Kodak T-MAX 100 B&W Film Profile/Review
This tech page is for Kodak Professional T-MAX 100 Film, or 100TMX, which is it’s film code. This is a is a continuous-tone panchromatic black-and-white negative film for general outdoor and indoor photography. It is available in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and 4×5 sheet form. This film features medium speed (ISO 100/21° in most developers), extremely high sharpness, extremely fine grain, and very high resolving power. In 2002 Kodak released a new version of this film with much improved resolution, finer grain, and a shorter recommended development time.
There are many ways to develop 100TMX. Following Kodak’s recommended development in their tech pub (F-4016, published Feb. 2016) is a good place to start if you’ve not developed this film before. If you send your film in to us here at Simple Film Lab, we develop 100TMX with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 20.0 degrees Celcius (+-0.1 degree Celcius) in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 fast inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer. This development process is for “full contrast”, which is better for scanning as it maximizes the number of bits used by the scanner and provides a larger number of discrete tone values per stop of light hitting the negative once scanned into the floating point Adobe Digital Negative file that you get from us.
There are many ways to meter and expose 100TMX. If sending 100TMX in to Simple Film Lab to process and scan, we recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting 2 stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 100, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.
If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.
Using the development described above, here’s the characteristic curve for 100TMX:
The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner, meaning raw ADC integer values. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading with a studio strobe and a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the emulsion, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.
The curve shown above is the actual curve used for Simple Image Tools to linearize the film into the floating point Adobe Digital Negative file when processed and scanned in here at Simple Film Lab.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
100TMX actually has a fair amount of dynamic range. Since 100TMX was originally reviewed here we’ve exposed and generated a new profile and updated the chart above to show the toe of the film. The new profile also linearizes the toe in an effort to get more shadow/black performance out of the emulsion. If exposed and developed as described above, on the shadow side, the toe of 100TMX is -4 to -5 EV with the film base plus fog at -5 to -6 EV with film/scanner noise down to about -7.5 EV. In Adobe Lightroom, this is excellent black performance as any tone values from -5 to -6 EV will register as less than 1% luminance in the Develop Module with the default contrast and black level.
On the highlight side, 100TMX is equally as impressive. There’s a gentle shoulder at +2 to +3 EV and a secondary more gentle shoulder at +6 to +7 EV. We’ve exposed and linearized up to +10 EV with film/scanner noise up to +12 EV. In Adobe Lightroom +7 EV registers as 100% luminance in the Develop Module, so the highlight retention of 100TMX is also excellent.
With the above information, in Adobe Lightroom, the visible dynamic range of an exposure is +7 EV to -6 EV. 100TMX provides about 1 stop of under exposure and 3 full stops of over exposure protection while still maintaining acceptable black levels and full highlight retention for the full visible dynamic range in Adobe Lightroom. These over-under limits can be exceeded if you are OK with reduced performance at the extremes of the exposure scale. This equates to an exposure index range of EI 12 to 200.
100TMX has loads of resolution. Looking at it’s tech sheet over at Kodak Alaris shows that it’s in the 200 line pairs per mm of film territory at 1000:1 contrast ratio. In short, even in the smallest 135 format frame size, it can capture more resolution than any reasonably available/affordable camera lens can project onto it.
In terms of grain, it’s pretty much nonexistent. Kodak shows an RMS granularity of 8 in Kodak D-76, which is extremely fine grained. You can just start to see grain at crazy high scanning resolutions, but for all intents and purposes, you can consider 100TMX to be grain free at every frame size it’s available in for any sane print size.
Here is a Flickr image album of images taken with 100TMX. It’s updated with new images whenever I shoot 100TMX.