T Max 100 tonality problems

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Oldtimer Jay, May 13, 2005.

  1. Oldtimer Jay

    Oldtimer Jay Member

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    Hi All,

    I have been testing films and developers for resolution and grain using the wonderful Sleicher resolution chart which is both easy to use and provides precise resolution information. Aside from Tech Pan, no film commonly available (including APX 25 and Efke 25) comes close to the resolution and freedom from grain of T Max 100. Unfortunately, I have not found any development stratedgy that gives me the tonality of Agfa 100, FP4+ or Plus X. I have tried various concentrations of Xtol, Microdol, T max developer, Rodinal, FX39, FX15, Formulary FX2, Acutol, and PMK . I have also tried exposing it at ISO 64 and pulling development as suggested by Bill Troop.
    The best results I have gotten are with PMK and Xtol 1:3, but despite a very nice rendering of the Kodak 10 step Grayscale with these developers, actual prints of real landscapes and portraits lack the vibrancy, sparkle, fine highlight and shadow gradation that is present in prints from conventional non- T grain films. ( As a side note, Delta 100 gives me prints very similar to FP4+ in appearance, but with only slightly better resolution and slightly finer grain.)
    I have read that T max is very picky about exposure and development times, but have worked dilligently fine tuning these variables to no avail. I love the awesome resolution and almost non-existant grain of this film which enables 16X20 prints from 35MM negs, but unless I can solve the tonality issues I will probably stay with the less sharp, grainer alternatives.
    Any ideas that would help will be greatly apppreciated!

    Thanks!

    Jay L
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    With the right combination of mutes, embouchure, and air stream, you can make a trumpet sound kind of like an oboe, but it will never really sound like an oboe.

    There are some things that are just inherent in the film, and if you don't like the T-Max look, then shoot another film. If you're after finer grain than you're getting with TMX, but you like the tonality of FP4+, then shoot FP4+ in a larger format than you're currently using.
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    You do not mention the paper you choose for printing. I believe that 100 Tmax and Polymax fiber are a match made in heaven. They are very compatible.
     
  4. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, Jay,

    I would agree with David's comment; there are simply some very subjective personal preferences involved in film choice or film/developer choice. I happen to have a strong personal liking for the T-100/T-Max 1:7 combination (general use) and the T-100/Technidol combination (night or long-exposure use), and I could never get anything very satisfactory from Plus-X. The only other thing that occurs to me is that format size does have some bearing on tonality as well as graininess. 35mm T-100 is fine, but I like the results from that film in MF and LF even more.

    Konical
     
  5. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    Jay, I've been saying the same thing for years. I tell my students that grain is only part of the equation; lighting, composition, technical quality and *sparkle* are other big parts. I also tell them that grain they will see from 6 inches away, but tonality screams at you from across the room. I gave up on T-grain films because I couldn't get the tonality that I wanted.
     
  6. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Jay,

    I've had good luck in past years using TMAX developer 1:7 or TMAX RS diluted 1:9.

    Just a thought,

    Don Bryant
     
  7. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Jay,

    You also didn't mention what paper you are using. I found XTOL 1:1 printed on Agfa MC Classic to be a sweet combination.

    My 2 cents,

    Don Bryant
     
  8. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Hi Jay -

    From your moniker, I gather you have been shooting for awhile and likely have years of darkroom work as well. That experience may will work against you with Tmax. Approching Tmax with the processes that were okay with other emulsions will produce frustrating variations with Tmax.

    At the risk of covering things you already know - here's a skeleton checklist for Tmax100 success.

    Believe that Tmax is capable of rock-solid consistency. It is. A small increase in attention to detail and control of variables will yield huge rewards. The variables are:

    Establish and use an appropriate EI for your meter, camera, developer, thermometer and development process.

    Expose so that important subject elements fall within the performance curve.

    Duplicate development elements for repeatability. These include:
    1. Developer dilution
    2. Controlling Developer Exhaustion by balancing the emulsion demands on the
    chemical. Developer is best used as a one-shot component.
    3. Developer Temp going into your processor (I recommend a good mercury process
    thermometer.)
    4. Holding Developer Temp during processing (probably the most common error)
    5. Duplicating exactly the developer pour-in, agitation action and pour-out timing

    There is nothing complicated about any of the above but they are the price of admission for those who want to avail themselves of this film's incredible capabilities.

