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Jul 26, 2020

Bergger Pancro 400: Black & White film with character

Unapologetically classic

As opposed to my last post on a black and white film stock (Ilford Pan F Plus), this film is not of the same "clean and silky" pedigree. Bergger Pancro 400 is a higher speed panchromatic stock with a nice tonal curve and noticeable grain. It reminds me more of staples like Kodak Tri-X as used by photojournalists of past decades, or the grittier work of one my favourite photographers, Sergio Larrain. Perhaps that's just what my imagination seems to channel due to my own disposition towards his work. It's supposedly constructed in a unique way using two distinct emulsion layers comprising of both silver bromide and silver iodide... but technical facts aside, it is a beautiful film stock with versatile applications.

Nikon FE, 28mm AIS lens
Some shots on Bergger Pancro at the Sunday Markets

Document your life

One of my favourite things about having black & white loaded in a 35mm camera is how well the results often lend themselves to that classic, photojournalistic look of yesteryear. Why I, and many others find that so alluring is a topic for a whole other discussion though! Not unlike Tri-X and HP5, I find that Bergger Pancro 400 works superbly for everyday documentary work. The 400 speed rating is versatile, the film holds up great in terms of detail, sharpness and latitude, and more importantly the results have a special look with plenty of "bite" and a noticeable presence of grain even in the highlights where it's usually not so apparent. This could have something to so with the two different emulsions giving a broader range of detail and "grain presence" than you would normally see with other panchromatic film stocks.

Besides photojournalistic use and street photography, this film works great for documenting details too; be it portraits, abstract/still life or landscapes... as long as you don't mind a bit of grain (especially if you underexpose a bit for that moodier look!)

A great staple to keep in the fridge

I have shot Pancro 400 in both 35mm and 120 formats. As seen in the cliff-face example below, images taken on the Pentax 67 exhibit smaller grain as would be expected. Having the option to shoot it across multiple formats is great when working on a series that requires a consistent look. It's priced competitively with it's counterparts while offering something a little special. I love it for creating a "moodier" look, compared to the more clean and clinical look I get from something like Ilford HP5 (at 400), or T-grain films such as T-max.

Processing the film does require a little extra time as Bergger recommend both pre-wash, and a longer fixing time compared to other films. Personally I don't so much mind this. The resulting negatives in my experience have always been relatively flat and easy to scan.

There's a certain advantage I love about this film in the way that it handles highlights. They roll in from the midtones gradually and show a nice bright glow, while retaining detail and showing grain that's consistent with the shadow areas. This looks great on prints both on inkjet and silver halide form.

35mm Bergger Pancro on a foggy morning, in the Leica M4

I know I'll be shooting this film again, and feel lucky that we still have so many great options when it comes to film stocks in this day and age.

If you're looking to try it, you can purchase Pancro 400 through my affiliate link from Amazon. Purchasing anything from Amazon through this link compensates me with a small percentage, but doesn't cost you any more. This would be a much-appreciated way to support my blog and YouTube channel!

As always, I appreciate you reading, and all the support!