Film developer suggestions

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Truzi, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    It will soon be time to jump into processing in a serious way. I've done occasional B&W over the past few years (and my technique needs improvement), but I've never really delved into developers.

    The information here and elsewhere on the web is great, and now it's time to learn how to apply the "book"-knowledge.
    I want to get a feel for what can be done.

    Polypan F (of which I've read quite a lot about) sounded like fun, so I now have 90 meters, but I also have some Ilford, and intend to experiment with Kodak as well. My intention is to shoot (and bracket) several rolls of 35mm per experiment. Even if I don't print any of my experiments, my ultimate goal is optical printing.

    At this time, I need to see "obvious" differences - things a beginner can notice easily. (I've a little dark room experience from elementary school and my undergrad, but now want to actually _understand_ what I'm doing.) When I get better I can then learn about the finer points. I have tried push-processing twice, but don't yet have a full appreciation of it beyond theory.

    So far, I've only ever used D-76 at stock strength.
    Please suggest some developers, and how I can "play" with each one. To start, I intend to use three or four developers, each being a different class from one another. One will be D-76, and one will NOT be caffenol (that will come with time, though). All fresh 35mm film in daylight tanks.

    I am not trying to find the "perfect" developer or end up with "perfect" negatives in the experiments. I want to see differences both within and between chemicals.
    Obviously I'm trying to learn about grain and tonality, and how some tools are better for certain situations or can create a certain/different feel. However, I'm open to extremes and just about anything interesting - so long as I learn.

    Oh, and a "stupid" question... I can use the same stop and fixer regardless of developer, right?
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    May I ask what you are trying to accomplish? You really won't see any obvious change by using different developers, if all you do is develop normally or push or pull by one stop only. I'd just stick with D-76 and get more familiar with it. If you look over internet sites, including this one, you'll see very passionate claims on what each developers will do and how much better one is over the other or how different they are. My own experience with very commonly available developers such as D-76 and XTOL showed me changes are very subtle. Of course I haven't done anything exotic, except I recently processed my film with Dektol (which is really a print developer).

    I hear a lot about Rodinal and Dianfine, so if you really insist, you might want to try that. But, until you get to a point where you can get consistent result from one developer, you really won't know the difference you are seeing is because of your process variance, your own eyes tricking you, or really the difference developer made. My suggestion is not to bother at this point.
     
  3. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I have used four developers:
    D-76
    XTOL
    HC-110
    Diafine

    Started out using D-76. In fact, when I started out, when somebody said, "Developer," they almost always meant D-76 diluted 1:1.

    I learned to use XTOL, just a couple of years ago and I like the results. In fact, now, XTOL is pretty much my Go-To developer. I still use D-76 because it's what I learned with. However, I like the results XTOL gives me.

    I have a bottle of HC-110 in my cabinet, just because. It keeps forever if you make sure the lid is on tight. I'll always have it if I need it.
    I use it occasionally but I know XTOL and D-76 better.

    Just got a batch of Diafine and I like the results I have been getting with it but the jury is still out. I probably will keep using it but XTOL will probably still be my favorite. Only time will tell.

    Best advice: Pick one and use it until you understand it well before trying another. If D-76 suits you, there's nothing wrong with keeping on using it.
    I don't know much about Polypan F but, that aside, if you would like to experiment with different developers, XTOL is probably a good place to start.
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    About stop and fixer, the answer is YES. You can use the same one for any and all developers.
     
  5. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Keep it simple. If you want to try some extremes of look, I'd start with Rodinal and Xtol. There are pretty much as opposite ends. If you prefer the look of Xtol, you want a fine grain developer. If Rodinal, look toward things like Acufine and FX2......fast and gritty. Personally, I like Xtol for 400 speed and up 35mm film and Tmax 400 in 6cx6 and Rodinal for Acros in med format or 35mm. Honestly, I can't a huge difference between xtol and D76 or even HC110. For me, the most important thing is to make sure your stock is always fresh. That leans toward HC110 and Rodinal. Xtol stored in full glass bottles (I use 5 1-liter brown Boston rounds from SKS) last at least 6 months or even a year
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Check beer and wine making shops. There's a place, just down the street from me called "Bierhaus International." I get clear glass jugs really cheap. $5 for a gallon jug. The last time I went there, the guy behind the counter said, "Oh, yeah! You're that crazy guy who still uses film!" :wink:

    My darkroom is actually dark unless I'm in there with the lights turned on. Amber or clear doesn't make any difference for me.
     
  7. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    Well, I am fairly consistent, but not necessarily good, lol. I also plan to do regular processing - it won't all be experimental.

    If I only use one given developer, in the same dilution, at the same temps and times, I will get better at it, but won't learn much. What I learn will be by mistake, not on purpose.

    It may be helpful to illustrate how I think:
    When I first learned how to make cookies, I followed instructions for the cookies I was going to give people, and they turned out fine. Then I experimented by altering the ratio of ingredients. Yes, I know you don't do that when you bake, and (knowingly) came up with some terrible cookie-shaped inedibles. One result was a very hard object that tasted a bit like a pancake. Not worth eating, but it did give me an idea of how things worked and how I could "tweak" them.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Truzi:

    There is lots to learn with one developer - you can vary film choice, exposure, development time, dilution, temperature, agitation - all will change the result.

