top of page

Remembering Kodak Plus-X Pan Film

The Last Classic Kodak Medium Speed Black & White Film

Kodak Plus-X Pan film was a black-and-white panchromatic film that was introduced in 1938 as a motion picture film, and later adapted for still photography in 35mm and medium format sizes. It was discontinued in 2011, after more than 70 years of production. In this review, we will explore the history, evolution, uses, characteristics, and development of this classic film, and share some tips and examples on how to get the best results from it.

 

More Film Reviews:

 

History of Kodak Plus-X Pan

Kodak Plus-X Pan was derived from Eastman Plus-X, which was originally designed for motion picture use. The name Plus-X indicated that it had a higher speed than the previous Kodak Panchromatic film, which was rated at ISO 32. Plus-X was rated at ISO 64 for tungsten lighting and ISO 80 for daylight. The suffix Pan denoted that it was a panchromatic film, meaning that it was sensitive to all colours of the visible spectrum, unlike the earlier orthochromatic films that were only sensitive to blue and green light.


It was first offered in 35mm and 120 formats for still photography in the 1940s. It became a popular choice for photojournalists, documentary photographers, and amateur enthusiasts, who appreciated its fine grain, wide exposure latitude, and rich tonality. It was also used by some famous photographers, such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Vivian Maier, who captured iconic images with it.


Over the decades, Kodak's medium speed film underwent several improvements and modifications, such as increasing the film speed to ISO 125 and adding an anti-halation layer. The last version of Plus-X Pan was Kodak Professional Plus-X 125 film, which was available in 35mm and 120 formats until 2011, when Kodak discontinued it, leaving just the Tri-X and T-Max lines in Kodak's black and white stable.


Evolution of Plus-X Pan

Plus-X Pan underwent several changes and improvements throughout its long history. Here are some of the major milestones in the evolution of the film:

  • 1938: Eastman Plus-X introduced as a motion picture film, with a speed of ISO 64 for tungsten lighting and ISO 80 for daylight

  • 1940s: Plus-X Pan offered in 35mm and 120 formats for still photography, with the suffix Pan indicating its panchromatic sensitivity

  • 1954: improved with a new emulsion that increased the film speed to ISO 160, and added an anti-halation layer to reduce flare and improve sharpness

  • 1970s: redesigned with a new logo and packaging and film speed standardized to ISO 125

  • 1980s: Plus-X Pan film was renamed as Kodak Professional Plus-X 125 film

  • 2011: Kodak discontinued Plus-X 125 film

 

If you’re enjoying this, please do consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It has lots more blog articles, photo features and more.

 

Plus-X Pan: Still Lives and Interior Shots


Famous Photographers Who Used Kodak Plus-X

Kodak Plus-X Pan film was a popular choice for many renowned photographers, who used it to capture some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. Here are some examples of famous photographers who used Plus-X Pan film extensively¹⁴:

  • Robert Capa: Capa was a legendary war photographer and co-founder of Magnum Photos, who covered many conflicts, such as the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, and the First Indochina War. He used Plus-X Pan film to document the horrors and heroism of war, such as his famous images of the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach.

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson: Cartier-Bresson was a master of candid photography and the pioneer of the "decisive moment" concept. He used Plus-X Pan film to capture the essence and beauty of life, such as his famous image of a man jumping over a puddle behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

  • Vivian Maier: Maier was a mysterious and prolific street photographer, who worked as a nanny and kept her photographs hidden until they were discovered after her death. She used Plus-X Pan film to create stunning portraits and scenes of urban life, such as her famous self-portrait in a mirror with a Rolleiflex camera.

Plus-X Pan: Dramatic Lighting Shots



Uses of Plus-X Pan

Kodak Plus-X Pan film was a versatile film that could be used for various genres and styles of photography, such as street, portrait, landscape, architecture, and fine art. It was especially suited for lower light situations than Panatomic-X, where its moderate speed and wide exposure latitude allowed for capturing details in both shadows and highlights. It was also ideal for creating contrasty and dramatic images, as it rendered dark tones with depth and clarity, and light tones with smoothness and subtlety.


Plus-X was also a favourite film for experimenting with different development techniques, such as push and pull processing, stand development, and alternative developers. By varying the development time, temperature, and agitation, one could achieve different effects, such as increasing or decreasing the contrast, grain, and sharpness of the film. Some popular developers for Plus-X were Kodak's own D-23, HC-110 (or Ilford's HC equivalent) and Xtol, and Rodinal.


Characteristics of Plus-X

Plus-X Pan had a number of distinctive characteristics that made it stand out from other black-and-white films. Some of these characteristics were:

  • Fine grain: Plus-X had a very fine grain structure, which gave it a high resolution and a smooth appearance. The grain was also uniform and consistent, which added to the quality and sharpness of the image.

  • Wide exposure latitude: Plus-X had a generous exposure latitude, which meant that it could tolerate overexposure and underexposure without losing too much detail or contrast. This made it easy to use in challenging lighting conditions, and also allowed for creative exposure control.

  • Rich tonality: Its rich tonal range spanned from deep blacks to bright whites, with many shades of gray in between. It also had a neutral gray balance, which rendered colours accurately and realistically. The tonality of Plus-X was also influenced by the choice of developer, paper, and printing method, which could enhance or alter the contrast, brightness, and mood of the image.

  • Film curl: Plus-X Pan film had a tendency to curl, especially in humid environments. This was due to the different rates of expansion and contraction of the film base and the emulsion layers. The curling could cause problems with scanning, printing, and storing the film. To prevent or reduce the curling, one could use a film flattener, such as Kodak Film Flattener, or store the film in archival sleeves or envelopes.

Plus-X Pan: Outdoor Architecture Gallery


Conclusion

Kodak Plus-X Pan film was a classic film that offered a fine grain, a wide exposure latitude, and a rich tonality. It was a versatile film that could be used for various genres and styles of photography, and could be developed and printed in different ways to achieve different effects. It was also a film that captured the essence and the history of black-and-white photography, as it was used by some of the most influential and iconic photographers of the 20th century. Kodak Plus-X Pan film was a film that deserved to be remembered and celebrated, and hopefully, this review has helped you appreciate and understand this film better.

 

You can follow Michael Elliott on:

 

If you enjoyed this, please do consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It has lots more blog articles, photo features and more.

185 views0 comments
bottom of page