Kodak is discontinuing Kodak T-Max P3200, the super-high-speed black-and-white film created by Sylvia Zawadski and Dick Dickerson of Eastman Kodak. (The two of them used to have a website; is it gone?)
Its passing makes me think yet again that I'm living the perfect lifespan for a photographer...something like a railfan living in the transition era between steam and diesel, with one foot planted firmly in each. The years of my interest in photography have spanned so much. I really am grateful to have seen and done the things I've seen and done.
When P3200 came out, I was shooting Tri-X at E.I. 200, the fastest film I'd shot till then. P3200 tested for me at E.I. 1000, more than two stops faster. (3200 was a "push" speed, hence the "P" in the name; 3200 was never an actual ISO rating.) It was a revelation, and tremendously energizing. I put it immediately into use, and it was just in time so that I could document my grandmother's funeral and my best friend's wedding, among other things. I took so many great pictures (I mean: pictures I like) with that film. I have virtually none of it scanned, but above is one exception.
I found only one paper that it printed on correctly, and that too is long gone.
The promise and excitement of P3200 is of course completely lost on photographers now, who complain when they can see noise in actual ISO 3200 pictures.
As with so many things from the film era, there is no more need for it. But it was a big deal in its day.
(Thanks to Oren)
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Today's P3200 and more:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Matt Weber: "I remember when it came out too...I think it was in 1988 and it was incredible. I was able to shoot at night with usable shutter speeds and still managed to get decent work done during the day. I'm sad because this film really mattered to me and enabled me to take many of my best pictures. Kodak has let us down so many times it's almost funny. I realize the company is in ruins now, so this time I'm not going to take it personally...Oh well."
Softie: "I knew this day would come, and find myself mourning a good friend's passing. I shot piles of this stuff, and used it as my standard film for years at E.I. 800. Lovely big rough grain."
Matt Mills: "Man, the memories...this was literally one of two films I used for black-and-white all through my early days in photography (the other being T-Max 400—judge if you will, but I loved the stuff in D-76). This was the film that made it possible to shoot inside and get handheld photos, really crucial if you're a people-in-their-habitat photographer. I miss it just thinking about it. Of course, right before I switch to digital, I learned to use sodium sulfite in the developer and borax solution after, which was amazingly rich."
Mike Plews: "I'm still pouting over the loss of TXP 120, but I tend to hold a grudge. DuPont is still getting stink eye from me over Velour Black #2 and Varigam. Gotta get over this stuff."
Crabby Umbo: "Plus One for Mike Plews! You're killing me—I'm still mad about DuPont papers as well! Bah!"
Mike adds: And for me, it's Verichrome Pan and Medalist paper. (I really wish Ilford or Fuji would make a genuinely retro emulsion or two.)
It's another thing we're losing: the fact that in every era, old timers grumped and moaned about the lovely old materials that had faded and gone. Michael A. Smith loved Azo so much that he started manufacturing a replacement after it was discontinued. Ansel Adams waxed elegiac about the passing of Dassonville Charcoal Black (did anyone know Will Dassonville had a book?! Me neither), and of course Frederick H. Evans, in England, quit photography altogether when they stopped making the papers he liked...in the nineteen-teens. I'm sure there were photographers decrying the passage of albumen printing ("it just had something special"), and others in the 1860s grousing bitterly about how tintypes didn't look nearly as good as Daguerreotypes, and who cares if they're cheaper and the fumes don't give you heavy metal poisoning?
I make light, but I really am going to miss the feeling of continuity in the craft and the sense of community it engendered with our "friends who went before."