Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Another Film Treasure: Ilford Pan-F Plus

This short review is for a film that is still in production (yes, I do sometimes use modern film):  Ilford Pan F Plus. According to the manufacturer:

ILFORD PAN F PLUS is a slow speed, high contrast, black & white film offering exceptionally fine grain, sharpness and detail.

Suitable for bright conditions from sunny days to controlled studio lighting. It suits subjects ranging from architecture and still-life to portraiture and fashion.

PAN F PLUS is perfect for enlargements as negatives show an outstanding range of tone, high-edge contrast and extreme sharpness. It is therefore also suitable for a range of specialist or scientific applications such as photomicrography or the production of black and white slides.

This is a traditional cubic grain film, like the Kodak Panatomic-X that I normally use when I want a fine-grain traditional film. Pan-F has been in production for decades, but for some reason, I never tried it. My friend in Indiana, Jim Grey generously sent me a roll of Verichrome Pan film, but he also included a roll of Pan-F in 120 size and said Go At It. Most reviewers write that it is contrasty, so I loaded it in my Hasselblad and set out for Port Gibson on the last day of 2020, a gloomy day with drizzle (my favorite light). Because of the low light, these are all tripod-mounted exposures. I exposed it at EI (exposure index) of 32.

I sent the film to Northeast Photographic in Bath, Maine, to develop and scanned the negatives with my Minolta medium format film scanner. To the eye, the negatives looked too contrasty. But the Silverfast Ai scanning software has a profile for Pan-F, and the resulting scans looked just about right, with little need to manually adjust the contrast. Here are some examples, all full-frame scans. Click any frame to expand it. Please tell me what you think via the comments.

US 61


Unusual shed at 3316 US 61S, Vicksburg (80mm Planar lens)
Unknown shop or warehouse at Cedars Road, Vicksburg
Former Sonny's BBQ and gasoline, Yokena
I remember driving by this shop/gas station many times and thinking I should take some photographs. But I never did and now it is closed. Bogus.

Port Gibson


Fixer-upper truck, 1097 Shiloh Road, Port Gibson (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, ⅛ ƒ/11)
Fixer-upper cottage, Back Grand Gulf Road (50mm Distagon, ⅛ ƒ/8, minor fill flash)
North of Port Gibson, some shaded narrow roads wind through the woods. One of these leads past the popular Warner Tully YMCA summer camp, known by generations of summer campers. I want to go back and explore some more. You see a lot of trailers with beat-up cars and trucks abandoned on the lots.
Abandoned cottage, Vandeventer Street, Port Gibson (80mm Planar-CB, ⅛ ƒ/11)
Abandoned house, Vandeventer Street (80mm Planar-CB, ⅛ ƒ/11
Store/commercial building, Carrol Street
Port Gibson is pretty rough. Despite its fine architectural heritage, much of the town looks beat-up and dirty. The downtown has hollowed-out, like so many small towns in the US heartland.
House belonging to an artist, Farmer Street (80mm Planar-CB, ⅛ ƒ/11, minor fill flash)
I chatted with the gent who lives here. He was very friendly and graciously let me take a picture of his house. I noticed that the electricity dome was missing and did not want to embarrass him with nosy questions, but possibly he lives there without electricity.
Old Hwy 61 bridge over Little Bayou Pierre
This is the old Highway 61 bridge. Looking west, you see it from the current 61 bridge. I tried to find a viewpoint, and some gents at a car shop/garage graciously escorted me through the shop to the muddy banks of the Little Bayou Pierre. I slipped - mud everywhere. They said when the river overtops its banks, they get nasty water in their garage (and snakes). Note the water level stains of the concrete pier.

This is the end of my short experiment with Ilford Pan-F. This is nice film! It is very fine grain, similar to the Kodak Panatomic-X that I like. On this overcast, drizzly day, I did not have any issues with contrast, and cannot comment on its performance on a sunny day. Of course, you can modify development to make a black and white film more or less contrasty. I am not sure if I will use it in the future because I still have 10 or 12 rolls of Panatomic-X in the freezer, as well as some Fuji Acros 100 film and even some Agfapan 25. For hand-held use, Tri-X is more convenient. Regardless, thanks, Jim Grey, for sending me a roll of this Pan-F!

