Good old Tri-X

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Thomas Bertilsson, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    So, after a few years of shooting with mostly TMax 400 and Acros, loving both films dearly, especially in replenished Xtol developer.

    Enter a Leica camera that I was lucky enough to acquire last summer. Using it for a while it seemed to demand more texture in my prints. So I ordered 20 rolls of Tri-X to see if I could still use the stuff appropriately. Some processed in PMK Pyro, some in Rodinal, and the rest in my seasoned Xtol.
    I haven't had much of a chance to print lately, but got two sessions in in the last couple of weeks, and it dawned upon me - all I need is Tri-X, and I don't even need any fancy developers. The extra little bit of grain I get compared to TMY is welcome, and it looks fantastic. Granted, I've started testing HP5+ also, in case Kodak really stops making Tri-X, but that's more survival strategy than anything.

    So, to those Tri-X lovers out there, what is it about the film that gives it its mythical status and reputation? What is it about it that just makes you love it and never want to switch from it?

    I'm not trying to achieve anything with this thread. I'm merely curious, because I can't really explain my fascination, only notice it in the prints.
     
  2. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    It's good, that's what. Always has been and still is. HCB used a lot of it, if I recall correctly. I couldn't agree with you more, except that Plus-X is good too. I do sometimes lament not having Panatomic-X anymore....
     
  3. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    Weelll...I like it's versatility. I keep Diafine on hand as my favorite for pushing Tri-X to 1250 or so. I used to get a really usable 1600 out of it but can't seem to now. I don't know if the re-formulations of the film might be the reason for that. But I get a good 1250 in most light, more like 1000 under mainly tungsten, or I can shoot it at as slow as 200 with gentle development in conventional developers and get really good grain, not TMY good but plenty good enough, or shoot at box speed with slightly fuller development. In 6x6 the grain is fine enough for really superb 11x11s on 11x14 paper, or even cropped 11x14s, and not objectionable for most subjects at 16x20. That's the same magnification as an 8x10 from 35mm of course, and those look great, and 11x14s can be good.

    I've seen pushed HP5 that looks pretty good, but not as good as what I get with Tri-X and Diafine and I get a good 2/3s stop more usable speed out of Tri-X. With other developers at box speed and below I could use Tri-X or HP5 with no problem.

    I use other films (mainly FP4+ and an occasional roll of Pan F+) but I could get by fine with just Tri-X and TMZ in 35mm and Tri-X and Delta 3200 in 120.

    Oddly enough I gravitate to TMY-2 in 4x5. I can't fully explain why I seem to prefer old tech films in rolls and new stuff in sheets.
     
  4. clayne

    clayne Member

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    One of the best black and white emulsions ever made. Other films may do x, y, and z well but TX is very well rounded and reliable.

    Ilford films are also very high quality and dependable - great stuff. So no knock on them. That being said I'm sure even Simon Galley would have something good to say about Tri-X.

    It's a film who's stamp has more than been made.
     
  5. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Same with me, I just keep coming back to it, always looks right. I also agree that it responds so well to many different developers, each good for it's own reasons. I have pretty much settled on Pyrocat for Tri-X, but D76 is great, as is Rodinal if you like your grain nice and crispy.
    FP4+ is great also for the exact same reasons, and I'm sure that HP5+ would also be good, although I haven't tried a lot of it....maybe will have to in the future.
     
  6. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    Choosing any film is a very personal thing and it's also about getting an aesthetically pleasing result for me rather than just looking for ultimate sharpness and resolution.

    Personally, I get what I like with Ilford HP5 Plus, but Tri-X remains deservedly popular and long may it continue to be manufactured.

    I think Mike Johnston has described it well in his article about obtaining the 'look' he likes.

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-02-09-15.shtml
     
  7. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    I don't know why anyone uses the T grain films. You might as well shoot digital! I like my grain. It is what makes photography photography. I can't personally say the same about Tri-x though. I have really bad luck with Kodak products. Always have. It is just one of those things with no explanation. Neopan 400 and Fomapan 400 are my favorites now. I do understand what you mean though Thomas. I shoot the occasional Acros and it is just too clean for me. Everyone has their own thing. There isn't much more of a real experience than a good fast film in a Leica though. I am right with you on that one.
     
