HandMade Photographic Images

Kodak Tmax 400 In Xtol

Copyright William A. Bascom, 1998

I never had much luck with T-Max films in T-Max Developers. I have been told that the developers worked well to expand negative contrast; however, I found normal development times were too short to allow much control, and it was almost impossible to control decreased negative contrast range. That is why I gave up on the combinations quickly and went back to my old stand-by of Tri-X in HC-110 or D-76. Recently I returned to try the films again with different developer combinations. I have found that developers besides the T-Max brews give much better control and better flexibility and at no sacrifice of grain or speed. Here are some current and updated observations on TMY sheet film in Kodak's XTOL developer. Consider them as a starting point.

I. Film speed ratings

Film speed ratings were determined by beginning with my meters set to the manufacturer's suggested ASA and exposing a number of frames or test patches at a calculated Zone I and varying the speed above and below those ratings in increments of 1/3 of a stop. Next the films were developed for the film for the manufacturer's recommended time. I used a development-compensating timer to avoid any drift in temperature although this was really more important in determining normal development than film speed. The test patch that came closest to a density of .1 above film base and fog (AFB&F) was considered the useful threshold of the film and became my speed rating film with these meters and with this developer, and was used as the ASA all other tests.

II. Development Times:

Using the film speed ratings determined in part I, a series of sheets of film were exposed for Zone VIII. Starting with the manufacturer's recommendation, these were then developed for varying lengths of time until a target density close to 1.35 AFB&F was achieved. This became the "normal" development time. By definition "normal" is the development time required to produce a full-scaled negative of a "normal" subject so that it would make a good print (full tonal range) using a multigrade filter between 2 and 3. Obviously there is a good deal of subjective judgment here, but this is a rational way to get into the ballpark and to calibrate your own equipment and technique.

III. N+ and N- Development Times -- Adjustments for Particular Situations:

In order to adjust film exposure and development times so negatives will come close to producing a density range that would print using "normal" filters, Zone VIII, the useful limit of detailed highlights, was selected as the target -- a density of 1.35. A number of negatives were exposed for various zones between IV and XI and then a particular exposure was developed for more or less than the "normal" time until the target density of 1.35 AFB&F was reached. If a Zone V exposure was developed to a degree that resulted in a negative density of Zone VIII, the result was considered N+3. Conversely, if a Zone XI exposure was developed so that it produced a Zone VIII density, this became a N-3 development. This procedure was repeated for other expansions and contractions.

Critics will tell you that this is not a perfect system and they are right, but it will get you on to the playing field. Considering the quality of multigrade papers today, this logic should get one close enough to a negative that will produce a print visualized by the photographer that minor mismatches can be made up in printing, paper selection, developer and a host of other variables in the printing process.

IV. Results with TMY in XTOL 1:2:

The preceding calibration has established the ground rules. How about some practical suggestions?

I still prefer D-76 1:1 with TMX film. Normal development is 9.5 or ten minutes. This combination works well for me at an ASA of 100 on my Modified Pentax Digital and 50 on my Gossen Luna Pro. I hasten to add that a friend's newer Modified Pentax Digital agrees with my Gossen meter. The lesson in this is to test your own equipment and do NOT take my word for it. I should add that I use the combination of TMX and D-76 because I did the calibration tests before XTOL developer was marketed. In my opinion the combination is much easier to control that the T-MAX developers, and I am pleased enough with the results to stop there for the moment. One word of caution, if you are going to use D-76 with T-Max films, do not keep your developer around longer than a month. In storage, the D-76 changes and will produce unpredictable results. but if you are in an experimenting mood, or if you shoot a lot of low contrast subjects or do a lot of copy work you may find a use for the T-Max developers. Now at last to some suggestions with TMY and XTOL.

Here is what I have concluded about TMY (sheet film) in XTOL. The speed is somewhere around 320 or 400 when using my Gossen meter or 640 and 800 with the Modified Pentax (remember my friend's similar meter indicates a full stop more exposure at the same setting so test your own). Normal development time at 68 degrees is between 12 and 13 minutes. That's it. This should give you a full-scaled negative of a normal range scene so that it will print on "normal" paper or using somewhere around a 2 or 3 filter.

Now let's jump to the tentative expansions and contractions for a moment. The following may help you get started with your own calibrations. They are intended to give you a starting point for manipulations of negative contrast. I repeat: they will provide you with a starting point for manipulations of negative contrast. In order to achieve exactly the results you seek, you may want to try different developers or vary concentrations and speed values. Good luck! I hope you'll send me any successful results you get.


Bill Bascom 75032.3432@compuserve.com

+/- Multiply N time by: Time (minutes):
N-3 .5 6.5
N-2 .6 7.8
N-1 .8 10.4
N 1 12.5
N+1 1.2 15.6
N+2 1.5 19.5
N+3 1.75 22.75

In XTOL 1:2 at 68 degrees -- with plenty of agitation!