    Point #2 above requires some explanation. If you shoot 24 average exposures on a roll of film, it will exhaust the developer at a faster rate than if you shoot 5 test target shots on the roll and leave the rest blank. It merely requires that you fill the roll with average density exposures before developing. If you don't do this, you will get inconsistent results.

    If you are doing all of these consistently and are still getting variability, it may indicate a meter or shutter inconsistency.

    Good Luck
     
  9. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    Many arrangers of school charts ask for a cup mute. I always thought the right strait mute was closer. Not close, but closer.

    Everyone has his/her own vision.

    I am narrowing in on my vision. Some of my absolute favorite images were taken with TMax. However, I find that my hit-ratio of good tonality to poor is just too high with TMax. I am probably just not careful enough.

    I recently bought a lot of FP4+ and HP5+. I am mailing all my TMax to my brother this weekend. His vision is different.

    Matt
     
  10. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I believe that blaughn is absolutely spot on - I do not doubt the value of his advice, BUT... In my own case, I have found Tmax to be frustrating and unpleasant, not to mention difficult in terms of consistency - that, I believe, would be cured by more experience and following blaughn's advice to the letter.

    What I also found, though, is this:
    Because I have NEVER managed to be happy with a TMax image of my own, even the ones that appear perfectly exposed, developed, etc (even the ones I took to a custom lab to eliminate me as a culprit), I went looking at other people's work... Well, here is what I found:
    TMax is THE sharpest 100 film I have personally seen, with THE finest grain!
    TMax is completely devoid of the ability to portray subjects with any life, warmth and depth - it is as cold as a mortician's hand, and equally clinical and unacustomed to life and how to portray it. I've seen some great shots of still "nature" (since the objects were all man made) that looked great in TMax because of their angular, synthetic nature - things made out of metal and plastic, looking almost more real in the pic than they do sitting in front of you (no question about the capability of this film)... but the minute the subject has a heartbeat or photosynthesis going on... forget it. You get more life out of crime scene investigation photos!

    Sadly, my favorite photo of my wife has been taken with TMax 100... and every time I look at it, I kick myself and think... why was that not FP4+ in my camera? And I have printed about 20 different prints of that shot, trying to get it right, will probably print 20 more... but it will always lack something that I have yet to see from a TMax photo.

    Please keep in mind, these are just thoughts from a relative beginner that just happened to go on the same quest for TMax answers not so long ago...

    Cheers!
     
  11. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I realize many people are able to produce excellent prints when shooting on Tmax film. I was never one of them. I tried it when it was first released and didn't like it at all. Years later, I decided I would try it again and learn to make it work. I bought a brick each of 100 and 400 and Tmax developer to use along with other developers. After shooting about half of each brick, I gave up. I gave the film away. I hate the stuff.
     
  12. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I cant stand the stuff apart from for technical subjects. Devoid of soul in the extreme. Don't know why but acros is much better in this regard.. Still not as soulful as FP4 or APX100 or HP5 or.......but a world better than TMax. I gave up ages ago, as again, regardless of what I did, something was always missing. I have one print from TMAX100 which sells, but it is so tough to print some soul into it that it removes all sense of satisfaction from the final product. It works me too hard. To me APX100 is the soul king, but with no sheet, I use it in 120 and 35mm only. For sheet it is Ilford.
     
  13. Seele

    Seele Member

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    The "soulessness" of T-Max films is something I am quite accustomed to, having seen A-B comparisons of pictures shot on T-Max and orthodox technology films, one thing becomes immediately apparent:

    T-Max films (with the exception of 3200) are highlight-biased, while films such as HP5 Plus and Tri-X are shadow-biased, and the other films are more even-handed. In other words, T-Max hold highlight separation very well but cannot handle over-development (which also applies to push-processing), as the highlight separation is accentuated, the shadows tend to be rather bland. HP5 Plus and Tri-X favours greater shadow separation while keeping the overall contrast in check so it means they are pushable.

