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Working with Kodak Tri-X 400
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May 12, 2021 07:21:40   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
Kodak Tri-X has been around in one form or another for a very long time. It is Kodak's most popular Black and White film, which probably says a lot right there. It's not the sharpest or finest grained film on the market, but a lot of people like its "look." This series of images looks at my own Tri-X 400 results dating from 2013 through 2021, presented in time-sequence order.

Skyline on film by Paul Sager, on Flickr


Kodak Tri-X was initially introduced in 1940 as a sheet film. It took nearly 15 years until Tri-X was made available in 35mm and 120 formats. The introduction of these two formats in 1954 is commonly cited as the official 'birthday' of Tri-X.

Totem pole


Tri-X panchromatic film was once one of the most popular films used by photojournalists and amateurs. A panchromatic emulsion is a type of black-and-white film that is sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light, producing a realistic reproduction of a scene as it appears to the human eye, although with no colors.

Merrick Butte


Tri-X has undergone a number of minor engineering changes during its long history. An early change in ASA (ISO) speed from 200 to 400, around 1960, was due to a change in the ASA standard rather than the film. In 2007, Tri-X was extensively re-engineered, receiving the new designation 400TX in place of TX or TX400, and it became finer-grained. The amount of silver in the film stock was reduced during the 2007 re-engineering.

Green River - Chicago 2016


The images through the Chicago River above were all captured without a colored filter, with the film rated as ISO-400. Most of the following images use either an Orange or Deep Red filter, as well as adjustments to the ISO rating. In sourcing some of the text and descriptions of Kodak Tri-X 400, a lot of the "vocabulary" of black and white film don't really work for my own self-expression of B&W photography. Expressions about "tonality" or "beautiful highlights" or "classic grain structure" are not the words / phrases that I'd use in describing this film.

Wood National Cemetery


What I do see in some of these images is too much grain for my personal taste. What I've learned is to overexpose both C41 color and B&W film, either by adjusting the ISO when loading the film or using Exposure Compensation. Exposure adjustments are needed both without a filter, and especially when using colored filters.

Old Car City on film


I'd say now my default setting for Tri-X 400 is to rate the film as ISO-320 or ISO-250 when loading into the camera, and then adjusting to the filter and / or conditions from there.

USS Alabama


Both the USS Alabama above and the Ft Clinch cannons below are +2 EC for the orange filter at ISO-400. I feel there's an opportunity for a bit less grain if the film had just 1/3-stop more and had been loaded as ISO-320.

Coastal Defenses


This winter frame in March 2021 is the first Tri-X roll loaded specifically for investigating and proving the new exposure approach. On an overcast snowy day, the film was loaded as ISO-200. I love the results, but in comparing with rolls show at ISO-250 in similar low light, I can see how the fine details are beginning to be lost when so far overexposed.

Wrigleyville Winter


I've become better at keeping notes about what days a film is shot and with what lens(es), most times including what colored filter was used. But still, since the filter doesn't report in the EXIF data I can extract from the EOS 1v, sometimes it's still a guess. I don't think this image of Gabby used a filter, where the effective ISO was ISO-160 after the EC adjustment and the ISO loading adjustment. So even the comment about losing fine details when overexposed is difficult to demonstrate, unless a specific comparison frame is available.

Gabby on Tri-X


Another difficulty of the color filters is getting enough light for the slower shutterspeed. At Old Car City and in the park outside the USS Alabama, above, I just brought a tripod. But when traveling around downtown Chicago, I need to select a bright day or an IS-enabled lens, and / or be very careful in my technique with a non IS lens.

Quincy L Station


Another comment I found about Tri-X is it isn't so good for sunny days. The first view of Chicago above was a clear sun-lit morning. The Fisher Building below is a blazing April afternoon sun, with an orange filter. In both frames I can't find support for the bright light comments.

These final three images are my favorites of the Tri-X review and what prompted this respective post.

The Fisher Building


Here Gabby is shown indoors at ISO-320. Consider whether the details are better here vs the earlier Gabby image with 1-stop greater exposure at an effective ISO-160.

Gabby in B&W


This final image is indoors at Chicago Union Station with the film is loaded as ISO-250. Note all the shadow details. The lack of sharp contrast in this image makes it one of my favorite results of the multiple trips to Union Station in April 2021.

Union Station


So of the oldest images were probably processed and scanned by TheDarkroom.com. Most of the film was processed and scanned by North Coast Photo. All the scanned JPEGs were processed further in Adobe Lightroom v6 where the scanned film was just a starting point to the final image. The film grain doesn't remove like digital noise unless you want a completely details-free image. All the exposure, camera and lens details are available from the host Flickr pages, via the URL links of each image title.

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May 12, 2021 07:43:06   #
jaymatt Loc: Alexandria, Indiana
 
Nice work with the Tri-X--enjoyed the photos.

I always liked Tri-X and used it a lot, but when Ilford HP5 came along, I preferred it. At this point, I really don’t remember why.

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May 12, 2021 07:54:18   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
jaymatt wrote:
Nice work with the Tri-X--enjoyed the photos.

I always liked Tri-X and used it a lot, but when Ilford HP5 came along, I preferred it. At this point, I really don’t remember why.


Thank you John! This link has some sliders for similar images from the two films. The differences are subtle, where some of the reasons might have be the cost of the film and how it develops for at-home processing vs maybe the absolute difference in the results.

https://thedarkroom.com/kodak-tri-x-vs-ilford-hp5/

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May 12, 2021 08:21:35   #
ELNikkor
 
The old Tri-X was so grainy I never used it, just Plus-X. When T-Max 400 came out, I was all over it! Recently shot some re-engineered Tri-X, and finally, it is a film I can use. Great shots and explanations!

