Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Testing Kodak's TMAX 400 for Astrophotography

Traditional film users have a thinning line of film to choose from these days, but there perhaps has never been a better time to shoot black and white emulsion.  Combined, manufacturers such as Ilford, Rollei, Fuji, and Foma have a formidable line of film for the working artist.  Even Kodak maintains a line of products for b&w shooters.   Kodak released its newest version of T-Max 400 in 2008.  A panchromatic film utilizing Kodak's proprietary tubular grain structure offering high speed and fine grain.  While most, if not all of today's b&w films lack the red response associated with Technical Pan film, many record starlight extremely well, this is especially true of T-Max 400.  T-Max offers very good sensitivity to starlight and records stellar images very well.  Kodak claims improved reciprocity compared to the original T-Max 400 of yesteryear.  That being said, T-Max 100 specifications show it to be even better in the reciprocity department and will surpass the speed of its 400 speed cousin in a matter of a several minutes.  A test of T-Max 100 will take place later this year.  Below are a few images obtained on March 10, 2012 from my dark sky home in Maine.

Two images, both taken with the Pentax 67 and 300mm f/4 lens using exposures of 15 and 30 minutes.

Faint details of the Orion Nebula appear region show up well.  The emission nebula NGC-1977 registered very well, owing to the films blue spectral sensitivity.  I'm imagining galaxies would do well with this film. 

A cropped section of the 30 minute exposure.

This image of the Milky Way in Puppis clearly shows the benefit of T-Max to record faint stellar images.  This film will do well for open star clusters and the star clouds of summer.  When enlarged, the grain was remarkably tame.  Halation was not a problem.  The bright stars did produce overly sized spot images, but this was an aberration present in the lens used.
The Milky Way star fields of Puppis as revealed by TMAX 400.  300MM @ F/5.6 30 minutes exposure.

Black and white astrophotography can still be done in the 21st century.  I found the experience rewarding and I am looking forward to years of future work with films like T-Max 400.