BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Film-Based Camera Equipment : Camera Film

Photography Question 
Steve Warren
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/1/2004

Film-Based Black and White: TMax vs. Tri-X

I know there are some of you guys and gals who have not left me all alone in my love for B&W film-based photography. Can any one tell me the main difference between TMax 400 and Tri-X 400? Thanks!

To love this question, log in above
10/15/2005 1:18:31 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  I'm not sure but I think TMax has finer grain? Now, I know this quote will be about different film speeds but here's what Kodak's Web site says about TMax 100 and Tri-X 400:
"Proprietary T-Grain Emulsion in Kodak Professional T-MAX 100 Film lets you see every detail with razor sharpness and nearly invisible grain. For more speed with remarkably fine grain and high sharpness, choose T-MAX 400 Film or ultra-fast T-MAX P3200 Film."
"For half a century, black-and-white artists have chosen Kodak Professional TRI-X Film with confidence, knowing its pushability provides an extra stop when you need it. In challenging lighting situations, the film’s wide exposure latitude is very forgiving. And its distinctive grain structure adds realism, while an edge of contrast brings drama to your images."
I use TMax 100 and really like it because of the grain. Other people in my photo class use TMax 400 and I can definitely tell a difference even though we're only printing 8x10 at the moment. Doesn't 400 have wider exposure latitude as well?

Hope this helps!

To love this comment, log in above
10/16/2005 10:49:24 AM

Michael H. Cothran   Steve,
Kodak can provide you with some technical specs about each film. And you should read as much as you can.
As you probably know, T-Max is a modern film with very fine grain, especially for 400 speed. Properly exposed and developed, it can provide very sharp, fine grained images. In most ways, it out-performs Tri-X hands down.
However, Tri-X is mystical! There are many photographers (mostly with gray hair now) who swear by it (including me). It is grainy, for sure, but what a beautiful grain it is. It has a personality and charm that no other film has, nor will ever have. I soup it in HC-100, dilution B. D-76 is also a great developer for it. 35mm Tri-X will be very grainy, and resemble many of the older street shooter's images. Medium format and especially large format (4x5 & 8x10) produce a sweetness that you cannot get from T-Max, in my opinion.
Don't expect its personality to show too much with "drugstore" developing - you need to do it yourself. Also, FYI - Tri-X (ISO 400) and Professional Tri-X (ISO 320) are really two different films. The pro version has never been as popular and accepted as the "amateur" 400 version. If you want to experiment with the Tri-X mystic, stick with the 400 version.
Michael H. Cothran

To love this comment, log in above
10/16/2005 7:42:38 PM

Steve Warren
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/1/2004
  Hi Andrew and Michael,
Thanks for the responses. This is exactly what I was looking for. I know so many photographers who swear by TMax, and I like the 3200 version myself, but I do like to go for the older feel, so I'll give TMax a shot and post the results.

To love this comment, log in above
10/17/2005 5:37:42 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Also, Tri-X is a Professional film, requiring different handling and storage and is better bought when it will be used immediately and then returned immediately because it can degrade over time and when exposed to humidity and heat variations. After exposure it needs to be refrigerated in a plastic bag to reduce the effect of condensation on the film but to keep the film better until you can return it to your developer. T-Max is a little more versatile. It has better purchase to develop longevity. T-Max also has a little more latitude for exposure. It can capture detail through a greater range of exposure zones than can Tri-X. Maybe only by a stop. As a rule of thumb, B&W film has a greater range for exposure detail than other films so the differences between B&W film are negligible unless you have a particular need to fill.

Walrath Photographic Imaging

To love this comment, log in above
10/17/2005 4:38:47 PM

Nancy    I know you wished the difference between Kodak products but try the New Fugi Accros. It's ASA 100 and very great contrast. Great for landscapes. I found this film this summer while in Flagstaff.

To love this comment, log in above
10/18/2005 12:16:53 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  I recently tried the Acros and boy did I fall in love with. my favorite B&W film so far and i've been trying out a lot of kodaks and ilfords lately. so far the best!

To love this comment, log in above
10/18/2005 12:19:37 PM

Steve Warren
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/1/2004
  Thanks everyone,

I have love Fuji color stuff, but Acros is worth a shot, so I'll pick up a roll.

Anyone have any ideas as to what I should develop it in? I use TMax developer, but I'm guessing there may be a better choice?

To love this comment, log in above
10/18/2005 12:37:45 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  I use T-max at the recommended time and I shot it at 80 I believe. anyways developed t-max and have cropped 11x14 enlargements with virtually no grain, and high contrast.

To love this comment, log in above
10/18/2005 12:48:46 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.