  8. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    He already has, here on APUG!

    Personally I reckon that a lot of the 'bond' between photographer and film comes from the amount of time, dedication, frustration, money, more time and even more time that is required to really master them.

    After years of striving to get it right - and learning to love your results - somebody changes something - or takes something away. :sad:

    If you've grown up on TrI-X and then you try HP5+, it just isn't right.

    Personally, it is the other way around for me. I was weaned on HP5 (before the plus) and FP4.

    About two years ago I was given a big box of Tri-X as a present (unwanted near the best before date stock). I chucked some in my SLR and used it just like HP5+. My first few rolls were a total disaster! Overexposed and overdeveloped... It seems to respond very differently to extended development that HP5+. Not better or worse, just different.
    I had to do a few tests to get my EI sorted and adjust my development regime a bit until I started to get good results. It wasn't hard - it is only what we should do with any new film. And Tri-X is a great film, obviously.

    For me I was using FREE FILM so this was no hardship. I can imaging that after decades of using "X" - if forced to use "Y" then this could cause a bit of resentment - but I think you can do mostly anything with any equivalent film from another manufacturer, it just takes a bit of testing and relearning. Or maybe a lot of testing and relearning :wink:
     
  9. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

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    I tried TMax-400 for a while and found it too flat and fussy for real world stuff, though I did switch to it for copy jobs because of its lack of personality. That was the digital look, pre-digital, I now realize. But Tri-X simply looks like film should.
     
  10. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I just love how it renders skin tones...
     
  11. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Same here, in 120 w/ PMK... fair skin can be remarkable.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thanks for your responses everybody.

    I still think TMY-2 is an absolutely marvelous film, and technically it's probably better than Tri-X in all ways, especially grain and sharpness wise. I have no problems whatsoever making TMY-2 and Tri-X look confusingly alike in an 11x14 print, with the only thing being different is that 'texture' that the grain provides. I don't think Tri-X is grainy at all, but it has enough to give something beyond a surface that to me gives the picture a little bit more depth, and the grain supports the texture, which in turn supports the print.
    I don't even mind going big with them. I print 16x20" while cropping 35mm negatives, and it still comes out looking amazing to my eye. Side by side with 120 Tri-X enlarged to the same size there is still a cohesive look to the prints, which is that texture again, regardless of grain size.

    Most of all it takes me away from the more technical approach that I've had for a few years now (which I think was necessary to get out of my system), and into a realm that more focuses on the pictures themselves. It's a much more relaxed way of shooting, processing film, and printing. And I love this aspect of it the most. Just pop a roll in the camera and go have fun. Proof it and see what gives at printing time. Collect prints in 'project piles' and let it amass, and then edit the series. I could do this with TMY-2 as well, but I think I'm having just a little bit more fun with Tri-X, and that's all I really seem to want from this adventure of mine - enjoyment.
     
  13. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Member

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    It's interesting that Thomas mentions a Leica camera as I hadn't used Tri-X for years until I was given a roll as part of a deal when I bought an M6TTL. Aside from the odd roll of Neopan Pro 400CN (which I also like) I use Tri-X almost exclusively since acquiring that camera.

    Tri-X seems to work great in all sorts of lighting, I love the grain it produces and I find it scans well on a V750 (sadly I don't have a darkroom these days).

    May it live long and prosper.....
     
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  15. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    I get a really good 1600 out of it in D76. The tonal range is fantastic.
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi thomas

    i always turn to tri x for a few reasons.
    first no matter the light conditions you can make it work.
    ( huge latitude ) ... and like suzanne and bruce said, skin tones look beautiful.
     
  18. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Thomas, many fine phtographers started out with Tri-X, and they simply know how to use it and see no reason to change. It is a wonderful, time tested film. We should be careful with terminology though as Tri-X 400 and Tri-X 320 are not the same film.

