When it comes to B&W film choices we are blessed with an abundance of choice, from small companies and creative stocks, to stalwarts of the film industry. I knew of Kodak’s T-Max range for a while, and that it had been used for many celebrity portraits and studio work for years, however I’d avoided it because it said ‘professional’ on the side – and I am very much an enthusiastic amateur!

For this quick film review I have 5 x comparisons of Kodak T-Max alongside Ilford HP5+ so that I could have an overview of what to expect from receiving my scans back from the lab. I also have 3 x landscape format photos that are from the same roll of T-Max that I think typify my experience with this film stock. The pictures cover both nature and street photography, and both were shot at box speed @EI400, and developed by Come Through Lab, Ancoats, Manchester. The T-Max was shot on the Nikon FM2 with the 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens, and the HP5+ was run through my trusty Olympus XA with it’s built-in 35mm f/2.8 Zuiko lens.

Comparison of Kodak T-Max 400 with Ilford HP5+ at box speed (EI400)

Example 1

Brockholes, nr Preston – the lake was frozen over, and looked really cool! (pun intended!)  I missed focus a bit on the FM2, but it’s interesting to see how the films handle the highlights of the water and sky differently.

Example 2

Brockholes, nr Preston – around the other side of the lake the reed beds looked frosty. It’s hard for me to choose a favourite here, as the HP5+ has such a gloss and evenness about the whole photo. However, the extra contrast on T-Max adds to the feathery tops of the reeds, and I feel like I can get more of a sense of the frozen lake.

Example 3

Hello beautiful! – I met this handsome horse driving towards Sedbergh. I love the extra detail that T-Max brings, with more separation between the greys and deep blacks. HP5+ on the other hand gives you more options to bring out shadow detail in the trees etc.

Example 4

Looking down Oxford Road – this is a more difficult one for me to choose a favourite, as I think each film brings that balance between the shadows on the right, the bright sky, and the low winter sun hitting the buildings opposite.

Example 5

Manchester Chinatown, preparing for Lunar New Year – interesting to see the difference in perceived definition and detail here. In my eye the T-Max adds that extra contrast which makes the bricks of the building more pronounced.


Three Landscape format examples of Kodak T-Max 400 at box speed

Example 6

Brockholes, nr Preston – the distinct architecture of the visitors’ centre really brings interesting shadows and shapes to this photo. I don’t mind how T-Max buries some of the deeper shadows straight to black, as I think it gives a richness to the contrast.

Example 7

Part of the Haweswater Aqueduct – I like how this photo shows that T-Max 400 is great for detail, as I feel I could count every brick on the aqueduct! Even when there’s cloud cover the inherent contrast of the film helps add a bit more definition and clarity to the image.

Example 8

Macintosh Mills from Hulme St, Manchester – yet again this is a T-Grain masterclass in getting the most of the available detail! I just love the way this film sets off and compliments the natural light, and really has a nice distinction between greys and blacks.

Final Thoughts

I’m very happy with the results of trying Kodak T-Max 400, it definitely has its own personality compared to my usual Ilford HP5+. In my opinion, the T-Max results have given more ‘punch’ and ‘clarity’ to the images, and the film seems to have more inherent contrast than other ISO 400 speed stocks. I personally enjoyed the street photography shots, as I felt that the film brings out the details on buildings and subjects really well. I will be definitely be keeping T-Max 400 in mind for future use when I want a film stock with attitude – if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s definitely worth a go, and you don’t have to be a professional to use it haha!

What has your experience been with Kodak T-MAX 400? Do you prefer it just for certain situations, or is it a regular go-to film for you? Let me know in the comments below.

For more articles on 35mmc featuring Kodak T-Max 400 click here.
For more technical information on Kodak T-Max 400 please view the data sheet here.

All scans were developed and processed by Come Through Lab in Ancoats, Manchester.
Find them on instagram here: @comethroughlab .
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing more of my photos and experiences with this community soon.
You can find me on Instagram: @tedayre

Please remember this article is not science but subjectivity, with me sharing what I think about each image, and what values I see in them. I want you to know that I have indeed done a bit of post-processing on each image to get ‘the best’ out of the scan for my own taste. As someone who does not engage with darkroom culture, I want to share my results so that others can see another example of what they might expect back from their local lab. I do not claim to present this information as the definitive ‘version’ of the film stock, but just as a reference point along my own film photography journey.

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