View Full Version : Tri-x vs Tmax 400

29-May-2014, 21:41
Just wondering which one would work best for me.
Now for the details:

I am starting a project where I will be taking portraits of my clients in their home with a Crown Graphic. There is not a lot of natural light in most of the homes. Lots of the people are elderly. I will probably use a monopod as most of my exposures will be in 1/8 to 1/50 second range. I'm a service plumbers, so I am in several homes a day and meet lots of very interesting people, living an extremely wide variety of dwellings. One couple were even living in a Teepee year round here in Montana.

I want a simple, reliable, easy developing method. Thinking of using D76 or HC110 because they are available locally. I don't really enjoy tray developing. I do have a Combiplan and some homemade tubes for single sheet developing.

Since this is more of a photojournalist type project a little grain isn't a bad thing. I would actually like things to look like they were made in the 40's or 50's.

Prints will mostly be contact prints to be sent out to the people as a thank you. Good ones will go online with 800 pixel size on the long side. I may decide later to make an enlargement or two, so I would like to keep that option open.

I also thought about Arista 400, I've heard it is slower and would need to be pushed, anybody have experience with it?

Any other films you would recommend? Is there anything else I'm not thinking of or aware of?


Oren Grad
29-May-2014, 22:06
Any other films you would recommend?

HP5 Plus.

29-May-2014, 22:10
Tri-x in 4x5 is only 320 ISO and a different beast than the 400 in smaller formats you may be thinking of, if you're chasing speed.

Andrew O'Neill
29-May-2014, 22:39
I second HP5

Mark Woods
30-May-2014, 00:28
Hello Bryan,

In the 30's & 40's the 4x5 Speed Graphic, often used with a flash, was the standard camera, there really wasn't much grain. Gene Smith was the photographer who broke the mold and began using the Nikon F & 35mm in the late 50's early 60's. This is where the grain began to be seen in the images. If you look at prints of his made at the time of the exposure (or later) there is very little grain -- even in 35mm. Look at WeeGee's work for example, almost no grain. Even Diane Arbus with her 2 1/4x2 1/4 Rollie has little grain. I've seen 20x20 prints of her work that are amazing with little or no grain. The same with Cartier-Bresson's 35mm work in the 30's through the 50's. Grain really came into being when higher ASA films were made and photographers were street shooting, or in clubs and weren't getting full exposure. I'd really think about shooting these portraits with a flash adjusted minus 1.5-2 stops below the exposure F/Stop on the lens. This should appear "natural" yet lower the contrast for an image closer to what you describe. BTW, I use D-76 with replenisher in tanks for a dip & dunk method. My stock solution is about 6 years old at this point and works great.

I hope this helps and gives you some primary sources to look at. BTW, the WPA photographers like Dorthea Lang, Walker Evans, Bernice Abbot, and Ansel Adams shot in 4x5 along with the larger formats. There's virtually no grain in their work.

30-May-2014, 04:21
hi bryan

i have done similar work that you are speaking of,
but instead of people's homes, i always ended up somewhere else
like their shop, workshop with them while they ate &c. i have never been able to shoot anything
with available light ... its always been very difficult in that way ( but i only used tmax400 + trix )... what i ended up doing
was getting a sunpack flash ( later i used a lumadyne system ) and a long PC cord and i used
the flash sometimes straight on, sometimes bounced (whatever worked ) ... and it worked out great ..
sounds like you have a great long term project on your hands !
(i've been ( and still am ) doing this stuff with 35mm - 5x7 since the mid 1980s :) )


mathieu Bauwens
30-May-2014, 04:28
Hello Bryan,

I do more or less something like you . I began to shoot couples portrait in their homewith my chamonix, on a tripod using first TXP 320 push to 800 or 1600. I found HP5 cheaper so I'll continue my work with it. Everything is soup with D76 that I replenish. I only add 2 bulbs to avoid too long pauses (continuous light, , i'm between 1/15 and 1/125)

TXP 320 @ 800, window on my back and bulbs

HP5 @ 800, cloudy day

30-May-2014, 04:53
Also recommend HP5+ it's much cheaper (about half the price or more as kodak keeps raising prices) and pushes much better than either of those two films, HP5+ can look good pushed to 3200.

