HELP : My first film/developer. Its very confusing.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by snaggs, May 4, 2005.

  1. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    I've been reading a zillion pages on the net, and I've just got more confused as to what film and developer combination to use. I've got rid of a bunch of my digital lenses, bought a M6 w/35mm Sumilux and put a Focomat V35 on layby.

    For the first step, I want to get good at a single film and developer combo.

    Leave out super high speed, and super fine grain films. What do you suggest for a dawn till dusk film and whats an easy developer to use with it.

    Diafine sounds good, dont have to worry about temperatures, re-use the stuff forever, and I can get smooth tones without having to pull. The only pictures I found were here http://oberdorf.org/oly/index.php?section=Photography&subsection=BWFilmTest, but I've read that TMX isnt an ideal film for Diafine, anyways, the diafine TMX100 shots here do show more detail, even if the sky has got a bit noisy.

    So, could I do alot better than Ilford HP5 developed in Diafine?

    Daniel.
     
  2. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    For a combo that did me well until I got more into things was Tri-X and D76 (or nowadays XTOL). Gave me nice printable negs with a nice look about them.
     
  3. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Combos

    Daniel-That combo is too limiting for a beginner. I agree-try XTOL 1:1 or even HC-110 which is a one shot developer. Just stick with something long enough to learn what it can do for you. Xtol will give you full rated box speed which is great. Mixes up in 5 minutes. If you were going to mix your own I would highly reccommend Pyrocat-HD. The great thing is you mix and the dev. is fresh every time. Results become predictable.And that's FUN!
    Spend your time making photos not experimenting. I used to make alot of different developers, etc. but it becomes tedious.
    Patterson Acculux is a great and overlooked product. Will give a slight "push" to your HP-5 and the negatives are dazzling. Try it!
    Best, Peter
     
  4. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I started with TMax, but I've had a lot of fun so far with Tri-X. Lots of forgiveness. D76 is easy to mix and use, and comes in smaller batches than XTOL. Though if you have a big jug go with the XTOL.

    I've found Rodinal a fun alternative to mess with. Very easy to mix up for a session, and fun to play with things like high dilution stand development. You can keep a bottle of that on the shelf for when you get bored with D76 or XTOL.

    Also look at Photographer's Formulary TF-4 fixer as an alternative to using an acid stop bath and acid fix. Seems to do the job very well and simplifies your mixing, processing and washing.

    Have fun!
     
  5. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I started with Ilford HP5 developed in ID-11. 30 years later, after improvements to the products it is still a great combination.

    David.
     
  6. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    Seems the vote is going for XTOL. I have done low dilution rodinol when my local lab said they couldn't process Tech Pan anymore. It worked really well 2nd roll, after I realised it was a bit understrength first time. Does anyone have a link to stand developing?

    One reason I was looking at Diafine was:

    1. I could change the ISO of the film mid roll
    2. Once mixed, you can re-use it forever
    3. Temperature doesnt matter
    4. Time doesnt matter

    Why is diafine too limiting?

    Daniel.
     
  7. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    I'd go with the HP5/ D76 (ID11) combo. I've found them to be both quite 'forgiving'. I've had pretty good results with HP5 and Ilford LC29, if you don't want to fart around with powders. BLIGHTY.
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yet another post; yet another opinion:

    I don't think "reusing forever" is necessarily a good idea. Do you want to mess about with replenishers and such, or do you want to increase the developing time as a function of the number of films developed, or do you want to use two-bath developers with the extra bath to confuse with others? I think most of us here have at some time grabbed the wrong bottle, and tried developing film in fix! Now add another bottle to the two or three you have already...

    I like single shot developers. Back when I used a lot of film I used Ilfosol-S. Now I don't use that much, and find myself unable to keep up the necessary usage to ensure my local shop has a fresh supply (they tell me I was the only customer who used it!).

