On Technical Pan


What’s worth saying about Technical Pan, a film that was dropped so many years ago? Discontinued in 2004, so by now there’s a somewhat finite amount of it remaining, but it’s still showing up on internet auction sites. Technical Pan was a definite milestone in the potential of what could be achieved with monochrome film, and as it’s slow, high contrast & if well stored will keep quite a while yet into the future.

Technical Pan, or TP as it will now be referred to, was one of a type of scientific emulsion which had been made over many decades by most of the major film manufacturers, but when it arrived in 1967 was unusual in being panchromatically sensitized.

Re-marketed in 1977 to reach the wider consumer market it found early acceptance by the ‘New Topographic’ movement in the US.

This was a subversion of the values espoused by Ansel Adams & his generation – the aim was similar clinically high resolution and fine grain, but the subject matter was now turned towards man’s despoilment of the natural landscape.


A major photographer leading the New Topographic Movement was Lewis Baltz. Not interested in art for art’s sake, or working in a documentary sense, Baltz’s photography nevertheless made statements about the changing world.
Once known to say: “I always believed that God would destroy L.A. for its sins. Finally, I realized that He had already destroyed it, and then left it around as a warning.”

Technical Pan fitted the New Topographers very well, carefully used it could provide the quality of large format but from basic cameras using the 35mm format.

On to a bit of testing… this is taken from an evaluation made some years ago shortly after TP had been discontinued, & I was looking for a substitute, in this case the one used was MACO ORT25. The first thing to point out is that isn’t a panchromatic film, only orthochromatic, but similarly fine grained & needing low contrast development to tame the inherently high contrast.
The subject is the underside of Blackfriars Bridge, London SE1. This was at the time when the first stirrings of gentrification were taking place down there… if you knew it then wouldn’t recognise the place now.


Two blowups from the detail to arch in the centre;

Kodak Technical Pan

Clearly there’s a smoothness and fineness to the grain in the Technical Pan that is not quite being achieved by the ORT 25. Close but not quite there.


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