Covering the results of experimenting with Kodak Tri-X 400, this article picks up from my original Kodak Tri-X 400 review and will show you single-stop pushes from EI 400 all the way up to EI 12800. It’s also been supplemented with part one of the High EI Shootout, which takes Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak T-MAX 400, ILFORD HP5 PLUS and ILFORD Delta 400 to EI 12800 and part two, which takes the same films to EI 25600!

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 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”.

Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 400
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 400

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 EI 3200, 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 IE 800 and go up one stop from there until we hit EI 12800 (five stops over box speed). Prepare yourself for a wall of pictures.

TRI-X at ISO800

Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 800
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 800
Experimenting with Kodak Tri-X 400 - Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 400
Experimenting with Kodak Tri-X 400 – Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 400
Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 800
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 800

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 EI 1600:

TRI-X at EI 1600

Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 1600
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 1600
Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 1600
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 1600
Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 1600
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 1600

TRI-X at EI 3200

EI 3200 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 EI 3200 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.

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Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 3200
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 3200
Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 3200
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 3200
Kodak TRI-X 400 - shot at EI 3200
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 3200

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 EI6400

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.

Kodak TRI-X 6400 - shot at EI 6400
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 6400
Kodak TRI-X 6400 - shot at EI 6400
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 6400
Kodak TRI-X 6400 - shot at EI 6400
Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at EI 6400

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 EI 12800 – the final push

Here’s the final push, as it were. TRI-X pushed five stops to EI12800. 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!

Kodak TRI-X 12800 - shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 – shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 - shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 – shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 - shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 – shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 - shot at EI 12800
Kodak TRI-X 12800 – shot at EI 12800

And there we have it

We’re done. There’s a small part of me that wants to try an EI 25600 push on this film just to see what will happen.  I’ve seen some great results from Ilford HP5 PLUS and Delta 3200 Professional shot at this speed, so you never know what you might find one EMULSIVE in the future. 

As the last word from me, here are development times for Kodak Tri-X 400 as used/refined by me over the past few years for EI 400 up to 25600 in Rodinal and Kodak HC-110.

~ EM

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  1. Great article. I’ve been pushing tri-x to 1600 quite a bit but never considered going even further, super interesting! I did have one question, though. When you said:
    “if you’re careful, you can still get useable results”
    Can you expand on that more? For us newbies how do you meter “carefully”? What are the considerations/process there?

  2. Just a follow-up from myself to this one. In my original attempt I developed with a 1:50 dilution at 20° for three hours. I have repeated my test now at 23°, first with a 1:50 dilution and then with 1:25, keeping the time at about 3h, with agitation every 30 minutes. Increasing the temperature and even the dilution to as much as 1:25 actually has no significant impact on the negatives, from visual inspection, the difference between 1:50@20° and 1:25@23° is probably not more than about half a stop. It looks more or less as no matter how much developer I throw at the Tri-X 400, it won’t give me more than EI 1600.
    What *do* differ significantly though is the base fog. Already with 1:50@23°, the unexposed film base is so dense (in a neutral gray tone) that I can imagine it being difficult to wet-print anything from the film. When I took out the film I just developed with 1:25@23°, the film looked as if it was not fixed properly, so I put it back in fresh fixer to fix once more. The base is still denser, and there is not much more detail in the actually exposed areas.
    I would appreciate if you could give some more details about your method, since when I try to replicate what you seem to have done, as you can see, I obviously get very different results.

  3. I am usually doing stand development and my standard combination for medium to low-light photography has been HP5+ exposed at EI 1600 in Rodinal 1+100 for 120 minutes. The result is of course a bit grainy, but the density is quite ok, contrast is well under control and the negatives can easily both be wet-printed and scanned.
    Having read about ‘ultra pushing’ of the Tri-X 400 for a long time on the net, I have done many a futile attempt without much success. After reading your article a few days ago and having some rolls of Tri-X laying around together with a fresh bottle of Rodinal, I decided to give it another attempt. My latest attempts have probably all been with a 1+100 dilution, but seing that you are using 1+50 I decided to go for that. So I shot a 135 roll starting with EI 400, shot a few frames of the same motive and repeated in one stop steps all the way up to EI 25.600. I then spooled the film onto my Jobo reel, mixed 500ml water with 10ml Rodinal and developed for 3:20h, with a few swirls about every 30 minutes. Temperature was around 20°C. The results were similar to my last attempts and less than satisfying:
    EI400: The negatives were clearly overexposed, quite dense, but could probably with some lack of definitions in the highlights still have been printed.
    EI800: From a visual inspection of the negiatves, the EI with ‘normal’ exposure.
    EI1600: Already quite thin negatives, but still probably feasible to scan and wet-print.
    EI3200: Very thin negatives. I doubt that these could either be scanned nor wet-printed without severe loss of shadow detail.
    This lines up with my previous experience with the Tri-X. When doing stand development, increasing the developing time and now even the concentration of the developer, does not seem to have much effect on the results. I am not able to get usable results beyong EI800 or EI1600, a mere 1-2 stops push.
    Are you having a secret, which you are not revealing, or are you doing something completely different? I see that you are developing at 23°C, but I wouldn’t expect a few degrees difference to have such a significant impact.

