A few years ago, the generous folks at Analogue Wonderland in the UK sent me a box full of fun films to try on the promise that I’d mention them here when I did. After I used up all of the film they said they’d be happy to keep going with more film. I asked them to become my Official Supplier of Ilford’s traditionally-grained black-and-white films, HP5 Plus and FP4 Plus. They readily agreed.
The first shipment came with a bonus: one roll of their WonderPan film. This is an ISO 400 black-and-white film they introduced just this year. They make no bones about it: this is a well-known emulsion that they’ve merely repackaged. They also have up-rated it to ISO 400 from its native 100-ish ISO, to help film photographers everywhere see that it’s okay to push black-and-white films.
Analogue Wonderland is coy about which film this really is. I know, but I’m not going to spoil the fun. Buy some yourself — and then check the rebate on the developed negatives. It will tell you all you need to know.
I loaded my roll into my Minolta Maxxum 7000i, a capable auto-everything 35mm SLR. A 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 AF Minolta Zoom lens was already mounted to it, so I went with it. I took it on a number of photo walks around my neighborhood.
The WonderPan data sheet shows developing times for a handful of developers, the only one of which I had on hand was Rodinal. It lists only a time for 1+25, a dilution I avoid because it’s so strong. But I went with it, and everything turned out fine.
I seldom use Rodinal with films above ISO 200 to avoid pronounced grain, so it felt weird to develop this film in it. I had to keep reminding myself that this is an ISO 100-ish film and all is well.
This is a good film, with excellent tonal range and sharpness, and well-managed grain (even in Rodinal). I’m impressed with how well this film pushes to ISO 400. It encourages me to push the film on which this is based, of which I have plenty in the freezer, when I need that extra margin of exposure.
The Maxxum 7000i performed flawlessly. It’s really a terrific camera. Of all of the auto-everything SLRs I’ve tried, the Minoltas have been the best — most fun and most capable.
I just can’t tell that this film is pushed two stops. It looks like it was meant to be shot at EI 400.
The only time I wasn’t wowed with WonderPan was on a particularly gray day. Everything just looked murky and sad. But then, the day was murky and sad.
If you’d like to try WonderPan yourself, click the Analogue Wonderland logo to get some. It ships from the UK, which costs. A lot. So pro tip for my US readers: order $50 in stuff and shipping is free. They offer films from dozens of manufacturers and relabelers at good prices, so I’m sure you’ll find other films you want!
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