Tech Pan for 4x5, or is this overkill? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

The recent Readyload scare made me think of holders and films other than T-Max; thus the idea of using Tech Pan, apparently with Technidol, for 4x5. Several questions: is this overkill, given the abilities of T-Max, and the ease of Readyloads, or are there people who have seen demonstrably better results with the Tech Pan? Are there problems with the extended red sensitivity of Tech Pan? Can its abilities be exploited differently with other developers? Is reciprocity a problem? (the tables apparently look OK) Other general comments and opinions would be most welcome. Thanks.

-- Burke Griggs (, July 11, 2001


Since you invite "other general comments and opinions" I will put in mine.

Choose your film for how the results look to you. Fine grain, coarse grain, midtone or low or high separation characteristics, etc., all play a big part in the choice. If it looks good to you, for what and how you shoot, then it is probably a good film to use.

We see excellent images from photographers using almost every imaginable combination. Usually we see consistently good results from those who find a combination or two that works well for them, stick with it and refine it.

Developer & films are so full of voodoo that it is almost impossible to call one 'better' than another. Photogs of all kind swear by one recipe or another yet all can produce images that are excellent. From TMax & Xtol to Pyro & Super XX to TriX and HC110 we fine beautiful prints coming from excellent photographers.

Few ever ask what film or developer was used on more than a superficial level. Those who do are usually interested for information sake, not a major change in their work unless they are in the group who constantly search for the perfect answer... and usually search while producing few images along the way.

Pick a combination and use it. Take photos & print good images. Then, while looking at the work of others, IF you see some work that is measurably & visibly superior, take a look at what they use. It 'may' work for you or it may not. If the prints are visibly superior something is being done that works and you might benefit. If it is excellent work it is more likely the result of the photographers being familiar and comfortable with their materials than any magic combination.

I have friends who turn out beautiful and stunning images with film and developer combinations I wouldn't use on a bet, or unless that was all that was available. Yet they use it, love it and get great results. They can't understand how I can use 'that stuff' I do and get good prints. Yet we both do.

It is the photographer, their working methods, printing craft & vision. The proof is in the printing and if whatever one uses works, why change it for anything other than a measurable, visibly better result?

We love to debate & look & discover. But too many spend all their time doing so rather than learning what actually works for them & making prints. Pick a combination and use it. Work with it and learn its foibles & creative possibilities. If that is Tech Pan in Rodinal, so be it. Whatever you choose, learn to use it to create excellent prints. That is the technical side which also takes into account the alchemy & personal preferences we all have. The personal vision helps with getting past the technical so what we make perfect prints of is actually worth looking at... a whole other topic.

Whatever you choose, learn to work with it to create excellent images and don't worry about what others use. If you do you will spend your entire life jumping from one thing to another in a futile attempt at perfection and die failing to achieve it. Pick a film & learn it and let us see great images and the other photographers who still believe there is a magic answer will be looking at your work & wondering if they too should change everything to try & get 'your' results.

-- Dan Smith (, July 11, 2001.

T-Max is a pain-in-the-neck! Tech Pan is impossible!

-- Jim Galli (, July 11, 2001.

Jim, a very good argument for Tri-X and Pyro dev. Pat

-- pat krentz (, July 11, 2001.

I find T-max100 to be a very good film across all formats, but if you don't like it, try FP4plus. IMHO FP4+ has the finest grain and best gradation of any non-delta/T-grain medium speed film.
Techpan is impossible, I agree.

-- Pete Andrews (, July 11, 2001.

I gave up using TechPan in 35mm years ago because I'd always end up with 36 frames on a roll that each needed slightly different development times.

Now I'm using 5x4 I may have to go back and try again...

-- Stuart Whatling (, July 11, 2001.

How does Tech Pan address "the recent Readyload scare?" Is Tech Pan available in Readyload now? TMX is the film Kodak will most likely keep in production longest, even if Readyload packaging is someday dropped.

For 4x5, developing TMX in convenient Ilfosol-S, I think you'd be hard pressed to see an improvement with Tech Pan, at least up to 16x20 prints. This takes into account practical matters like film positioning accuracy and typical large format shooting apertures. High magnifications from 35mm originals might be a different story. Also, to the best of my knowledge, reciprocity characteristics of TMY are bested only by Fuji Acros in this film category, and the single US source of that product in sheets charges $65.00 for a box of Quickloads.

-- Sal Santamaura (, July 11, 2001.


Tech Pan for the 4x5 format is gross overkill and probably not a practical approach. It is such a slow film that you would probably have problems with depth of field and/or reciprocity dictated by the small apertures necessary to acheive adequate depth of field. Under most lighting situations, you probably would not be able to stop the lens down adequately to get necessary depth of field. Exposure times would be so long at the normal working apertures for the 4x5 format that reciprocity law failure as well subject movement would be a problem in many situations. The exposure times would be tremendously long. IMHO, T-Max 100 would be much more pracical.

-- Ken Burns (, July 11, 2001.

It might be overkill, and with such a low speed you will run into horrible reciprocity problems, on the other hand if you have a studio and/or a supernova is eminent, then it might not be a bad experiment. specially developed with a pyro type developer. This is an interesting question, I might even experiemtn with it.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, July 11, 2001.