    Having said that, many people base its mythical properties and reputation on the "classic" 1960s Tri-X. Current Tri-X 400 is not that film. It is more of a hybrid between traditional and flat grain emulsions (the same way current versions of Plus-X, FP4 and HP5 are not really "traditional" films). All these films are more homogeneous in their working properties than they once were. For example, current Tri-X 400, HP5 etc all have much longer, straighter lined curves than the old style films. So at least from a macro-tonality perspective, they all behave rather similarly, and not much different than the TMax and Delta films. There are some people out there (Anchell would be one) who find today's modernized Tri-X 400 (ie semi-flattened grains, more dye sensitiztion) inferior to the classic film, though they still prefer it to full-on tabular films like TMax.

    So I'd say, if you don't mind a little more grain than you're used to with TMY, Acros etc, you'll have no problems with Tri-X. It can do whatever you want as long as you know it well.
     
  19. br549

    br549 Subscriber

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    Over the years I've strayed away from Tri-X and I will try something else for awhile but I will eventually come back to Tri-X at 200 and D76 1:1. It's hard to describe, I love the highlights and sharpness with a touch of grain. I have a "comfortable" feeling using it, it's like an old friend.
    I really like Delta 3200 at 1000 developed in stock D76 as well.
    Jack Leigh used Tri-X almost exclusively and his prints are beautiful. Unfortunately Mr. Leigh passed away a few years ago, taken way too soon, but check his work out.
     
  20. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Steven 007

    I really was brought up on KODAK for film, ILFORD for paper, my Grandfathers maxim.

    You are correct, its a bond or perhaps a better word is a 'trust' between photographer / film choice:

    As a keen young salesman for ILFORD in the late 1980's we would have various sales 'initiatives' about building market share on film usually involving shlepping around upstairs 'studio's' in the less salubrious parts of London trying to 'pursuade' professional photographers to move from from brand x to ILFORD .....can I tell you much time and sweat was expended, for somewhat meagre returns. It was ( virtually ) never about a cost / price comparison, so much depends on what you learnt on, or what film your teacher used, but it really comes down to knowing that when you put 'your' brand of film in the camera it will perform the way you expect it to and produce the images that you want it to. I am not saying do not experiment or that using a range of films is in any way a bad thing.

    I changed to using ILFORD films before I joined ILFORD....but since then I have changed my choice of film usage frequently, I do like perceptable grain ( its meant to be there! ) within the context of the final print, I am currently using more DELTA 3200 ( 120 ) than anything else.

    I also really like controlled crystal growth type mono films such as DELTA and T Max, I just find for the work I do and like ( landscape predominantly ) these films are more velutinous and suited to less 'gritty' subjects, but thats just my personal opinion...and thats what film is a personal choice.

    And as for Tri-X : Great film.

    Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  21. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I learned on Tri-X with an old, no meter, Pentax. While I like TMax, Delta, and Acros in all their speeds for landscapes, I always know I can put Tri-X in the H1a and just shoot.
     
  22. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    A yearly convention I attend each year will be celebrating its thirtieth (XXX) anniversary this year. Given how Kodak has been in the financial headlines lately, and I frankly haven't had the chance to shoot much Tri-X so far, I'm thinking about using Tri-X exclusively this year. The anniversary fits and I could really use some immersion in just one film. Last year I shot mostly TMax and Portra NC.
     
  23. herb

    herb Subscriber

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    Great portraits with Rodinal and Tri X 320. I haven't used the 400.
     
  24. Guillaume Zuili

    Guillaume Zuili Member

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    It's the first film I learnt to use. And it became the benchmark. Whatever film I would try I would always go back to Tri-X or TXP.
    With very few exceptions, Delta 3200 and Verichrome.
    It works in so many situations, so many developers. Tonal range, skin tone, grain, you name it.

    As Br549 says... An old friend.
    G.
     
  25. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Just ordered 60 rolls of tri-x as arista premium for my students last week which came in earlier this week. Great stuff and easy to shoot and obtain good results for beginners too. Last time we went through a good amount of hp5+ as it was 2for1, also good results.
     
  26. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Tri-x and the Leica - I had two M3's and the 35, 50, and 90 summicrons in college (early 70's) and everything I shot was Tri-x and Rodinal. People used to say, "isn't that a lot of grain?" And I used to say, "yes, equal to the amount of image."
    Like others, I've been using Delta and HP-5 the last couple of years (still haven't settled on which), but Tri-x is hard to replace.