Kodak T-Max P3200 in the Olympus Stylus

Elephant & Castle

My photographic motto should be, “What happens if I try this?”

I haven’t been happy with my images on Kodak T-Max P3200 the last few times I’ve shot it. But those times I developed it myself. I got pleasing results when I sent that film to a lab for processing and scanning, but not so much with my home dev-scan workflow. So I decided I’d shoot another roll and send it off to a lab to confirm that I’m missing the boat somewhere in my home developing. I used Fulltone Photo to develop this roll.

Olympus Stylus

You’d think I would have chosen my Nikon F3, or some other camera I’ve shot this film in before, so I would be sure of my gear. Oh no, I didn’t do that. Instead, I said to myself, “What happens if I shoot it in my Olympus Stylus? It supports films up to ISO 3,200!” Is this old camera’s meter up to the task? Let’s find out.

Of course, that makes this a two-variable experiment, and thus harder to discern what is generating my results — the camera or the lab.

At least I shot a familiar subject with this film: Chicago at night. Margaret and I made a quick weekend getaway trip up there the weekend before Christmas. We hit Christkindlmarkt in the morning and saw The Nutcracker in the evening. This year that ballet was at the Civic Opera. Here’s a long external corridor at the Civic Opera that leads to the main doors.

Civic Opera, Chicago

While we waited for the ballet to begin, I made a few images inside the theater. Here’s the orchestra pit, musicians getting ready.

Orchestra pit

I looked up at the balconies to make this image. I made several other images inside the Civic Opera, but most of them were underexposed enough that I couldn’t salvage them.

Inside the Civic Opera

The negatives are super thin. Either the camera is underexposing, or the lab underdeveloped. The lab’s scanners did a much better job pulling images off the negatives on about the first 1/3 of the roll than on the rest of the roll. I boosted contrast and blacks in Photoshop to make something out of most them, although a few images were unsalvageable.

Chicago River scene

Images on the first third of the roll looked a lot better. We began at Macy’s on State Street, where I photographed this window decorated for the holidays. This is the only shot on the roll that looks properly exposed to me.

Christmas at Macy's on State

Here’s State Street in front of Macy’s. There’s a lot going on in this image. I think the lights are the subject here.

Christmas at Macy's on State

I also brought the camera inside Macy’s and made a couple images. I’m pretty sure this panel is above an elevator.

Inside Macy's on State

I think this is the third time I’ve photographed down State Street from this corner. I like the scene at night.

State Street

The Stylus was a wonderful camera to carry on a cold Chicago evening. It slipped into my coat pocket, out of the frigid air, and was stealthy wherever I used it inside.

I can’t say for sure whether this is underexposure or underdevelopment. I’ll shoot my next roll of P3200 in a known-good camera like my Nikon F3. I’m going to do some research into others’ experience developing this film to see if there’s anything I can learn, especially with HC-110, my developer of choice. I want this film to work for me. I can always shoot Ilford HP5 Plus at 1600, but as someone pointed out to me separately, P3200 will give better detail in the shadows if I can only expose and develop it right.

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12 responses to “Kodak T-Max P3200 in the Olympus Stylus”

  1. Marc Beebe Avatar

    The hallway with the overhead lights has a nice “old photo” look to it. May not be ‘properly exposed’ but in the end it works. Serendipity.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks. Yes, several images on this roll worked. I just wish I could figure out how to properly expose and develop this expensive film to get the most out of it!

  2. Richard C Kraneis Avatar

    I often used expired film to test my old garage sale cameras. No longer. Good film for my future tests.

    Quite a few untested cameras await my retirement when I have more time.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is a mighty expensive film to test cameras with!

  3. Mike Connealy Avatar

    I think you actually got quite nice results. Night shots are always a little unpredictable. I don’t have any experience with that film, but it seems like processing for lower contrast should be a priority. Experience in visualizing how the balance of light and dark is going to appear on film is also crucial.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I appreciate the feedback, Mike. When I’ve shot Chicago at night with my Nikon F3 and had Old School Photo Lab process and scan, I’ve gotten consistent and more accurately exposed results. I’m hoping to achieve results like that!

  4. Simon Casson Avatar

    Hi Jim – I’ve often shot that film at 1600iso and gotten good results – here’s a couple articles for some quiet reading, one more technical than the other.
    Kind regards.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m going to keep trying at 3200 — I got stellar results the first couple times I shot this film that way. I keep hoping I can figure out how to develop it well to get the results I know this film can deliver

  5. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    Most of the images above are high contrast situations that would be demanding of any film. I would take the black point slider in levels and turn the darkest areas black and adjust the other sliders accordingly. The images would almost be abstracts but the noise in dark areas would not be distracting. The film is being pushed when shot at 3200. My diafine chart recommends shooting the film at 1250 when using the developer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I did something like that as I played with these images in Photoshop but just couldn’t get a result I was happy with. I’ve had really good results in the past with this film at 3200, when I had them developed by Old School Photo Lab. I’m hoping to recreate those good results with home developing. If I can’t, honestly, it’s easy to push HP5 to 1600 and I’ll probably just switch to that.

  6. Joe from The Resurrected Camera Avatar

    I don’t know too much about the sophistication of Olympus AE from the ’90s or late ’80s, I would think it would be good enough for shooting like this at night, but then again with all the light sources in the photos the AE might have been fooled. The You Peace Joy photo came out perfect I’d say, strange that everything wasn’t consistently underexposed across the board. I’d love to see shots like this on Cinestill 800T though, I’d bet it would look pretty nice in color!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The couple of shots that came out all right, and the You Peace Joy shot that was perfectly exposed, make this whole roll a puzzler to me. I can’t tell what to address to do better next time — other than use a camera that I know nails exposure even in challenging light, like my Nikon F3.

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