This is no. 07 of my irregular series on different films, but this product is still in production, unlike the other emulsions in the series.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Another Expired Film Treasure: Kodak Verichrome Pan (Abandoned Films 06)

Dear Readers, this is a continuation of my series on discontinued photographic films. Previous posts covered GAF Versapan film packs, GAF Versapan 135 film, Kodak Ektar 25, and Kodak's famous Panatomic-X black and white film.

For decades, Kodak's Verichrome Pan film was a staple in camera stores around the country. It was a medium-speed (ISO=125) panchromatic black and white film intended for box and medium format cameras. Kodak's data sheet stated:

FEATURES                            BENEFITS

• Extremely fine grain            • Excellent for producing high-quality images

• Wide exposure latitude        • Rich tonality maintained with overexposure and underexposure

• Very high sharpness            • Excellent for applications that require a high degree of enlargement

• High resolving power          • Good rendition of detail

Over time, Kodak sold it in 120, 127, 116, 126, 616, 110, 620, and 828 formats. As far as I know, Kodak never packaged it in 35mm cassettes. Note that these are format designations, not width in mm. The 126 was the Instamatic cartridge that was so popular in the 1960s and 1970s. As of 1996, they even sold it in long roll for Cirkut panorama cameras. Numerous writers on the web enthusiastically claim that it was a superb film. It was such a flexible film, an inexperienced amateur could could load it in a crummy box camera and achieve something that a lab could print. 

For unknown reasons, I never tried any Verichrome Pan, and now it is too late. But good news: my Indiana friend, Jim Grey (author of the Down the Road blog), generously sent me a roll. 

The roll Jim sent expired in 12/1987. He said he did not know its original storage conditions, but he had kept it refrigerated. I took pictures around town with my Hasselblad 501CM medium format camera on a rare day when snow had fallen (yes, it does snow in Vicksburg once in awhile). The light was soft and even, so maybe this was not a very challenging test for this film, but that is what was loaded in my film holder. Because of the age and unknown storage, I decided to add extra exposure and use it at EI=64 (or half the original), meaning one ƒ-stop extra light for each frame. Click any picture to see it enlarged to 1600 pixels wide.

Kansas City Southern tracks from the North Frontage Road bridge (80mm Planar lens)
2624 Washington Street, Vicksburg (80mm Planar lens)
Fairground Street Bridge (permanently closed; 80mm Planar lens))
Pearl Street view north (80mm Planar lens)
Over a decade ago, cottages lined the west side of the tracks (left in this photograph). All have been torn down and the road has been abandoned.
Kansas City Southern rail yard from Levee Street, view east (80mm Planar lens)
Kansas City Southern rail yard view south (80mm Planar lens)
Work shed on levee next to Yazoo Canal (50mm Distagon lens, 1/30 ƒ/11)
Sycamore Avenue, Vicksburg (80mm Planar lens)
View west from Sycamore Avenue (80 mm Planar lens)
Kansas City Southern tracks along Mississippi River waterfront (250mm Sonnar lens, ⅛ ƒ/16.5)

Well, once again I am thrilled that a 30-year-old film responds so well. What amazing technology. I love the tonality of this Verichrome Pan, at least under these conditions of soft light.

Praus Productions in Rochester, New York, developed the film, and I scanned it with a Minolta ScanMulti medium format film scanner. The Silverfast Ai software did not have a Verichrome Pan profile. Instead, I used the profile for Plus-X film. I read in some old Kodak books that Verichrome and Plus-X responded about the same. I have read that they were almost the same emulsion but one had no anti-halation layer (?). I do not know if that is true, and I had no recent experience with Plus-X. The last time I used Plus-X may have been in Moscow in 1978 (click the link). 

Thank you, Dear Readers, for following along on this exploration of Films from the Dead. All comments welcome.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Expired Film Treasure: 120-size Kodak Ektar 25 (Abandoned Films 02g)

Dear Readers, I have written about Kodak's ultra-fine resolution Ektar 25 film before. This was the finest-grain color negative film ever made, and when new, had a vivid and contrasty color palette. But it has been out of production for two decades, and most (all?) rolls for sale on ePrey are unusable because they were not stored frozen. Awhile ago, I declared I would not try any more; it was past its time. 

Oh oh, trouble. A friend on the Photrio forum said he had two rolls for me that had been frozen. I could not resist - I know, I know, weak self-discipline. It is an example of succumbing to film GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

The first roll I exposed at an exposure index of EI=20. But when the film came back from North Coast Photographic, the frames were much too thin. However, I managed to save about half of the pictures via scanning. The second roll I shot at EI=12, and this one was much better. So, in no particular order, here are some examples of the famous but long-expired Ektar 25, color shifts, warts and all. These are all tripod-mounted exposures. Click any frame to expand. Comments welcome.


