Monday, 17 February 2014

Kodak T-Max P3200

Kodak T-Max P3200
Nearly three years ago I wrote a post about Ilford Delta 3200, and at the time cited Kodak T-Max P3200 as being the other ultra-high speed film available, which was true at the time of writing. However in October 2012 Kodak announced, due to low demand, T-Max P3200 was being discontinued. [Edit 23/2/18: Kodak have announced that T-Max P3200 is being re-introduced.] It would be interesting to see the relative volume of sales for Delta 3200 against T-Max P3200, but one advantage that Ilford's film always had over T-Max P3200 was its availability in medium format as well as 35mm. The two emulsions are similar: these are both tabular grain films with a true speed around 1000 ISO. As fast films tend to have a lower contrast range, and both have the latitude to be rated 3200 and provide acceptable results with this push. Incidentally, this would appear to be the reason for the 'P' in P3200, acknowledging the 'push' when used at the box speed of 3200. The reason for writing a blog post about Kodak T-Max P3200 now, rather than when it was announced that it was to be discontinued, was that I recently decided to shoot a couple of rolls I'd been storing in my fridge for some time; one roll had a develop before date of 2011, the other 2001. In my experience faster films lose more sensitivity with age: I usually buy a Ilford Delta 3200 as and when I need the film, rather than keeping rolls in storage.

Kodak T-Max P3200 (sometimes referred to as TMZ from its emulsion code) appeared on the market in 1988, and it took Ilford another ten years to respond with Delta 3200 (Fuji similarly released a Neopan 1600, also now discontinued). For some, the benefits of such a fast film are marginal: with the right development both Kodak and Ilford 400 speed films can be pushed 3 stops to 3200, and indeed Kodak's discontinuation notice recommends using T-Max 400, pushed to 1600 as a replacement. However, for handheld night photography (for which I've often used Delta 3200), the increased contrast with push processing a slower film can be an issue as night scenes often tend to be high contrast in nature. The Kodak discontinuation notice admits this, stating that "The exception [to replacing P3200 with T-Max 400] would be extremely low light situations where P3200 might be able to pull out some shadow detail that would otherwise be lost".

Kodak T-Max P3200, developed in ID11 stock solution, 12 minutes at 20º C.
Kodak T-Max P3200, developed in ID11 stock solution, 12 minutes at 20º C.
I first used T-Max P3200 in the mid-1990s, and in my post on Delta 3200 I wrote about the kind of subject that I often desired to photograph at the time, frequently the low light situations such a fast film was produced for. As Kodak T-Max P3200 was more expensive, I tended to use HP5 Plus, push processed to 800, 1600 or 3200 in these situations instead. Developed in ID11, P3200 yielded relatively smooth grain when exposed properly. For the two rolls of P3200 shot recently, I used Ilfotec LC29 developer; Rodinal (and latterly the R09 One Shot version) has been my film developer of choice for about seven years, but, as any developer, it's not ideal for all situations, especially with the fastest and most grainy films. The grain appears more prominent in the negatives developed with Ilfotec LC29 compared to ID11.

Kodak T-Max P3200 (develop before date of October 2011),
developed in Ilfotec LC29, 1:19, 11 minutes at 20ºC.
Kodak T-Max P3200 (develop before date of September 2001),
developed in Ilfotec LC29, 1:19, 12m30s at 19ºC.
Of the two rolls I've shot in the last couple of months, that with a "develop before" date of September 2001 had noticeable fogging when developed, leading to quite evident grain in the shadow areas; the film with a 2011 date provided better results, less fog, and appeared to give sharper negatives with a better tonal range. Although I hardly ever used Kodak T-Max P3200, it's always unfortunate when an emulsion disappears from the market, shrinking the range of available films, and many photographers will miss it (see the elegies below); Ilford Delta 3200 now remains as the only ultra-fast film.

