T Max 100 tonality problems
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Originally Posted by Oldtimer Jay
I've had good luck in past years using TMAX developer 1:7 or TMAX RS diluted 1:9.
Just a thought,
Originally Posted by donbga
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,
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
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.
Many arrangers of school charts ask for a cup mute. I always thought the right strait mute was closer. Not close, but closer.
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
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.
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
I recently bought a lot of FP4+ and HP5+. I am mailing all my TMax to my brother this weekend. His vision is different.
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...