Chicago at Christmas on Kodak T-Max P3200

Christmas at Macy's

I loaded my Nikon F3 with Kodak’s resurrected T-Max P3200 film and took it along on our early-December trip to Chicago. It was to be a gray weekend, and we were going to be walking about a lot after dark. That seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this nominal ISO 800 film that cheerfully pushes to 3200.

Wooden soldier

It was so much fun to shoot anywhere and everywhere — indoors, after dark, on an overcast afternoon — at generous apertures and shutter speeds. I was too busy having fun to take notes, but I think I was shooting at f/8 anywhere I wanted with shutter speeds of at least 1/30 second. I never had to worry about camera shake. 

Macy's Christmas

The first two photos are from the Christmas display inside Macy’s on State Street. Here’s a shot of Macy’s exterior all decorated for the holiday. The P3200 needs just a little ambient light to make a plenty usable image.

Marshall Field & Co.

Macy’s bought the former Marshall Field department-store chain. I miss Marshall Field.


We also walked through Christkindlmarkt twice. The first time was on a busy Saturday afternoon and the second was early on a Monday when we had the place largely to ourselves.

Bulbs at Christkindlmarkt

I shot an ISO 100 film on our Chicago trip last year. That slow film gave me limited depth of field, which limited what I could do. Not so this P3200 — I could shoot up close and choose just how much blurred background I’d get.

Dragon at Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlmarkt offers so many subjects: the market itself, the individual booths, the wares in each booth, and the people enjoying themselves. 

Wooden toys at Christkindlmarkt

The P3200 let me photograph any of it in pretty much any way I pleased. I’ve never had so much flexibility in bad light with a film camera.


So many people wander Christkindlmarkt with their cameras out that I don’t feel as self-conscious as usual about photographing people. But I’m happy I didn’t notice until this roll was back from the processor that this fellow here spotted me in the act.

Selling nuts at Christkindlmarkt

One night we walked over to Millennium Park to take in the Christmas fun. The ice-skating rink was open late.

Ice skating at Millennium Park

The P3200 wasn’t fast enough to let me freeze the skaters as they sped by. I suppose you can’t have everything.

Ice skating at Millennium Park

We also explored the Great Hall at Union Station. It’s gorgeous; you should see it.

Polar Express, Union Station, Chicago

It, too, was all decked out for the holiday. You might not be able to make it out, but this Christmas tree is decorated with logos from various railroads, past and present.

Christmas tree, Union Station, Chicago

I had a ball shooting Kodak T-Max P3200. Anywhere I went, in virtually any lighting conditions, my Nikon F3 could get a solid exposure and I could make an image.

As you can see, the images I got have good sharpness (through my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens) and decent tonality. I especially enjoy the rich blacks this film returned.

These images would make lovely snapshot-sized prints. I’ll bet they’d even make usable 5x7s. But the grain becomes more pronounced the larger you make these images. Click any of them to see them on Flickr, and then click the image there to see it at full scan size. You’ll see: the grain is giant. Fortunately, it’s also really pleasing — and subjects hold their definition.

I’ll definitely buy more P3200 and keep it on ice for gray-day and nighttime shooting. Shooting these two rolls and seeing the wonderful results was a real joy.


26 responses to “Chicago at Christmas on Kodak T-Max P3200”

  1. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I need to get back to Chicago one of these days. The waiting room in Union Station has always amazed me, and they have just completed an extensive restoration, so it is supposed to be even better than I remember.

    Definitely enjoying this series of posts.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Union Station is wonderful! We wouldn’t have thought to go there but we met my wife’s brother and sister and they took the train in. We walked them back there so they could go home and … wow!

  2. mellonicoley Avatar

    Sounds like a fab film, and you definitely got some great images with it!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was so much fun to shoot film at f/8 at night — and get usable shutter speeds!

  3. eppaar Avatar

    When TRI-X (ISO 200). first came out the grain was even worse. We’ve come a long way!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Film really is very good now. It wasn’t always so.

  4. The Writer Avatar

    That was a great post.Keep it up!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  5. Richard Kraneis Avatar

    Thanks for showing my Chicago in a good light (actually low light). I need to visit your beautiful small towns in Indiana next year

    Happy Holidays.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Even low light is good when the film is fast enough! Nice to see you ’round these parts again Richard.

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I really enjoyed this series. It is satisfying when you are confident that film and camera can convey your vision, no matter what light you throw at it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I got so many good photos in Chicago on this film that I was able to write several posts using them! Stay tuned.

  7. JoHawkTheWriter Avatar

    You captured some of my favorite spots. Perhaps you need to do a Chicago book? 😉

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’d be fun! I need to figure out a way to do zines. I’d love to publish something I could sell for $5 or $6. The books I do through Blurb have to cost a lot more because Blurb wants its substantial cut.

  8. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this post. Love your wonderful b&w shots. 3200 seems to do a great job. Well done ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, thank you! It was so much fun to make the night shots, especially.

  9. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    These are great images. You should abandon all else and just hit the streets of our large cities and see what you can find. Merry Christmas.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wouldn’t that be fun! I ought to try this film downtown in Indianapolis here soon.

  10. Film Beginnings Avatar

    Great post and thanks. Did you shoot at ISO 3200? I’ve shot the new Tmax at 1600 but I’m looking for experiences from anyone who shot at 3200.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I shot at 3200. It was straight up great to be able to do f/8 at night at comfortable shutter speeds.

  11. Ian Ronketti Avatar
    Ian Ronketti

    Not shot resurrected P3200 yet. Although I do have a roll in my camera bag. I did shoot the original P3200 at ISO12800 on my Canon A1 and got acceptable results!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh cool – I should try pushing this film farther!

  12. monettelyan Avatar

    Great images! I haven’t shot the resurrected P3200, I’m gonna have to give it a try.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was so much fun to shoot and the images turned out great! Recommended!

  13. Joshua Fast Avatar
    Joshua Fast

    Love P3200! With our grey and short Indiana winter days it’s all I’ve shot. 1600-6400 has the same amount of grain making it a pretty flexible choice. I normally shoot it at 3200 and have enlarged to 8×10 with very good results. The grain is always going to be there but it’s a very beautiful film, xtol has been my favorite developer so far.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      After just these two rolls I can see that this film could become one of my go-tos, just because it’s so useful and beautiful.

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