I’m curious what people think of the dim view of t-grain films taken by Troop and Anchell in the Film Developing Cookbook (1998), pp. 14–15. In an aside, they call them “inferior” and chalk them up to the need to reduce silver content by penny-pinching manufacturers. That seems a bit hyperbolic since in the main text they point out that t-grain films offer finer grain and better sharpness/higher resolution. (See the higher resolution figures for t-grain films than conventional films posted by Henning Serger on this forum.) Still, T&A point out that this requires trade-offs, some already mentioned here: t-grain films require more exacting control of time and temperature in development and have less latitude for underexposure (and overexposure?). But I was interested in their claim that another trade-off is that the flatter-but-larger shape of tabular grain increases micro contrast at the cost of “smooth gradation of fine highlight detail” found in more classic films. Of course, the latter is harder (impossible?) to measure; the curves published here show macro contrast. But is this trade-off something experienced photographers have noticed?
I’m just getting back into film, and am drawn to Tri-X—perhaps partly because that was what I used when I first learned the art, as a kid, now many years ago—and I think Kentmere 400 looks great. (Of course, Tri-X is no longer the same either: Anchell laments the loss of older, gritty, cubic grain to the new Tri-X made of “semi-ﬂat grain ﬁlm with color-dye sensitizers” in Darkroom Cookbook , p. 36.) The linear curve of TMX produces a wide, lovely range of tones evidenced by some of the examples posted here, but I have shied away from TMX so far because I’m interested in film as a change from the digital look of a grain-free, linear response with quick-to-clip (or blow-out) highlights. Is the preference for conventional grain just a sentimental attachment to the analog noise of film grain, as an escape from the digital grid? Or is it also that films with more of a shoulder to the curve handle highlights and overexposure more gracefully (which I see as a real benefit of film)? And can we see real differences in micro contrast, fine highlight detail, gradation, etc., between the different film types, as T&A claim? (They recommend overexposing by up to 2 stops and underdeveloping by 20–30% to reduce micro contrast and improve the gradation of t-grain films.)
It is interesting to hear some prefer Delta 100, which, according to Anchell and Troop’s description, has a slightly more conventional grain shape than TMX, even as others hold out TMX as the technically “superior” film (according to measurements of film speed, finer grain, etc.).
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