Ok, I’ll Go Back to Using Tri-X (I Got Rid of the Curl)

Tri-X gives beautiful, crisp images that have just the right touch of gravitas. I like HP5+, but Tri-X captures scenes in a way that better reflects my tastes. I used Tri-X when learning darkroom development and printing and grew comfortable with it. When I began developing Tri-X at home, the curl was unmanageable. It curled longitudinally and laterally, which was so maddening I gave up.

Ultrafine Xtreme became my go-to film, and when that went the way of the dodo, Kentmere, Fomapan, and HP5+ took over. I was happy with this arrangement, and did not use Tri-X Kodak film for three years. After burning through numerous Kentmere and Fomapan test rolls, I remembered I had Tri-X in the fridge going unused. Why not use it for testing? After all, I usually scanned only a few frames on a test roll.


Recently, I bought a few rangefinders, and wanted to test them quickly. Having no more Fomapan, and not wanting to waste Kentmere and HP5+, I decided to finish up the the two rolls of four-year-old Tri-X. The images were going to be mainly focus and shutter speed tests; none were expected to be keepers.  My current practice when shooting test rolls in manual cameras is shoot 8-10 frames, then put the camera in a darkroom bag, cut the film, and take out the remaining roll. This way, I can use a 36-frame roll to test three or four cameras.

On removing the negatives from the tanks and seeing they were properly exposed and the images sharp, I had no further use for them. Then I remembered reading a forum post that said Tri-X would not curl if allowed to dry in a humid environment, so I decided to experiment.

Usually, I  run negatives through Photo-Flo solution a few times, then hang them to dry. Drying happens in a small bathroom, and before hanging the negatives, I run a small air purifier for a 20-30 minutes to remove the dust—that solved the dust issue wonderfully. This time, I didn’t bother with the air purifier and skipped the Photo-Flo. I ran maybe a gallon of hot water into the bathtub, hung the negatives on the shower head, pulled the shower curtain, and closed the bathroom door.  The following day, when I checked, they were dry and flat! I was shocked. Here are two images from the roll. Considering how little care I took to prevent dust and bubbles, they didn’t look that bad.

I like the tonality and grain of Tri-X and regretted not being able to use it because of the curl. I still have a roll of 35mm and a roll of 120 Tri-X in the freezer, so those will be reserved for real projects. Unfortunately, Tri-X costs nearly twice what I paid for these rolls in 2019. Now what?!?

It’s back to Fomapan and Kentmere for testing, for sure. HP5+ overexposed one stop looks good, but then I lose shutter speed. At this point, I’ll try the Berlin Kino in the fridge before deciding what to restock. Very likely, after stewing for a few weeks over the cost of film, I’ll buy a few rolls each of Tri-X 35mm and 120 and convince myself I actually saved money with free shipping.


  1. I like Tri-X a lot, and would use it more. It’s just the price of Tri-X these days gives me pause. I can usually get HP5+ for two to three dollars less than Tri-X per roll, and Kentmere 400 for a couple bucks less than HP5+. I’ll probably get a few more rolls of Tri-X when Blue Moon has a sale, but at last count I have a dozen rolls of HP5+, so I’m in no hurry.

    1. Author

      I’m with you on price. My Tri-X is four years old, and the current price is hard to stomach. Like you, I have plenty of HP5+, which I also bought before prices increased. Shooting HP5+ one stop overexposed looks pretty good.

      BTW, I returned the black 7s (fungus) but found a silver one in a box cheap. Great camera.

  2. I bulk load HP5+ and get great prices on it from Midwest Photo. I also bulk load Rollei IR 400. I save quite a lot because I shoot 150 rolls or so a year. I also like to load 12, 18, or 24 exposure rolls when that size it better.

    I’m in the metro Atlanta area too and enjoy it when I recognize where you are shooting. Great site.

    1. Author

      Hi, glad you like the blog. I’ve considered bulk loading, but two years ago when companies warned film prices were increasing, I loaded up the freezer with film. Since I rarely shoot more than 40-50 rolls/year, I have enough to last for a while. When I do go back, there will be sticker shock. The last time I bought a 3-pk of UltraMax, it cost 18.00 (still have it). Now that I have almost ended my camera buying days, I will need less film for testing.

      I like shooting around the city and hope to get to North Georgia and waterfalls, and a few other areas.

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