    If you do that, you will really learn that developer, and can then proceed to compare it to the others.
     
  9. grommi

    grommi Member

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    Although this questions comes up almost weekly, it just made me think why I use the developers that I use. One point not regarded before here in this thread is toxicity. That's why I would avoid today developers containing Hydroquinone, and the best known is D-76. Hydroquinone can cause severe allergics and is supposed to be cancerogenic.

    So if low toxicity counts, my choices would be developers containing ascorbate instead, either Xtol or self made developers with Metol or Phenidon and Vit-C. The probably most harmless developer that can compete with regular developers is self made Caffenol-C.
     
  10. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Metol and phenidone are known allergens, and are cross-sensitizing. That means that someone that has developed a sensitivity towards metol will likely also be sensitive to phenidone and vice versa. For some, that rules out most of the PQ and MQ developers. I agree about the non-toxicity of caffenol, and its virtues as a developer, but I must note that it is very expensive to make. On the opposite end of the cost scale of home-made developers is parodinal (in use identical to Rodinal), and it too is not very toxic, especially when used in lower dilutions. It costs me about ZAR0,50 per film developed, that is about 5 EURO cents. Caffenol is at least ten times more expensive, if not more. And it smells funky, too :blink:. I think the phenidone-ascorbate developers deserve more attention, as they potentially cut the middle ground in terms of cost and environmental concerns. The quantity of phenidone used is miniscule, so should have very low impact in the bigger scheme of things.
     
  11. grommi

    grommi Member

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    250 ml Caffenol-C-M coast me 0.30 EUR. Rodinal and Parodinal 1:50 is about 0.10 EUR. Peanuts anyway. Most developers are quite cheap. Expensive f.e. is Emofin, about 1.50 EUR for 1 development.

    Yes, P and M are cross sensitizing, but allergies are rare and toxicity is low. Q is really bad, allergies are frequent, it's probably carcinogenic. Buying Q here is very restricted, no selling to private persons as raw chemical, P and M you can buy without limitations.

    Sorry if that is not of interest for the OP.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2013
  12. Axle

    Axle Member

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    I have two developers I always keep on hand, HC-110 and Rodinal (Blazinal is my local flavour). Between these two there is no common B&W film that you cannot develop.

    Other developers I have used, D-76/ID-11 (D-76 is Kodak, ID-11 is Ilford, basically the same thing). These two are great catch-all, cheap, and easy to use film developers. Ilford Ilfosol 3, decent developer if all you're developing is slow Ilford Films. It doesn't really play well with non-ilford stocks I've found.

    I have yet to try XTOL, but I do have the packages to mix up a batch.

    As for stop...I personally just use water for my stop as I mostly use HC-110 and Rodinal which are both highly diluted developers. I use Ilfostop for D-76/XTOL processing as they're a bit stronger. Fix, is Ilford Rapid Fixer (and Kodafix with hardener for my Adox/Efke films. Another good fixer out there is TF-5 from the Photographer's Formulary.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    another vote for caffenol ... its good-stuff !

    SNIP

    hi dorff

    i just processed film in caffenol i mixed 2 months + ago which had maybe 8 or 9 rolls of film through it
    and a handful of paper. no replenishment, just a seasoned batch ...
    2 L lasted me 6 months last year, and hundreds of sheets /rolls of film + paper ...
    YMMV of course :smile:
     
  14. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Not in the UK ... about 33p per roll of 135 developed ... for me anyway.

    "which developer should i use?" is a question that leads to Hell anyway, as the thread just fills with people naming their personal favourite :wink:
     
  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Most BW developers are safe provided one does not ingest them. Three exceptions would be those based on pyrogallol, catechol, and paraphenylenediamine. The first two are toxic by skin absorption and the last can cause severe allergic dermatitis.
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Based on the original post, I would honestly suggest a little more reading (not online) if the desire is to try a few things with different characteristics, gain a better understanding of the differences, and learn how we can control or alter them (to some extent). Something straight forward like The Film Developing Cookbook might be a good read. A few basics are in order here:

    1. Developers fall broadly into two categories - solvent or "fine grain" types, and non-solvent. A solvent developer typically yields finer graininess, while a non-solvent developer typically yields slightly higher sharpness but will tend to accentuate the graininess of the film. However "sharpness" is a relatively complex thing, and difficult to evaluate objectively. Within these two categories there are variations, extremes, and crossovers. The working characteristics of the developer are determined by the types and concentrations of its main components (developing agent(s), alkali "activator", preservative, and restrainer).

    2. In some cases a developer can be either solvent and non-solvent. D-76 at stock strength is a fine grain solvent developer. Diluted 1+3 it is effectively a non solvent developer.

    3. The working properties/characteristics of essentially all developers are affected to varying degrees by how they are used: dilution, development times, and the frequency of agitation.

