Saturday, June 3, 2023

Kodak Technical Pan Film at the Acropolis (Abandoned Films 11)

Technical Pan film

In the 1980s, Eastman Kodak heavily advertised their Technical Pan as being an extremely fine grain and high resolution panchromatic film. The data sheets stated:

This is a black-and-white panchromatic film with extended red sensitivity. It has micro-fine or extremely fine grain (depending on the developer used), extremely high resolving power, and a wide contrast range for pictorial, scientific, technical, and reversal-processing applications. 

Kodak made this film for either copying documents or for aerial reconnaissance by the military (I have read both theories). Kodak discontinued sales in 2003 or 2004 but stated that they had been selling off stock that had been stored for years. Many astronomers used it for celestial photography

Most document films are very fine grain but also high contrast. Therefore, for pictorial use, the photographer or laboratory must use special low contrast developers to provide a normal tonal scale. Kodak sold a proprietary Technidol developer for pictorial use, but it has been discontinued for at least a decade.

With a degree of hyperbolae or over-enthusiastic marketing, Kodak claimed Technical Pan in a regular 35mm camera rivaled the results from normal film in a 4×5" camera. Well, maybe, sort of. I cannot find an example right now but recall seeing these advertisements in camera magazines in the 1980s.

I used Technical Pan 2415 in 35mm cameras only twice. Once was in Texas (see my 2017 post) and the second in Athens, Greece. I agree that the film was incredibly fine-grain, but it was hard to develop and was contrasty, even with the Technidol developer. It had a "soot and chalk" tonality. My ultimate conclusion was why bother? If you want high resolution and smooth continuous tones, just use a medium format or 4×5" camera.

The Acropolis, Athens

We will make this a double abandoned films treat: Technical Pan from 1985 plus a couple of 1951 comparisons with other long-discontinued films. Let's take a walk around the Acropolis on a brilliant sunny July day. Click the 1985 frames to see the amazing detail. 

Parthenon east side, July 7, 1985 (Technical Pan film, Leica M3, 50mm ƒ/2.8 Elmar-M lens)
Parthenon east side 1951 or 1952 (Kodachrome slide, Leica IIIC camera, 5cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens)

The magnificent Parthenon is under perpetual preservation and reconstruction. It is amazing to think that Aristotle himself must have visited this temple and walked among the columns. And consider modern famous visitors such as Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Princess Elizabeth, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.

Archaeologists and marble masons have spent over a century on repair and preservation. All the stone on the ground has been catalogued, measured, and fitted using 3-dimensional CAD software. The dilemma is what to do where original stone is missing. How much reconstruction is "authentic?"

Checking the Parthenon
Summer in the city - checking out the Parthenon
The Erechtheion under restoration.

The Erechtheion or Temple of Athena Polias is an Ionic temple-telesterion on the north side of the Acropolis. It was primarily dedicated to the goddess Athena. The geometry and placement of features within the temple is unknown. It may overlie a palace of Mycenaean age.

1985 south view of Erechtheion
Erechtheion photographed in 1951 from the porch of the Parthenon (Kodak Plus-X film) 
Looking down to the Anafiotica neighborhood.
Acropolis from the Temple of the Olympian Zeus (Leica 90mm ƒ/2.8 Tele-Elmarit lens)

This scene is an extreme example of high contrast that demonstrated a soot and chalk rendition. I am glad I experimented with Technical Pan film. With the revival in film photography recently, it has become a cult favorite among some film users, and they buy remaining stock eagerly. But for me, a normal panchromatic film is fine.

Appendix A

Here are some curves for Technical Pan film from Kodak Professional Black-and-White Films book F-6 © 1984. 

Photographer Michael Elliott has been getting excellent results from Technical Pan with a 2-part developer based on metal. I am impressed with his energy.


Michael Elliott said...

If you want to develop Tech Pan pictorially now I recommend the home brew developer Masters Metol by Jay DeFehr.

It’s a two part developer:

Part A:- 50g metol, 50g potassium metabisulfite, water to 1l

Part B:- 50% K2CO3

Working solution at 1:50 A : 1:100 B

Agitate first 15s and then stand for a further 7.25-8.25 minutes.

Works a dream and is my go to for all microfilm.

Mike said...

Those certainly are nicely smooth skies. Good point, though, about getting the same effect with a mf camera. Even a box camera will produce that effect, and a medium-format lens really doesn't need the refinements required by the 35mm format. said...

Michael, thank you for the formula for the home brew for Technical Pan. I do not have any more of the film; I wonder how much of it is left on earth? By coincidence, I saw you wrote about Tech Pan on your blog. I was not familiar with your blog, so now I have more interesting material to read.

Mike, as you noted, nice smooth skies.In the mid-'80s, I had a Rolleifex and achieved similar results with Panatomic-X. And today, Fuji Acros looks to my eye as fine grain and high resolution as good old Panatomic-X.

Suzassippi said...

As usual, I have nothing to say about the film or the developing--just that I enjoyed the photographs and appreciate your skill. said...

Very kind of you, thanks!

Arbica Mriea said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog on Kodak Roll Film and being transported to the Acropolis through the photographs. It's a testament to the power of visual storytelling and how images can evoke emotions and connect us to the past. Thank you for sharing this captivating piece with us! said...

Thank you, Arbica. You are right that photographs take us back into our memories, to a different time and place. Thank you for writing.