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Retropan 320 Review: British Columbia Images

Retropan 320 film has been around for a few years now. Made by Foma it is a ASA 320 black and white film called retro as it is supposed to look like older film. (It is panchromatic so not that old.) There are some enthusiastic reviews online (as well as some detractors). I got swept up in the enthusiasm and decided to buy a few rolls to try out. I can say now I regret it.

My goto film for black and white is Ilford Fp4+ (ASA 125) as a slow high resolution film it is very consistent and pretty cost effective. I have shot some Kodak and Fuji which I like but here in the UK Ilford is a quality product and good value. Normally for high speed film I have shot Ilford HP5+. However having been caught up in the Retropan reviews I decided to see if it would work as my high speed film.

I was recently in British Columbia to visit my son so I took a couple of rolls along to try it out. I brought my Rolleiflex f2.8 as it is an easy to carry camera and simple to use. I brought my Sekonic light meter instead of my spot meter, again as it is easy to carry. I regretted this too. I have come to like the sense of control over an exposure my spot meter brings though it is bigger and heavier to carry.

I visited Stanley Park in Vancouver (a recommended day out) and some other provincial parks near Vancouver and as far away as Hope.

I developed and handled the film as I would normally any film. I used HC-110 developer dilution B as a one shot developer and after some research settled on a development time of 8:30 minutes. Various sources on the web (including Foma's own recommendations) go as low as 7:00 minutes. The first roll I shot at box speed. The second roll I shot at ASA 200.

After development and scanning I noticed every frame had short dark vertical lines. They look like scratches but don't appear to be physical scratches of the emulsion they are exceedingly small and thin. I am at a loss as to what they are are. At a 1600 DPI scan they are about 45 pixels long by 2-3 pixels wide. Here I cropped a representative sample.

1600 DPI sample of dark streaks. Also note thin vertical band on right. 

Also present on the edges of some images is a dark band on one or both sides of the image near the edge of the frame. Again I don't know what this is.

In summary I concluded that the film is flawed. This conclusion was reinforced by this Reddit post.
The post has a photo with identical flaws including the faint streak on the right of the image.
Reddit posted image with same flaws. (credit RichardtheSmith on Reddit). 

Any photo with lots of dark emulsion (like sky areas) showed the black streaks more apparently. Like these below.

Sun and Rocks at Stanley Park Vancouver BC

Siwash Rock at Stanley Park Vancouver BC

Siwash Rock at Stanley Park Vancouver BC

Vancouver from Cypress Provincial Park

Nak Peak at Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area
 In some hoar frost photos I took along highway 3 the flaws are less apparent.

Hoar Frost #1

Hoar Frost #2
Finally we when we visited Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver I took some photos in the dark undergrowth of the rain-forest there. The conditions were challenging with heavy cloud cover and a think canopy to block out the sun. These images had t be shot at f-2.8 and at 1/60 or 1/30 of a second. Even then the negatives came out thin/underexposed. Here the grain was quite heavy though does contribute positively to these images. The depth of field was very challenging here with the wide open aperture. No where more apparent than the image of the stump where the stump is much too soft for my liking.

Forest Mist


I developed my second roll of Retropan shot on the same trip. I see again the same smalls streaks or scratches. These images are below.