Grab The Gladiator of Black and White: Kodak Tri-X 400

The Jack and Jill of all trades when it comes to black and white photography. I often refer to Kodak Tri-X 400 as my No. 2 pencil since it routinely works even when dull or sharpened. Kodak’s black and white film workhorse, 400TX, stands on its own pedestal within the history (and foreseeable future) or photography. Before the demand for color publication eclipsed black and white images, amateurs and photojournalist alike trusted Tri-X to capture the best results on the fly. Film that could provide photographers additional mobility and consistent results while working under the least desirable environments or weather conditions easily became key sought out features. 

Thanks to its forgiving qualities coupled with a litany of processing option, 400TX can provide a low risk mid-high rewards experience particularly for folks just getting their feet wet into black and white photography. Many of my colleagues at Photodom will often recommend Tri-X 400 as a phenomenal entry level film that you can also find in the inventory of most seasoned film photographers. I would heed their advice if you can and try (or retry) a roll. Once you review your developed negatives (or scans), you will more than likely wish you grabbed a few more rolls. 

Bottom line – if you are focused on documenting a series of a events or capturing a single fleeting moment then look no further than 400TX. Your mileage will always vary with film photography but one consistent factor will be this film holding its weight under all kinds of good, bad and ugly elements thrown at you while indoors or out in the field. Let us investigate a couple of the qualities of Tri-X using a few photographs from when I first began taking this genre seriously along with some that I recently processed and developed by hand in the photolab at Photodom.    

The appeal of colorful visuals can often distract you early on from developing foundational skills that black and white photography can offer. Aesthetically speaking, neither genre supercedes the other and I can only speak from my own experience. I can make a case for black and white photography in the sense that I feel that your eye becomes better trained to pinpoint blemishes when you only have different gradients of black, white, and grey to refer to. When the visual aesthetic changes to a “less is more” perspective, you actually see MORE in the photograph, as simple details are magnified.

400TX Characteristics worth noting:

1. Forgiving. Not a steep learning curve (ie can overexpose +2 or under +2 and still reproduce quality picture)

2. Litany of processing options. Couple this with it’s forgiving qualities and you have a vehicle for experiencing low risk mid-high gains.

3. Ideal for Documentary and Nature Photography

Since we are only working with two colors, clarity becomes a critical characteristic necessary for rendered the highest quality images.

Characteristics:

Rich texture and stunning grain even without the best lighting 

Peep the textures that really highlight the complex layers to the woman’s box braids without letting her hair fade in with her dark black denim jacket.

Father and Kids Exiting 167th St Station

Snappy and functional for most forms of photography

[Can you feel the skater’s spider-man kick coming out the photograph with absolute sharp rending of his ripped jeans and the bottom sole of his shoes?


Peep the quality of clarity spanning from the subject in motion skating in the foreground all the way to the glimmer of light along the water along with the young boy smirking in the background.

Deep gradients of black even when performing at night

Note the bright white illuminated throughout the canvas while the deep blacks add the layers of street traffic in the foreground as well as the construction crane and cloudy sky in the background.

Try a roll out and drop by as we have a black and white film processing machine which often runs faster than our color processor. Drop by for same day processing and pick up some more rolls while supplies last. Stay tuned for my next review of 400TX 120 format for portraiture photorgraphy.  Not to say you can’t enjoy this film indoors since there’s definitely some inherent spiciness to indoor portraiture especially captured on 120 | 220 formats [coming soon]. 

Justin “Suede” Hunte is a Bronx born creative artist and producer based in NYC. You can often find Suede in the photo lab at Photodom. Check out his Instagram and his website!

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