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Thread: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Pasadena, CA

    TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    Greetings experts! After going through a tour of various films, I've found plenty of uses for TMAX 100 and 400 in my kit. Fine grain, great tonal range on the 100, great speed on the 400. I don't use TMAX developer; just Ilford DDX with it. While it doesn't seem to produce nice negs for POP or alt process easily for me, for silver and scanning uses I'm very pleased with it - more pleased than traditional films for many types of subjects. Okay, so it's not the best DR5 film set either.

    Over the years, I've heard all kinds of comments deriding TMAX in general, so I never really tried it for myself until lately. By avoiding TMAX all these years I really missed a good addition to the palette. I feel that I might need reality check here, so here goes:

    Would anyone care to enlighten me as to why TMAX has such a bad name? Anything that you, in your experience really hate about the stuff (aside from cost)? Which methods gave you bad results?

  2. #2
    Eric Biggerstaff
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Denver, Colorado

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    I don't think there is anything at all bad about the film, although I have not used it in many years.

    I think some of the bad rap came about due to it's reputation as being somewhat difficult to develop correctly as it needed careful control in development ( time and temp) to achieve the full benefit of the film. Other traditional films were a bit more forgiving of user error in development.

    Using the developer you are using ( which I beleive is similiar to TMax RS) it should be a great film. Heck, many very well known photographers swear by it so it can't be all bad!
    Eric Biggerstaff

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    Tmax400 is by far my favourite B&W film - simply amazingly flexible, fine grained and fast. I used to shoot a lot of Tmax 100 which is incredibly fine grained, but also has a stubby toe (sort of, now you see it, now you don't). I use it far less now since they changed the base to a UV resistant material which makes it useless for alt processes. Still great film for silver though.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    I'll get you started fwiw. I've revisited Tmax 400 more than once and no matter what, I can't live with the grain. It's just nasty to my eye. Tmax 100 I dismissed early on as I was going down the PMK Pyro road and other films worked better. I never liked the straight line curve that can be so very unforgiving of overexposure. mia culpa. But that said, after I switched to PyroCat HD I have re-visited Tmax and find it excellent in the Pcat. Now the only thing that puts me off is the price. I've got 1000 feet of Efke 100R Cirkut film that will ultimately make 1500 8X10 photographs at roughly 55 cents apiece. If I happen to luck into some Tmax, I enjoy it.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Van Buren, Arkansas

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    My opinion is that T-max got a bad reputation with many people, who tried it when it was a new product, and used T-max developer and exposed and developed at the published times. This results (for me) in awful negatives. I stopped using it for years, until I tried developing it in D-76 1+1, and then I liked it a lot.

  6. #6
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with it. I think that the other posters hit on the issue. A strength and weakness is its response to differences in time and temperature. It makes it easier to expand and contract. If you are not careful with these variables, then things can get away from you.

    Another great thing about Tmax is the fact that it responds to light like a traditional film with a pale yellow filter on it. That saves using a filter in many situations, and so eliminates the filter factor.

    A third great thing is that it has outstanding reciprocity characteristics.

    All that being said, its good that there are lots of films around, because I cannot stand either Tmax 100 or 400. I can't explain it. I just can't stand the way my photos look with either film. Give me FP4+, HP5+, Delta 100, Tri-X or other films and I am happy. I just don't like the look I get. I see photographs by other photographers who use Tmax films and they look great to me. I can't explain it, but I stopped fighting it. My favorite is HP5+.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2005

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    Like Jim I didn't much care for it until I tried it in pyrocat, and now don't care for it because of the price and availability issues in odd formats, not to mention the uncertainty of Kodak in general. But, all other things being equal, it would be the only film I'd ever need.

  8. #8
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    I don't care for the spectral sensitivity of the T-max films. They look like B&W video or straight digital B&W to me, though in some situations it can work. I also don't care for the grain pattern on T-Max 400 in smaller formats, but in large format this isn't an issue.

    T-Max 100 has a UV filtering layer in its current version, which makes it unusable for alt-processes that require UV exposure.

    On the other hand T-Max 100 is extraordinarily sharp and both TMX and TMY have a very long straight line curve, so they are handy for work in contrasty lighting.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    Nuttin' bad about it.
    Fine grain + linear response: what else do you need ?

  10. #10

    Re: TMAX Film - What's so bad about it?

    I have tried every sheet film available over the last few years in many developers and I honestly believe that when shooting 8x10 and larger, T Max 400 is without question the best film made. And it is not just about its excellent tonal response that draws the praise. It scores in the top of its class as it relates to reciprocity correction and the ability to use its full film speed is a God send in the field with large sheets of film.

    Develop it in DDX, T Max RS or Pyrocat and it provides a linear film density curve. Stand develop it with Pyrocat or use Pyro and it gives you the classic "S" film density curve. Simply as good as it gets. It is the only film that I have used for the last year and I am sticking with. No reason to use anything else. As a silver contact printer T Max 100 does nothing for me.

    However, if I was projection enlarging I would not hesitate to use T Max 100 as long as I was developing it in a JOBO. That is where it got its bad rap as T Max 100 mandates the precision inherent in temperature controlled mechanical rotary processing. Try to cut this corner in any way and the results dimish dramatically to mediocre at best. Sexton tested it when it first came out and continues to use T Max 100 with exemplary results in a JOBO. Without a JOBO I would use FP4+ exclusively.


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