    There are two ready-made developers I buy: Neofin and Rodinal. Neofin has been one of my favorites for many years, not so much for the grain (large and sharp) as for the tonality it gives with "classic" films like EFKE, APX100 and FP4+. It works fine with other films too, like HP5+ and the (coming) MACO IR 820/400. After a few years your fingers get calibrated, and you can tell immediately if the developer is at 20C or 22C.

    I haven't tried Diafine, but I'm sure it's a fine developer.
     
  9. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    You will notice few recommendations for Diafine. One reason is that "normal" developers allow more control over negative contrast by varying development time. This is not going to be a major factor for your first few rolls of film, but will allow you to make changes later on without learning a whole new developing sequence. Also, use a one-shot developer - it gives you the consistency from film to film that is particularly important at first.

    Keeping the developing film at 20 degrees C is not difficult as most homes are heated to close to that temperature and if you live in warmer climes then a wash bowl of water at 20C to 24C (the film and/or developer instructions will have a chart showing the developing times for different temperatures) is all that is needed for the 10 - 20 minutes it takes to process the film.

    If you are new to film entirely,you may want to reduce the ASA rating of the film somewhat (for HP5 try 200ASA) and reduce the manufacturer's recommended development time by 15% (unless you are shooting in dull/overcast conditions, in which case use the manufacturer's recommended times) - this is just a rule of thumb to give the inexperienced a better chance of good shadow detail and to avoid over-developing.

    If you intend using a tripod, give a slower film a try such as FP4+ rated at 80ASA so as to get finer grain. In this case, it might be worth giving Rodinal a try which is easy to use (but get a 50ml syringe to measure it with) and will last forever in the bottle. I would not recommend Rodinal with HP5+ as the grain, although nice and sharp, is getting a bit intrusive for my liking... I use ID-11 mainly (but that comes as a powder and you may not want to faff about with powdered chemicals at this stage) but I still have some Rodinal that I 1st opened about 3 years ago and it is still working fine... In practice any of the standard one-shot liquid developers will do a fine job and are easy to use.

    Have fun, Bob.
     
  10. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    You can still get Technidol for Tech Pan, but possibly not for long, so I'd be interested in your time/temp/dilution data. I have a freezer full of the film which should last me a while.

    David.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I like the recommendation to start with the basics, and something like Tri-X in D-76 or FP-4+ or HP-5+ in ID-11 would qualify (I'd lean toward Tri-X, but that's a matter of taste), and then stick with it for a year before trying other things. Even if you don't end up with this combo for the rest of your life, it's good to have something tried and true that you know inside and out and that is well documented as a benchmark for testing other films and developers.

    XTOL is very popular and can produce beautiful results, but there are also reports of consistency issues--the mysterious occasional XTOL crash that no one seems to be able to explain. There's a lot more history behind D-76, ID-11, and HC-110.
     
  12. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    You cant in Australia, at least thats what Ive been told. I went with

    Technical Pan Rodinal 1+300 30 minutes

    as listed at http://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.html. The mistake I made first time round was not enough developer used (you need a larger tank at this dilution), and I got the fractions slightly wrong so did 1+240 instead. 2nd time round it looked great.

    Daniel.
     
  13. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    You dont need replenishers with Diafine, its two bath, and gets better with age and use apparently. Also, since its a compensating developer, you can mix all different films together, exposed differently and it doesnt matter.

     
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  15. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    Just before I goto bed, one last question, how does Delta 400 compare with HP5+ ? I've ruled out FP4 as apparently its not very punchy, even though its fine grain.

    Daniel.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Delta 400 has finer grain than HP5+, and even though I like traditional looking films in general, I really like Delta 400, particularly at EI 200 in Perceptol, though it looks good at 400 in D-76 as well. It's capable of very solid blacks, delicate highlights, and smooth gradation. Why don't I use it?--it's not available in sheet sizes, just 35mm and 120.
     
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Delta films have finer grain than the equivalent "traditional" films, but seem to have less flexibility. At least I've never liked my results with them :smile:

    FP4+ is "punchy" enough for anything, it all depends on development. It is my favorite film in all sizes, from 35mm to 5x7". It is a bit slower than HP5+ / Delta400, but a speed of ISO 100 shouldn't stop anyone from using it!

