Experiments with Kodak P3200

The Start of Some Experiments with Kodak T-MAX P3200

Earlier today, I posted a 5 frames post documenting a recent experience shooting a slightly crappy teleconverter mounted to a Ricoh FF90 Super – you can find that post here. I wasn’t overly enamoured with the results from the camera/lens combo, but after sending the film to Duncan at Silverpan Labs, I have managed to somewhat inadvertently kick off some slightly more controlled experimenting with Kodak T-MAX P3200.

The initial choice to shoot Kodak P3200 in the Ricoh was entierly down to an idea I had a few months ago to limit myself to two films for a while for the benefit of learning how to get the most out of them. The second film I’ve been shooting with is the other recently-rereleased-by-Kodak-film Ektachrome E100. My goal for shooting E100 was quite simple – I wanted to learn how to expose it to get the best results, whilst also initiating myself into the world of reversal film. You can find the results from that series of posts here.

P3200 goals..?

My goals for shooting Kodak P3200 have been slightly different. I’m quite comfortable with shooting and scanning black & white film, and for a long time have just used the same lab who consistently use the same chemicals. As such, I had become accustomed to, and more importantly largely happy with the results I was getting. As I talked about in this post about my often lackadaisical black & white workflow, P3200 happened to fit my shooting “techniques” quite nicely, and indeed worked well within my wider scanning and processing workflow. That said, I did wonder what else could be achieved when shooting this high-speed film – but beyond that, I wasn’t initially sure where I was going to go with all this…

Ricoh ff90 Super with TC-9 Teleconverter

As such, I decided it might be an idea to change a few of the variables and see what sort of results I can get. With my scanning processes quite well ironed out, the main thing I decided I wanted to try was having the film developed in different chemicals. For many film photographers, this is as simple as just buying some new chemicals and experimenting – I used to do this myself in fact. The problem I have these days is that I’m too lazy to be bothered to develop my own film regularly enough to make buying the chemicals worthwhile, nevermind lots of different chemicals – they’d all just go out of date. So ideally, I have to outsource.

The problem is, outsourcing does somewhat limit the ability to try different chemicals since a lot of labs don’t offer anything more than the standard commercial black & white stuff they use for everyone. Which is why, when I’d finished this roll, I decided to send it to Duncan at Silverpan Film Labs. Duncan offers a small range of different chemicals via his website, but after I posted him this particular roll, I got in touch and told him I’d be interested in experimenting a bit, and for this roll could we try something that might give a finer grain.

I happen to have shot this roll at EI1000 – it was a fairly arbitrary choice at the time, but largely motivated by the fact that I’ve shot P3200 at slower-than-box-speeds in the past, and I’ve had really nice results so was quite comfortable shooting it this much overexposed. Overexposing film that has the latitude to do so in point & shoot cameras also helps avoid accidental underexposure caused by the slightly more primitive metering systems, so I quite often shoot like this when I don’t entirely trust the camera’s light meter.

Ricoh ff90 Super with TC-9 Teleconverter

For one reason or another, this frame came out underexposed – sometimes, there really is no accounting for the whims of a 1980’s point & shoot autoexposure sytems

In actual fact, Kodak P3200 is supposedly at 800-speed film, with the ‘P’ in the name denoting that the suggested processing times for it are actually times for push processing it +2 stops. I suppose this might mean that shooting it at EI800 would have been a more logical place to start…? But in all honesty, when I loaded the film, I wasn’t thinking this far ahead.

I digress… When I told Duncan I’d shot it at EI1000, he quite-sensibly suggested we pull process it. I thought about this a little, but in the end, given my concerns about the camera underexposing, I decided to opt to have it processed normally.

Adox Atomal 49

With this information in mind, Duncan suggested we try something he hadn’t before and give Adox Atomal 49 a bit of a go. As you’ve seen if you read my earlier post, the lens has let the images down a bit, but looking past that, it is possible to see the character of grain in the scans. The results me and Duncan have achieved have what I’d describe as a smaller yet rougher, or at least a more-defined grain than what I have had in the past.

For example, take this image:

Ricoh ff90 Super with TC-9 Teleconverter

crop:

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And compare it to this image: (which I am pretty sure was shot at EI800 and dev’ed by AG with the commercial chems they use (Fuji Negastar, I think))

Norah

crop:

You can see a difference in the grain. Of course, this is highly unscientific at this stage, and I am yet to decide on a preference, but it’s interesting to see an obvious difference in the results, I think.

So what’s the point, and what am I trying to achieve.

Reflecting on the results I have so far, honestly, I mostly just like the idea of the process of a bit of experimentation. One of the joys of doing this is the freedom not to have a particular goal. That said, I suppose the main two things I am looking for are a grain that I think looks pleasant, and negs that are easy to scan and process to the point of achieving results I am happy with without having to spend hours in Lightroom.

