Kodak Professional T-Max 100 Film Profile

Kodak Professional T-Max 100 Film Profile

2800 1575 James Tocchio

Kodak Professional T-Max 100 is my current favorite film. I’ve said the same in the past of Fujifilm’s Superia 1600 and Ferrania’s P30, two lovely emulsions that I love to shoot. But the former is discontinued and rolls of this endangered species now cost more than $15 per (from unscrupulous eBay gougers), and the latter is in a sad state of quasi-existence. Ferrania is still doing what they can to become a long-term continually operational film producer, but until that day I won’t be shooting any P30 (and I’ll remain sad about it).

No. These days, there’s really only Kodak for me. And when I want to shoot black-and-white I’m going to choose Kodak T-Max 100. I’ll get to why that is, eventually.

What is Kodak T-Max 100

Kodak T-Max 100 is a continuous-tone panchromatic black-and-white negative film for general outdoor and indoor photography. These generic descriptors come from the brand’s data sheet, which adds that T-Max 100 offers extremely high sharpness, extremely fine grain, and very high resolving power, making it the perfect black-and-white film for detailed subjects where maximum image quality is needed. The takeaway from this is that Kodak T-Max 100’s data sheet generally reads like every other black-and-white film’s data sheet.

Of course, the details of the data sheet are interesting for people who are interested in details; reciprocity characteristics, for example. But let’s not get too bogged down. Check out the data sheet for specific answers to specific questions.

The things to know for those looking for a quick summary of T-Max 100 can be laid out in three small words; sharp, fine, slow.

Kodak T-Max 100 uses T-grain, so it will produce finer images than more traditional black-and-white films like the grain-laden Tri-X. It’s a 100 ISO film, the slowest of the T-Max lineup in fact, so it’s best suited (on paper) for use in strong light. It’s a forgiving film, but not as forgiving as some other mid-speed black-and-white emulsions.

It comes in 35mm rolls (24 and 36 exposures), 120 medium format rolls (singles and five packs), and 4×5 sheets.

Shooting Kodak T-Max 100

The best advice I can give for shooting T-Max 100 is to do so at box speed. When we’re shooting Kodak T-Max 100, we’re looking for smooth images with little to no grain, and we’re looking for rich tonality. Though the film can handle some push/pull, it’s really not intended for these acrobatics.

In instances where we’re attempting to increase or decrease contrast, the best practice is to do so with exposure time in-camera, rather than through development adjustments (though these can also be made if desired). To increase contrast, increase exposures by one or two stops and develop normally. If you’re still not getting enough contrast, increase development time by ten percent. The inverse is also true when we’re looking to decrease contrast – take ten percent off your dev time. But don’t get too wild. You’ll find that greater development adjustment simply lowers the overall quality of the image, and at that point you may as well be shooting Tri-X (I expect that our writer and resident Tri-X adherent, Josh, will be lacing up his going-to-war boots over that line – bring it on, pal).

Over- or under-exposure should be avoided, but for those moments when the light was misjudged, all is not lost. Kodak T-Max 100 can easily handle one stop of under-exposure, and two stops of over-exposure and still retain normal shadow and highlight detail. This isn’t the best on the market, but it helps in situations where we’ve made a slight error.

The film’s resolution is exceptional, as we’d likely expect from a film billed as “the finest-grained black-and-white film in the world.” I could talk about its resolution in lines per millimeter, or its granularity rating, but wouldn’t you rather read that “Kodak T-Max 100 makes images that are smoother than a silk sock full of wet, baby mice?”

There are plenty of ways to develop Kodak T-Max 100. Kodak’s data sheet will be your best cookbook.

Why I love Kodak T-Max 100

I may be flirting with anachronism, but I prefer T-Max 100 to its faster 400 speed counterpart (and certainly to the new P3200) not just because it’s finer or smoother than these films (though it is noticeably finer and smoother), but mostly because it’s slower. Shooting this stuff at box speed creates variables that I enjoy immeasurably.

