Back in 2007, Harman Technology (who also produces Ilford's films) introduced the Kentmere brand, designed to offer a more affordable alternative to Ilford products while still maintaining the company's high standards of quality. Kentmere Pan 400 35mm film was one of the first products to be launched under the Kentmere brand, and it quickly gained popularity among film photographers for its performance but mostly for its affordability.
Still today, Kentmere Pan 400 continues to be a popular choice among film enthusiasts who are looking for a reliable and versatile black and white film that won't break the bank. But is Kentmere Pan 400 just another budget film, or does its quality punch above its low price point?
Kentmere Pan 400: Specifications
Film format: 35mm
Film type: Black and white negative film
ISO speed rating: 400/27º
Exposures per roll: 36
Kentmere Pan 400: Key Features
Featuring an ISO speed rating of 400, Kentmere Pan 400 is an adaptable film, accommodating a wide range of lighting conditions including low-light environments, this is a film that can live in a camera and work in most situations. Even with its faster ISO rating the film should still produce a fine-grain structure maintaining sharpness and detail.
The film has a balanced contrast, so doesn't exhibit the harsh highlights and shadows usually associated with black-and-white film photography. This makes the film suitable for a wider variety of subjects including portraiture, landscape, and street photography, and gives a better starting point for playing with tones in development or editing scans.
Compared to other black and white films in the market, Kentmere Pan 400 offers a relatively accessible price point, coming in cheaper than Ilford HP5 or Ilford Delta films, and considerably lower than color films like Kodak Portra 400. This makes Kentmere Pan 400 a great film for beginner or student film photographers, or any film enthusiasts without deep pockets.
Kentmere Pan 400: Performance
Kentmere Pan 400 surprised me having never shot with it before, but actually pleasantly exceeded what I was expecting. Contrast, while balanced, was not as washed out as I feared, with some strong shadows coming through with optimal lighting and when exposed correctly. The highlights on occasion didn't pop as much as I would like, appearing a little grey, but maintained good detail.
Overall the film showed a good exposure latitude, I accidentally under and overexposed some shots (but let's pretend it was for the purpose of testing), however, this didn't turn out to be the disaster I expected with a lot of detail managed to be pulled back.
I also shot outside in gloomy London and in sunny Valencia, and the Kentmere Pan 400 handled both environments really well, shots indoors were also strong, with slightly more grain coming through, but not negatively so.
The grain structure is interesting, the grain is actually fairly significant, although this is not necessarily a bad thing as it does add atmosphere to an image, and the film has that classic "film look". However, the grain does detract from the image quality, with areas, especially in the shadows but also some mid-tones losing detail to the coarse grain pattern.
Kentmere Pan 400: Sample Images
Kentmere Pan 400: Verdict
Kentmere Pan 400 stands out primarily for its exceptional affordability, making it a highly attractive option for film photographers seeking budget-friendly choices. Despite its modest price point, this film manages to surpass expectations by producing remarkable images that exceed what one would typically expect from a "budget" film.
While some black-and-white photographers may find its balanced contrast slightly disappointing, this characteristic actually offers a notable advantage by accommodating variations in exposure metering. Consequently, shooting with Kentmere Pan 400 becomes an enjoyable and hassle-free experience, relieved from the burden of cost considerations.