For this test I purchased a box of Bergger Pancro400 4x5 from Gold Street Studios. The negatives were exposed and processed in July – August 2015.
A spot meter and the zone system were used to calculate exposures. Negatives were tray processed.
Developers used were ID11 and PMK – Pyro Metol Kodalk.
Testing Bergger Pancro400 4x5
Bergger have provided very little information with this film, as to date there is no data sheet or technical information published. Despite several requests Bergger did not provide any reciprocity data either. So although some long exposures were made for this review with varying estimations at reciprocity time increases, all the negatives were under exposed and abandoned.
When the data is provided The Large Format Blog will publish another review of the film using long exposures and reciprocity time increases.
For this test I used the processing data provided on the film box and set the ISO at 400 and processed the negatives in either ID11 1:1 for 17 minutes or PMK 1:2:100 for 18 minutes at 20°c as recommended.
The photograph here West Cape Beach, Cape Conran was made on a bright sunny afternoon with a 90 mm lens and a red filter.
Developed in PMK the negative shows good shadow detail and in the highlight, the sunlit sand has held good detail too.
Without much work this produces a good print using a grade 2 filter. Having been developed in pyro it shows little grain.
The next two photographs were made on the Snowy River near Marlo at Frenches Narrows not long after sunrise using a 150 mm lens. They were made in quick succession (for a large format camera that is) using Pancro400 and TRI-X320.
Processed in ID11 both have retained detail in the sky and the bank of vegetation on the right. The TRI-X320 looks a little harder and has slightly more contrast. Good prints were produced with a little work using a grade 2½ filter.
The next two photographs show Werribee Gorge in shadow on a bright day. Using a 75mm lens they were also made in relatively quick succession with Pancro400 and TRI-X320 and processed in PMK. Both show very good tonality, the TRI-X320 having a slight edge in contrast.
Both print well, the Pancro400 looks ‘softer’ tonally.
This final photograph shows trees recovering from a recent bushfire at Break Neck Gully in the Lerderderg State Park. I made this photograph on a field trip with the visiting US photographer Craig Allan Huber in August 2015.
Made on a cloudy afternoon with breaks of sunlight; the black on the burnt trees have held detail as has the slightly damp fallen leaves that are reflecting the cloudy light.
Processed in ID11 this negative prints well using a grade 2½ filter without a lot of work.
There is no doubt this is a good film and beautifully packaged. It processes easily and well in a number of different developers. The film feels more like HP5+ in thickness compared to TRI-X320. I had no issues with scratching during tray development.
The grain of the film, as you would expect for an ISO400 film is present, but not overwhelming and varies according to developer used.
I found the film gave best results when processed in PMK developer at the ratio 1:2:100 for 18 minutes (as recommended by Bergger). Fine-tuning by rating at ISO320 when using pyro would be a good starting point.
A lot of large format photographers have abandoned using Kodak films because of the recent huge price increases. Bergger has come onto the market at a relatively high price, maybe too high to be a real alternative. But it is very good to see a brand new large format film come into the sheet film market.
Is this film any better or different than what’s available now? For me the answer is no, the film is not special or different enough from films such as HP5+ or Fomapan 400 to justify paying the higher price. However it is really worth a try for those photographers looking for an alternative to Kodak films.
Cost comparison of 4x5 ISO400 films
Fomapan 400 (50 sheet box): $96.00 or $1.92/sheet*
HP5+ (25 sheet box: $68.00 or $2.72/sheet
Pancro400 (50 sheet box): $144.00 or $2.88/sheet*
T-Max 400 (50 sheet box): $195.00 or $3.90
Tri-x320 (50 sheet box): $198.00 or $3.96
Pancro400 film is far more economical to buy in a 50 sheet box rather than a 25 sheet box. It works out at $3.58/sheet with the 25 sheet box compared with $2.88 for the 50 sheet box.
These are list prices of film available in Melbourne at the time of writing.
Pancro400 is available in 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 from Australian agent Gold Street Studios.