Eastman Kodak Company introduced Panatomic-X in 1933 and discontinued it in 1987. The film had been reformulated during its five-decade existence, so my late production was likely different than the original. It was designed to be an extremely fine grain film, which meant it could be enlarged for large prints and still retain details. This was of value to architectural, fine-art, and aerial photographers. Some 9-inch aerial photography film was a version of Panatomic-X. The version I have in 120 size was rated at ISO 32, but I shot it at 20 or 25 and developed it in Rodinal at 1:50 dilution. Agfa's Rodinal is a developer that retains the grain structure and therefore looks "sharp" (i.e., it does not have solvent action to partly dissolve the edges of the grain clumps). Used with good lenses and careful technique (that means a tripod), the detail in a Panatomic-X negative is astonishing, even in this age of 36-megapixel digital cameras.
|My most recent 1959-vintage Rolleiflex 3.5E with the 5-element 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens.|
|Former residence room in the Junius Ward YMCA on Clay Street in Vicksburg, early 1990.|
|Shotgun houses in Grayson Court, Jackson, 2004.|
|The Junius Ward YMCA on Clay Street, Vicksburg, 2004. The Old Courthouse Museum is in the distance.|
|Two shotgun houses on Bowmar Avenue, Vicksburg, 2005. Both have been town down.|
|The New21 Club on Hwy 61, Valley Park, Mississippi 2016.|
|Blue Front Cafe, Bentonia, Mississippi 2010.|
- Even by the 1980s, most photographers wanted faster film so that they would not need to use a tripod.
- Newer T-grain or tabular films like Kodak T-Max or Ilford Delta 100 offered almost as fine grain but with faster speed.
- A friend from Rochester who has worked with Kodak said there was a toxic chemical used in the Panatomic-X production. I have read the same pertaining to Agfapan 25, so maybe slow fine grain films required some chemical technology that manufacturers cannot use today.
|Unused Teen Center, 407 West Green Street, Tallulah, Louisiana, December 2016. Fuji photograph.|
|Unused church in Hermanville, Mississippi, January 2017. Rolleiflex photograph.|
|Little Bayou Pierre, Port Gibson, February 2017. Port Gibson is the town that General Ulysses Grant did not burn during the U.S. Civil War because he admired the architecture so much.|
|Crushing mill, Rte 3, Redwood, Mississippi, 2017. Rolleiflex photograph.|
Readers know I like film. One reason is I used film for 50 years and am comfortable with it. Another reason is it has a familiar look that we saw in prints, magazines, exhibits, and movies for decades, and it works well for recording urban decay. Techno-dweebs on forums like Dpreview despise film because they think they are so superior with their new super digital capture devices. To each his own. Still, if you have aspirations to be a photographer, you owe it to yourself to use the traditional medium, learn how to calculate exposure manually, and contemplate each picture carefully. You need to think with film; no spray and pray that you might achieve a meaningful picture. And no lame chimping (reviewing the pictures on the camera's screen) as you see in tourist sites around the world. Used film cameras are cheap - just go do it.