A classic film, held in high esteem. Many people use Tri-X as their go-to film.

  • Type: Black and white film.
  • ISO: 400
  • Contrast: Medium to low.
  • Grain: Subtle but distinctively “film.”
  • Best for: Strong mid-tones and high dynamic range.

I don’t use it very often, but this is partly a result of my own preferences. Unfortunately, it’s also a result of other films being better choices for specific needs.

Kodak Tri-X is good at everything but great at none of them. However, this makes it a good choice for a walk-around film – especially if you’re not sure what conditions or subjects you’re going to shoot. If you like street photography or candids, this may be a great choice.

By “strong mid-tones,” I mean that everything between very black and bright white comes out in subtle gradients. There is low contrast, so you can see all the tones of light. This makes Tri-X useful for evenly-lit portraits, because you’ll cover the subtle gradients of a subject’s skin, hair, or clothing. A high-contrast film might make wrinkles appear rather… unflatteringly obvious.

But this film lacks the high-contrast look of other films, like Ilford HP5+ 400 – or the king of contrast, Fuji Acros 100. I prefer that look in my pictures; you may not. There’s nothing wrong with Kodak Tri-X – but for my own needs and preferences, I tend to look for something a little more engaging.

Love contrast? Look elsewhere. Enjoy a more moderate look? This is for you!

Four stars for a film that does everything right but doesn’t wow me personally.