  4. Great experiment. It´s really helpfull. Tri-x 400 on D76 pushing to 1600 and 3200 wich time wolud you recomend?
    I`ve tried and come with nice results with Ilford PAN 400 pushin to 3200 with D-76
    Step 1: D76 (stock) 11:00 minutes total. 1:30 minutes still (no agitation) 1 minute of continuous agitation complete till 11:00 minutes agitating 15 seconds every 1 minute.
    Step 2: D76 (1+1) 10 minutes still (discard after using)

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It was really helpful. I ll be trying this on my tri-x 400 @ 1600. Thanks again.

    1. Based on what I know, most regular night, or low light shooters will shoot at box speed because reciprocity is easier to deal with. That said, I’m always up for a challenge and will give it a shot (literally), as soon as I can get to it. Thanks for the suggestion, Daniel.

  6. What’s your stand development time with rodinal 1:50 for 1600? I’m stand developing with rodinal at 1:100 for 90min and digging the results but I’m interested to try 1:50..

    1. Hi Brad, sorry about the delay in replying to your question. EI 1600 in Rodinal 1:50 at 20c would be 29:00 based on 1 minute of continuous agitation followed by 5 seconds each minute thereafter. Hope that helps and please share your results!

    1. First you need to set your camera or meter to a higher ISO. From there, either higher shutter speeds, or smaller available aperture can both help.
      Let’s say you’re shooting during the day time and have your meter/camera set to ISO 1600. Your camera tells you that you can shoot f8 + 1/500. If you want to shoot at ISO 6400, you need to increase your shutter speed two stops, or make your lens aperture smaller. EG: Two stops more would mean you could shoot at f8 + 1/2000, f11 + 1/1000, or f16 + 1/500. You just need to make sure that you shoot the entire roll at the same ISO, as well as push it in development.
      Hope that helps.

  7. Hello,
    Wonderful article. Very much appreciate all you wok explaining the film.
    In the section, TRI-X at ISO6400, each of the three photo labels read, Kodak TRI-X 400 – shot at ISO1600. It should read 6400.

  8. Your shots are so inspirational. I LOVE the look of Tri-X pushed. What is the time that you use for the stand development for the Rodinal at 1:50?

    1. For ISO3200 it was 115min with 1 min initial agitaion followed by 20 secs about every 30 mins at 23c / 73f. Higher ISOs require much more time! 165min for ISO6400 and 225min for ISO12500. At the higher end, agitating every 10 mins will pull the time down to about 120mins!

  9. I am wondering about the negatives themselves. I assume you are scanning all these negatives but do you feel they get thin with such a high push? When printing in the darkroom this might become an issue and make the negatives more difficult to print properly.
    This test inspires me to repeat the test for myself and see how I like the results, because I never scan and only print.

    1. Thanks! I just started very recently, so still in the process of writing the initial content.
      As soon as I have my results I will let you know via these comments or twitter! 🙂

    2. Roy, you’re absolutely correct. At the upper limits of this test I found that the negatives became too troublesome to use for printing, so instead I’ve had to settle with digital scans and printing for my keeper shots. I’d be keen to see your results from a wet print at ISO6400 and up. Great website by the way!

  10. These are compelling results especially in the higher end of your sensi scale. However, if I may, the real trick is the nature of the light ie under daylight you can indeed obtain amazingly good results at sky level EI, under tungsten light this is a completely different ball game from my experience.
    The film doesn’t have nearly as much sensitivity to yellowish light than it has to blue light, so exposing interior shots at 12800 will yield to far more equivocal conclusions and more importantly tonal separation …
    No bad blood wanted here, I do appreciate the work a post like this requires.
    Just grateful to have the opportunity to share a personal fustration with exposing high EI under tungsten light on Black and White film is all.

    1. Alexis, thanks for the comment.
      Some really interesting points there. I actually shot that last roll at 12800 because of how flat/gray the light was that day.
      Whilst I plan on trying it again on a brighter day (today perhaps!), I hadn’t considered shooting at a high EI indoors AND under tungsten light until now. Great advice, thanks.
      Do you have any indoor high EI examples you can share? I’d be really interested in seeing them.