I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with monochrome film. In 35mm format, I’ve often found it wanting. People who wax lyrical about Ilford HP5+ are, in my opinion, making a big noise about something I just don’t appreciate – the chunky grain, the detail lost in dark shadows – I don’t get it. Maybe the failing was my own – I’ve always developed my own film at home, and I’m slapdash at best with my temperatures, timings, and often vigorous sloshing about of chemicals.
What I’m trying to get at, is that I much prefer colour film to black and white. I love the variety of colour film – think about Lomochrome Purple vs Kodak Portra, the psychedelic colours against the realistic skin tones. I’ve found my staple colour film stock – Fujifilm Superia 400 – to be pretty flexible, even in low-light situations. I’ve used it on nights out, during walkabouts in Bristol, and love how saturated it gets in low light. How could a black and white film ever compare to that?
Or so I thought, until I picked up a roll of Kodak’s T-Max P3200 film. Rereleased in April 2018, it’s actually an ISO 800 film, but can be happily pushed to 1600 or 3200 (as explained here
). I tested a roll of it on a trip to the SS Great Britain, as well as on a night out afterwards – in the Olympus XA4, of course, the perfect walking-about camera.
I thought it would be a good test – switching between the dark interior of a historical ship, and the brighter deck, should stretch the latitude of the film as much as possible. My XA4 only goes up to 1600 on the ISO dial, but I thought that would be plenty for what I had in store. I was right – everything I threw at it, it handled perfectly. I shot in daylight and almost complete darkness, and got useable images, even good ones, from the T-Max.
This time, I left the developing to the good people at FilmDev – much less stressful, and their scans are much cleaner than mine. I’m always pleased with their results, and this time is no exception. I don’t think my years-old bottle of Rodinal would have produced such good results, and these days I develop so few rolls myself, it’s not worth replenishing very often.
I’m pleased with both the sharpness and detail obtained from these 35mm negatives – none of the washed-out grey I dislike so much in black and white film. The images posted below only have a small amount of Clarity added in Lightroom – nothing else.
I’m pretty blown away by the detail in these shots. They were taken in almost complete darkness, lit just by the dim streetlights of The Fleece (above left), resting the camera on a picnic bench. The fact that I can still get fun shots without lugging around a tripod and flash, make T-Max P3200 a fantastic film stock for nights out. Sure, it’s not a budget film, but it’s worth the extra few pounds, for the results.