Kodak T-MAX 400 B&W Film Profile/Review
This tech page is for Kodak Professional TMAX 400 Film, or 400TMY, which is it’s film code. This 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 high speed (ISO 400/27° in most developers), very high sharpness, very fine grain, and very high resolving power. Kodak released a revision to this emulsion in the early-mid 2000s that reduced it’s development time and reduced the amount of grain it had. The newer version is commonly referred to as TMY2 by the film community, but Kodak’s documents still refer to it as TMY. Here on this page, we’ll refer to it as 400TMY.
There are many ways to develop 400TMY. Following Kodak’s recommended development in their tech pub (F-4043, published Feb. 2016) is a good place to start if you’ve not developed this film before. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop 400TMY with replenished Kodak XTOL with constant rotary agitation as standard practice. The standard development time is 6:00 at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. We use a 1+4 water+vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.
There are many ways to meter and expose 400TMY. If sending 400TMY 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 400, 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.
If you want to add a stop of shadow information to the image, then place the darkest part of the image you want details in one stop down from the meter reading instead of two. 400TMY has enough highlight exposure latitude that this is safe to do and still retain good highlight information for pretty much anything except the highest contrast scenes.
Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for 400TMY overlaid with the standard 0.56 Contrast Index that is scanned in with:
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 values. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading with a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. The black curve is Contrast Index that the emulsion is digitized and linearized with, the green curve is the actual measured density values of the emulsion using the development described above.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
400TMY has excellent dynamic range. Following the development practice described above and scanned in with the standard CI 0.56, the film base plus fog starts to happen well into EV -5 and is fully clear film base well before we hit the end of EV -7. 400TMY has a pretty good amount of toe, meaning you can do a fair amount of push processing on it. On the highlight side, with replenished XTOL it pretty much hits maximum density at +9 EV.
With the above information, in Adobe Lightroom, the visible dynamic range of an exposure is +7 EV to -6 EV. 400TMY provides about 1 stop of under exposure and 2 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 100 to 800, which is excellent. Push processing will result in bringing the toe contrast up and providing more shadow detail, but at the expense of highlights and a much higher contrast index.
400TMY has excellent resolution for a 400 speed film. Looking at it’s tech sheet over at Kodak Alaris shows that it is at about 80 line pairs per mm of film at a 50% contrast response and 200 line pairs per millimeter at 1000:1 total object contrast. In short, it has more resolution than most lenses can project onto it, so it’s not really a limiting factor when it comes to resolution. 400TMY is my default 400 speed black and white film choice and I’ve shot a lot of it. It has enough resolution that I can see the differences in lens resolutions between the various lenses I own. I can’t say that about most other 400 speed films. 400TMY is on the stellar end of the spectrum in terms of resolution.
In terms of grain, it’s very fine grained for a 400 speed film. It’s actually not very visible until you get into scanning it at 4000+ dpi, and even then, it’s very fine. It’s not at the effectively grainless level of 100TMX, but, it has significantly finer grain compared to 400TX and to most other 400 speed films.
In 135 format, you can get into grain if scanning with enough resolution (4000+ dpi) to make a 12×18 inch print, but even at that print size for a 135 format (35mm) frame size, the grain is visible, buy really fine and pleasant. In 120 roll medium format, the grain is difficult to see with most film scanners that can scan medium format film, so is effectively grainless for most enlargements in medium format 120 roll, and non-existent in large format sheet form.
Here’s a Flickr Album of images shot on 400TMY. I’ll add more images as I upload them to Flickr.
Downloadable Sample DNG Files
As part of this tech sheet/film review I’m making a ZIP file available that contains some Adobe DNG files that are a sample of what you would receive if you sent your film into Simple Film Lab to process and scan. It’s relatively large, but if you want to see what you can get, worth a look. Click Here