The other day, I was shooting in Tokyo’s Tsukiji outer market on a dark and drizzly morning. Not only was it overcast, but I was shooting in the shadows of buildings, so ISO 400 speed just wasn’t going to cut it, to say nothing of ISO 100! What I really needed was ISO 6400. Now I could use a digital camera for low-light performance, but why? My Leica M3 outperforms most digital cameras in low light—but only if I do things right.
By “right,” I mean the right film processed in the right way with the right developer, and that means “pushing.” For the uninitiated, “push processing” allows you to shoot film at a higher ISO than what is indicated on the box, and still get properly exposed results. For example, I typically shoot T-MAX 100 film and underexpose about three stops. That’s equivalent to shooting at ISO 800 rather than the box speed of ISO 100.
Push processing is easy to do at home, if you know what you are doing, and most labs will do it for you, if you ask nicely. Kodak T-MAX films and T-MAX developer are specifically made for push processing—up to three stops according to Kodak’s guidelines. So that means you can shoot T-MAX100 at up to EI800, T-MAX 400 at up to EI3200, and T-MAX P3200 at up to—wait for it—EI25,000!
Yes, that’s right. Kodak T-MAX P3200 in combination with T-MAX Developer has superior low-light performance than all but a select few high-end digital cameras on the market today. So why on Earth would I want to use a digital camera in low light when my Leica M3 can do a better job, and is certainly more enjoyable to use than any plasticky digital camera—at least in my opinion!
Don’t believe me? Below are five frames shot on Kodak T-MAX P3200 pushed to ISO 6400. I used my Leica M3 with a first generation Summicron 35 f/2. I attached a Leica 12585H lens hood of same era just to keep rain drops off the lens filter.