developer

TMax P3200 vs Delta 3200

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

TMax P3200 scanned negative  

Early 2018 I was going through some rough time and Kodak’s, out of the blue, announcement of the resurrection of TMax P3200 was just what I needed to cheer me up. 

I’ve more of less settled on Tri-X for most situations and rate Tri-X at 400 and shoot it with a yellow-green filter. Effectively that make it a 250 ISO film for me. Sometimes, 250 iso just doesn’t cut it and that’s when I used Delta 3200. An interesting film with lots of grain. A little too flat for my taste but I had to work with it. I figured out how to make it work for me but never really liked it as much as Tri-X. Delta 3200 is an extremely flat film. Super low contrast and HUGE grain. Some people prefer pushing Tri-X instead but pushing film makes for difficult to print negatives. If you only scan your film this will not be a drawback for you. For me it is, hence I opted for a faster film when I needed speed.

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Delta3200 scanned image.  

Ilford recommends Delta 3200 at EI 3200 to be developed in Microphen Stock 1:1 for 9:00 minutes. I’ve tried that and got incredibly flat and boring results. I kept on increasing development time until I got to a contrast level that I liked. At 20:00 minutes, more than twice the recommended time, I was semi-satisfied. The grain however was horrifying. I like grain but this film is really grainy. 

Delta 3200 scanned image

Delta 3200 scanned image

When Kodak announces the return of TMax P3200 I was pleasantly surprised. I got back into film in 2013, one year after Kodak discontinued P3200. Since I never had a chance to compare the two films I jumped on it.

I ordered 20 rolls from B&H and shot test rolls in T-Max and xtol developers. I didn’t like it in TMax developer but that wasn’t a surprise. I’ve tried that developer before with Tri-X and Delta 3200 and never liked it. It blows out highlights too fast and makes for weird grain to my eyes. In Xtol 1:1 I got results I really liked. The grain is pronounced as you would expect from a film this fast. However, the grain structure was very pleasing and unobtrusive. The tones looked better than Delta 3200, too. In terms of speed I think Delta wins. I know neither one of these films is a true 3200 ISO film but I can get great results at 2000ISO or maybe 2500ISO with P3200. The Delta film I have to shoot at 3200 and massively over develop to get some contrast into the negs. 

As I shoot 35mm almost exclusively TMax P3200 is the clear winner. It’s a dollar cheaper per roll, Xtol is a fraction of any of the Ilford Developers and the film is sharper and less grainy than Delta. Hands down, TMax wins.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

TMax P3200 printed on MCC110 paper.  

Why you should not develop color film at home.

Developing B&W film is like making a pasta sauce or salad dressing. Developing color film at home is like cookie cutting. It’s a repetitive and standardized process. 

No doubt, if there’s no lab around, by all means develop your color film at home. Other than that I don’t understand why people do this at home. Developing color film is boring. It’s always the same procedure. If you deviate you get bad results. You can’t try new things like in B&W. You just have to follow the procedure. The process is meant to be done by machines. It’s simply not fun. Even if it works out and trust me, most of the time it won’t.

With color film you cannot easily change contrast for example. I think there’s a way with masks etc but it’s an advanced concept hardly ever used  nowadays. With B&W film you can tweak so many variables by altering the way you process your film. If you deviate with color film you get color shifts. Color shifts are ugly. They are so ugly that it’s almost gag reflex inducing. My advice is: leave color film processing to the labs and enjoy B&W at home. It’s a much more rewarding process. 


 

Messing around with too many film stocks

Why stick to only one film?

In short: To eliminate variables.

It's very tempting to try out new films and see what results you can get with different films and developers. Ferrania for example just announced their first film. An 80 ASA B&W film in 35mm. And Yes! I was tempted at first. I'd love to try it and help them test the film, but I just went through a testing phase for 100 speed films. I shoot 400iso 80% of the time and 3200iso for the remainder. I rarely need a 100 speed film for my type of shooting. Sometimes it does come in handy though. On the beach or on a snowy mountain in full sunshine, I just can't make the 400 speed film work without stacking filters. So I got myself some Fomapan and Silvermax to test and I don't like testing films. It costs money and takes time. I don't feel like going through another test for this new P30 film.

The problem with shooting many different films and processing them in different developers is that your number of variables grows. If something goes wrong or you don't like the results you don't know where to start fixing it. If you only scan your film this makes very little difference, but then you might as well just shoot digital and apply a film filter. I like to be able to print my work. I don't print all of my work, but I like that I have the option to print it and when I do print I noticed that having a good negative makes all the difference. There are many ways to arrive at a good negative and it can be overwhelming.

FilmStock^n + Dev^n + DevDilution^n + Agitation^n + Temp^n + DevTime^n + EI^n + Paper^n + PaperDev^n + etc... = # of ways that you can tweak to get a decent negative.

This is nuts. If you keep changing things  you'll never arrive at consistent results unless it's by luck. Keep as many variables constant as you can. If something does not come out to your liking you can start tweaking one variable and observe if that makes a difference without having to guess. starting by these three makes the most sense to me:

  • Shoot 1 film stock
  • Use the same Developer
  • Keep temperature constant * (more on that below)

* Keep the temperature the SAME! I know people argue that chemical reaction speeds up with increase in temperature and you just adjust the dev time and arrive at the same results. While that is true in general, there is more to it than that. When you change temperature there are a few things to consider. The gelatin of the emulsion absorbs developer at different rates depending on temperature. This is change is most likely not linear with how silver halide reactivity changes. Even worse the developer itself is made up of:

  • Developing agent
  • Preservative
  • Accelerator
  • Restrainer
  • (buffer)

Unfortunately these components don't change linearly when you increase temperature. To make things easier, just keep everything at 20 degrees until you get constant results that you like. 

In my case I try to stick to Tri-X and Delta 3200 for most situations. The D3200 I only use for indoor low light situations. I find it too flat for anything else. Tri-X, or any other 400 speed film is actually really versatile. I shoot mine at 500iso. Usually I have a yellow filter on the lens which brings it down to an effective speed of 320iso. If I need even slower than that I take out the orange filter which puts it to 125iso. 

f/16 1/125, f/8 1/500, f/5.6 1/1000

I can work with that.