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Monday, February 24

Kodak Technical Pan at $20 a 20-exposure roll?

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., film, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, technical pan, kodak, technidol, adox cms 20, adotech

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) :, film, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, technical pan, kodak, technidol, adox cms 20, adotech, film, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, technical pan, kodak, technidol, adox cms 20, adotech

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!, film, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, technical pan, kodak, technidol, adox cms 20, adotech
Full frame test shot, film, silver gelatin, analogue, analog, darkroom, technical pan, kodak, technidol, adox cms 20, adotech
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!

You might also like:

Adox CMS 20


Herman Sheephouse said...

Why not just sell your gear, buy an 8x10 and shoot at a fiver a shot . . more concentrated, less waste and great for the muscles!

Regular Rod said...

CMS 20 is good stuff if you do as you said and take some trouble over exposing and developing it, it is also available in 4x5 sheets.

For another slow film option, have you tried the new Rollei RPX 25? This is a different style of film altogether. It's easy to work with. I'm convinced its not a document film. The grain is almost invisible and the tonal range is exceptional.


morris1800 said...

Hi Bruce I have used cms20 in 120 format . I purchased it for £30 for five rolls which included the adotech II developer to develop them This was from Firstcall photographic in the Uk.I was impressed but shot in poor flat light so the high contrast of the film was an advantage but cannot complain about resolution. I will post a couple into the Online darkroom group they were posted at full res from 1200dpi scan.

imagesfrugales said...

Don't look at FPP, their prices are always for visitors from outer space.

It's easy to get great results with films like Technical Pan. I love this film, expose at EI 25 and develop with Caffenol-C-L. Better than the dedicated Technidol developer, seriously! And far better than Rodinal imo. Heavy contrast with strong backlight, still full shadow detail and no blown lights? Decide yourself:

And yes, contrast is adjusted by development time and agitation, as always. All these esoteric and expensive soups especially created only for one film? Not with me.

Nick Jardine said...

Hi Bruce,

Gotta agree, that price tag is way over the top. As others have mentioned, there's a good variety of technical and ortho films on the market from Adox and Rollei, and a google image search will bring up some pretty good results.

Why pay that price when there's other (equally as good, IMO) films available ?

Whilst searching around, I came across the FilmDev website (have you mentioned this site before ?)

People posting there development ratios/techniques with some scanned results. It looks like a pretty useful resource.

Bruce Robbins said...

Never tried RPX 25. I got a couple of rolls of Rollei Ortho from Spur to try with Acurol-N but messed up one roll (120) shooting with my Rollei in the gloaming and got some camera shake. Haven't got round to trying the other roll yet.

Look forward to seeing your prints. The results must be pretty spectacular in 120 size!

Just took a look at your Flickr pics. Love the Riverside shots - lovely atmosphere.

Thanks for the Film Dev link, Nick. Looks like a useful site.

The sad thing is you're not joking about a fiver per 10x8 shot!

Nasir said...

If you want to shoot 10x8 without breaking the bank, shoot x-ray film or paper negs. Both are capable of wonderful results.

Aaron said...


Very much appreciate you drawing attention to one of the older special emulsions. I can't help but feel a sense of awe at how good film is/was and the rich variation that was on offer not that long ago. It is a shame that our choices have since been reduced-but thankfully not gone entirely!

You are obviously fluent in the ways of the darkroom and have put your time in playing and trying different variations of time, temperature, developers etc. when it comes to film. How did you learn what was working and then iterate and fine tune? Especially in light of how many millions of variables there are to control for: the type of film, how it was rated, how it was exposed, the developer used, the time/temp/agitation of the development process...and on and on.

Reading the comments about the method of developing used by Hugh Milsom, I'm always fascinated when I discover an utterly unique method like that. How would he have known that Rodinal, that dilute used for that short a time would work?! It seems so far from generally suggested principles. Does it only work with that film, rated that particular way? Could you do something similar with another film? Any film? Am I missing something? Is there a book that captures all the options? Is there just an accumulated wisdom that allows you to know such things and I have to assume is slowly passing away with the years as fewer and fewer people will be truly expert in the area. Sure some of us (myself) dabble but to have the insight and authority over the many of those folks are left?

Herman Sheephouse said...

I know! But when I go out with the 5x4 I spend over a fiver for 4 shots and probably am only happy with one of them . . it almost makes economic sense!

Nick Jardine said...


The £5 for 4 shots of 5x4 may well be pricey, but it's making you a better photographer..

.. at least, thats what I keep telling myself.

John Carter said...

We have something called 'BlueFire Police' over here, although I'm not sure if it is still available. I shoot it at 8-10 ISO and develop in diluted HC-110. Some says it is the same as the one you referenced above. It only comes 35mm, and I find that for California it is rainy day or indoors. 4-5 stops is the best I can do.

It used to be fun to get some of these specialty film and shoot them on a lark. But now it is a pain to find and they are all expired so you really don't know.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Nick - I think we all tell ourselves that . . but I'm not sure if I've ever been totally happy with any 5x4 negative I've produced . . .

jojonas said...

interesting article! I've got some ortho film on the way and by your descriptions here I think I will treat it in some way same manner, I do like my rodinal.

but ImagesFrugales might be on to something with his terrific caffenol too. those developers seem to be able to handle tricky films for some reason.

John Carter said...

I was given three rolls of 35mm Kodak Technical Pan (expired 2002). I hunted around for a development scheme and finally settled on this. Mostly because I had Rodinal. I'm only posting in case some of you still have some in the fridge.

16 EI

Rodinal 1+150 for thirteen minutes

Agitate with 30 seconds initial inversions, then 3 inversions at 10 minutes,7 minutes,4 minutes, and 1minute counting down. (every 3 minutes)

Regular stop, fix and hypo.

I used 5ml of Rodinal in 750ml of H2O. That gives less than the recommended 10ml of Rodinal but the negatives really look great (full tone scale).

I had to figure out a curve profile as I felt (and still do) that the midtones were not right. Technical Pan is also a dust magnet; lots of healing tool. Even with Rodinal there is virtually no grain.

This is from my Flickr site, you can see my Technical Pan shots @