Film Friday 15: Kodak T-Max P 3200

Winter is coming. It’s getting dark sooner. Without the high ISO capabilities of digital sensors, what or how will we ever shoot in low light without having to spend a million dollars for a fast lens?

Enter Kodak’s T-Max P 3200. Quite the drastic jump from T-Max 400. Don’t let the name fool you, the nominal speed of this film is 800-1000. But the P in name hints at what it’s designed to do. It is designed to be pushed, and it can be pushed hard.

 

T-Max P 3200 was originally discontinued in the early 2000s, but was only brought back in late 2018. People were naturally very happy with this, for two main reasons. One, it showed Kodak’s commitment to the film market. Two, there’s only one other high speed black and white film on the market, namely Ilford’s Delta 3200. It might be a niche corner of the film market, but it is a very special film as it lets you do things no other film can (except maybe Delta 3200).

You can shoot it anywhere between 400-6400 ISOs. If you want to shoot it beyond 6400, you can as well, although you’ll have to experiment with the specific developing recipes you’ll need.

Of course, this comes with a big compromise. Do you like grain? There is enough grain here to stop a famine. Do you like contrast? There is enough contrast to divide a nation. But of course, there is shadow detail to be found. It has a lot more detail in the shadows than say, Tri-X pushed to 3200. And despite the grain, this being a T-Grain film, its very sharp and fine grained. It is a lot sharper than any other film that would have to be pushed to 3200. The grain is very pleasing, as it provides a texture that is unlike digital noise!

That said, P 3200 is a very developer dependent film. Kodak’s D-76, for example, will produce horrendous results. The grain becomes messy and ugly. Blazinal (Rodinal) and Cinestill’s DF-96 monobath will produce the same thing. But HC-110 or T-Max developer will produce amazing results, with HC-110 preserving a lot of detail.

That is all great and all, but what kind of situations will you shoot this film in? Back in the day, the film was mainly used by sport and action photographers, as the fast speed allows for high shutter speeds. A lot of people used it for concerts and events as well. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that this film is only meant for low light situations. In daylight, for example, you can stop down your lens while still maintaining high shutter speeds. Do you want to zone focus while shooting at 1/500th or even 1/2000th of a second? Now you can.

That’s one thing about fast films like Portra 800 or T-Max 3200. I see a lot of people suggesting to only shoot it in low light situations. Yes, those films may cost a bit more than their slower counterparts, but the fast films let you do things in daylight that your otherwise can’t with slower films. People seem to focus a lot on bokeh and sharpness! To them I say, embrace the grain! Take in those silver crystals.

One thing to remember, however, is that you cannot create light, only make the most of what is available to you. But like the great W. Eugene Smith said, “Available light is any damn light that is available!”

The usual price for the TMAX P3200 135-36 is $15.81, but tomorrow and Saturday only, it will be $14.22! So stock up on some P 3200 in preparation for this winter, as you might not want to put the camera away once it gets to 5pm.

Here’s a few sample photos from Nicole, taken with her Pentax MZ-S, and I, taken on my Canon Elan 7n!

 

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