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Film Review Friday: Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400: Cold Hard Facts

The Kodak Tri-X 400, or also known as the TX 400, is a high-speed, black-and-white film stock that's available in 35mm and 120mm formats. According to Kodak Alaris, the Tri-X 400 is the world's best-selling black and white film, and it features a classic grain structure, wide exposure latitude, and a max pushability to EI 1600. It was, in fact, one of Kodak's first high-speed black-and-white films, and it has played a transformative role in photojournalism ever since. The Tri-X is also produced in the 320 speed.

Just like all of Kodak's other black and white film rolls, the TX 400 is a part of their Professional film collection. Among others, this means that their retail price is slightly higher than that of their collection of consumer films, such as the Gold 200 and the Ultramax 400. The Tri-X 400 itself retails for around 17 EUR.

Kodak 400 TX in Action

I tested the Kodak 400 TX in action during my trips to Rome and Jakarta, loaded in my trusted Olympus AF-1 point-and-shoot camera. Let's take a look at the developed photos.

To start with the more obvious, the high speed of this stock gives it a wide exposure latitude that makes it a great option for when you are shooting under low light situations and during actions. It also means that there is little to no concern of underexposing. Although judging from a few photos I shot below, I still need to be more mindful in avoiding shooting backlit photos and overexposing certain parts. Despite the minor loss of details in the highlights, I'm quite pleased as the rest of the photos turn out with quite exquisite details. Lesson learned!

Garbage pick up truck parked next to a street in Jakarta, Indonesia
The upper left hand corner shows some loss of details due to overexposure - lesson learned!

Cat standing on a pile of garbage in Jakarta, Indonesia
The upper right hand corner shows minor loss of details due to overexposure, but the rest of the photos show exquisite tone and details

What I find to be one of my favorite features is the tone and how it combines with the medium-to-high contrast. When shot right, it produces the type of deep black that I am personally a fan of. I find that their deep blacks also help to bring out such crisp photos. I mostly shoot street photography myself, especially in black and white, and I find that the Kodak Tri-X 400 is quite a good fit for this.

I'm not overly impressed by the grain that the Kodak Tri-X 400 produces, but to be fair, most of the photos where I get this impression are those that are also slightly overexposed at certain parts, thus showing more grain. I did use to say that I like a bit of grain to really show that unique characteristic of film photos, but I do feel like I am slowly starting to change my opinion on this and be more and more of a fan of crisp, non-grainy photos. Anyway, as Kodak states themselves, it is the Kodak T-Max 400 that takes the cake in producing the world's sharpest black and white 400-speed photos. The Tri-X 400 features a classic grain structure, whereas the T-Max 400 features Kodak's newer and arguably more innovative T-Grain emulsion.

As I mentioned, I shot these with a point-and-shoot camera, so I haven't had the chance to push the film. But for what it's worth, I have heard great feedback on this.

Street food vendor in Jakarta, Indonesia

Street photography in Jakarta, Indonesia

Final Verdict

The Tri-X 400 is one of the most popular black and white films in the market, if not the most popular. The bar has been set so high and with that prestigious achievement in mind, I do find it difficult not to be overly judgemental of the film stock that everybody loves.

To be fair, I have never been disappointed with any of the film rolls I've tried. You learn their areas of strengths and weaknesses and you try to have those in mind when you are taking photos. As I mentioned, I really like the tone and the deep black that the Tri-X 400 produces. But is it my favorite? Not so much. I've said it before and I still stand by it, the Rollei Retro 400s is my favorite still. That being said, it does seem like not everyone falls in love with the Tri-X 400 on their first try, and I would absolutely give the Tri-X 400 another go during one of my street sessions. Who knows - maybe the second time's the charm.

At the end of the day, it's all about your own personal preference, and also how the film stock complements the types of photos you shoot. What's your take on the Tri-X 400? Let us know in the comment section!


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