View Full Version : kodak tmax 400 vs. tri-X 320

brian steinberger
23-May-2005, 23:08
i'm looking for a faster 4X5 film in emergencies where it's windy or i need alot of depth of field. now my primary film is tmax100, and i develop it in tmax RS developer. so tmax 400 would save me having to buy D-76 or HC-110 for the tri-X320. I'm going to be shooting landscape with this film. Does anyone have any experience with either film? Which is finer-grained? Thanks!

John Cook
24-May-2005, 04:28
Brian, I think there are several different issues here, which will probably require experimentation on your part. The choice isn't that clear-cut.

Lots of very different (sometimes heated) personal opinions on T-Max films, etc., but here are a few past observations to make my point for the need to test:

Tri-X is more grainy than T-Max, but with the right developer will look (to my eye) much sharper. That grain does wonderful things (like edge effect) which are not possible with the new T-Max or Delta (and Acros?) films.

T-Max film has a very different curve from Tri-X. To my eye, it tends to depress the value of middle tones. What you tend to get is a perfect black, perfect white and middle gray which is a half to a full zone too dark. Caucasian skin becomes swarthy (like the old Tri-X ortho) and scenes tend toward murky. If you print for normal middle gray, the whites blow out. A model's white blouse will absolutely glow, like a lampshade, without detail. Some people apparently think this is arty.

In addition, I have experienced an unusual spectral sensitivity with T-Max which does weird things to skin, like emphasizing tiny red and blue nose capillaries. My portrait sitters all look like W. C. Field. And this effect is quite different between T-Max 100 and 400.

On the plus side, people who scan negatives instead of wet printing absolutely swear by T-Max. Apparently all these "flaws" somehow help the digital process.

Lastly, regarding added speed. If you are serious about shadow detail, your tests will probably reveal (as mine have) that Tri-X 320 needs 2/3 extra exposure, or an ISO 200 rating.

Thus, there is no clear objective winner.

Even though I, personally, gave up on T-Max films in disgust after extensive trials and testing nearly fifteen years ago. My personal advice would be to comprimise between ISO 100 and 400 and settle on Tri-X at 200 exclusively.

But then opinions are like bellybuttons...

John Boeckeler
24-May-2005, 05:34
If you are photographing in light levels which require long exposure times, the T-Max films have the advantage over Tri-X. Their reciprocity characteristics are better; they require much less exposure compensation.

Donald Qualls
24-May-2005, 06:56
If you can stand to think outside the Yellow Box, you might consider Classic 400 (rebranded Forte) from J&C Photo, Retro Photographic, or fotoimpex.de -- available in several ULF sizes as well. Failing that, if you're in Europe you might be able to get Fomapan 400 in sheet form (though I don't know whether they cut it only in 9x12 cm or also in 4x5). I'd suggest trying Neopan 400, also, but I don't know if Fuji even cuts it in 4x5 much less package it in plain sheets as opposed to Readyloads. I've never used either of these (I've got a bunch of expired TXT 9x12 cm to work through in my plate cameras -- which I quite like, I might add, but then I use HC-110 anyway), but the Classic 400 consistently gets good reports and Fomapan 400 seems well thought of in 120 and 35 mm.

David A. Goldfarb
24-May-2005, 08:11
One of these films is beautiful, and one is ugly, unless you happen to prefer the other one, in which case one is ugly and the other is beautiful. I'd recommend investing in a couple of boxes of film and decide which one you like. Both are capable of excellent results, and it's really a matter of taste (mine leans toward Tri-X).

J&C Classic 400 (same as ClassicPan 400 in Europe and Fortepan 400), which Donald mentions, is a really attractive film, a lot like old TXT, and is fairly inexpensive. The emulsion is fragile, so it lends itself less to tray processing than Kodak or Ilford films, but if you process in drums, daylight tanks or tanks and hangers, it's not a problem.

Randy Becker
24-May-2005, 09:16
Not to muddy the waters but.....

I am a loyal Kodak shooter who absolutely LOVES Ilford HP5 Plus.

Love the grain, tonal curve and ability to push when necessary.

Best regards,

David Vickery
24-May-2005, 09:33
Why do would you have to change your developer? In fact, I would suggest that almost any 4x5 film that you might add to your kit for landscapes would respond well to TMAX RS.

Michael Kadillak
24-May-2005, 10:13
T Max 400 is a great film with a short toe and plenty of expansion capabilities and excellent reciprocity characteristics. Tri X has a looooong toe and looking at the curve (and the negatives) one needs one to consider these factors in using it. Lowering the ASA will get you past the toe issues and then it is all about as John says, the character of the results.

FP4 is another short toe film that I really like which has a nice top end very much unlike HP5 which is considerably limiting with Azo. I have a box of 12x20 HP5 with only a couple of sheets missing and the same for a 12x20 box of Bergger 200 that have been in my freezer for 6 months that I will make someone a hell of a deal on. I will just not be using these films.


Gary Samson
24-May-2005, 13:17
may I suggest Kodak TRI-X 320 film rated at an EI of 160-200 and developed in Pyro PMK developer. This is a great combination and I think you will be very pleased with the grain, tonality and sharpness of the resulting images.

Ken Lee
24-May-2005, 13:31
Shoot a bunch of each with the same camera, same subject, same lighting. Vary the film speed, shooting at speeds of 50, 100, 200, 400, 800. Let a model hold a sheet of paper with the film type and speed written on it. That way, the pictures tells the story.

This can be done inexpensively by purchasing one roll each of the film, rather than one box each - if you have a roll-film camera. You might want to include sky, skin tones, and whatever else you often shoot. If you don't have a model, then you can be the model, if your camera has a timer or long cable release.

For what it's worth, TMax 400 in Pyrocat is a very nice film, but for whatever reason (my local water supply?) it takes me an eternity to remove the magenta dye. I have been looking at Classic 400 and HP-5 as alternatives, since they are available in a wider variety of sizes.

A lot can vary with your water, thermometer, lens, style of agitation, etc. It's best to find out for yourself. No one diet is best for every dieter.

26-May-2005, 19:03
Tri-X is one of the most beautiful films every produced. I personally fine T-Max films to be less appealing, but I do shoot them from time to time. Tri-X will perform in almost any developer. My all time favorite is 320TX in Rodinal 1:50 70F 10 minutes.

Have some fun and try a few combinations until you find what pleased you. Everyone elses opinions only reflect their likes and dislikes.