The insensitivity of this 100 ISO film introduces supposed flaws into the final images, and these flaws, specifically motion blur, help me create the kinds of images that I find fundamentally appealing. My favorite images could be described more accurately as expressive rather than strictly photographic. This is coincidentally the reason I prefer to shoot a film camera over a digital camera.

I am bored by sharpness and clarity. I prefer the idea of a thing, more than the thing itself. Dreams are better than reality. How else can I say this? I detest perfection because the pursuit of it is futile and boring. Kodak T-Max 100 is not perfect, and in any light but perfect light it will make an imperfect photo. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Great review. I need to revisit this film. I’ve been shooting Tri-X almost exclusively of late because, you know, tradition. Time to give the more modern a go.

  • Could you clarify: “In instances where we’re attempting to increase or decrease contrast, the best practice is to increase exposures by one or two stops and develop normally.” I suspect you’re not really suggesting that the same technique will both increase and decrease contrast. I always thought the best way to increase contrast was to increase development.

    • Looking over that excerpt I’m seeing that it wasn’t written very clearly, so I’ve updated the post. Essentially, per Kodak’s data sheet (and my experience matches with this) adjustments for the sake of higher contrast are best performed in camera through longer exposures. If exposure compensated shots are still not contrasty enough, development time can be increased by ten to fifteen percent, but beyond that quality starts to degrade. Lessening contrast can be achieved by shortening dev times. I’m sure you know all of this and my clumsy writing just confused things. T-Max follows pretty standard rules.

  • I have had wonderful experiences shooting this film. I particularly like it for shooting finely detailed images, like ice crystals on leaves of a tree. Tmax 100 is one of my favorite films to use when shooting something like a car show where I can get amazing sharpness where I want it to call out specific automotive details while leaving the rest of the frame smoothly nebulous. I think I like Tmax 100 better than Ilford Delta 100, but it’s pretty close.

  • I do not see the pictures, only blank frames (tried on the phone, tablet and desktop computer). Am I the only one?

  • Renato F Valenzuela February 8, 2019 at 9:58 am

    better than or about the same as Acros?

    • Better, because Acros isn’t being made anymore and costs $20 per roll.

      • Zach Bielinski May 10, 2019 at 9:01 am

        Oh wow, I hadn’t realized it was up to that price in many parts of the world. I bought about 100 rolls of it last year as they were announcing it was being discontinued, for about $6 a roll. I am a big fan of it because I find that Acros pushes really nicely to 200 in D76 1+1 at 20 or 21 C. The sharpness really knocks my socks off, and scans made with my D750 and 55mm 2.8 macro lens show an astonishing amount of detail at 1:1. I went to a local festival here in Japan last week and shot nine rolls over two days.

        Like you said, it is not longer being made, so I have a 30m roll of both Delta 100 and 400 in the mail. I liked the few rolls of T-Max 100, but settled on the Ilford film for the foreseeable future as they give a fair price for the bulk film. I’ve shot about 200 rolls of film last year, so I really need to make an effort to keeps costs reasonable.

        Your website is very enjoyable to read, thank you.

  • I shoot a lot more T-Max 400 than 100 simply because I tend to do b/w in the gray winter months and color in the bright summer months. But I’ve never been let down by T-Max 100 when I’ve shot it.

  • Hey, I like to shoot T-Max 100 pushed to 400, then stand develop in dilute HC-110. Deep blacks, high contrast and fine grain. Quite possibly the complete opposite of what Kodak intended, but I really love it!

  • I like tmax 100. It looks especially good doing a land scape with a red filter. Tmax 100 is my number 1 landscape film. I shoot probs more of tmax 400 but I push it to 1600 and shoot in daylight with a 4stop nd filter. I only do this because I like the versatility of being able to take the filter off and shoot more lower light stuff.

