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Panatomic-X, A Look Back

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:01 p.m.

As a person whose primary effort has been amateur photography of transportation subjects, I followed the general trend of many in this field who converted from MF for black and white to Kodak 5060 Panatomic-X in 35mm. This ASA 32 film offered very fine grain required for detailed full-frame shots of aircraft, locomotives and related subjects. I believe Kodak referred to this as an extremely fine grain film.

Of course I often had this film in my camera when other subjects were available, and while recently looking at some of my negatives from the mid-1970s, I was surprised to see how well this film worked on dull days. I was occasionally able to take action shots with it as well, as you will see. I did not always have an appropriate B&W filter on the lens, and as can be expected, a featureless sky was the cost.

A photographer looking for fine grain B&W films today has a surprising number of choices. At ISO 50, Ilford Pan-F is still available, and although the wonderful Agfa 25 is gone, I see considerable talk of Efke in ISO 25. My compromise has been to use TMAX-100 and Delta 100, and I have been quite satisfied with both for my application.

Here are a few samples of a bygone film that in my opinion, really had no equal.

Superb for full-frame shots of aircraft, such as this Argus Mk.I.


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Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:04 p.m.

The Aldrich Mills water wheel

Even on a dull day, the Aldrich Mills water wheel in South Hadley, Massachusetts looked pretty good on Panatomic-X

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:06 p.m.

Panatomic-X A Look Back

Aldrich Mills water wheel

Nearly grainless detail of mill from previous shot

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:08 p.m.

Response to Panatomic-X,

Some guys summer home, way back when

Taken while on a boat tour of New York's Thousand Islands

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:11 p.m.


Big river

Spring runoff at the Holyoke dam in Massachusetts can be dramatic if there has been substantial snow melt up north.

Michael Ging , Jul 24, 2005; 09:11 p.m.

Tom , I shot with Panatomic-X and developed in Microdol-X 1 to 3. I made some prints up and took them around the Lab.People could not tell them from 120 film and even 4x5. I have a half a dozen rolls of Agfa 25 in the freezer that are kept for special photographs. I too miss the slow, fine grained films, of the past.

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:12 p.m.

A Look Back

Pastoral view

This film lent itself to scenic photography quite nicely

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:13 p.m.

Into the Hoosac range

And it could be pressed into service for action shots as well.

Scott Pickering "25 ASA" , Jul 24, 2005; 09:13 p.m.

Though I didn't use it too many times when it was actually out (I just started doing photography), I have since bought some rolls on the auction site and have used it quite a few times these past couple years. The film has held up quite well considering its age. Even the non cold stored bulk roll is fine. I find Pan X looks very similar to Pan F. Efke 25 looks to me more contrasty yet. I haven't used to many rolls of APX 25 to compare, though I do have some. It would be interesting to shoot all 4 rolls of this stuff, scan them, and compare results. I like Pan X.

Attachment: PanX.jpg

Tom Hildreth , Jul 24, 2005; 09:18 p.m.

Thought you might like to see what I was able to do with this film. It was available in 120, and though I used a couple of rolls of it the subjects were boring and I never attempted to make a large print from the negatives. There was an Aero Panatomic-X in ASA 40, though I never used that version.

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