The mixed results I get from Kodak T-Max P3200 are putting me off this film

When I first shot Kodak T-Max P3200, I was blown away by the great results. I shot the film in my Nikon F3 with my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens attached. I don’t remember for sure who I had develop and scan the film, but it was probably Old School Photo Lab.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera
Open late
State Street at night

Unfortunately, I’ve had mixed results using other labs, and developing and scanning this film myself. I shot these two images with my Nikon FA, the first with my 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and my second with my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor. I developed them in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned them with my Plustek OpticFilm 8200i. I find the grain to be obtrusive and not pleasing on these.

7th & Wabash, Terre Haute

On my recent trip to Chicago I shot a roll of this film in a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I had Dwayne’s Photo develop and scan the roll. If this had been my first experience with this film, I would never have bought it again.

Blue Chicago sign
Chicago River at night

I believe my cameras all to be in good working condition with accurate meters. Perhaps this film requires great care in developing and scanning. If that’s true, I clearly haven’t found the touch yet. Perhaps this film looks better in developers other than HC-110. I suppose I could always send this film to Old School Photo Lab, as I get the best results from this film when I use them for processing. But I want films that I can develop and scan at home and get consistently good results. With my home development, I’ve had great luck pushing HP5 Plus to 1600. I think the next time I’m up for some night photography, that’s what I’ll try.

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16 responses to “The mixed results I get from Kodak T-Max P3200 are putting me off this film”

  1. nigelkell Avatar

    I’ve found the Tmax films to be quite fussy about precise exposure, the result of getting it slightly wrong (especially underexposing) being large, unpleasant grain. With the 3200, this is an especial problem, since you are likely to be using it in “challenging” light, the effect being getting nasty, grainy shadows.
    Enthusasts for it insist you need to use the Tmax developer to get best results; certainly they don’t like some soups and never really work in them. Personally, I prefer Ilfords versions……

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wonder what Old School Photo Lab uses to process this film. They get the best results I’ve seen from it.

  2. conspicari Avatar

    My friend asked me to photograph her cousin playing at an outdoor music festival in my hometown in 2006. I had never used any of the high speed emulsions so took a roll each of Kodak TMax 3200, Ilford Delta 3200, and Fuji Neopan 1600, all rated at 1600asa, and developed at the local lab, possibly in Xtol. The Fuji Neopan was in my opinion better than the the other two, finer grain and much nicer contrast. Of course Neopan 1600 is no longer available now :>(

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t mind having to get exposure right. I do mind when a film doesn’t work well in one of the developers I rely on!

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Never a favorite film. Tested a few times and rejected. It’s interesting that Kodak’s own tech sheet on this has a section talking about sharpness and says they processed in D-76 to make the measurements. That’s usually a clue. Those around when 3200 films were first introduced by Kodak remember that the film was supposed to be a panacea to the contrast gain resulting from push processing in standard developers. In other words, using this film was supposed to result in more of a standard contrast curve, not necessarily sharp grain, or fine grain; mostly an ’emergency’ use. Kodak’s also warns against having the film sitting around a long time, as it can change with long term exposure to “radiation” (by this, I’m sure they actually mean the background radiation of cosmic rays), and they also warn to process as soon as possible after exposure. This my all influence the “look” of the film.

    One should note that there are many “speed” film developers like Acufine, that we always used in the ‘olden days’ that were formulated to give relatively normal contrast with increased film speed, and always gave better results than trying to push film in standardized developers. This is why we always looked at this film with a shrug. If we wanted increased film speed, we didn’t process in normal developers…

    Also as I always say, not a fan of any T-Max film. The variation of contrast representation, especially in skin tones (over standard films), and the difference in processing, to almost any other normal film, make it another “meh” item. As a professional, if you want sharper grain, use slower film and more lighting, not a film that makes the skin tones look ugly. I can call a lot of pros still alive from the film days in the 60’s and 70’s at the start of my career, and any still bothering to shoot anything in film are not using T-max-anything. These films were created during a time that the film manufacturers were “eating their own seed corn” by introducing new film after new film to try and control market share within a finite market. Marketing was driving everything. I’ve been using Ilford lately because of their commitment to film, but you know, there’s a reason plain old Tri-X still stands!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love T-Max 400. I have used it extensively and love its look. But that was before I started developing film myself – I’ve never developed this film personally and I wonder how it will look in HC-110, whether I’ll be as wowed as I always have been.

  4. tbm3fan Avatar

    Have never bothered with T-Max film. No reason when I had Tri-X for my 400 and Plus-X/FP for my 125. If I shot at night I shot stationary subjects using tripod and Tri-X at 800.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Back when I was sending all of my film out for processing I tried all of the Kodak b/w films and liked T-Max 400 the best by far. I don’t shoot as much of it now that I develop my own; I prefer HP5 in my favorite developer.

  5. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    I shot a roll of Tmax P3200 and developed it in HC-110(B) last week. I will try to post the images tonight or tomorrow and you can see how my images came out. There is lots of grain in the images I shot but I do not mind the grain. You probably did everything right. The images above taken at night I would open up in Photoshop and do a slider adjustment to increase the blacks, and the other sliders accordingly. Shadow data at night is not the film’s strength.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      When properly developed, you’re right, you still need to adjust the Black slider to get best results. That’s okay and I don’t mind it.

      I have at least one roll of this stuff left, maybe two. I’m wondering if I need to pull back slightly on development time in HC-110 to improve the look.

    2. Tim Avatar

      I really like this film. Dexter’s Photo in Ventura, CA does great mail order developing with it. For me it sits in my vintage Fed 2 rangefinder and is always ready for candid indoor shots that people seem to love. The Ilford offering is nice too. I’ve found ISO 3200, 1/125s and f/2.8 to be nice for most indoor lighting

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        Maybe I should always send P3200 out for processing, then. I have great luck developing pushed HP5+ at home.

  6. ronian42 Avatar

    Have you tried Ilford delta 3200 Jim? I have a roll sitting that I must use. I have tried it once before but a long while ago. I have used 2 rolls of T-max P3200, 1 the first time around and 1 a couple of years ago. First time around I used T-max dev, results not too bad 2nd time around used a commercial outfit results not great. I think fist time was ISO 12,800 2nd ISO 25,600.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t tried the Delta 3200. I’m having so much success with HP5 pushed to 1600 that I’m fully satisfied!

  7. Khürt Williams Avatar

    After experimenting with Tri-X 400, T-Max 400, Eastman Kodak X2 400, and New Classic EZ 400” I realised that I don’t like the look of the grain on any ISO 400 black and white 35mm film. I’m just too used to seeing great high ISO images from my Fuji X-T3. I’m sticking with low ISO 35mm film for colour and black and white.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, not even T-Max 400! Welp, you know what works for you, so stick with it.

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