Film Review: Kodak TMAX 400 B&W Film Profile

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Kodak Professional TMAX 400 Film, or 400TMY, which is it’s film code (for brevity, we’ll refer to it by its film code from here on out). This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and 4×5 sheet form. 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 Kodaks documents still refer to it as TMY. Here in this review, we’ll refer to it as 400TMY.

Development

There are many ways to develop 400TMY. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop 400TMY with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 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.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for 400TMY:

400TMY2_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via 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 film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

400TMY has a very good amount of dynamic range. Following the development practice described above, the film base plus fog starts to happen most of the way through EV -5 and is fully clear film base well before we hit the end of EV -6. On the highlight side, I’ve reached the limits of how much exposure I can pump into the emulsion half way through EV +13 and can’t quite get 400TMY to EV +14 in terms of density. This gives a dynamic range of -5 to +13 EVs as a worst case.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting two 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 an additional stop of light to the shadows, then you can subtract one stop from the darkest part of the scene you want to capture detail in instead of two stops. 400TMY has enough over exposure latitude that this will still result in a good image once scanned in and density corrected for all but the highest contrast scenes.

Resolution/Grain

400TMY has very good 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. 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.

Sample Images

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Here’s a Flickr Album of images shot on 400TMY. I’ll add more images as I upload them to Flickr.