Louisiana


Bridge over Judd Bayou, Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana (80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens)
This is one of my favorite recent photographs. The light, foliage, and setting were just right. This is the end of the road for cars, well within the forest west of the Tensas River. Unfortunately, this area was cut in World War II, so the forest is not old growth, and the loggers destroyed what may have been the last USA habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. 

Vicksburg and Redwood


Former CCC Camp near Union Ave., Vicksburg National Military Park
King Davis Church, Glass Road, Vicksburg (80mm Planar-CB lens, polarizer)
Shed near abandoned cement silos, Rte 3, Redwood (80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens, ½ ƒ/5.6)
Remnants at cement silo site, Rte 3, Redwood (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens)
Crushing mill, Rte 3, Redwood (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, 1 sec. ƒ/8)
I have photographed this large metal object before. I am not sure what it once crushed or ground. The deep water pit may have been for cooling water or flushing the material out of the device. Now it is a perfect habitat for water snakes. This is just east of Rte 3 across the street from the old cement silos. 
Where is my food? Happy wet cows, Ball Road, Redwood
Rosedown Road, Vicksburg (80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens, ¼ ƒ/4.05)
This is the view looking downhill from Confederate Avenue. These architecturally-boring houses have been here since before the mid-1980s. 

Eagle Lake Area


Jones Lake, near Laney Lake Road, off Rte. 465 (50mm Distagon, ¼ ƒ/11)
Jones Lake, near Laney Lake Road, off 465 (50mm Distagon, ¼ ƒ/11)

Snow in Vicksburg


Adams Street, view north (80mm Planar-CB lens)
Ready to go, Washington Street
Kansas City Southern rail yard from Levee Street
104 Locust Street (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens)
106 Locust Street (unoccupied)
201 Locust Street (unoccupied)
Yes, once in awhile, we get a snowstorm in Vicksburg. It changes the entire look of the landscape and is too good to resist capturing with film. The overcast sky and soft light was perfect for this Ektar 25 film.

Locust Street is in the north part of town below Fort Hill. A local dude stopped in his car and told me how the neighborhood was vibrant 20 years ago, with houses on every lot. Now at least half of the lots are grass or have abandoned houses.

Summary


Once again, I am impressed that a 25-year-old color film will still work, albeit with color shifts and minor errors in the emulsion. This film shows it amazing resolution when used with the best optics and careful technique (which means a tripod). But I have no more 120-size Ektar 25 and am unlikely to ever buy any. As I concluded before (but obviously did not follow my own advice): this is the end, no more. There is one roll of 35mm Ektar 25 in the freezer, which I will save it for a special occasion.

Update June 2021: A friend found two rolls of Ektar 25 in his mother's freezer. It looks as if I will be able to enjoy Ektar 25 again.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Expired Film Treasure: 135-size Kodak Panatomic-X B & W Film (Abandoned Films 05)


Introduction


Oh, oh, trouble. A fellow on eBay advertised a brick of Kodak Panatomic-X film in 135 size (for regular 35mm cameras) that he said had been frozen. Long-term readers know that I have been using my dwindling stash of 120-size Panatomic-X for the last few years with great success (please click the link). Many photographers on the web claim to miss it. And now I could try some of this classic film in my 35mm cameras? This was too good to resist; I bought six rolls and loaded a camera. 

Eastman Kodak introduced Panatomic in 1933. It was designed to be an extremely fine grain film, which meant it could be enlarged for large prints and still retain details. The early version was on nitrate base, but around 1937, Kodak reformulated it on safety base, renaming it Panatomic-X. Sadly, Kodak discontinued this well-loved product around 1988 or 1989, claiming that TMax 100 could serve as a substitute. I am sure this is true, but many photographers regretted the loss of the older film. Used with top-grade lenses and careful technique (that means a tripod), the detail in a Panatomic-X negative is remarkable, even in this age of high-megapixel digital cameras.

There is always a risk with using expired film, but slow speed black and white emulsions usually age well with minimal fog problems. If the films have been refrigerated or frozen, they typically are completely usable. Long-term readers may recall that I had great results with 1960s GAF Verapan film packs that had been frozen for 50 years. Color film is much more susceptible to color shifts and other issues, but if you find some old black and white film, by all means try it.