    4. The type of film is an important consideration. Developers may work a little differently with different films. Further, the image structure characteristics of the final image are determined mostly by the choice of film. The developer affects these characteristics, but cannot alter the basic characteristics of the film. So for example, no ultra-fine grain developer will turn a coarse grained film into a fine grained film.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2013
  17. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    After all, it's your darkroom and photography, you can do whatever you want, and I actually encourage it. If trying different developer is what you want to do, by all means, buy 5 different kinds and try them out. D-76, XTOL, HC-110, Rodinal, and Diafine comes up in forum conversations, so that'll be a good place to start. You asked if you will see some obvious and noticeable difference from your (self-admitted) novice and inexperienced eyes. My answer to that direct question is NO. You might see some difference but you have no basis to tell if the difference is due to the developer or process variance. It doesn't change THAT much with different developers even when you intentionally do something. You can often print differently and make them all look pretty much identical. Conversely, you can just stick with one and print differently to get different looks.

    One thing I might tell you is that I might use the same developer, D-76, but I don't process with same dilution, same temp, and same time. Sometimes I use 1:1, sometimes I use stock. Sometimes longer, sometime shorter dev time. All these aren't experimental. There are routine and valid reasons for doing these changes.

    I think you have your mind set on trying out different formulations because you are trying to convince us why, when most people are saying don't bother, at least not yet. Go right ahead and enjoy it. I may ask opinions on forums like you do but it is my darkroom and my photography. Sometimes I do things because I want to. There's nothing wrong with that.
     
  18. 250swb

    250swb Member

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    Truly the best way to see obvious differences is to look at other peoples photographs. Not only will you see the results of a certain combination of film and developer, but also see the context of why somebody with experience used that combination to fulfill a goal. Try Flickr or the other photo sharing sites, the images are often accompanied by notes.

    Processing should be based on knowledge, with sound reasons to do something, and with a sound plan. The alternative of going on a wing and a prayer is that you will never know if you made a mistake, or if it could be better.

    Steve
     
  19. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    With little experience of neg processing try a range of developers from say very fine grain such as Perceptol through Xtol, ID11, a staining developer, two bath and eventually to Rodinal and use the recommended times. It will help if you stick to one film while doing this.

    Will you learn a lot? I doubt it but you might enjoy yourself. If trying a range of developers with one or more films is your desire then do it. As John Wayne said: "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" or woman :D

    Do not expect an agreed list of developers to try, with (even less likely) a list of agreed "differences" to watch for. As someone has already said, the pursuit of that end leads to madness.

    You need to be sane when you draw your own conclusions and then act on them :D

    pentaxuser
     
  20. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I would suggest reading the notes on developers in my FAQ. You've got plenty of good suggestions and explanations here but I have one thing to add: choose ONE developer and learn it inside-out, i.e. see how its behaviour changes with dilution and agitation patterns. Certainly try a couple of developers, but concentrate 90% of your energy on just one and you will get much better results. I would suggest running at least 20 rolls through any given developer to make sure you have a good feel for how it behaves.

    The common options:
    - D76 is the can't-go-wrong classic
    - XTOL is very much like D76 but a tiny bit better in most ways (resolution, grain magnitude, achieved film-speed)
    - Rodinal is a non-solvent developer, therefore grainier and sometimes sharper. Extremely flexible for H-D curve manipulations.

    They're all good in their own way; you have to find which one suits your artistic goals best and perfect its use. No one really agrees on which is best.

    I strongly recommend Way Beyond Monochrome. It'll give you every bit of information you need to make excellent negatives and prints - way better than a bunch of us waffling on the internet.
     
  21. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    i aagree.films are more different than film developers and d76 is a great middle-of-the-road-developer. use it to fully understand it before trying another.
     
  22. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Since Caffenol has been a bit up and down for me, I just do not have complete confidence to use it for critical or once in a lifetime shots. Some will say the complete opposite, and I don't doubt that it works reliably for them. I do think that Caffenol requires more time and effort to understand and use than "brand name" developers such as D76, Rodinal etc., as there are more variables and more films that need special care. It is not a beginner's developer, despite what some may say. Okay if you are slightly bohemian about the results, but it has its advantages to be able to develop a film towards scanning or printing with greater ease and accuracy. Don't take this as me dissing Caffenol. I am only saying that with development being daunting as it is to a beginner, it is easier to use a one-shot developer like Rodinal - much less potential for disaster. Early disasters can put someone off film forever.

    I would appreciate your formula for filter caffenol. Mine died after a week. User error somewhere on my part, but I don't know where. Do you add sulphite or another preservative?
     
  23. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    Thank you for the advice. I am formulating a plan, and will probably look into the books mentioned.

    I do feel bad, however, for not articulating myself adequately. A lot can be accomplished with exposure and when printing; I want to learn what can be done when developing.

    If this were the David Letterman show, and there was a segment called "Stupid Developer Tricks," would any advice be different?
     
  24. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Try to achieve a negative that contains all the qualities you need to take the imaging process further. Everything afterwards can be achieved one way or the other through printing techniques etc. If you want coarse grain, choose a fast film and grain accentuating developer such as Rodinal at higher temperatures. For most of the rest, choose the right film and develop normally.