Tri-X or Tmax for beginning photo students? : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I have been away from teaching basic black and white processing for a few years; working in the world of advanced and digital courses. As I get prepared to bet back to teaching basic this fall I am once again pondering whether I should start students with the T-grain based films or stick with good old Tri-X or HP5. I had not made the switch to t-grain in my classes last time around. Any suggestions/experiences from fellow instructors?

P.S. I still stick with the traditional emulsion films for my own work, and just processed a few roles of old T-Max I found laying around. Is the used developer/fix and washing agent supposed to be that purple or did that have to do with the age of the film?

-- jan roddy (, July 18, 2000


Tri-X or HP5+ (or FP4+ for some). They can switch to tabular grain films later, if they end up preferring them. Much less frustrating for a beginner. Ilford's delta films might be an alternate second step. We get to stay in touch with our roots that way :)

-- Paul Harris (, July 18, 2000.

T-Max films have an anti-halation dye that, if you are lucky, comes off during processing. This is the purple you are seeing and it is normal.

For people starting in photography, I would strongly recommend traditional emulsions like Tri-X, HP5+, etc. The modern emulsions like TMax and Delta require very tight control of time and temperature for processing, which might be asking too much of beginners. On the other hand, it would teach the importance of controlling the process. But, what's the point if they give up in frustration?

You might consider Freestyle's film as a cost saving measure. It is reputed to be Ilford film.

-- Charlie Strack (, July 18, 2000.

Without hesitation, I would recommend Tri-X. I am pretty experienced but still have a feeling of discomfort with the T-grain films. Tri-X is a trustworthy film that allows photographers of all experience levels to be successful.

-- Sam (, July 18, 2000.

Use TX, PX, HP5+ or FP4+ to start; they're rather forgiving. At some point switch to T-Max 100.

The point of changing is that students need to learn early on that they can't be sloppy.

-- John Hicks (, July 18, 2000.

BTW, you can easily remove the dye by using an HCA after the fix. Either use bottled stuff or make you own by dissolving a tablespoon of sodium sulfite in a quart of water.

-- John Hicks (, July 18, 2000.

I would recommend HP5+ without hesitation. It is similar to Tri-X, in that it is an old tech film, but in my experience, HP5+ handles errors in exposure and processing better than Tri-X. Chalk it down to personal preference, but HP5+ rules!

-- R. Sriram (, July 18, 2000.

I think you should definitely let your students know that T grain and Delta films are out there. The improvement in smoothness of tone that can be achieved with Tmax is about the equivalent of going up a format size. I don't agree that film development is any more critical with Tmax, but printing is. (anyway, teaching tight process control should be the norm) Used with Tmax developer these films can give straight line D/LogE curves up to 3.0D or more. Getting that on paper is a bit of an art.

-- Pete Andrews (, July 19, 2000.

Pete - Interesting comment about the printing of TMAX. For the benefit of those of us using TMAX films, please comment further.

-- Marc McCloud (, July 19, 2000.

I disagree with Peter's last post.

1. TMax films seem more "jumpy" to me and many others, that is they lack a smooth tonal scale. This is caused by their high micro- contrast. There is, however, no question that they provide a finer grain pattern.

2. TMax films require greater development care. The provide a bigger density change than traditional emulsions for a given change in development time (as a % of normal).Not only is this clearly documented in the magazine articles over the past decade, Kodak claims it was a design goal. In any case, the shape of the T-grain easily explains this phenomenon.

My point is that is faster and easier for a student just learning photographic processes to start getting decent results with the traditional film. The sooner this happens, the greater the chances of continuing their photographic endeavors.

-- Charlie Strack (, July 19, 2000.

IMHO, TMAX-100 is a poor choice of film for 35mm work, regardless of how careful you are with development, choice of chemistry, etc. The film has low apparant sharpness compared to other films of similar speed. With studio lighting and the right subjects it can be very good, but as a general purpose film it disappoints more often than not. I've had more success with TMAX-400- it has a very fine grain pattern, but Tri-X remains the champ in terms of latitude and a pleasing curve shape. Get and read The Film Developing Cookbook by Stephen G. Anchell & Bill Troop for a better overview.

-- Conrad Hoffman (, July 19, 2000.

Here here, I couldn't have said it better myself!

-- Scott Walton (, July 22, 2000.

You all assure me that my instincts to start students on TX and introduce them to T-grain and the variety of other films later in the semester is probably the correct one.

Thanks for all of the input.

-- jan roddy (, July 23, 2000.

Being that I took "Visual Communications I" this past year in high school, I can give a first hand opinion. We used TMAX 400 exclusively, rolling it ourselves from bulk loaders. We developed it in D-76 and at least I got pretty good results. Nothing "outstanding," but it isn't that hard to develop. I'm guessing this is a college level course judging from your e-mail address, so you will expect more from them. If you watch your clock well, and have them develop at 68 degrees (F), you shouldn't have problems. It's only when you start developing at about 75 degrees when there's a time issue with TMAX in D-76. At 68 degrees, 30 seconds or so never made a big difference for anyone. Just keep your fixer good, because I've seen many strips of film come out of the process quite purple because of lack of fixing time. To correct that problem, you can throw it in the darkroom fixer to eliminate some of the purple. As for the darkroom, we used plain Kodak B&W paper and Dektol. Hope that helps.

-- Patrick O'Sullivan (, August 02, 2000.

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