Film Shootout: P3200 vs Delta 3200

Film comparison reviews are nothing new. We commonly see a single photographer with a single camera test multiple rolls of film and compare them. Heck, Steven is a lucky bum and Kodak Professional sent him a roll to review when it released! However, we wanted to add a bit of a twist. What if two photographers with the same camera, the same lens shoot a roll of Delta 3200 and the other a roll of P3200, then those rolls are processed in the same developer and scanned on the same scanner? Well, we did that.

One night after a podcast recording I asked Steven, “Since we both have Canon AE-1’s and the 50mm f/1.8 FD’s what if we did a direct photo comparison!?” Steven loved the idea and we mulled over films to shoot. We both agreed that we should consider doing a 3200 challenge. The goal of this challenge is to go on a shoot with a roll of Kodak Professional TMAX P3200 and Ilford Delta 3200 and compare the two; not a “who’s a better photographer”.

We already had a photo walk planned with Kodak Professional we thought the timing would be perfect to go on a walkabout and photograph the two rolls. We both arrived with our cameras. However, how the heck are we going to decide who shoots the P3200 and the Delta 3200? We left that decision to the Rock, Paper, Scissors gods to determine our fate.

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The gods have spoken and Steven chose to shoot TMAX P3200. That left me with the Delta 3200. In all honesty, if I had won, I would have selected the Delta 3200. I’ve shot several rolls of P3200 since its second release.  I’ve only shot D3200 in 120. So, shooting it in 135 is new for me! We had planned to do the walk together. However, we ran into a small snag. We had a few people run late for the event so I decided to hang back and wait for them to get situated and we got separated. However we shot very similar scenes.

On Your Marks, Get Set…

Let’s preface what are the constants in this review:

  • Both cameras: Canon AE-1 with the 50mm f/1.8 FD lens
  • Both cameras set to meter at ISO 3200
  • Developed in Ilfotec RT Rapid black and white developer
  • Scanned on the Fujifilm Frontier SP3000

These images are base scans. All exposure settings are at a baseline 0. No sharpness or additional changes were made to these scans. So, they may seem flatter, and that is expected. The only things corrected in post were the healing tool for dust on the negative at scan as well as orientation corrections to straighten up the lines.

So let’s get to it. Here are Steven’s top 5 images from his roll of TMAX P3200:

Here are my 5 images from the Delta 3200 roll:

One of the immediate differences is contrast. TMAX P3200 has more contrast than Delta 3200. Delta 3200 has this washed out look to the initial scan. Some may like this. Others may like the additional contrast P3200 provides. However, this not a disadvantage to Delta 3200. Having a flatter image can result in more flexibility in modifying the image in post (digitally and in the darkroom). By having a flatter negative, adding contrast to a darker area and maintaining detail in the shadows is a huge plus!

The second noticeable difference is grain structure. Film nerds will talk about the ‘T’ grain structure in P3200. This does yield a tighter grain structure resulting in sharp images. In comparison to Delta 3200’s “unobtrusive grain structure” the grain is quite noticeable in the shadows of Delta 3200. TMAX P3200 retains much finer detail.

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TMAX P3200 (Left) vs Delta 3200 (Right) 100% views of 6 Megapixel scans.

However, as the exposure begins to lean to the highlights the differences become smaller, however TMAX P3200 still tops out with less noticeable grain.

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TMAX P3200 (Left) vs Delta 3200 (Right) 100% views of 6 Megapixel scans.

Despite these comparisons, you’re probably thinking, “Dang, P3200 definitely won.” Let’s not forget that grain is not always a bad thing. I mean, we shoot film because we love grain. Grain gives an image beautiful characteristics. A common thing we hear from cinematographers that shoot film, “I shoot film because I love the grain.”

We also want to notate that film processed in different developers yield very different results. The developer we used, Ilfotec RT Rapid, is used for drag development. The name of the game with this developer is speed since Dunwoody Photo processes many black and white rolls throughout a business day. Processing Delta 3200 in a developer, say D76, may produce very different results from these tests!

P3200 does have its own characteristics and produces incredible tonalities and sharpness. Since shooting Delta 3200, my experience was quite enjoyable. I can certainly see myself modifying these images significantly more in post because of the flexibility in Delta 3200’s flat profile.  One area we definitely know Delta 3200 undeniably wins in… 120 format.

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We had a lot of fun doing this challenge and we want to hear from you! What other films should we compare? We want to hear your thoughts! Join our facebook group and let’s continue the conversation there!

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