Kodak’s Revised T-Max 400; A “Classic” Gets A Facelift Page 2

The third, about "true" speeds, is plain nonsense. ISO speeds are scientifically reproducible, though this does not mean you will invariably get the results you like best by metering at the rated speed. Many photographers prefer the tonality with an extra 1/3, 1/2, or even 2/3 stop of exposure, but often this is a result of metering technique. A very great deal depends on the subject brightness range, especially on a sunny day.

On such a day, if you spot meter the darkest shadow in which you want texture and detail, you can use the full ISO speed or something very close to it. Use a broad-area meter (including in camera meters), favoring the shadows, and you may well need to lower the EI on your meter by 1/3 to 2/3 stop. Cease to favor the shadows and you may need another 1/3 to 2/3 stop again. Switch to incident light metering, and you will be lucky to get good shadow detail with an ISO 400 film at EI 200. This is why ISO speeds are infinitely better than the Bad Old Days when film speeds were set by the marketing department or by enthusiastic but not terribly methodical amateurs and journalists.

It is also worth remembering that with conventional (non-chromogenic) black and white films more exposure translates directly into more grain and less sharpness; as, too, does more development. This is why some people rate 120 film slightly slower than 35mm, and some develop it for slightly longer. The quality losses with 120, where enlargement ratios are smaller, are simply more acceptable than they are with 35mm. In other words, film speeds are a matter of compromise, and which compromise you choose is up to you.

Ruined Village

Because of the broad black border (white light in the projected image), flare reduced the contrast of this image by just under 1/2 grade as compared with a fully masked print. This is the sort of personal variable you need to be aware of when conducting your own tests. (Alpa 12, 38mm f/4.5 Biogon, 66x44mm format. Wet print on Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone.)

Scanning And Wet Printing
Different compromises are necessary according to whether you print your pictures in the traditional "wet" darkroom, or scan them. With most film scanners, there are much bigger penalties for overexposure and overdevelopment than in the wet darkroom.

For wet printing, within reason, it is quite difficult to overexpose. Underexposed negatives are tonally horrible, but sooner or later there is a huge jump with a relatively tiny increase in exposure, no more than 1/3 to 1/2 stop. After that there is a modest increase in tonal quality (in the opinion of most photographers) for another stop or so. Then overall quality drops as grain gets bigger and sharpness declines, without any improvement in tonality.

Scanning is another matter. Even slight overexposure or overdevelopment can result in areas of film too dense for the scanner to penetrate, leading to irretrievably "blown" highlights, and because of grain aliasing, there can be a tipping point where grain suddenly gets far worse in a scanned image than in a wet print. The finer grain of the new film is especially important for this.

On the bright side, it is much easier to wring good tonality out of a "thin" negative when you are using a scanner, so you will do well to keep both exposure and development to the bare minimum needed to get readable shadow detail.


Night had fallen. This is not a great shot from an aesthetic viewpoint, but it illustrates well how the new film handles a very long tonal range. This is a straight scan from a negative given minimum development in Xtol (10 percent less than for wet printing). Roger used his Leica MP and 35mm f/1.4 Summilux.

Is 400-2TMY The Film For You?
Only you can answer this question, and before anyone else can even begin to offer useful advice, they need to know quite a lot about the kinds of subjects you like to shoot and the way you work. After all, if there were one single film that offered clear advantages over all the others, then all the others would disappear from the market.

As it is, Ilford and Kodak each offer three different kinds of ISO 400 film, cubic crystal (Tri-X and HP5), monodisperse (T-Max and Delta, which are significantly different technologies), and chromogenic (T400 CN and XP2 Super). Each kind has its passionate devotees, and photographers who migrate from one of the three families to another are comparatively rare; rarer, quite possibly, than those who migrate from one film manufacturer to another. All we can say, therefore, is this.

If you have been using the earlier generation of T-Max, there seems to be absolutely no drawbacks to the new film, as compared with the older version. As we said earlier, it seems to do everything that Kodak claims, and more. This is, quite simply, a better film than the old T-Max 400.

If you are thinking of migrating from another "family" (cubic crystal or chromogenic) to monodisperse, there has never been a better time to try it. Likewise for migrations from other manufacturers. With Agfa stocks all but exhausted, many people are looking for a new manufacturer. Do not dismiss Kodak.

That last sentence is sufficiently important that it is worth repeating. Do not dismiss Kodak. They have certainly been known to send mixed messages about their commitment to film: messages that sometimes seem to suggest they have no interest whatsoever. Then they come up with something like TMY2.

For more information, contact Eastman Kodak Company, 343 State St., Rochester, NY 14650; (800) 242-2424; www.kodak.com.