Film Emulsion Review: Kodak TMax P3200 (35mm, New Version)

Kodak TMax P3200 is one of the more exciting things to happen in film in a while.

It started with Kodak teasing the new Kodak TMax P3200 on Instagram and Twitter. Much unlike Ektachrome, Kodak TMax P3200 is actually real and you can buy it immediately. Indeed, they brought it back from the dead as the black and white film world was severely lacking in any sort of variety when it came to high ISO black and white films. Of course there’s Delta 3200, but otherwise there is nothing else out there. The re-release of Kodak TMax P3200 was seen by many to be a very good move and insight into Kodak’s commitment to film photography. At the moment, it’s only available in 35mm, but that’s more than enough for many photographers.

We’d usually list off some sort of tech specs here, but you’re much better off going to Kodak’s website and reading off the Kodak TMax P3200 PDF on it. Also, you should know that this isn’t a 3200 ISO film.

Ease of Use

Before I go on, you should again know that Kodak TMax P3200 isn’t a 3200 ISO film. That’s right; it’s not. It’s instead designed to be pushed that far. Kodak TMax P3200 is an ISO 800 film, only a stop faster than their TMax 400 film that’s been alive and well for years. Kodak TMax P3200 is instead designed to be a higher resolution and finer grain film when pushed. In comparison to Delta 3200 (which you can see here) Kodak TMax P3200 is far less grainy and in my opinion better looking. It’s not designed to look like Tri-X. Instead, Kodak TMax P3200 has T-grain; a completely different grain structure to the film.

Photographers who would make the most use of Kodak TMax P3200 are those looking for general shooting reasons, but I think street photographers and portrait shooters would make the most sense if they’re going for something in low light settings. Of course, Kodak TMax P3200 is also an ISO 800 film so it can be used for a variety of things. Where it comes to mind immediately too is with concert photography. Load some Kodak TMax P3200 into a camera and you’ll be all set to get gorgeous images with the right metering. Of course, you’ll also want to use it at night. Typically, what I do is load one camera with film for day shooting and the other has film for night shooting. In this case it’s either my Leicas or one of my point and shoots. Thanks to the DX code on the film, your camera will also read it at its native ISO unless you tell it to shoot it at something otherwise.

In my time using Kodak TMax P3200, I found it to be very high contrast as a film. But TMax in general is like that anyway.

When shooting Kodak TMax P3200 at ISO 3200, I was thinking often about what I’d need to do with Delta. Ilford recommend shooting at ISO 1600 and developing for ISO 3200. That’s exactly what I did with Kodak TMax P3200, though at other times I straight up shot it at ISO 3200. After all, that’s what it’s designed to do. At ISO 800, don’t fear metering it for that setting.

Image Quality

Kodak TMax P3200 is a beautiful film when it comes to the actual image quality. The sharpness of it is really determined by the lenses you use. For that reason, I’d honestly recommend some of the newest and highest end glass that you can get your hands on. With actual Leica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss lenses, your images are going to sing with sharpness. When using 7Artisans lenses in Leica M mount though, you should consider stopping the lens down. If you’re one of those folks who likes putting new Sony glass on their Minolta SLR or Sigma art lenses on their Canon DSLR, then this is the film you’re going to want to use.

At 800 ISO

With Kodak TMax P3200 being an ISO 800 it would make the most sense to shoot and meter the film at its native setting. When you do this, you’ll get images that arguably look more like the TMax 400 you’ve known and loved. With that said, I’d personally recommend underexposing your scenes by maybe 1/3rd or half a stop if your camera will let you. I like this look; it allows you to have more details in the highlights and also gives you added sharpness from either a faster shutter speed or stopped down lens.

Now the big decision here is whether or not you should shoot Kodak TMax P3200 or just push some Tri-X. Again, if you want higher ISO images to be very detailed, then you’d go for Kodak TMax P3200. You’re going to get more pure sharpness. Lots of photographers adore the look of Kodak Tri-X when it’s pushed. You’re going to get a grainier image for sure. If that’s what you want, then again, stick with Tri-X. Where I feel that Kodak TMax P3200 is honestly best utilized and used though is when it’s pushed. When shot at ISO 800, underexpose it a bit to get more details in the scene.

Pushed to ISO 3200

When Kodak TMax P3200 is pushed to ISO 3200, I believe this is where the film really begins to sing like a seasoned artist with a career in the opera. Of course you’re going to get more grain in the scene, but it’s going to look really nice and the details won’t be lost. For many photographers who love shooting at high ISOs, one of their biggest problems is the loss of details. Kodak TMax P3200 of course solves that problem.

In the 35mm format, the film looks fantastic and I’m excited to see what it’s capable of doing if it ever comes back in 120.

 

Conclusions

Is Kodak TMax P3200 one of my favorite black and white films? Yes. Is it my favorite? No, that nod still goes to Delta 400. But if I’m not using Delta 400 or Tri-X, then Kodak TMax P3200 will most likely be loaded into my camera if not Ilford XP2. For the photographer who wants a lot of detail in their images when they shoot at a higher ISO, you really can’t go wrong with Kodak TMax P3200. It allows you to handhold your camera while shooting and while it looks good at its native ISO 800, it deserves to be pushed.

We adore Kodak TMax P3200, and we’re giving it both an Editor’s Choice award and five out of five stars. All our film is proudly developed by Lomography and scanned at home.