Time to start hoarding: Kodak discontinues T-MAX P3200 film


posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 8:13 PM EDT


For a generation of photographers brought up on digital, this news may not mean a lot. For those of us who remember the days when strips of plastic coated with silver halide was where it was at, though, news of another discontinued Kodak product may well inspire a moment's reflection. The latest icon on Kodak's chopping block is the company's black and white T-MAX P3200 Professional film, first introduced in mid 1988.

It might seem hard to believe in today's world of digital SLRs reaching ISO-equivalent sensitivities measured in the hundreds of thousands, but in the late 1980s, a black and white film reaching a sensitivity of ISO 3,200 equivalent was big news. Even if--as noted in Kodak's announcement of its discontinuance--the film's high sensitivity came "with a very significant grain penalty".

A look at the New York Times' first coverage of T-MAX P3200, published back when the film was on the bleeding edge and the revolutionary new compact discs were finally starting to put the word digital on everyone's lips, is illuminating.

Entitled "Where to next?", this photo beautifully demonstrates the low-light capabilities--and coarse grain--of Kodak T-MAX P3200 film. See the original on Flickr.

Rochester-based photographer Kevin Higley, then working for Gannett newspapers, was among the first to experience T-MAX P3200, shooting a secret test at a high school football game back in 1986. When advised by Kodak to shoot at ISO 6,400, Higley told the Times, his immediate feeling was one of disbelief. With the testing over, he reported closely guarding his remaining stock of the film, a wise move given that it was another two years before it finally came to market.

Higley wasn't alone in being excited by the possibilities. Photographer Ted Kirk of Nebraska's Lincoln Journal Star told the times that his paper ran with T-MAX P3200 shots at up to ISO 12,500 equivalent.


ISO 3,200, then, was big news in the late 1980s, even if now it's available on pretty-much any consumer SLR.

The world has changed in the almost quarter century since T-MAX P3200, though, and along with it the demand for Kodak's once-incredible film. Sales have declined to the point where production of the film no longer made sense for the company, and so T-MAX P3200 is no more. Kodak recommends photographers instead shoot with T-MAX 400 Professional, but we have a feeling that the Kevin Higleys of this world who remember those heady days may instead come full circle. With T-MAX P3200 no more, now's the time to start jealously hoarding every roll you can get your hands on, once more.

(via The Online Photographer. "Where to next?" image courtesy of Stuart Grout / Flickr, used under a CC BY 2.0 license. Film canister image courtesy of 7dayshop.com. Take note, UK photographers, they still list T-MAX P3200 in stock as of this writing!)