexposed image is by far my favourite – your own taste may vary.
There’s a lot more to be considered (and shot), before arriving at a definitive conclusion about this film but based on the three rolls I’ve shot and developed so far I can say that I’ve developed quite a liking for this film and see a lot of potential in backing up that “wide latitude” claim made by Bergger.
Whether this film will replace my beloved EASTMAN Double-X for 35mm black and white photography remains to be seen but it has, for this roll at least, produced a similar look to that film stock. The extra flexibility of being able to underexpose this film by a single stop and develop normally to produce broadly similar results to that of Double-X is a tempting one. Let’s see if the “look” carries through to the other test rolls.
The next first impressions article, which will cover the film when pushed to EI 800 should be interesting. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s my feeling the film will absolutely shine in medium format. If it somehow continues this Double-X look (which I strongly doubt), I think the possibility of medium format “Double-X” might drive me mad with glee.
I can’t wait to get started on it.
Have you shot and Bergger Pancro 400 yourself? Do you have any experiences or tips to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Before you go, don’t forget that you can snap up this film (in any format) for 10% off the list price over at Camera Film Photo until March 12th if you use the coupon code “emulsive” without quotes when you get to the checkout.
As ever, keep shooting folks.
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