Spectral Sensitivity of B&W Film – A Deep Dive into Orthochromatic, Panchromatic and All the Rest
Even if you’re new to film photography, you’ve probably heard about the various types of B&W emulsions which are out there: orthochromatic, panchromatic, infrared and so on. If you’re a bit more experienced – or just a nerd – you might even know what these terms mean. They refer to different spectral sensitivities – how sensitive the film is to different wavelengths (colours) of light.
The term spectral sensitivity might sound boring and/or scary – the kind of jargon which photography veterans use to bamboozle and discourage newbies. In this article, I’ll try to demystify the term, and to explain how an understanding of film characteristics can help us get the kind of results we want.
There are so many different types of B&W film out there. Exploring their variety and complexity can expand our creative options. Besides, it’s fun!