This past summer, I became interested in Kodak T-MAX 400 in 35mm format. I was hoping for a film stock that was a little more contrasty than ILFORD Delta and less grainy than Tri-X 400. I also chose ISO 400 film rather than ISO 100 film because I wanted a film that would have a more forgiving depth of field during the day but still be useful in low light situations. Ideally, a film that would be useful for travel shots. It had been decades since I last shot TMY and I was looking forward to taking another look at it.
My chance to try out some Kodak T-MAX 400 came up when my neighbor Tom offered to take a day trip down the Columbia. I knew the movement of the boat, the varied lighting and the range of distances would provide a great opportunity to see how this film performs. Plus, the camera I used — a Canon 7 Rangefinder with Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM — has no working light meter.
This would be a good chance to see how forgiving this film can be in a “Sunny 16” situation. The Kodak data sheet gave me hope. According to the datasheet: “Because of its great latitude, you can underexpose this film by one stop (at EI 800) and still obtain high quality with normal development”
After an afternoon traveling up and down the river—watching eagles, dodging cargo ships and smelling sea lions—I was looking forward to seeing the results.
Overall, I’m happy with the film. It provided the improved contrast and reduced grain I was hoping for. The rougher grain in the soft gray tones has more to do with the format than the film, but even so, it is not too strong and gives a good atmospheric feel to the images. The faster ISO allowed for good depth of field and faster shutter speeds on a partly cloudy day. Exactly what I was hoping for.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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