I have examples of it pushed that far but not that are LF so I can't share but trust me even the shadow detail is decent when done properly and you can use either developer you prefer with that (though for best results DD-X is nice but that's more expensive so might as well go local with HC-110).

Even if you're only pushing to 800 or 1600 you'll have some nice shadow detail, HP5+ is inherently slightly lower in contrast so it would think it would be good for your application.

Jim Jones
30-May-2014, 05:38
A tripod is more cumbersome than a monopod, but its advantages may make it worthwhile. You'll be free to move around, engage with the subject, and manipulate off-camera flash. On-camera flash was a horrid necessity long ago, but we needn't inflict it upon today's victims. Flash bulbs are a powerful and reasonable substitute for electronic flash.

Bruce Watson
30-May-2014, 05:56
There is not a lot of natural light in most of the homes.

And therein lies the problem. Low light conditions bring up reciprocity performance. This is one of the larger differences between conventional cubic grained films like Tri-X and HP5+, and modern t-grain-ish films like TMax, Delta, and Acros.

The bottom line is it takes more photons to form a latent image with older films. So in low light conditions, you can end up with empty shadows (no texture, completely black, completely clear on the negative). No amount of push processing can change this -- if the film hasn't formed a latent image, there's nothing to develop.

I've been amazed at the shadow detail one gets with TMY-2. It outperforms Tri-X by a considerable margin.

I want a simple, reliable, easy developing method.

If you use a modern t-grain-ish film, you'll need one. They aren't as "forgiving" of processing variations as older films were. You'll want a process that is very repeatable.

As to developers, I had poor results with TMY-2 and HC110, even in dilution H. I just couldn't control it. If you have to choose between D76 and HC110, go with D76. Better, diluted D76. Just make sure you have enough stock developer in the tank/tray/whatever to handle the film area you are developing and you should be fine.

30-May-2014, 06:26
I agree that TMY is very fast in the shadows, but ultimate shadow detail isn't always the most important thing, even for low-light photography. I have had good look pushing HP5 even though I know it has crap shadow speed compared to TMY. I think it has a very long toe which when pushed, gives a nice look with great highlight contrast. You could shoot TMY to get more information and achieve the same look in printing, though, plus the bonus of less chance of subject movement It depends what you want.

When I shot a lot of Tmax I used Xtol 1:1. I didn't find TMAX development particularly unforgiving, but I use VC papers and don't freak out if I have to switch between 2 and 3.

30-May-2014, 06:36
Those old grainless images from pre-WW2 generally aren't very sharp.
I suggest that you learn to use strobe/flash.

30-May-2014, 06:52
Flash bulbs are a powerful and reasonable substitute for electronic flash.

So true if used properly, otherwise flash of any kind can destroy the original ambiance if it is important to retain it for documentary purposes. Perhaps this particular subject should become a new thread.

Sal Santamaura
30-May-2014, 09:00
Tri-x vs Tmax 400
Just wondering which one would work best for me...That depends on what paper you're going to print on. 320TXP has a rising curve. The new Ilford Multigrade Classic FB, based on results I got a few days ago when contact-printing some 320TXP negatives on it, has a toe that is perfectly complementary to the film's characteristics. If you don't want to be cutting down 8x10 and handling 4x5 sheets of paper, Classic is very affordable in a convenient 100-sheet box of 5x7:


or, if you prefer:



The paper is slightly warm of neutral in most developers. Combining that with a matt surface and Tri-X might provide exactly the look you're after.

31-May-2014, 21:04
Thanks to all
I just ordered some HP5. After I get it dialed in I may experiment with some Tri-x later

Howard Tanger
6-Jun-2014, 14:40
Kodak Tmax 400. Support Kodak, an American company. Howard Tanger

Sal Santamaura
6-Jun-2014, 21:27
...Support Kodak, an American company...Well, one of the Kodaks is (Eastman). The other one, Alaris, which sells you still film, is British. :D

Note that I suggested Tri-X. ;)