    Personally I prefer slower films, since it lets me open up the aperture for reduced DoF without needing super-duper shutter speeds of 1/4000 or so. It can be really difficult getting a diffuse background with a fast film when your fastest shutter time is 1/100!
     
  18. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Daniel, my only overall caution is not to over-research your film/developer decision on the web, before actually getting hands on with it. You will frequently find with darkroom work that your results will vary widely from the next person, and what you might see as "punchy", someone else might see as flat.

    For many many folks, FP4 is a great film. The bottom line is that there is no "right" answer, and your work will not be judged by these choices.

    Your work will be judged by the totality of your ability to produce an image that reflects your vision. Your choice of film and developer is one step toward achieving that goal.

    Picking one film (doesn't *really* matter which one, though one with more overall flexibility, like Tri-X or HP5 gives you a lot of lattitude to experiment) is sound advice. Doing so allows you to focus on refining your techniques both in and out of the darkroom while holding an important aspect of your craft constant.

    Once you understand well how you can adjust the look of one film, and you find its limits, you can then start trying other films and developers which move the look beyond those limits that you now fully understand about the first film. In fact, before trying new films, I'd probably suggest varying the developer - first vary the dilutions and times of your first developer, learning how to push and pull the film, etc., then start varying the developer itself - for example, I recommend starting with D76, try it in a number of variations over a variety of images (rolls of low contrast, high contrast, pushed, pulled, etc.). Then start trying Rodinal, and observe how that developer changes the look and feel of the image.

    The most important thing is to make a choice and start shooting lots of images with it. Form your own judgements. Then expand. Then tell us about it!
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Last post before mine is undeniably very good advice. I won't add or take anything away from it, simply second it.

    - Thom
     
  20. BradS

    BradS Member

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    Me too. What Chuck said. Excellent advice.
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    As noted above you cannot adjust your developing times with a divided developer like Dianfine to compensate for lighting conditions, and you cannot change film speed mid roll. I use Dianfine in the summer when my tap water is 90 degrees, but I had to do extensive film testing to find the film speed that works for me. I used (or the lab) Dianfine for low light news photography when flash wasn't practical but it never a first choice for me. I would look at a standard pairing like Trx X in HC 110 or D 76.
     
  22. gareth harper

    gareth harper Inactive

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    Very good advice from Chuck.

    Just pick a classic combo and work it until you feel confident with it. From there you can quickly try other things and learn what will really work for you. But don't chop and change till you have mastered one combo.
    Also the 400asa films are the most tolerant. Once you have mastered a film like tri-x you will quickly adapt to using the slightly more finicky 100asa films.
    Also bracket bracket bracket, it always gets you a result. Once more confident you don't need to do it so much, though I still do it a lot.

    Another option if your main target is to end up with traditional prints is to learn how to print with a C41 film first. You can skip the learning to process film, which can be a little fustrating at times, and go straight to the printing (the fun bit) having let the lab take care of the C41 processing. Films like XP2 are also very easy to print with. Once you are confident with printing XP2 (remember it needs to be printed about a grade harder than conventional film, that's the only real differnce) you will be all the more determined to learn the other trick, processing your own traditional silver based film. I always suggest and recommend this route as it allows you to learn one topic at a time. And indeed it's how I taught myself to print.

    All the best.
     
  23. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    Thanks for all the advice, looks like HP5 w/XTOL is what Ill go with. Ill make sure to come back to this thread and post the results.

    Daniel.
     
  24. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    where-abouts are you snaggs?
     
  25. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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  26. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I agree with the idea of using "standard" films and developers to start with, but I want to just say that I love Diafine. I think that Diafine with Tri-X and APX 100 produce gorgeous images, but as has been stated above, there are limitations for use as a general purpose developer. Once you really have the hang of things and are looking to find some combinations for special situations, I strongly recommend Diafine and TX for low light.