  • This is a nice piece, James, and I love the aquarium shots. TMAX 100 has been my go-to film for years. You don’t need to shoot at box speed, as film is highly pushable, depending on the developer. I use TMAX Developer which in my opinion gives the best results. You can push up to 800, which I do, without degradation in image quality. I typically try to overexpose when shooting by about a half stop, which gives me the look I want. Rodinal also gives excellent results with TMAX 100, pushing up to 800. Acros 100 is also very fine and pushable like TMAX100, and is more contrasty in my opinion. Acros 100 is my second favorite next to TMAX 100, but like James noted, it has been discontinued. Acros 100 is still widely available in Japan, where I live, and inexpensive. A roll costs less than six dollars.

    • I mean… can I buy some Acros??? 😉

      • Ha, ha! All joking aside, James, buying Acros out of Japan is not such a crazy idea, particularly if people are paying $20/roll in the U.S. It would not take an enormous quantity to make up for shipping cost. Even if e-commerce sites like Yodobashi.com won’t ship abroad, there are overseas forwarding services that can give you a local delivery address in Japan.

  • I have tons of this stuff in my fridge, but it’s crazy expired (like 10+ years.) Really interested to see how it would turn out, but don’t get out in shooting with strong light too often.

  • You guys should definetely check out ADOX Silvermax, if you have not already.
    http://www.adox.de/Photo/adox-films-2/adox-silvermax/ This film might be worthy a piece on cp.

    • You’re so right. I’ve put our European Bureau Chief on the job. That just means I asked Jeb (who lives in Berlin) to swing by the shop and buy some. Ha!

      • Will await for your Silvermax test! As I did my last photo orders from Fotoimpex, I threw in a couple rolls of Silvermax that now sit on my desk.

        You might find interesting that Silvermax is Agfa APX100, only in 35mm because of the film base. Interestingly it comes in reusable canisters. The Agfaphoto branded APX is supposed to be made in UK by Harman and akin to Kentmere. Adox have acquired a lot of Agfa know how and even had released a beta APX400 that was cancelled due to the market placement, being TriX and HP5 very established. They’re building a small film factory and that’s worth supporting. Need more $ to fund all the formats and causes!

    • Leslie Walters July 8, 2020 at 6:24 am

      Totally agree with Adox Silvermax Brillant sharp ,atmospheric film but only used one roll before supply dried up here in UK. I developed it in ilfosol 3 and expect its even better in the adox developer

  • I shoot Silvermax. My daughter lives in Berlin and I stock up when I am there once or twice per year. Grabbed several roles of Scala last trip,as well!

  • The photo of the girl (your daughter?) looking up into the aquarium tank is absolutely stunning. Amazing image! I shot a roll of tmax in tokyo recently. I am definitely considering making it my go to b+w!

    • Thank you pal. I definitely developed for greater contrast. I’ll add some more normally exposed and developed shots when I get some good ones. Feel free to link here to your shots from Tokyo. Those must be amazing!

  • HI, do you depend on a set workflow and film expectation? If so, I can understand why you wouldn’t seek a film that may or may not be reliably available (P30). But if not a working pro, this spurning of P30 until and unless it becomes better available pretty much just helps ensure that it won’t, don’t you think?

  • johnmaustin78gmailcom March 11, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    On my screen (and this is MY problem, not yours), the whites look weak and too warm. My screen makes your images look poor and a very bad reflection on the film. Why leave this comment? I’m certain that your images are far better than I am seeing. The problem is my operating system and monitor. The color and intensity settings of my monitor make your work look awful. The same may be true of any of the readers of this page. There’s really no point in posting your work on the internet if your goal is to show people what kind of excellent craftsman you are. The final presentation of your images is out of your control and you cannot prevent “the internet + technology” from making your work appear to suck to people who view it on their monitors.

    That being said, I love the composition of your images and trust that your stuff is far far better than it appears to my personal eye-bones.

    • This is exactly the problem our local photography club has encountered. When we met in person to critique each other’s photos we were all looking at the same image – whether it was a print, projected on a screen, or viewed on a tv. Now with Zoom we’re all looking at different versions. We are so looking forward to getting back to real meetings.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio