Tabular: terrific or terrible? Your opinions, please.

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DREW WILEY

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aparat - everything depends on the specific film involved and exactly how it is developed. For example, traditional ri-X users often boost shadow placement way up in order to boost these onto the straight line section of the curve, and create what is termed a "thick" (very dense) negative. Well, that approach worked decently for old low-contrast contact printing papers, but is rather counterproductive today, often blowing out the highlights when using regular papers.

When people try to apply the same stubborn ZS mentality to TMax film, it's no different. Since they overexpose it, then, in order to rein the highlights back down, they have to use heavy-handed compensation or minus development, and doing so typically induces a sag and longer toe in the film curve, robbing them of the longer straight line way down into the shadows which they should have taken advantage of to begin with, appropriately exposing and developing for that instead. But that requires more confident metering skills way down deep, and they're often afraid of doing that. So around and around they go.
 

DREW WILEY

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Just take what you actually need from the ZS, and ignore the rest. No need to make a kooky religion out of it.
 

Sirius Glass

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I only use the Zone System for exposure and I have never used plus or minus development. No expansion or compression.
 
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aparat - All kinds of common developers work just fine with both speeds of TMax film if you do your homework first. There's no need for a special developer; and besides, the special one Kodak recommended for their sheet films is not longer made, and was always unreasonably expensive. Of course, different people have their own favorite developers. And since I use TMax films for widely different applications, I keep several developers on hand, respective to each type of application.

Don't take that old Woods quote carelessly. The original version of TMax 100 did shoulder off quickly, but that was improved long ago. And tabular grain per se has nothing to do with this; the same thing potentially happens with traditional grain films, which themselves are capable of being engineered for a wide variety of characteristic curves.

But when that Wood's infers that "variable zone placement" can be risky in cases of plus development, that's what I've been preaching all along. Since the characteristic straight line of TMax goes way down to the threshold of Z2, and if you meter carefully, that is where your threshold of perceptible shadow gradation (not pure black) should be placed. Those who default to shadow placement all the way up on the belly button of Zone 3, through either paranoia about their own metering competence, or due to stubborn custom with past films, unquestionably and unnecessarily risk blowing out the highlights. It's their own fault, and not that of the film. But this does reinforce the fact as well as stereotype of TMax films needing more careful metering than many other films. Like I stated earlier, it's a film for responsible adults, and not for shoot-from-the-hip Billy the Kid types.

The combination of TMax and D76 was indeed a just a convenient marketing marriage, and not necessarily an ideal one at all. They PR contracted John Sexton to go out and shoot and develop with this specific combination, even though people soon learned the benefits of other developers instead. For critical technical applications, D76 almost never gets chosen; but as a middle of the road routinely-available Ford/Chevy kind of developer, it's certainly usable. It puts too much sag in the middle of the curve for me, and hence an extended toe sweep too, which I find counterproductive to choosing this film in the first place. If I want that effect, there are cheaper films like FP4 which deliver it.

One lab I use develops my Tmax 100 and 400 with XTOL and the other uses D76 equivalent (Clayton F76+). I don't push or pull and shoot mainly landscapes. If you were me, not you, which would be better?
 
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aparat

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Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, when the tabular-grain films were first introduced, there was a lot of buzz in the community, including photography magazines, trade journals, and books. Here are a couple of quotes from the great photography textbook by Hicks and Schultz (1997). I find it fascinating to discover these kinds of statements in the literature. We take these films for granted today, but they were quite an achievement back in the day, weren't they?

Annular development:
"The reason these big crystals can give fine grain is that each of them is designed to form image centers at the edges, so each crystal gives (or can give) several image centers. Develop these and your are left in effect with lots of tiny image centers which overlap: fine grain, but high speed and good density. This is called "annular" development, and it explains why overexposure and over-development can lead to such bad results with "new technology" films: the whole grain develops, and you end up with worse grain that you would get from a conventional film."

Spectral sensitivity:
"It is also worth adding that undyed Kodak T-grains are very nearly transparent to blue light, so blue sensitivity is much lower than might normally be expected. Some compensation is afforded by increased sensitivity via red dye sensitization, and examination of published wedge spectrograms will confirm this."