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May 12, 2021 08:23:28   #
jaymatt Loc: Alexandria, Indiana
 
CHG_CANON wrote:
Thank you John! This link has some sliders for similar images from the two films. The differences are subtle, where some of the reasons might have be the cost of the film and how it develops for at-home processing vs maybe the absolute difference in the results.

https://thedarkroom.com/kodak-tri-x-vs-ilford-hp5/


Your comment jogs my memory--I believe I found it easier to get good HP5 results from my modest temporary processing setup in the spare bathroom.

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May 12, 2021 08:34:59   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
ELNikkor wrote:
The old Tri-X was so grainy I never used it, just Plus-X. When T-Max 400 came out, I was all over it! Recently shot some re-engineered Tri-X, and finally, it is a film I can use. Great shots and explanations!


Thank you ELNikkor! The technology in Tri-X is different, where the TMAX films use what they call T-grain that is a development from color film. Tabular-grain B&W film - Kodak T-MAX, Delta films from Ilford Photo, and the Fujifilm Neopan films - use silver halide crystals that are flatter and more tabular (hence T-Grain). These films are considered to have a finer grain along with visually sharper resolution.

Only until recently, I've mostly randomly bought film to investigate rather than for any specific attribute or result. I'm now trying to investigate and understand from my own results the 'why' of choosing / using individual film stocks. This summer's effort will include a conscious effort to work in B&W with flowers, looking at the grain and contrast and resolution aspects.

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May 12, 2021 08:53:07   #
mikegreenwald Loc: Illinois
 
Great discussion Paul, and you brought back some great memories.
My "go to" film way back when was PlusX-Pan; TriX was "as needed". Most of the landscape and small stuff was from a tripod, people hand held. I had a strong preference back then for 6x6 over 35mm, developed with either D76 or Microdol depending... I left Chicago in 1967 and thereafter B&W processing was at home.
There was a camera shop on Wabash under the "L" that supplied equipment and early color processing. Around 1980 I build a color lab at home, and thereafter processed color negatives, but sent slide film to the Kodak lab on 22nd street just off South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Drive).
There's a lot of once heavily used color lab equipment in my basement now - covered in dust and neglected :-(

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May 12, 2021 09:21:07   #
Cwilson341 Loc: Central Florida
 
Im just an observer with nothing to contribute except observations. I tried to identify the special quality of this series. The words that come to me are clean, clear, crisp. These beautiful shots are all very appealing but those are the qualities I identify.

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May 12, 2021 09:29:08   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
mikegreenwald wrote:
Great discussion Paul, and you brought back some great memories.
My "go to" film way back when was PlusX-Pan; TriX was "as needed". Most of the landscape and small stuff was from a tripod, people hand held. I had a strong preference back then for 6x6 over 35mm, developed with either D76 or Microdol depending... I left Chicago in 1967 and thereafter B&W processing was at home.
There was a camera shop on Wabash under the "L" that supplied equipment and early color processing. Around 1980 I build a color lab at home, and thereafter processed color negatives, but sent slide film to the Kodak lab on 22nd street just off South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Drive).
There's a lot of once heavily used color lab equipment in my basement now - covered in dust and neglected :-(
Great discussion Paul, and you brought back some g... (show quote)


Thank you Mike! Central Camera is reopened after being attacked during last summer's unrest in Chicago. I haven't been in, only by the storefront as they only have partial hours and limited days. All my film is sent out for development and scanning.

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May 12, 2021 09:36:26   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
Cwilson341 wrote:
Im just an observer with nothing to contribute except observations. I tried to identify the special quality of this series. The words that come to me are clean, clear, crisp. These beautiful shots are all very appealing but those are the qualities I identify.


Thank you Carol! Most of my B&W efforts have been focused on working with colored filters. Only now after maybe 4+ years of working with filters have I started to look at film in practice without the filters. Glad you enjoyed the results.

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May 12, 2021 21:13:32   #
TriX Loc: Raleigh, NC
 
Paul, I greatly appreciate your tribute to my namesake 😎. Some really great shots here. I love the Fisher building shot and of course, Gabby. When I was in VietNam in 68/69 and had access to the PIO darkroom, you could buy PlusX at the PX, but no TriX, so I had family send me blocks from home. I still have a darkroom and have been shooting TMax developed in TMax or D76 or Acufine developer, but I’m about to experiment with some other B&W films this summer, so I’ll look forward to hearing more about your trials.

Cheers,
Chris

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May 13, 2021 10:09:41   #
sgt hop
 
it was my favorite film........

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May 13, 2021 11:45:05   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
TriX wrote:
Paul, I greatly appreciate your tribute to my namesake 😎. Some really great shots here. I love the Fisher building shot and of course, Gabby. When I was in VietNam in 68/69 and had access to the PIO darkroom, you could buy PlusX at the PX, but no TriX, so I had family send me blocks from home. I still have a darkroom and have been shooting TMax developed in TMax or D76 or Acufine developer, but I’m about to experiment with some other B&W films this summer, so I’ll look forward to hearing more about your trials.

Cheers,
Chris
Paul, I greatly appreciate your tribute to my name... (show quote)


Thank you Chris! I bought up a lot of expired or otherwise unwanted film last year and now have a freezer full that will last years. A lot of Tri-X arrived, hence a more focused effort on finding how it works best in my camera.

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May 13, 2021 11:46:07   #
CHG_CANON Loc: the Windy City
 
sgt hop wrote:
it was my favorite film........


Thank you sgt hop! I'm still seeing how it fits my style.

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May 13, 2021 12:42:53   #
SalvageDiver Loc: Huntington Beach CA
 
Used tri-x when I first started in photography. While in the military (Korea) in the early 70's, this was all we could get. Didn't like the grain, but learned to live with it. After returning to the states, never really used it again.

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