Bergger Pancro 400 B&W Film Review by James Baturin

Medium format black and what film image of man's portrait - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Written by James Baturin

It’s no secret to film photographers that the cost of film is on the rise these days.

And so when on my latest online film order I saw that the cost of my beloved Ilford HP5+ had gone up once again, I decided maybe it was time to try looking at some cheaper options.

In my search for a more affordable black and white 400 film stock, Bergger Pancro 400 came up, and so I thought I’d order a couple of rolls and give it a try.

Find Bergger Pancro 400 B&W film at B&H Photo. Available in 35mm and in 120.

Bergger Pancro 400 Black and White Film Review
Bergger Pancro 400 Black and White Film Review
Bergger Pancro 400 Black and White Film Review
Medium format black and what film image of a field by a lake - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

An Overview of Bergger Pancro 400

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.

You can purchase Bergger Pancro 400 in 120 here, and in 35mm here.

Medium format black and what film image of man's portrait - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film
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Shooting Test Rolls

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.

Medium format black and what film image of a pier - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

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.

Medium format black and what film image of musicians leaning against a wall - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

The Results

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!

Medium format black and what film image of a beach - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

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?

Medium format black and what film image of a lake - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was really happy with my first experience shooting and developing Bergger Pancro 400.

It’s a cost effective black and white film, with great exposure latitude, grain and contrast, and for me, you can’t ask much more of a black and white film.

There is obviously a lot more to learn about the film as I shoot more with it, but I am excited to add it to the list of films in my rotation!

Medium format black and what film image of musicians sitting on stairs - Bergger Pancro 400 BW Film Review by James Baturin on Shoot It With Film

Thank you so much, James! James is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out his other articles here, including Understanding Reciprocity Failure in Film Photography and Fujifilm Acros vs Acros II Film Stock Comparison. You can also check out James’s work on Instagram.

Leave any questions you have about Bergger Pancro 400 B&W film below in the comments, and you can pick up some for yourself at B&H Photo here.

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James Baturin

James Baturin is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find his other articles here, including Hasselblad 500 C/M Film Camera Review and Long Exposure Film Photography Tutorial.

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Blog Comments

I’ve found this film to be low in contrast, with a very broad tonal range. Also, it’s pretty grainy for a 400 speed film, at least when developed in Xtol. It has, in my experience, a medium sharpness in that developer.
Panchromatic, incidentally, refers to the film’s sensitivity to the entire visible light spectrum, not to the dual layer emulsion (which is pretty common in higher speed films).

I don’t think having two layers is why it’s panchromatic as most single layer BW films are panchromatic. I’ve tried this film many times and I can’t really get it to look like your photos – ? if the 120 format is different than 135? The grain was too much for me. Your photos are great and this seems to be the case with others who shoot this film – so there’s something I’m not doing right. Usually use HC110B. Anyway good article. Ernie

I really enjoyed the humor of that last shot of the band “parked” on the stairs under the sign!

–Rich

There are only a few option to find different film on the market so this is an ORWO NP74 or NP75. Being a 400 ISO has grain and choosing a developer like Kodak HC-110 and also dilution B is like trying Rodinal at 1:25 and hoping to get pleasant grain. Looking at developers used in Germany we find Atomal 49 which is really a very fine grain one and better than something like Kodak D76 or Xtol.
Wish You good light and inspiration!

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