Film Photography, Old Cars

Car parts on Kodak T-Max 400

I love both of Kodak’s ISO 400 black-and-white films, Tri-X and T-Max, but for different reasons: Tri-X when I want that grainy look, and T-Max when I don’t. I didn’t when I photographed the cars at May’s Mecum auction.


As happy as I was to shoot Plus-X at the auction (see photos here), I was a little happier when I finished that roll and could load the roll of T-Max I had in my pocket. I knew that the relatively low-speed Plus-X (ISO 125) and my 50mm f/2 lens, which because of piddling available light I was shooting at or near f/2, were giving me very little margin for focusing error. Even then, bumping the ISO up to 400 improved the situation only slightly.


I tried to use that narrow focus range to my best advantage. Thank heavens my Nikon F2AS has depth-of-field preview so I had some idea of whether I hit the sweet spot or not.

Lady Ornament

Perhaps I need to buy a 50mm f/1.4 lens to give me an extra stop of exposure. But I might trade that stop for shooting the lens one stop shy of wide open, to see if I could get a little better sharpness.

Falcon Corner

But then, perhaps that wouldn’t be needed, as Nikon’s prime lenses are heralded for good sharpness corner to corner even when wide open. Given that used Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lenses usually go for north of $100, however, I’m not likely to find out any time soon. My money has other things to do right now.

Inside the Bus

And the f/2 lens is plenty sweet, anyway. 50mm f/2 lenses are almost always the unsung heroes of any system’s prime lenses. They can usually be picked up for a song, because most people would rather have a sub-f/2 lens.

Country Squire

The shot above shows just how narrow of an in-focus patch I was working with.

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12 thoughts on “Car parts on Kodak T-Max 400

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    Do you use a tripod as you photos are very sharp
    if not you must have steady hand as my shots with my Nikon F4s don’t seem very sharp hand held on autofucus. Mabe I should try some
    T-Max and mabe use manual focus. Anyway I like your photos a lot.

    • Christopher, no, I don’t use a tripod. It would be a major hassle to carry it around this auction. I guess I just have a steady hand. I do enjoy the process of pausing, composing, breathing, and pressing the shutter button.

  2. Very nice results from that combination.
    I like the 50mm for close-up work, and sometimes will add a diopter lens if I’m wielding an slr. In general , though, I’m usually happier to have a 35mm lens for my automotive shots. A 50mm often seems to require that I back off to the point where the space between me and the vehicle is intruded upon by car show spectators.

    • I usually dial in 35mm equivalent on my Canon S95 at this auction for much the same reason you cite. Another challenge at this auction is that the cars are packed in pretty tight, and sometimes you can’t back up enough at 50mm to get the whole car in the frame. I intended to do close work with the film SLR, and so 50mm worked fine there.

  3. Wes C says:

    Hi Jim, What is the car in the first photo? Maybe late 30’s or early 40’s Cadillac? These are very nice images!

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