Kodak Tri-X black and white negative film is one of those mystical, magic thing from the past that has written, with its unique gritty signature, pages and pages of photojournalism and history. Some of the greatest photographers of all times (Cartier-Bresson, Capa, McCullin, Nachtwey, Scianna and many more) had a long love affair with it (seems like Corbjin decided to buy 2500 rolls when Kodak announced its bankruptcy!).
My journey into analog photography could not be complete without paying the much needed respect to this film, and while I am still trying to understand its characteristics – all in all I have shot no more than 6 or 7 rolls (both in 135 and 120 format) – what is clear is that Tri-X has a very sharp and clear temper! Purists may argue that the choice of a developer is also critical in the way a film renders midtones, sharpness (or acutance) and grain, but let’s try not to complicate things even further and concentrate on its generic features.
Last summer I have shoot just one roll of Tri-X in Sicily with my Hasselblad (120 format of course), somehow messing up the exposure during the shooting (I have shot at box speed and then decided to push 1/2 stop, don’t even know why I did that)…but of course…nothing happened….the pictures came out absolutely gorgeous (see an example down below as well as a crop to appreciate the grain).
Technical info: Hasselblad 500CM > Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 4/150 CF + 10mm extension ring > Kodak Tri-X 400@400iso pushed 1/2 stop
It would not be fair to compare the 135 format with medium format, not to mention that my Nikkor lenses can’t really compete against Their Majesties (the Carl Zeiss T* lenses), and I realise that my Epson V750 is not exactly the best scanner for full frame pictures. And yet, even with all those caveats, I really like how the pictures came out. Recently I am more and more into 1 and 2 stops pushing, I don’t fear grain and I like the additional contrast, that’s why I decided to rate the film at 1600 and push it accordingly during the development. It is true that, being used to the magnificent files from my Nikon D700, these ones are not technically speaking as good…but you don’t choose film because you want razor-sharp, perfect images; you do it because you like the experience.
The only doubt I have is whether I would use again a Yellow-Green filter (as I did in almost all the shots below, taken in London)…but this is a topic that may deserves a separate post.
Technical info: Nikon FM2n > Nikkor AF-D 20mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, 85mm f1.8 > Kodak Tri-X 400@1600iso pushed 2 stops
ps: after getting depressed with the extortionate prices of film development of London’s labs, I have found what seems to be a perfect solution: Ag Lab. I have send them 4 rolls on Monday (C41 and BW, 120 and 135), received my negatives in a perfect packaging and flawlessly developed on Wednesday. And most importantly, the cost was absolutely reasonable. Well done!