What kind of meter do you have? How are you using it? In what sort of light are you shooting? A high contrast (i.e. difficult) film and a less-than-ideally-used meter always make for an "interesting" result.
I know exactly what you mean. The issue is that Pan F, and most slow films, have higher contrast and less exposure latitude than medium and high speed films.
This means two things:
1. Slight exposure variations will likely have extreme effects on the look of the picture. This is true of all high-contrast media, but especially when shot in contrasty light (i.e. a sunny day, when a disproportionate number of pictures seem to be taken). As such, excellent metering technique is extremely important with these films.
2. When shot in high contrast light (i.e the sunny weather in which many people tend to shoot very often), and printed to look "normal" in Zones V-VII (which IME are what the average photographer tends to print for), the print indeed looks rather dark. This is because with a high contrast film that has been properly exposed for the mids, the shadows on the negative are thinner than normal (normal being a medium or fast speed film) and the highlights are denser than normal, so when the printer prints down the highlights, the already darker-than-normal low tones become even darker.
The answer is not as simple as that your film is the "wrong ISO speed" (There is no such thing.) and needs to be rerated. The answer is that you must learn its contrast limits, and treat it different ways in different light in order to get what you want. As always, the answer basically comes down to knowing light, and knowing your materials: developing an eye for contrast in a composition, and learning how your materials will render that amount of contrast when treated in different ways.
Pan F is definitely a difficult film for most people at first, but IMO it is worth the time and effort to learn how to use it. It is simply a shame that it is not available in sheet sizes.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
Slower films seem to have always been that way. Dad and I used a lot of Panatomic-X years ago and it was kind of dark. Dad always used Microdol-X and got good results. In face, I've still got several packages of Microdol-X that he had, and that's been 35 years.
I appreciate the additional commentary. Ulysses makes an excellent point in regard to developing. I have thought (many times) of developing my own b&w, but I have barely enough time to take pictures, let alone develop them.
In terms of metering technique, I use that which I read years ago in the Sekonic instruction book. I hold the meter out (trying not to shade the meter), keep it parallel to the ground (not tilted upward or downward), and keep it on the same plane (or level) as the lens. I usually take more than one measurement, and it will be in the area in which I will shoot, which is not necessarily where the camera is.
Last edited by FilmOnly; 05-17-2010 at 07:43 PM. Click to view previous post history.
To get the most from traditional B&W materials you really must process it and
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
print it yourself. For example, there are dozens of B&W developers (hundreds
really, if you mix your own) and each has its own characteristics which
have an effect on the final image. Labs toss them all into whatever their
house B&W developer happens to be and hope for the best. If you use a
forgiving B&W film, you can get acceptable results but if you use a film that
is not so forgiving you will likely be disappointed with the results.
B&W materials are quite different from color materials in that respect. C-41 is
C-41 and E6 is E6 but D76 is not Rodinal or Xtol or Microdol-X or Pyro
Getting the most from slow or high speed B&W films requires experimentation
and tweaking, something you can't do very well with a lab.
Last edited by BobD; 05-17-2010 at 08:45 PM. Click to view previous post history.
The investment required to develop the film is minimal, both in cost and time. A SS tank and a couple of reels, a couple of clips, D-76, fixer, some LFN. The first time you unreel a roll of *perfect* negs, you'll be hooked (and if you follow the simple directions, that could well be the first roll you process.) Printing is another matter. I don't currently have a darkroom, but I scan each roll and have a good lab print the keepers. The real time investment comes in printing, but you'll never get good prints unless the film is properly developed, and you can develop black and white film better than any commercial lab.
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
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And that's the truth. It takes a little practice, and you need to pay attention to what you're doing in terms of exposure and development, but it's not hard. In fact, it's dead easy and very inexpensive compared to having it done at a commercial lab.
Originally Posted by ulysses
PanF is high contrast film, and unless it is a 100% cloudy day you will get a very high contrast negative.
If you want to use it on sunny days you may need to use a soft working dev e.g. D-23 or POTA, you may have to bracket exposure to nail the effect you want.
If you want a 20x26 wet print use a tripod, monopod or don't drink any coffee... PanF is as unforgiving as Kodachrome 25. But if you like 20x16 wet prints...
Last edited by Xmas; 05-18-2010 at 07:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: bad spellun
When you expose and process your film, you as the user of any film control the final outcome and look of the print.
If your pictures are darker than with other films, either exposure or processing is not done correctly, or a combination thereof.
Slower films have higher contrast, so you have to compensate for it (or use it if you like that look). If you shoot Tri-X it's relatively easy to find a tonality you like and can be compared to a stroll on the sidewalk. Pan-F+ takes more care to give exactly the results you want and can be likened to walking on a high-wire.
Hard work, practice, and an understanding of what affects the outcome of your print will get you most any result you want. Basically, it's up to you how far you wish to take it. The hard truth is that the film itself will not produce darker pictures - but how you treat it will.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
According to what has been stated, it seems that home developing is necessary for good results in b&w. I gather this does not hold true for color prints? I know that folks are making factual comments here, and are trying to encourage me to develop my own b&w film, but I doubt I (or anyone) would get it right on the first roll, and I also doubt that it will be easy or quick. Developing will take time, and I simply do not have it. I will probably avoid the slower films or perhaps give up b&w altogether.
when I first started out, man I wanted that pan-f look! jumped in, took a bunch of
rolls - most of which failed: underexposed, too dark, too contrasty, too much like
a wild horse. I put it down, went back to hp5, fp4 and tri-x. At the time, I thought
they were easier to work with, but frankly my technique in exposure and developement
is what improved most of all, just by iterating the process, and noting my obvious
failures, writing things down in a notebook. Later when I went back to pan-f, it seemed
like magic, suddenly, I could could work and explore the film without a lot of grief.
I did some testing to get a personal EI of 32, since then, I've used D-76, pmk, and
now mostly rodinal [1:100]. All of which work extremely well.
Nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. Give up on it for awhile if you feel you must,
but hone your craft, find what works for you. If you find you need the control of home
development to get the results you want, *nothing* else will work.
Most of this work was in pretty harsh light: