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 in a JOBO film processor as standard practice. The standard development time is 7:30 at 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nets a usable film speed of EI 320. We use a 1+4 water+vinegar stop bath between development and fixing.
There are many ways to meter and expose 400TMY. If sending 400TMY in to Simple Film Lab to process and scan, we recommend exposing 400TMY at an EI of 320. This is done by 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 320, 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 with our standard development described above.
The scale along the bottom is log exposure in lux-seconds, the scale along the left is the measured log density as measured with an X-Rite transmission densitometer.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
400TMY has excellent dynamic range. Following the development practice described above, you can expect a usable speed of EI 320 with a full 4-5 stops of shadow detail below below a correctly metered and exposed 18% grey card and a full 5 stops of exposure above that, with at least 2 or three stops of over exposure latitude above that, though in reality, you don’t need to give it that much exposure.
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.