Tech pan is not horrible or difficult or impossible. But it is different. It's probably the most DIFFERENT film of all standard films currently availble. In certain situations I believe that it is a tremendous tool to use(low contrast subjects esp.). Keep in mind what Dan Smith said and give it a try. I'd suggest trying one of the formulas in the Darkroom Cookbook or the Film Developing Cookbook or Technidal but be precise in your technique.

-- David Vickery (, July 11, 2001.

I honestly can't see going to the trouble of special processing, worrying if everything will turn out the same as last time, expensive developers and all the other problems associated with Tech-Pan just so I can get an ASA too low to be usable for much 4x5 work. Even ol' reliable Tri-X rated at 160 or HP-5 rated about 200 gets too slow at times with filters. Put in some bellows factor, a filter factor and you're down to almost nothing for an ASA rating. Why go to all this trouble when you can make perfectly fine prints in quite large sizes with medium or higher speed film. If you are going to do wall size prints, go ahead and use an 8x10. Fine grain just isn't a problem with normal size prints (16x20 to 20x24) with 4x5. I would certainly trade the additional speed of other films for the fine grain of Tech- Pan. Please feel free to disregard this personal opinion.


-- Doug Paramore (, July 11, 2001.

I've got to agree with you all, Tech Pan is sort of overkill in 4x5+ ...although the extended red sensitivity is nice for filtering old photos when you copy them...that said, TMX is my primary film...I'm not sure if there's any worry about Tech Pan going away soon though, EK has that as one of their replacement films for neg. duping if (& when) they do away with SO-366....

-- DK Thompson (, July 11, 2001.

My question is this- how big are you enlarging? If you're going for some huge prints, have top-notch optics, and impeccable technique, then sure, go for it. Otherwise, I say stick to more "normal" emulsions. I shoot it in 120 sometimes, and David hits it right on the head when he says it's "different." I've never been a big fan of Technidol, so I develop it in Formulary Modified Windisch Catechol with pretty good results. But hey- if you feel like shooting it in 4x5 and doing battle with it's idiosyncracies, more power to you. After all, doing you own thing is half the fun of photography, isn't it?

-- David Munson (, July 11, 2001.

The big problem with TP in 4x5 isn't film speed. It's dust. I don't buy it anymore because I have ZERO dust problems with other films, but highly annoying ones on TP.

Seems a pity to me because it has excellent tonality for portraiture, and seems particularly well-suited to bringing out the texture of hair.

-- John O'Connell (, July 12, 2001.

Thanks to all for their decisive comments. I had not considered the even lower speed with filtration (and multiple filtration, say, with yellow filters and a polarizer). And this is clearly not worth the hassle of film holders. On the other end of the speed scale, why can't Kodak put Tri-X in readyloads? Oh well. We should be thankful that T- Max is back in them.

Thanks again for your learned and reasoned responses, Burke

-- Burke Griggs (, July 12, 2001.

Also watch out which lens looks good or not so good with this film. You will be surprized. Example....In 35mm.... A leica with a dual range summicron(1960's) will knock your socks off with tech pan....and a more current lens with higher contrast might well suck. Go figure!

-- Emile de Leon (, July 12, 2001.

A leica? Whazzat? Is that one of those things that I crushed under a tripod leg the other day?

-- Pete Andrews (, July 13, 2001.

Perhaps he meant one of these:

-- Struan Gray (, July 13, 2001.

I tried looking up Leica on my computer dictionary as well as the spell checker, just in case it may have been incorrectly spelled by the above poster. Both came up suggesting "leech". Could this be what the guy was suggesting?

-- Dan Smith (, July 13, 2001.

Hmmmm... Didn't Minor White use a Leica? Maybe he got tired of hauling a wooden crapbox around all the time. I think Ansel used a Contax and a Hassie too...Maybe he used the wooden box to store the cameras he actually used in. As well as his ego. BTW.... I shoot 12x20 too. Maybe I can get some TP for it.

-- (, July 13, 2001.

Yeah, HP5+ is pretty nice stuff. I used to be tempted by the slower finer grained film. I wonder why even with the use of a *tiny* 4x5 inch negative. If I want something finer, FP4+ fits the bill. Having said that, I've seen some wonderful Tech Pan prints. I was looking at the tonal scale and how the image was printed, not the fine grain.


-- floren (, July 22, 2001.

Like any other material. It is used where it is useful and it is only hard to process if you haven't calibrated to development process you use with it. I find that Technical Pan film is absolutely wonderful "in the situations where it's characteristics are beneficial". As said above somewhere, low contrast scene, portraiture, and where extremely fine grain is a must like Bristle Cone Pines and wood/rust in Bodie. Tmax or even Tri-X is a good sharp film depending on what developer you use but I love TP for what it was made to do. And I don't find it hard to process at all. James

-- james (, July 22, 2001.

Go ahead and shoot the 4X5 TP and develop in PMK Pyro. It will take you a couple of tries to deal with the peculiarities but it's worth it...will change your life!

-- Jonah Giacalone (, January 02, 2002.

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