Experimenting with Kodak TRI-X from EI 800 to 12800
This article picks up from our original Kodak Tri-X 400 review and will show you single-stop pushes from ISO400 all the way up to ISO12800. It’s also recently been supplemented with part one of the High EI Shootout, which takes Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak T-MAX 400, Ilford HP5+ and Ilford Delta 400 to EI12800 and part two, which takes the same films to EI25600!
All the images featured in this test were metered with the same Sekonic L-308S light meter using a reflective or incident reading, as required.
Got a few hours?
There’s almost to too much to talk about here. I shoot TRI-X in both 35mm and 120 formats and it’s one of the films I carry with me every day (I’m normally walking around with one or two rolls ready to shoot and five rolls loaded in the day pack).
I have the added luxury of being able to develop my own black and white film. One of the (welcome) side-effects of being able to control my own developing process, is that I’m pretty much able to mess around as I feel. Couple this with my zen-like approach to BW development and the results can get “interesting”.
As I’ve mentioned already a few times, this film is incredibly flexible and will lend itself to almost every lighting condition. Whilst it handles very well in mixed light up to around ISO3200, my experience is that if you find yourself in low or failing natural light, you should over expose this film around half to one stop for the ISO you’re metering it at. If you happen to be indoors with artificial lighting, simply meter for the subject and you should be fine.
If it’s your first time playing around, I’d really suggest bracketing your shots so that you can compare later.
Right, let’s see how far we can push.
Pushing Kodak TRI-X 400
We’re going to start by pushing this film one stop to ISO800 and go up one stop from there until we hit ISO12800 (five stops over box speed). Prepare yourself for a wall of pictures.
TRI-X at ISO800
So far, so good. Pushing the film has naturally bumped the contrast a little. When push processing black and white film I normally try to stick to a stand development with Rodinal at 1:50, or even using a highly diluted concentration of Kodak’s own HC-110. Let’s have a look at ISO1600:
TRI-X at ISO1600
TRI-X at ISO3200
ISO3200 is Kodak’s suggested limit for pushing this film. However we’ll see below that it’ll go much further than that. Let’s take a look at an ISO3200 push below. It actually holds up pretty well. I’m especially happy with the completely unexpected shadow detail in the second shot. Try doing that with a color film, whilst also pushing it three stops.
Pushing film needn’t result in blocked out shadows and super high contrast. If you’re careful with your metering, you can still get fine detail in the shadows.
TRI-X at ISO6400
So here we are, pushing one stop faster than the manufacturer’s recommendation. I find that if you’re careful, you can still get useable results. see below.
It’s pretty grainy but WOW. The first picture really blows me away. The camera I was using that day is unreliable but has a remarkable lens. I still look for faults in exposure every time I revisit this shot.
TRI-X at ISO12800 – the final push
Here’s the final push, as it were. TRI-X pushed five stops to ISO12800. I’ll be honest, I screwed up the development. It was a very grey and rainy day. No light, no fun. BUT the results are still useable, very useable in fact.
Next time I try such a high push, I’ll make sure I choose a day with a little more light!
And there we have it
We’re done. There’s a small part of me that wants to try an ISO25600 push on this film just to see what will happen. I’ve seen some great results from Ilford HP5+ and Delta 3200 Pro shot at this speed, so you never know what you might find one EMULSIVE in the future. As the last word from me, I’d like to invite you to view the images featured in this experimentation review, as well as Kodak’s Tri-X 400 technical datasheet below.
Contribute to EMULSIVE
EMULSIVE NEEDS YOU. The driving force behind EMULSIVE is knowledge transfer, specifically engendering more of it in the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas.
Help drive an open, collaborative community – all you need do is drop us a line and we’ll work something out.