TMAX 400 grainy negatives : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Hi, I am using TMAX 400 (35mm) film with TMax developer, and getting noticeably grainy negatives. I am developing on kodak recomended temp and time (4.5min@75F) with agitation every 30 sec. (I do not push proccess) What is causing a grainy negative? How can I modify my processing routine to reduce grain whithout any trade-offs in contrast or anything else?

Assuming I can get a perfect 35mm negative, up to what size prints I can get without noticeable grain? (is 11x14 a big expectation from 35mm?)

Thanks for any answer/comment you may have. -Makis

-- Makis Gaitanidis (, August 16, 1999


It is a grainy film. Some developers will eat the edges of the grain, but a side-effect is some loss in sharpness. You might prefer Ilford Delta 400 (I do). If you can, switch to a slower film, or larger format, or both.

-- Alan Gibson (, August 16, 1999.

Makis, You might try Kodak Xtol developer instead of T-Max. T-Max is a high energy soup that doesn't do much for grain. Long ago at RIT they had us print everything in 11x14. One reason was to quickly dissuade everyone that 35mm is suitable for professional looking 11x14s. Things have changed, and films like TMAX let us get much more out of small negatives, but you still have to have excellent technique. Shoot some T-Max 100 carefully and on a tripod. Don't overexpose it, as that will spoil sharpness. Print it and use it as a standard of comparison. You can do better with some more exotic combinations, but this should produce a very high quality 11x14 or larger print. BTW, I enjoyed you request for "reduce grain without any trade-offs..."!

-- Conrad Hoffman (, August 16, 1999.

Just for the record, I've also had some surprisingly lousy results with TMY and think it's a highly overrated film. While its sharpness/resolving power is indeed a bit higher, its grain isn't really any better than good old Tri-X, and I much prefer the look of Tri-X's grain (not to mention its more managable contrast).

If you want near-grainless 11x14s from 35mm, you're going to have to bite the bullet and use a slower film. Old 100-speed standbys like Plus-X, APX 100, and FP4+ will certainly do it. T-Max 100 is even better, but it's more exacting both in terms of exposure latitude and developing precision. (The Delta 100 story is similar. Many folks find it easier to use than TMX, but I've always had better luck with TMX.)

And for TMX, less-active development in diluted D-76 or Xtol will also help. And whatever film you use, you may also want to try agitating less than recommended and slightly increasing the development time to compensate; vigorous agitation tends to promote visible grain. (Another advantage of the old-tech films is that, requiring less chemically active development, they will develop evenly with less agitation. This technique can also be done with TMX, but more additional dev time is needed. If one extra minute is enough for PX or APX 100, TMX will require two or three minutes.)

There's just no getting around that "small" 35mm negative - in my experience, 400-speed films just won't go to 11x14 without significant grain...

-- Michael Goldfarb (, August 17, 1999.

I agree that T-Max 400 is inherently grainy. It also doesn't have much shoulder, so your highlights often go off the scale. My best results with it have been using the T-Max developer, though it is expensive. I've never used it, but you should be able to get finer grain with a fine-grain developer like Microdol.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, August 18, 1999.

I never found a 400-speed B&W film in 35mm which I liked very much. TMY just doesn't work for me (highlights, grain I've decribed as "bad sci-fi"). Delta 400 I found to be similar. I use Tri-X if I want to look retro or use grain. Otherwise, I cheat: I use T400CN. Nice long scale, good grain. Very questionable archival properties, but I rather liked Brett Weston's solution to the problem of archival negatives.

-- John O'Connell (, August 18, 1999.

How about something real simple...make sure that any liquids contacting the film...developer, fixer, stop baths, rinse...are kept at the same temperature. I use the top of a Tupperware cake cover filled with enough water to surround the chemical beakers and use a thermometer to monitor the temp. I place the canister back in the water between agitations...seems to work somewhat. My best results are with Tri-X and D-76 1:2 dilution

-- Tom Reitemeyer (, August 31, 1999.

tom, can you tell me at what temperature and how long do you develop your tri-X at? What EI do you rate it at? how are the results?

-- hoko hoko (, August 31, 1999.

One interesting way to reduce the appearance of grain is to add diffusion in printing. No, it does not reduce grain in the neg, but still it's a useful salvage technique depending on the type of image (OK for portraits to eleminate "sandpaper" skin, NG for landscapes where you want all-over clarity of image). To add diffusion, get a good work print, increase print time by about 20% while you hold a plastic "baggie" over lens for about 20-50% of total print time. Hold the thing about halfway between lens and easel, moving it slightly but constantly. Make a bunch of prints at varying diffusion rates and see what works best. Diffusion blurs edges and the first thing to soften up is the grain. Give it a try and good luck!

-- Standish Lawder (, September 12, 1999.

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