    Agfa films tend to favour a very even-handed approach so that they give a long-range of old-fashioned silvery tone which is fully exploited by Rodinal, among other developers. Due to the different tonal characteristics, when working with T-Max films, you need to aim for a thinner than normal (as compared to conventional grain films) negative so as to take advantage of them, but still, the lacking in shadow area separation might be helped by using developers giving higher compensation such as Tetenal Emofin, or for that matter, the Heinrich Stoeckler recipe.

    But for me, I would rather take the easy way out and stay away from T-Max. Ilford's Delta series is a very workable compromise which you might want to try out too.
     
  14. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Rather than T-Max film and Polymax paper being a match made in heaven they are a match made in Rochester. Kodak states this on their website. The characteristic curve of the paper has been designed to compliment the film. You will never get completely satisfactory prints using conventional papers.
     
  15. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Jay -

    This is the TMax merry-go-round. :smile: People either love it or hate it. When reading my input and those expressing the opposite, read them as personal opinion - not as absolute fact. Know, however, there are top pros for whom Tmax 100 is their default film. John Sexton uses it almost exclusively. The fact the this is the only Kodak B&W film available in readyload form should tell you something.

    Tmax has an incredible response range. It handles contracted development with minimal loss of speed (read shadow detail) exceedingly well and will give you an honest N+2 development and a wee bit more. You have to place the shadows well and control the highlights to ensure they don't begin to block up.

    To say that Tmax doesn't handle push processing well is absolutely contrary to my experience. If you look at John Sexton's latest book (Places of Power) you will see that 70 out of 79 images were recorded on Tmax100 and the other 9 were on Tmax400. His processing ran the gamut of N+2 to compensated development. I doubt there are many who would describe these images as souless.

    Good Luck to you.
     
  16. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I think the best advice you have gotten is that if you dont like it dont use it. I have gotten very good results with both tmax 100 and 400 and in fact is all I use with 8x10 (TMX 400).

    OTOH I agree completely with blaughn, given careful processing Tmx 100 is capable of great tonality. Here is a test I did with I first got my Hasselblad, I could not wait to go out and use it so I made a little set up at home and tried it.
     
  17. photoguy

    photoguy Member

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    I've used TMAX 100 for the last decade and printed it on Polymax FB. It looks wonderful. It pushes well, handles reciprocity well, and in my opinion is an A+ film. I use it in 120 and 4x5. It helps if you really have your Zone system down, and have done the testing. After that it's smooth sailing-




     
  18. aldevo

    aldevo Member

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    Polymax is a conventional paper, actually. It has a long toe compared to only PolyContrast which was the exception rather than the rule among modern VC papers. Just about every other paper I've tried (perhaps with the exception of Agfa MCC) has more toe to it than PolyMax.

    The only real advantage here is that Polymax filters in conjunction with Polymax paper will deliver somewhat softer contrast (and easier to print highlights) than many other paper/filter combos.
     
  19. aldevo

    aldevo Member

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    Not many, but here's one at least who believes they are just that. I don't blame the film, though.

    Also, as Sexton is on Eastman Kodak's payroll (an assertion easily verified) it is not surprising he uses Kodak film exclusively.
     
  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Lately he's been endorsing Tri-X, which I consider interesting.

    I've taken some photographs that I'm satisfied with using TMX. I used it almost exclusively for years in 35mm, and in some ways it's a film I feel I know better than any other film. But then I started shooting bigger (and bigger) cameras and grain became less and less of a concern, and I liked the option of choosing a film on the basis of tonality alone, so now I shoot mostly Tri-X, Classic 400, and Efke 100, and I do very little B&W in 35mm.
     
  21. scottmcl

    scottmcl Member

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    After some futzing with TMAX 100, I just couldn't make it work for me (water, thermometer, meter, who knows). HC-110 helped control the highlights, but no really satisfying images.

    I'm recently dipping into "new technology" films and am encouraged by initial Delta 100 trials. First results into Rodinal (not finest grain) and Acutol (finer, but not finest, but oh so very sharp) look great. Nice tones, no highlight problems, still finer looking grain than FP4+. Now I'll try some diluted solvent developers and my trusty HC-110 and see what comes out. I also have some Acros in the freezer, but that testing will await another day.

    Scott