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Kodak Tri-X is, I think, the oldest stager on the market: it was around years before I started taking pictures in the late Sixties. Of course, like all the other standard films, it has been modified and improved over the years, but the essential character is unchanged.
Resilience is the watchword here. There are sharper films. There are less grainy films. None of them will produce good results in any developer, and none are so tolerant of ill-treatment. There are rumours that you can develop good Tri-X negatives in Brown Windsor soup – and they might well be true!
Tri-X was the standard film from the Sixties onwards for press photography because of this tolerance of extreme abuse. The fact that it gave reasonable grain and very good sharpness for a fast film certainly helped: but the ability to survive in the Vietnam jungle and the Gobi desert made it a winner.
The current version is still as good, even though it’s overshadowed by Kodak’s T-Max emulsions. T-Max 400 has less grain, and is sharper, as well as being inherently slightly faster (Tri-X is happiest around half the rated speed). However, T-Max films are rather high-strung, and only work at their best in Kodak’s own (very expensive) T-Max developer. Ultimately, extending development to increase film speed is easier with Tri-X (another reason why photojournalists favour it).
So if you fancy using a tried and trusted professional film, you could do a lot worse than buying a few rolls of TX. I suspect that you’ll come back for more of this ultimate survivor.
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