Here are scenes from in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi, from my new/old Panatomic-X film. Judge for yourself if you like the look or tonality. I resized to 1600 pixels on the long dimension. Click a picture to enlarge it. Please comment if you have some observations.

Levee Street


Former cotton compress, Levee Street (35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar lens, yellow filter, ¼ ƒ/11.5, overcast with drizzle)
Former tank farm, Levee Street (28mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens, yellow-green filter, ⅛ ƒ/8)
Tugs on Yazoo Canal (28mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens, yellow-green filter, ⅛ ƒ/8)
Levee Street has remnants of Vicksburg's industrial infrastructure. There is a lot of barge traffic on the Yazoo Canal. The old tank farm in the photograph above has been unused for at least three decades, but in late 2020 I saw that one of the tanks had been removed and the piping had been cleaned and painted. These photographs are from an overcast day with occasional drizzle.
KCS rail yard, Levee St. (Leica IIIC, 50mm ƒ/2 Jupiter-8 lens, yellow filter, 1/20 ƒ/11)

Second Street


This stucco-clad house on the corner of Second and National Streets has been uninhabited for three decades, but it is not abandoned. Someone painted the exterior not long ago. A neighbor came over when I was photographing and said the sheriff pays him to mow the grass. The old Plymouth and pickup truck have been in the carport for decades. Status: unknown.

Yazoo Street


Yazoo Street (35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar lens, 1/30 ƒ/4.0, hand-held)
Yazoo Street runs south from Army-Navy Drive past the City workshops and dead ends almost under the North Frontage Road bridge. Decades ago, you could see more houses in this quiet corner of town, but now only this one house remains. The air was misty, accounting for the glow in the tree canopy.

Clay Street


Adolph Rose Antiques, 717 Clay Street (Leica M2, 35mm ƒ/2 Summicron lens, 1 sec. exposure)
Thank you Malcolm and Karen for letting me take some photographs in the interesting Adolph Rose Antiques. 
Lot behind 1220 Washington Street (Leica M2, 25mm ƒ/4 Color-Skopar lens, ¼ sec. ƒ/8.05)
Lower Clay Street, near the Yazoo Canal, was once lined with commercial buildings and warehouses. A limited number still exist. Just west of Washington Street, an alley gives access to the back lots of some of the old commercial buildings. 

Washington Street

 
2016 Washington Street (35 mm ƒ/2 Summicron lens, yellow filter, 1/125 ƒ/2.8½)
This forlorn building is one of the few commercial buildings remaining just south of downtown. Notice the brickwork on the right unit, evidence of fine construction a century ago. 

Rifle Range Road


Abandoned (or forgotten) timber rail cars (55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens)
These rail cars are parked on the tracks next to Halcros Chemical, just south of Rifle Range Road. Status: unknown.

US 61 South


Church, 3922 US 61 S., Vicksburg (Leica 50mm Summicron-DR lens, yellow-green filter)

Natchez


C&M Crawfish, US 98, Natchez (25mm ƒ/4 Color-Skopar lens)
This is another former gas station on US 98 a few miles northeast of Natchez. I liked the light shining on the cracked driveway. 

Jackson


Pump house at Mississippi River Basin Model, Buddy Butts Park, Jackson (25mm ƒ/4 Color-Skopar lens)
This is a pump house at the US Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi River Basin Model, the largest hydraulic model of a watershed ever built. The site has been neglected for decades and is finally being cleaned by the Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model non-profit organization. I have written about the model many times; please use the search button to find older posts.

Conclusions


This is another pleasant surprise! This long-expired Panatomic-X film appears to be totally viable. 

I cannot recommend one way or the other if you should seek out rolls of Panatomic-X to use. But if you find a stash in a relative's house or closet, go for it. I advise a user to expose it at EI=20, making this largely a tripod film. It certainly is not as convenient to use as Fuji Acros or Kodak TMax 100, but the Panatomic-X has a different look (Sorry, I cannot describe it any differently). 

This is another example of the sophistication and precision of photographic film manufacture that was achieved more than a half century ago. Don't let anyone tell you that film is primitive or obsolete. 

My friend, Mike, from Photography & Vintage Film Cameras in Albuquerque shot one of these rolls and also got excellent results. Click the link for his interesting blog.

(Note: Oops, while editing this article, I briefly published a draft in February when I used the wrong date. It was intended for March.)

This is no. 5 of my irregular series on Abandoned Films ("Films from the Dead").