As I have already talked about in my aforementioned post about my black & white workflow, Kodak T-MAX P3200 already works well for me. It’s a flexible film that lets me arse about lackadaisically with exposure if I’m feeling lazy, and has already proven itself to me as a film that scans well.

As such, I suppose the ultimate question I am trying to find an answer to is what happens if I do put some effort and thought into how I expose it, and the choice of chemicals I use. Can I, with some experimentation, find a path to getting myself readily repeatable results that look consistent and are exactly to my tastes? The results I’ve had with P3200 when not really trying have been great, so with a bit of effort and experimentation, it will be interesting to see what happens…

Ricoh ff90 Super with TC-9 Teleconverter

Controlling the variables

Of course, when changing one variable – in this case, the chemicals I’ve had this film processed in – it’s important to lock at least some of the others down. This helps ensure that any results from experiments can be pinned down easier. And if I am going to make sensible comparisons moving forward, this is going to be quite important. As such, at least to start with, I will need to shoot more rolls at EI1000 and have Duncan process them normally. But that’s ok for now, I think – EI1000 gives me loads of versatility, and when I get into being able to compare results more, it will be a good place to start experimenting with pull-processing the film a bit too.

What’s next?

Chatting to Duncan there’s talk of XTOL, Microphen, TMAX developer, pushing, pulling, all sorts. He’s up for sharing some of his results here on 35mmc too. I’ve got half a mind to open the floor to you guys as well – so if there is anyone out there that fancies sharing some P3200 results with 35mmc readership, do get in touch! Of course, that will involve introducing a lot more variables, but I’d be interested to see what people are up to with this film, and – even better – it might give me and Duncan a few ideas too…

Words of thanks and recommendation

Finally, I just want to say a continued thanks to both Kodak Alaris and Duncan from Silverpan Film Labs. Kodak are suppling the film for this series, and Duncan is doing an excellent job at developing the films as well as giving me useful and insightful feedback – this being a service he offers to all of his customers.

If you want to buy this film, I also recommend Analogue Wonderland as a my chosen film supplier. They stock P3200 here, but also supply something like 200 other films making the website interesting to explore as well as purchase from.

Finally, you can find all my photos taken with this film here, and see this whole series of posts and other relevant content here

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9 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Stéphane
    July 8, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    I found that shooting this film at it’s exact value of 800 iso and process it accordingly gave the best results, with a very acceptable grain (shooting at 3200 brings much more grain that I don’t like so much) and a very wide latitude in the grey area. Here are some results I shot @800 iso and process for 11mn30 in D76 https://www.lomography.com/homes/vicuna/albums/2189911-shadows-and-highlights-contax-rxii or also here https://www.lomography.com/homes/vicuna/albums/2194975-a-short-trip-to-berlin-2-contax-rxii

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Alvaro
    July 9, 2019 at 1:52 am

    A tip: TMax P3200 (and Delta 3200) is an ISO 800 film, designed to be pushed to 3200. You’re not exactly overexposing by shooting it at 1000 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 9, 2019 at 9:54 am

      I’m not sure if you meant me to delete this, but I think it’s an interesting point. At EI1000 I’m technically underexposing the film by 1/3rd of a stop based on its supposed true speed. But since the box speed and suggested dev times are all based on shooting at EI3200, it strikes me as easier to think of it as 1 2/3 overexposed.
      Also, I think the true speed of Delta 3200 is something like 1200 ISO

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Alvaro
    July 9, 2019 at 3:16 am

    re: pulling—in my experience with TMax P3200 and Delta 3200, I’ve found the suggested times are a little conservative, and it’s a safer bet to develop for a stop more than what you exposed at. This way you get good density and don’t blow out the highlights (by overdeveloping)

  • Avatar
    Reply
    David Hill
    July 9, 2019 at 11:58 am

    A useful exploration, Hamish. But errrm…
    Alvaro says about pulling: “…develop for a stop more than you exposed at”. More which way? For more exposure or more speed? Pull or push? I think you’re saying “pull harder” i.e. “best to underdevelop by 1 stop”, or “shoot at 1600 but develop for 800”. Did I catch that right?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 10, 2019 at 4:29 pm

      I’m basing my comments on the box speed.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Devlin Cook
    July 11, 2019 at 3:53 am

    Hi Hamish, great article and I’m really keen to see some more results, especially with XTOL. The grain of the pics developed in the Adox look quite pleasing to my eye. My last roll of P3200 I shot at 1600 and then, through pure laziness, developed in Rodinal 1:100. Wow, let’s just say I won’t be doing that again, looked like a snow storm.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 13, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Hi Devlin, I’ve just had a roll dev’ed in xtol, which should be coming soon… would you be interested in sharing your Rodinal results on 35mmc as a “failed” experiment?

      • Avatar
        Reply
        devlin cook
        July 13, 2019 at 1:53 pm

        Yes sure! I can send you some samples if you’d like to have a look?

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