shooting 8x10 with TMAX and TMY or Tri-X : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

hi, is the grain a matter with Tmax, Tmy or Tri-x in 8x10 film? and why YOU want to use TMY or Tri-x with 8x10?



-- Jeff Liao (, March 28, 2001


If you're contact printing 8x10, grain is not a matter. If you enlarge any format large enough, it is of course a matter. But because you have to enlarge 8x10 film quite a ways before grain is a matter, many choose to shoot 400 instead of 100 film so they can optimize aperture/dof while gaining a couple of shutter speeds--often a desirable thing.

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-- Simon (, March 28, 2001.

Jeff: TMAX 100 is definitely much finer grained than TRI-X. But "the difference" that finer grain makes for a given size print matters less and less the bigger the film you are using. It makes a great deal of difference in 35 mm. When Kodak was first introducing TMAX 100, they had a really nice essentially grainless 8X10 print made off 35 mm film and they handed it out to the camera stores. It was really impressive, you just can't do that with Tri-X in 35 mm. When you get all the way up to 8X10 film, however, the difference doesn't really appear (grain-wise) until you are making HUGE enlargements. Here's some perspective...I'm a big TRI-X fan going on 30 years. In 4X5 it will make a nearly grainless 11X14 print unless you really mess it up in the processing. And to even begin to see a hint of that grain you have to stick your nose up the print much closer than any sane person would get to the print when considering it as art or a record of an event. Even in 16X20 prints, the grain is almost invisible, you have to really squint up close to see it, and you can only find it in smooth areas like sky. A 5X7 of TRI-X will produce no visible grain in a 16X20. TMAX 100, on the other hand, will produce essentially grainless prints in 16X20 with 4X5 film. Even in 16X20, which is a "big" print to most people, the difference in grain is very, very slight. It's there, to be sure, but you'll have to go a lot bigger before the difference becomes noticeable at a normal viewing distance. The bigger you make the print the further most people stand away from it to take it all in the harder it is to notice grain, etc. etc. I have a TRI-X 16X20 print off 4X5 film outside my office on the wall. I've seen a lot of people stop and look at that print and they stand 5 feet or more away from it when they do. Nobody will ever see even the hint of grain at that distance. Photographers like to closely examine little parts of pictures (how's that edge sharpness? etc.) but most people take in the whole. Now in 8X10, everything I just said becomes more so. You have to be pushing mural size to have objectionable grain with TRI-X 8X10 sheets. So why use one over the other? Because they look different. There is a TRI-X look. I like it - some people don't. You'll have to decide for yourself. No point in arguing that, you can't win the argument until personal taste becomes standardized. I'm now carrying around both films and getting used to TMAX 100. TMAX 100 has a smoother look, which some people call more "modern," I think I know what they mean, and there is almost a creaminess to it which I find (apparently) hard to describe. Development time changes produce significant contrast expansions and contractions with relative ease. If you push and pull development a great deal for the effect on contrast, this is a plus. If you're going to push the highlights up a couple zones with extended development, it is nice to start with a finer grained film. But in 8X10, this isn't a real issue. TMAX 100 works very well for really long exposures as its reciprocity failure is much less than TRI-X. In brighter light, TRI- X is a couple stops faster than TMAX 100, which can be a plus for TRI- X depending on what you take pictures of. I haven't decided for sure if I like the look of TMAX 100 better, and I'm on my fourth box. Maybe "different" will never be "better." I don't have personal experience with TMAX 400. People don't seem to complain about blocked up highlights with that film like they used to, but I wouldn't personally know. Lord knows enough people on this forum take stabs at answering questions when they don't personally know the answer and I'm not going to join them. Films just have their own look. (Panatomic X, which has been gone more than 10 years, just had a way with skin tones. I have one roll of Panatomic X in the freezer and I'm saving it for my daughter's wedding and that is probably ten years away.) Unless some technical reason causes you to chose one or the other, you'll have to decide what film you like the looks of. I realize this can be kind of expensive with 8X10 film, but both films are very useful and you won't go wrong with either. Grain alone shouldn't decide this, at least not if you're using film this big and making prints that are 20X24 or smaller. There are so many different film and developer combinations you can spend years and years testing them to try to find out which is "better." Best to find something that works and stick with it and go out and take pictures. The hardest part of all this is still finding out exactly where to stand when you trip the shutter. Have fun and good luck.

-- Kevin Crisp (, March 28, 2001.

Jeff: Choosing a film for someone else is as difficult as choosing a camera for someone else. However, from my own experience I haven't found grain to be much of a consideration in choosing LF films, expecially for 8x10. I think most LF shooters go more for the "look" of the finished print, which can vary with different films. My films of choice in LF is Tri-X and Ilford HP-5. I develop in either ID-11 or HC-110. If you intend to make prints of 16x20 or smaller, you can forget about grain with 8x10 films and choose the film which gives you the look you want in your prints. My own experience with T-Max has been kind of iffy, but there are many photographers who swear by it. It just doesn't seem to give me the look I like. I can't describe the difference, but it is there.


-- Doug Paramore (, March 29, 2001.

I concur with the two previous posters. Look is definitely more important than grain. I use HP5+ in 4x5 and enlarge to 16x20 with really no visible grain (not quite as pleasing compared to an 8x10 negative). But I like the look of the older tech films, i.e. Tri-X and HP5+, compared to TMAX or Delta films. I like the way HP5+/Tri-X have very deep blacks and highlights... so I'm happy.


-- floren (, March 30, 2001.

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