TMax From The Darkroom- And Why A Kodak Bankruptcy / Reorg Might Be A Good Thing

Spent Friday night in the darkroom. As after the fact, I read that Kodak HC-110 is not a highly recommended developer to use with TMax, it was too late- 1st two rolls, developed. While certainly punchy and sharp, the negs seemed to have a grayish tinge, and lacking definition in the blacks. Maybe this was due in part to setting 8 bit grayscale native on the scanner, and not scanning in color, and doing grayscale conversion in Photoshop. But overall, pretty happy with the results. Took this shot of my son, looking outside, with the Nikon F3HP, and 105mm f/2.5, with bounced flash-

Looking Out The Window - Shot With Kodak TMax 400, Nikon F3HP, 105mm f/2.5, Developed in HC -110

Looking Out The Window - Shot With Kodak TMax 400, Nikon F3HP, 105mm f/2.5, Developed in HC -110

So, yesterday, I picked up a packet of Kodak D-76, as I have seen some excellent results using that developer with TMax. It was the 1st developer I used, and only recently stopped using it, as I was likely over agitating, and as a result, over developing, and getting the dreaded “bromide drag”. Additionally, the sheer economic benefit of a highly concentrated developer such as HC-110 have made it my “go-to” developer. It may be time to stock up on supplies now, as shortly after getting out of the darkroom, I receive an e-mail from my mother, asking me if I had heard the news/rumors about Kodak-

Kodak shares plunge as bankruptcy fears escalate

Kodak: Death of an American icon?

Kodak shares plummet on restructuring fears

After initially nearly suffering a panic attack, reality settled in, and I realized this may in fact, be a blessing in disguise. Unlike the demise of Polaroid, this could work out pretty nicely. One scenario is that the company reorganizes, sells off its film/professional division to Ilford, or Fuji (no, Impossible does not have deep enough pockets), and beautiful emulsions like Ektar, TMax, TriX, PlusX, etc, are kept alive. As is the chemistry needed to develop it. Another is that it simply “spins off” film, although I do not see this happening, as film, while profitable to make, just does not sell in the volume needed to keep it profitable anymore. It is a niche market. Not a mass market. Despite those, like myself, fiercely loyal to it.

The least likely scenario? It ceases to exist. The folks at Impossible, while still making a highly unstable and experimental product, proved it can be done. Chemistry has been “cloned” and in some cases, improved upon, by 3rd party vendors selling chemicals through internet/mail order boutiques such as Freestyle. Yes, I am guessing that C41 might be a bit more challenging to do so. But, what happens to the Kodak machines at the places left still processing color films? Does this become an opportunity for Fuji, and do they, if Kodak goes under completely, raise the price of their films to the point where it becomes cost prohibitive for the average enthusiast?

And, what becomes of Kodak’s current “crown jewel” color emulsions, Portra, especially 160 and 400? No one has the answers- not even the folks in Rochester. Until they do, just keep on shooting.

4 thoughts on “TMax From The Darkroom- And Why A Kodak Bankruptcy / Reorg Might Be A Good Thing

  1. Unfortunately there is a lot of environmental baggage to go along with the purchase of Kodak’s remaining film facility in Rochester. I don’t know if anyone can still buy it. We can hope but I don’t know… We might still have Fuji and Lucky for film and Tetenal/JOBO and other third parties for chemicals but Fuji has been cutting film lines too. The future is not bright for color film.

    B&W I hope at least is safe but I will miss color when its gone. Always digital of course but not the same…

  2. The problem with Kodak (at least when looking at film) is that they’re too big. Their production machinery is designed for the massive film demands of the 90’s, and as such, film is not as profitable due to waste. A smaller company such as Ilford is able to work with smaller-run machines, meaning there is not as much waste as there is with a huge production of a Kodak emulsion.

    Oddly enough, Impossible is at the other end of the spectrum. They are still working out a reliable emulsion formula, so their production runs have to be very short, and therefore very costly.

    I think there may be some hope if Kodak were to sell/relocate its photographic film division to a smaller factory, such as one of the older film production factories in Europe. There would probably need to be a minimum of cost required to adapt the machinery, and if the **** hits the fan, Kodak needs to do the opposite of Polaroid and do whatever they can to keep the technological marvels of Ektar and Portra alive.

    At any rate, I don’t think either Fuji or Ilford would end up buying a film division. Fuji is a rival who is likely not interested in offering similar emulsions to what they already have (even though I think they are superior), and Ilford only deals with black and white (unless you count Ilfochrome), and all of their emulsions are essentially direct replacements for Kodak products as it is.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Dan. Anyway we slice and dice it, these are very sad times for us film shooters. I actually think there is a chance, albeit not very much of one, that someone will pick up their film business, most likely for pennies on the dollar.I do think Ektar and Portra are, unfortunately, at the highest risk to go away.Big business in Obamanomics have seen stranger things happemn, though.

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