Technical Pan was an amazing film, capable of the sharpest and finest grained results, but it went the way of some other emulsions and disappeared in 2004. I shot a few rolls of it over the years but like many of these document-type films it was a bit of a bugger to process.
With good technique and equipment at the shooting stage and careful, precise processing, it was capable of astounding negatives that easily matched medium speed 120 film and, at normal enlargement sizes such as 10x8 and 10x12, could even given 5x4 a run for its money.
The Film Photography Project website is now offering for sale some Technical Pan in 20-exposure rolls for $19.99 a pop for those who are desperate to try it. Would I pay that for it? Not a chance, especially when you can get Adox CMS 20 for £5 a 36-exposure roll. And you can get it in 120 as well. In fact, Firstcall Photographic are still offering a great deal on CMS 20 - five 36-exposure rolls or five 120 plus dedicated developer for £30.
CMS 20 is probably just as good as Technical Pan but I doubt it's any easier to process. Both films are finicky in exposure and processing which is why, I suppose, they tend to be an acquired taste. But put the time and effort into mastering them and they certainly pay dividends.
Here's a Tech Pan shot I took years ago where the exposure and processing weren't good but I sort of got lucky with the result. These are posts hammered into the sand at nearby Lunan Bay to which fishing nets are tied. I overexposed the neg and over developed it - it's incredibly dense - but I quite like the high key effect I ended up with. It's not exactly the best example of how to use Tech Pan, though.
The guy who I felt really got to grips with Technical Pan was English photographer, Hugh Milsom. Unfortunately, Hugh seems to have "done a Gibson" and gone over to the dark side but his book, Earthsong, has some great Technical Pan images. I bought it when he gave a talk at Dundee Photographic Society sometime towards the end of the last century.
You should really take a look at Hugh's website. Here's a link to some of his images - they're superb. They look like a mix of his three favourite film stocks: HP5, Kodak Infrared and Technical Pan. Instead of using Technidol, the recommended developer for Technical Pan, Hugh used dilute Rodinal.
There's a section at the rear of the book (still available on Amazon if you're prepared to pay £102 new or £18 secondhand) where Hugh explains his approach and he says in it, "Technical Pan film is renowned for its incredible sharpness but controlling the contrast is a problem.
"Under poor light conditions, it produces prints of good quality with delightful off-whites and soft mid-greys. My technique is to use a full exposure and control density and contrast during the development. The developer I use is Agfa Rodinal at dilutions between 1+75 and 1+100 and development times of between 3.5 minutes and 4 minutes.
"Contrast is controlled by the dilution while the short development times limit density. To avoid excessive exposure and retain good tonal values, I always exposure at either 6 or 12 ASA (ISO) using TTL metering."
As an aside, Hugh also had an interesting way of printing. He always used a 30 second exposure at f5.6 and controlled the light intensity by means of a dimmer switch.
Since I've given Hugh's book a plug, I'm sure he won't mind me posting a couple of his Tech Pan pics here (excuse the scanning) :
Rodinal is a very versatile developer and I'm wondering if anyone else has used it the same way Hugh did but to control the contrast in CMS 20? CMS has its own dedicated developer, Adotech, and I've used it in the past but 20 ISO is on the high side even with Adotech. Like Technical Pan, when it's good it's brilliant but exposure has to be right or you'll get quite empty shadows.
Adotech is also pricey. If Rodinal did the trick, then you could expose and develop a 36 exposure roll for just over £4 which is pretty decent. Since my 35mm work tends to be handheld, I didn't really persevere with CMS 20 mainly because I'd need to have rated it at about 6-10 ISO. When you think of the murky conditions I normally shoot it in you can no doubt imagine the shutter speeds I'd be getting!
|Full frame test shot|
|Sectional enlargement - look at the wheel spokes!|
They're just over 1.5mm in diameter...
The two pics above are Adox publicity shots showing the potential quality of CMS 20 and it has to be said that it's quite amazing. When you see the results of which Technical Pan and CMS 20 are capable, it's easy to imagine using nothing else. If sharpness and fineness of grain are important there's nothing better in 35mm. The detail in the negatives blows away anything from a digital camera. If anyone is using CMS 20, please leave a comment letting me know how you're getting on and what you're using as a developer.
In fact, it's a very tempting idea selling all my camera equipment, investing in a 35mm outfit with Zeiss or Leitz lenses and just shooting CMS 20. Great to think how that would simply life! But $20 for a 20-exposure roll of Technical Pan? Jog on!