New Film Advice : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I currently shoot 4x5 TMax 100 EI at 83, developed in trays with D:76 1:1. I am pretty satisfied with my results on the whole but recently I feel that the tonal scale is too contrasty - the middle greys are not smooth (for back of better wording). This could be my developing but I am considering trying a faster film, ISO 400, as my understanding is that the faster the film the less contrasty they tend to be (also bigger grains). My biggest enlargements are 16x20. This leaves me with 4 (albeit more, but for my area and availability), options: TMax 400; Tri X; HP5 Plus & Delta 400. I am not a big fan of the speed and development testing procedures and I realize that I "should" shoot them all and figure out which one is for me. However, I am looking for some direction from those who might have had some experience with the above 4 films that I can draw upon without having to test each film for EI and development times.

Looking at the Characteristic Curves on these they all look fairly similar. Are any of the films better suited for certain situations? Delta and TMax are newer and therefore might they have more limitations with regards to available developers or in other regards? Any nuances that anyone has noticed and can share with me would be most greatly appreciated.

I continue to benefit from reading the Q&A on this forum and enjoy it immensely. Thanks to all those in advance who contribute.

-- Matthew Hoag (, October 29, 2001


you might try switching to Tmax developer. John Sexton has developed a method of diluting the Tmax developer to get a negative that is comparable in range to developing in Pyro developer.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, October 29, 2001.

If you want to stick with TMax films, I liked TMax RS developer when I shot TMax 400.

But for other options, a quick & easy way without testing is to shoot Tri-X or HP5+ at 1/2 rated speed, and develop in divided D-76 or something similar. The divided developer compensates, making sure you don't top out at the high end of the curve, and 1/2 speed gets you shadow detail.

While not as clinical as shooting for Dmin & running developing tests, you can actually test film by using real subjects.

-- Charlie Strack (, October 29, 2001.

If you want to stick with non-pyro developers, you might also give Divided D-23 a try with T-Max 100 or 400. Joseph Lipka has an article on it at

-- Ed Buffaloe (, October 29, 2001.

Matthew: If the problem which bothers you is something you are noticing recently, make sure you are using fresh D-76. Some people report contrast picks up when it has aged for a while.

-- Kevin Crisp (, October 29, 2001.

I'll concur with the last comment. I don't find I have contrast problems with TMX (8x10") in D-76 1:1, but it does pick up if it's not fresh.

Also, what is your agitation technique? I develop in trays and do one shuffle every 30 seconds. If you use tubes, that could push up the contrast as well.

-- David Goldfarb (, October 29, 2001.

I remember reading about T-Max films from an article by Sexton a while back that was reinforced by others that had previous experience with T-Max films. The conclusion was that T-Max films are very picky on the subject of agitation and temprature. As a result, Sexton found them a good match with the JOBO. I found the same inconsistencies with tray development and just about gave up on the film. However, after I had a chance to see how this film could perform consistently with a JOBO, I got a CPP2. One of the things I love about this film is its reciprocity characteristics. I second the recommendation for T Max RS developer.

-- Michael Kadillak (, October 29, 2001.

Forget Delta 400 in 4X5; it's been discontinued.

-- Henry Friedman (, October 29, 2001.

I would begin by looking at your processing technique. YOu should be able to consistently control contrast by your processing. Moving upto a faster film doesn't really solve the problem. With TMAX, as others have already said, It is VERY sensitive to temp and agitation. If you are not getting smooth mid-tines with TMAX 100 then something is off. Consider lowering your temp until it matches your agitation tecnhique or just slow down on your agitation. Maybe try other developers.

-- Dave. (, October 30, 2001.

...sorry about my very sloppy typing above. After I re-read my response, it annoyed the hell out of me.

-- Dave (, October 30, 2001.

Sexton uses TMax 100 single load in TMax RS; Bond uses TMax 400- larger film/reciprocity in D-76. Both use Jobo. I use TMax 100 roll in TMax dev 1:5 7 min @70F in a tank; 30 sec initial + 5 "rolls" every 30 sec. Very consistant results. I strongly suggest testing to get your EI and plot curve(s). George

-- George Nedleman (, October 31, 2001.

hey Matthew, give Tri-X a test. I used T-MAX for years because it's the sharpest film around, but it was always on the contrasty side for me too, especially in the midtones. Tri-X has a lovely smooth mid-tone creaminess that's great for shooting people. And an added benefit is that Tri-X doesn't seem as fragile as T-Max, which I've found scratches super easily.

~chris jordan (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (, October 31, 2001.

Matthew, I'll second Chris' recommendation for Tri-X. I develop in PMK (photographer's formulary) and mid tones are just superb for me, especially Zone 4-5 tones. I am going into the darkroom later this week to try Barry Thornton's Dixactol on some Tri-X and HP5+ negs I shot here at the beach in SC. I'll report back on my findings.


-- John Welton (, October 31, 2001.

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