Bergger Pancro 400 is a medium speed, black and white film that was released in 2017.
It includes two emulsion layers (hence “panchromatic”) that each differ in grain size, which according to the Bergger site, achieves an “outstanding exposure range.”
Any film that boasts a high tonal range is exciting for a lover of black and white contrasty films like myself, so I was hopeful that I’d find in the Bergger film a candidate to add to my regular rotation!
As I mentioned before, the cost of Bergger Pancro 400 was one of the first points in its favor for me.
It retails for $6.95/roll in 35mm and $5.98/roll in 120, which, compared to Ilford HP5+ at around $8 per roll (as of August, 2021) for both 35mm and 120 is no small difference.
For this review, I managed to get out and shoot 2 rolls of 120 film with my Hasselblad 500 C/M.
The first I used for a back alley promo shoot I did with a local band, while the second I decided to shoot my more traditional landscape subjects.
For the second roll, I intended to shoot three versions of each image at different exposures to see how the film handled over and under exposure. But the results were not as effective as I hoped (due to metering issues on my part, not the film itself), so I will just include samples of the images I thought turned out best.
Developing Bergger Pancro 400
Both rolls were shot and developed at box speed in Kodak HC-110 dilution B for 9:00 minutes as per Bergger’s data sheet.
After a 1 minute stop bath, I fixed each roll for 6 minutes in Ilford’s Rapid Fixer at 1+4 dilution, as Bergger’s data sheet suggests 1 extra minute of fixing time (perhaps due to the double emulsion layers).
After a 10 minute rinse and a few dunks in some Photo Flo, the negatives were hung to dry and then scanned.
My first impression of the negatives from Pancro 400 was that I really liked the look of this film. There is definitely grain, but it’s not overbearing.
Bergger’s description of the film having a high exposure range was definitely noticeable, especially in the images that were slightly underexposed.
In fact, in the landscape images especially, my favorite versions of each shot were underexposed by at least 1 stop. The underexposure with the high exposure latitude resulted in punchier shadows, without muddying the highlights, which for someone who loves contrasty photos is really attractive!
A Few Notes about Developing
Two things that came up for me that weren’t as desirable for this film were both related to the development process.
First, the development times were almost twice as long as for Ilford HP5+ in the same developer (9 minutes vs. 5 minutes for HP5+).
That with the added minute in the fixer does mean you’re going to spend a few extra minutes developing this film. It’s not a huge thing, but something to note.
Also, once the negatives had dried, I found that they curled significantly more than other 400 films I’ve developed in the past.
I was especially surprised by this as the Bergger website describes the film as having an “anti-curl layer” as part of the film’s design.
Both the rolls I developed curled up like an anaconda when I took them down to scan, but perhaps others have had better luck with this?