Kodak T-Max 400 Film Review | Capturing the Desert in Black and White

High contrast with fine grain — the middle ground for perfection in a black and white film stock.

Marfa Kodak T Max 5

I loved the opportunity to try out Kodak T-Max 400 for the first time, and shooting my first roll in Marfa, Texas made it even more fun. After shooting in Marfa, I decided to try out T-Max again, this time via a portrait session. I photographed my sister Annabelle wearing a sweater vest I had just finished knitting. Being relatively new to black and white photography (been shooting it steadily for a year now), it was high time I finally tried something new within black and white after shooting solely with Ilford film. The experience of shooting both helped me appreciate Ilford HP5 Plus 400 even more, but also showed me times that I’ll likely choose to shoot with T-Max instead.

I can attest that this film works well for both portraits and landscapes having shot both with T-Max. The process of shooting landscapes with this roll was very meditative and slow. The portraits were similar in that shooting film automatically causes you to slow down, but I was in more of a time crunch so I had to make these portraits happen relatively quickly. I had shot T-Max before at this point, having shot the roll in Marfa, so I felt comfortable and knew I could trust what was in my camera.

 

To Know:

This film is medium to high contrast with very fine grain. It is made by Kodak, one of “the OGs,” if you will (is my millennial showing?). Kodak was founded by George Eastman and he changed the game of photography forever.

What We Love:

This is a tonally rich film.

As many film photographers say, “the tooooones.” Tones mean something different in black and white than they do in color. The telltale sign of a solid black and white film stock is tonal range. You’re seeing deep blacks and brilliant whites in your images. That’s definitely the case with T-Max.

This is a sharp film.

With a less intense presence of grain, the subjects in your image will be sharper than they would be if shot with a grainer stock. This is an aesthetic choice, but one not to be ignored if you prefer sharpness.

This is a newly designed film.

Though T-Max has been around for a while, this specific formulation was just redesigned in 2007. Kodak created this film with all the things they’ve learned up until ‘07 in mind!

The Details:

Brand: Kodak

Product Type: Film

What I’d consider using it for: Portraits, daytime shooting, and landscapes.

Moment Kodak 8568214 Professional T Max 400 Film TMY120 Propack 5 Rolls thumbnail

Kodak

Professional T-Max 400 Black and White Negative 120 Film - 5 Rolls

Want the sharpest 400-speed B&W film in the world? Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 120 Film is it! In addition, it'll treat you with super fine-grain

Buy for $57.99

Shooting Experience

A huge part of the fun of film shooting is the unknown. You have no idea how your photos are going to come out until you’re pulling the negatives out of the dev tank or getting your scans back from the lab. That joy (and fear) is doubled when you’re shooting a film stock you’ve never shot before. Shooting these rolls was so fun because all I could do was meter then wonder what I was going to get. When I scanned these negatives, it was really thrilling to see the deep blacks, the stark whites, and the fine grain come through.

On the other side of shooting T-Max, I can honestly say that if I do shoot with it again, I will have full trust that I’ll get solid results. This film is still not exactly my aesthetic preference but it is undeniable that it is a beautiful stock with deep blacks and lovely whites. Both times I developed my T-Max rolls, I could see that my negatives were perfectly dense as soon as they came out of the tank. I knew I’d get solid scans from these rolls.

Results

The shots from these rolls came out great. Though I still prefer Ilford HP5 Plus 400, it’s truly just an aesthetic choice because I can’t argue that T-Max is an objectively strong film stock. I developed this roll in Ilfotec HC, did not push or pull the film, and scanned using silverfast software. The only editing I did to these photos was dust removal.

I’m very happy with the results of these scans. Though most of my black and white portfolio is made up of photos shot on HP5, it’s very likely that I will add some of these images into my collection. I mean, those vivid tones are hard to beat.

Shot on Kodak TMax 400.

What We Rate

Tones

Poor Fair Good Near Perfect

Grain Level

None Slight Texture Just Enough Pretty Hairy

Temperature

Pretty Cool Fairly Cool Fairly Warm Pretty Warm

Budget

Around $5 Around $10 Around $15 Around $20

Dynamic Range

Poor Fair Good Near Perfect

What It Has:

  • Very Fine Grain, T-GRAIN Emulsion
  • High Sharpness and Edge Detail

What It Does:

  • Shoot Panchromatic B&W Negative Film
  • ISO 400

Specs:

  • Film Type: 35mm & 120
  • Standard Black and White Chemistry
  • Film Base: Acetate