Developing Adventures · opinion

Developing Adventures – Pulling Kodak Tmax P3200

My quest to find a film that can be used in low lighting, everyday shots around the house is still on. I last reviewed pull processing Ilford Delta 3200 to 1600 to lower the contrast. I liked my results, but wasn’t crazy about the amount of grain in skin tones.

This week I decided to try out Kodak T-Max P3200. Here is the info Kodak Alaris provides:

KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX P3200 Black & White Negative Film ⁄ 3200TMZ is a multi-speed continuous-tone panchromatic black-and-white negative film that combines high to ultra-high film speeds with finer grain than that of other fast black-and-white films. It is especially useful for very fast action; for dimly lighted scenes where you can’t use flash; for subjects that require good depth of field combined with fast shutter speeds; and for handholding telephoto lenses for fast action or in dim light. It is an excellent choice for nighttime photography.

It also says:

The nominal speed is EI 1000 when the film is processed in KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX Developer or KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX RS Developer and Replenisher, or EI 800 when it is processed in other KODAK black-and-white developers… Because of its great latitude, you can expose this film at EI 1600 and yield negatives of high quality. 

I guess that means this film is basically an 800 ISO film but has the ability to be pushed to 3200. In that case, I’m not even really sure what I did is considered pulling.

I wanted to see how it stood up at 1600 ISO and compare it to the Ilford Delta 3200 results so I could narrow down my choices.

I shot one roll at 1600 ISO with my Nikon F, and then processed it at 1600. The second roll I shot at 1600 in my Fujica ST801 and processed at 3200. I processed both rolls in Kodak HC-110 dilution B, and I shot similar pictures around my home in the same lighting.

As you can see above, shadows retain almost no detail. There is a warning that this may happen on the Kodak site. The grain in my opinion is worse than Ilford Delta 3200. Look at the blinds on the window. The grain is extremely visible.

Shot 1600 Dev. at 3200
Shot 1600 Dev. at 3200

I think the roll pulled to 1600 in processing has a little bit less grain than the roll (on the left) shot at 1600 and processed at 3200. It also has a little more sharpness than the roll processed at 3200.

Shot at 1600 Dev. at 1600

I also read in my research that scanning this film seems to enhance the grain. I do know I need a film that will respond well to being scanned on a flatbed scanner.

You can see above that Delta 3200 pulled to 1600 has less contrast than P3200, but also significantly less grain. It has a softer look to it. Kodak states that this is an ultra fine grain film, but that is just not the experience I have ever had with it.

Final Thoughts

I definitely think I choose Ilford Delta 3200 over the Kodak P3200. I just really do not like this film. I think the leader in my quest will remain for now Ilford Delta 3200 pulled to 1600. I may try shooting P3200 at ISO 800 one day and see how it looks, but that doesn’t help my needs.

What film should I try next in my quest for a film to shoot around the house handheld? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

11 thoughts on “Developing Adventures – Pulling Kodak Tmax P3200

  1. This films true speed is around 800 so even at 1600 you were pushing this film. Not pulling it and that’s why you had more grain than you’d like in the skin.
    You can pull it at 400.

  2. Hi Aly, if you’ve tried this, please excuse me but I would recommend, particularly since you don’t seem to care for grainy photos, that you push either Tri-X or TMAX 400 to 1600 for daily stream of conscious around the house type photography. You’ll find that these films, particularly TMAX 400 have a significantly finer grain at 1600 than 3200 speed films. 1600 ISO is usually perfect for use with a 50/2 or fast lens in “normal” lighting conditions in a home regardless of if the light is window or artificial.

    Additionally, I would recommend steering way from ascribing terms of judgement such as grain being “worse” etc. Grain is an element of photography. It’s not good or bad, if used correctly, it is simply another element to serve duty to a purpose, idea or feeling. Same goes for entering judgements for or against one film or another. Delta and TMAX P3200 have different properties but one film is not inherently better or worse than the other, they are simply more or less effective towards particular goals under particular conditions. To explain, I carry both films. When shooting a very contrasty scene, I often prefer TMAX P3200 because it is a more tonal emulsion with lower accutance that smooths and softens harsh light/details. But when shooting in flatter lighting, TMAX will only extend that flat quality and return an image with very little range from pure whites to rich blacks. For flatter lighting, Delta, which is more contrasty and higher accutance, helps bring bright rights and rich blacks as well as sharper details.

    And of course different developers and methods of scanning/printing affect all this also. Rodinal is great for pushing and extending tonal range but is low accutance. HC110 is high accutance. I use HC110 for both Delta and TMAX because I like sharper, more contrasty images. I also bump my black levels and usually leave my whites scaled out.

    How you rate the film and if you push or pull it is also critical to affecting contrast and tone. I think people are often unnecessarily confused about these films’ “native ISO.” In practice, it’s really not relevant. The film canisters are DX coded at 3200 and if you read the processing instructions, 3200 is considered normal development. So yes, if you process below 3200, you’re pulling and if you process above it you are pushing.

    It’s awesome that you’re experimenting and learning about these films and finding out what you like and don’t like. I would just encourage that you keep an open mind about character traits and purpose, keeping more arrows in your quiver rather than reducing them.

    Happy shooting!

  3. I haven’t tried the Delta 3200 yet. I’ve shot a fair amount of the Kodak 3200 but have always sent it out for dev/scan — and have gotten stunning results. I have one roll of Kodak 3200 here that I’ll dev/scan myself and I’ll see how it goes. Thank you for your very useful and helpful article!

  4. Onece again, nice work!’In the Day’ low light photography was a real challenge- I had to shoot T Max at ei
    6400 (dev. in Acufine) with my Nikon Sp and 85mm Nikkor (1/30 @f2) just to get an image in some night clubs. Ilford never seemed to work as well.The larger grain of T Max gave it better tonality -though still not very good. Proofs always looked nicer than pushed Tri-X (ei1200) grain was gigantic when enlarged

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