Here are a few of the published spectral sensitivity plots for the tabular-grain films. They all have a dip around 500 nm. I am still working on being able to do my own "wedge" spectrograms. For now, we can look at those:

Fujifilm Acros II


KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 100


KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400


ILFORD DELTA 100
[url=https://flic.kr/p/2ocUqzg]
 

DREW WILEY

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Get a roll of Tech Pan, Nicholas? I don't think any of it has even been coated the past 40 years. It took about another 29 years for the last of the inventory to be sold from Kodak's stockpile; but anything today is going to need some luck to find, and might or might not still be any good. Tech Pan was one of the very films TMX100 was designed to replace, though there was some overlap for awhile.

But I personally have no need of testing it for pictorial use. Already did that long ago. And pretty much everyone came to the same conclusion as myself.
 

AZD

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Well, despite the fact that I’ve never clicked with TMax 100, it is going to be my new favorite film. A bulk loader I got in a deal about a year ago had way more than I realized. Just finished rolling out a dozen 35-exposure rolls, and that’s in addition to the 2-3 I had already used for testing. Here’s hoping I figure it out in 420 frames!
 

DREW WILEY

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aparat - seeming minor spectrogram differences at the red end sometimes actually have significant practical implications. For example, you can successfully use a 25 medium red filter with Acros with a 3 EV filter factor; but if you try the deep red 29, it acts like neutral density, and even a 4EV correction won't retrieve any visual information past about 630 nm. TMX handles 29 red quite well, and D100 OK at least. Note how the Acros orthopan spectrogram abruptly crashes BEFORE 650 nm, TMX distinctly afterwards.

That might seem a minor distinction in general landscape photography, but has huge implications for certain technical applications like RGB color separations, which TMX was specifically designed to do well, since dye transfer printing was still a commercial option when TMX first came out. But some people still use TMX for color separations today, along with alt color printing processes, since it's the best film for that (or they did, and might again if they can still afford it in sheet version).

To get an orthopan ACROS look with TMX or TMY, use a light-yellow green Hoya X0 or Wratten no. 11 filter with 1 EV filter factor; to do the same with D100, you need to apply a 1-1/2 EV factor.
 
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warden

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Well, despite the fact that I’ve never clicked with TMax 100, it is going to be my new favorite film. A bulk loader I got in a deal about a year ago had way more than I realized. Just finished rolling out a dozen 35-exposure rolls, and that’s in addition to the 2-3 I had already used for testing. Here’s hoping I figure it out in 420 frames!

Score!
 

braxus

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I really like TMAX 400. It is one of the few tabular grain films I actually warmed too. The other was Acros 100. I used TMAX 100 exclusively (for the B&W film selection) in my college days. I never really warmed to it as much as the others. Even though TMAX 100 was basically to be a clone or replacement for Panatomic X (another favorite film of mine), I felt TMX lacked a bit of the magic or glow I was getting out of Pan X. It seemed flat to me. Lack of grain was part of that. Pan X had slightly larger (and random) grain to give it texture, while TMX just looks too much like digital. I did a test of Pan X, Acros 100, and TMX and made a video out of it. I prefer traditional grain most of the time when I shoot B&W. Being larger and random is the reason why.

 

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@aparat The spectrogram for Delta 100 was made with 2850K light source, so you can expect blue sensitivity to be greater than what you see there. Likewise, red sensitivity isn't that high.
 

relistan

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I really like TMAX 400. It is one of the few tabular grain films I actually warmed too. The other was Acros 100. I used TMAX 100 exclusively (for the B&W film selection) in my college days. I never really warmed to it as much as the others. Even though TMAX 100 was basically to be a clone or replacement for Panatomic X (another favorite film of mine), I felt TMX lacked a bit of the magic or glow I was getting out of Pan X. It seemed flat to me. Lack of grain was part of that. Pan X had slightly larger (and random) grain to give it texture, while TMX just looks too much like digital. I did a test of Pan X, Acros 100, and TMX and made a video out of it. I prefer traditional grain most of the time when I shoot B&W. Being larger and random is the reason why.



Nice comparison, thanks!
 

JParker

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Another quote from the same article: "Ilford engineers state that Delta is less taxing on both film developer and fixer than Kodak's T-MAX."

I can confirm this. Fixing times of Ilford Delta films are about the same as for conventional grain films.
T-Max films do need a much longer fixing time.

For developers: With the (semi)compensating developers I have used so far I got the wanted compensating effect with Delta 100 and 400. So both Deltas behaved the same and unproblematic as FP4+ and HP5+.
With T-Max 100 and 400 it has been more difficult, as only one developer (FX-39 II) - and that only in higher dilution (1+19) - produced a semi-compensating effect as intended.
Otherwise I always got a straigt, linear curve even with normally (semi)compensating developers.