Further reading: 
Goodbye T-Max P3200 on the Online Photographer
The Demise Of Kodak TMAX P3200 John Vlahakis
Kodak P3200 T-MAX R.I.P. on Wallace Koopmans Artlog
Time To Start Hoarding: Kodak discontinues T-MAX P3200 film on Imaging Resource

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Rollei RPX 100

Rollei RPX 100 in 35mm and medium format
Since writing the post on Rollei RPX 400 last November, Maco have introduced RPX 25 to the range, repackaged the existing films, and, inevitably, prices have gone up. Macodirect no longer offer the 35mm films in twin packs (as in the image above) and nor are the medium format films sold in packs of five, although discounts are offered on orders of 10 or more. However, at €3.59 for a 35mm roll, and €3.90 medium format, the prices are still low. As I mentioned in the post on RPX 400, there are few stockists for the Rollei RPX films in the UK; at the time of writing West End Cameras' prices remain the same at £4 per film in either format. (Edit 20/2/14: Silverprint are now stocking the range of RPX films, with both RPX 400 and RPX 100 retailing at £3.60).

Rollei RPX 100 latitude test contact sheet
Following my results with Rollei RPX 400, I was keen to pursue the same basic test procedures for Rollei RPX 100. As before, I began with a latitude test, shown on the contact sheet above. The first six frames are rated, left to right, 25-50-100-200-400-800; the next six frames in the second row run 25-25-50-100-200-400; the third row was shot at 100 and at 50 for some bracketing. The film was developed in Rodinal diluted 1:25 for 9 minutes at 20ºC, the manufacturer's recommended time for the box speed of 100 ISO. Although I've printed the contact sheet a little dark to clearly show the detail in the shadow areas, the results show the film to have very similar qualities to RPX 400, notably a similar latitude range, with the same transparent base and tonal rendering.

Rollei RPX 100 at box speed, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 9 minutes at 20º
The data sheet for Rollei RPX 100 from Maco also gives development times when rated 50 and 200 (the Massive Dev Chart also provides times for the same range). I rarely find the need to pull process film, but for completeness, I shot a second roll at 50 EI, and developed for 7 minutes at 20ºC. Although my latitude test appeared to show the film could be exposed at 50 without changing the developing times, one of the benefits of pulling the film would be, in theory, to reduce the contrast of the negatives. This is not especially evident in the results from this roll, although as I did not shoot the same subjects, in the same lighting conditions, as with the first film rated 100, this doesn't give a truly meaningful comparison.

Rollei RPX 100 at 50 EI, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 7 minutes at 20º
I also pushed the film to 200 and, exceeding the manufacturer's recommended settings, also to 400 EI. At 200, developed at the recommended times in Rodinal 1:25 for 13 minutes at 20ºC, the film's qualities do not appear to be compromised, although the contrast is a little higher, more clearly seen by examining the negatives side by side with those rated 100 and 50.

Rollei RPX 100 at 200 EI, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 13 minutes at 20º
Rollei RPX 100 at 200 EI, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 13 minutes at 20º
Having seen some examples of RPX 100 pushed to 400 on Flickr, I wanted to see how the film would perform at a push of two stops. I erred on the side of over-development and used a time of 18 minutes in Rodinal 1:25 at 20ºC. Ordinarily such a push wouldn't be recommended but if circumstances required it (such as failing light or needing to use a faster shutter speed for moving subjects), it works well enough. The push of two stops has clearly raised the contrast of the images, but the highlights have held detail well. The detail in the shadows is notably less, but depending on the subject matter (and the aesthetics one is after) this isn't too problematic. This could be countered to some degree by using a higher dilution of developer, although as I wanted to keep the times relatively short, I kept with a dilution of Rodinal 1:25.

Rollei RPX 100 at 400 EI, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 18 minutes at 20º
Rollei RPX 100 at 400 EI, developed in Rodinal 1:25, 18 minutes at 20º
From the (admittedly limited) tests, and subject matter, made for this blog post, my conclusions on Rollei RPX 100 are very similar to those for RPX 400: it's a good, versatile, black and white film with relatively fine grain, and the look of a traditional emulsion, available in 35mm and medium format at a very competitive price.