I am sure we can find lots of other information in old journals and forum posts. Therefore, it would be great if you all could share your more recent experiences with these films, and, in particular, tell us your preferences for different types of photography and different types of workflow.

I really like tabular grain emulsions because of their much better detail rendition: I can make much bigger enlargements with them compared to traditional emulsions.
 
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DREW WILEY

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I use identical fixing times for all of them. No problem, ever. For semi-compensation with TMax100, try Perceptol 1:3. But don't try that with TMY400, or you might find the result too grainy. (For TMY, Perceptol 1:1 is fine.) With either, by far the most flexible developer per degree of dilution is HC-110; but I wouldn't term it compensating.

Anon Y. - Thanks for bringing that to attention. When viewing spectrograms on tech sheets, it's important to note the light source involved, whether daylight or tungsten, or one will get the wrong impression.

Braxus - to this day I can't figure out your comparison of the "look" of TMax to "digital". Can anyone else? But I'll admit, I can't even detect the remarkable similarity of a rhinoceros to a flamingo yet. Just follow my developer advice right above, and that should cure your
too-smooth grain complaint. It worked for me.
 
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JParker

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For semi-compensation with TMax100, try Perceptol 1:3.

Thanks for the recommendation. But I am generally not a big fan of powder developers (for several different reasons). I prefer liquid developers.
In the ISO 100 range I have also meanwhile focussed on Delta 100 and Acros II. I prefer them to TMX.

But don't try that with TMY400, or you might find the result too grainy. (For TMY, Perceptol 1:1 is fine.)

For TMY-2 I am using FX-39 II with very good results. In lower dilution for a straight curve, and with higher dilution for a semi-compensating effect when needed. Very flexible solution with excellent sharpness and resolution.

With either, by far the most flexible developer per degree of dilution is HC-110; but I wouldn't term it compensating.

Used it in the past, but HC-110 create often a more hanging curve (at least with the films I used with it), which I don't like.
Also sharpness and fineness of grain are not so good with HC-110 (also confirmed by Kodak in their developer comparison chart).
 

DREW WILEY

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Depends. I use HC-110 only in relation to large format sheet film, so a bit larger grain is a non-issue. Sag in the curve or not also all depends. I know how to cure that, even at a very low contrast gamma. But HC-110 is not my go-to developer for pictorial applications anyway, just certain technical lab tasks using TMax.

I haven't personally tried FX-39 yet, so can't comment on that. But thanks for the tip.
 
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These are beautiful photographs. I am not going to comment on graininess because there are too many variables involved to be sure.

Thanks. I'm glad you liked them. Regarding the grain, I kinda like the Tmax 400. Tmax 100 seems a little more sterile, almost too perfect. Also, 400 gives me two extra stops to freeze blowing leaves in the wind. That's something to think about when shooting landscapes, especially in larger formats because you stop down a lot more.
 

braxus

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Braxus - to this day I can't figure out your comparison of the "look" of TMax to "digital". Can anyone else? But I'll admit, I can't even detect the remarkable similarity of a rhinoceros to a flamingo yet. Just follow my developer advice right above, and that should cure your
too-smooth grain complaint. It worked for meme.
It's the super clean look with lack of grain and lower contrast. That's what I meant when I said it looks like digital.
 

DREW WILEY

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What makes you think it's inherently "lower contrast"??? Few general purpose films can achieve as high a contrast gamma if needed as Tmax. That an engineered-in well-known fact. Most people think of TMax as a "higher contrast" film. But it's really remarkably flexible in that respect, depending on its specific development. If you prefer a little more visible grain, simply use TMY400 instead. But you've already figured that out. "Random" grain clustering, however, disappeared once the second version of 400-speed TMax came out quite a long time back.
 

braxus

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In the shots I've taken with TMX, it didn't have the bite or contrast like Tri-X which I loved. Im sure a lot of it is in how the film is shot and developed, as well as scanned, but when I've worked with it, lower contrast, or should I say more mid tones than anything else, is what I ended up with. It looked flatter to me. But thats just my results. Im sure if I worked with the film more, I'd get closer to the look I'd like. I just felt the other films I've used already did it for me without my changes to my workflow, scanning, etc.
 
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