Higher Accutance with Delta-400

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by geraldatwork, Jun 5, 2005.

  1. geraldatwork

    geraldatwork Member

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    I recently submitted a portfolio of 35mm B&W prints enlarged to 8X10 for membership in a gallery. They basically liked my work and accepted me for an associate membership. Not a full one. That I needed to improve my work technically.

    One of the technical comments was that my prints didn't give the impression of sharpness that they could. My grain looked "mushy" and lacked accutance. Also that my tones were "muddy". The person I spoke with said the reason was the D-76 1+1 I use with the Delta 400. He suggested I keep the Delta but maybe rate it at around 200-300 and try either, Microdol- X, HC-110 but didn't say which dilution or Rodinol.

    After looking at some other prints in the gallery he pointed out I would like to give it a try. Although some had a very salt and pepper look which I though a little too drastic for my taste. Any suggestions as I would like to keep it simple with developers I can readily buy. That's why I originally chose D-76. I asked this question elsewhere and received confusing responses.
     
  2. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Clearly the person you spoke to doesn't fully understand what acutance is or how developers affect it. Microdol-X, especially, gives up lots of acutance in the process of making the grain finer. HC-110 can be an acutance developer in high dilutions, and Rodinal is generally considered one, but so is diluted D-76 to a lesser extent.

    For my photos, I usually use HC-110, either Dilution G (for 120 and sheet film) or Dilution E (just changed to this for 35 mm, because I don't need extra liquid beyond what covers the film); either way, I extend development and reduce agitation to push up the shadows without gaining excess contrast, and I feel I'm getting quite acceptable acutance when I use a sharp lens, tripod, etc.

    I've never used APX 400, but HC-110 in high dilutions has been very good to me on TMY 120, Tri-X 35 mm, J&C Pro 100 and Lucky SHD 400 in 120, Fomapan 100 and TXT in 9x12 cm. Get the exposure and development time right, and dilute it as far as you can without needing more liquid than the tank will hold (up to Dilution G, 1:119 from syrup), develop long and gently, and see if that doesn't do the job for you.

    If you *really* want to try crisp grain, give Caffenol a run. Folger's Coffee Crystals, Arm & Hammer washing soda, and half an hour at 70-72 F for most ISO 400 films (agitate every minute) -- exact recipe is around in several places. It can occasionally give unevenness and little marks from microbubbles, but when it's good, it's amazingly crisp (but the grain gets pretty obtrusive from 35 mm).
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Not sure that it will really improve acutance over D-76 (1+1) (ditto to Donald Qualls' comments), but I really like Delta 400 at EI 200 in Perceptol stock, 12 min. at 68 deg. F, agitating every minute. It should give you smoother gradation and less grain than D-76 (1+1). I haven't tried it in Rodinal, but Rodinal should give you sharper grain.

    If you sell some prints, you might consider investing the proceeds toward a larger camera like a Bronica 645RF or Mamiya M7II, if you prefer rangefinders, as I'm guessing you do from your profile.
     
  4. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Ther person advising you is an @rse. ID11/D76 is a supremely good overall dev and at 1+1, considering that delta 400 is not a super fine grained film, will produce fair acutance. His suggestion of using microdol X confirms his lack of real knowledge as acutance would be lower than D76 as microdol is a solvent fine grain dev, NOT in any way an acutance dev.

    Yes, we all have preferences, but your use of a legendary std developer and a fine film are absolutely not the issue. He is entitled to his comments about you prints tones, but judging by his complete lack of understanding of devs and accutance, I would doubt everything. My bet is that he thinks all prints should have the look of his and until you produce images like his, he wont like yours!

    The only think likely to cause images that look unacceptably soft would be poor focus either at taking or enlarging....or arguably, if a subject benefits from a gritty raw look, the use of a super fine grained film like Tmax100 or acros with a solvent dev like microdol-X.

    None of the devs he mentions are acutance devs with the possible exception of Rodinal (big sharp grain, but not the acutance of pyro devs, acutol, Beutler etc)

    Sound likes he wanted to sound knowledgeable.....Yes ccertain combos suit certain subjects and it is impossible to somment on the 'muddiness' of the prints, but this guy has no credibility full stop. Are these images for display or sale and what is this chaps role?

    Tom
     
  5. geraldatwork

    geraldatwork Member

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    Maybe as mentioned he isn't as knowledgeable as he appeared. I would like to stick with the D-76 however. But I am a little confused. To get maximum acutance from this developer and Delta-400 do I use it as a stock solution or should I dilute it more to 1+2?

    Possibly the grain doesn't show up in my prints enough due to poor focusing in the enlarger. I'm using a Micro Sight focuser and open up the enlarging lens (El-Nikkor 50/2.8) 2 stops when focusing. Is there a focus shift when closing down? When I focus all the way stopped down to f8, where I usually expose the paper I find it harder to focus due to the increased DOF.
     
  6. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    1+1 will give greater acutance over 1+0, but I really think this is unlikely to be the issue as the difference in terms of the overall impression of the print will be very slight. The only thing in my opinion perhaps is to work on your printing generally if you agree that your images are a bit muddy and there is not good tonal seperation. If you get that cracked, just tell them you used HC110 as they recommended. How the hell will they know the difference between HC110 and D76 1+1 based on looking at the prrints? They wont. Other variables existing within your own processes (esp light source) will be more significant.

    on a 10x8 you ought to be able to see subtle grain on a 10x8 of 35mm delta 400 in D76. If you cannot see any hint of grain I wouls suspect a problem somewhere.

    Are you sure your focus finder is adjusted properly thus giving a sharp image on paper.

    It should be fairly obvious if your prints are in focus of 35mm as the grain is visible in most print sizes.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2005
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you dilute D-76 to 1+3, you'll reduce the solvent effect and you should improve acutance (with the caveat that the gallery folks don't know what they're talking about and may really mean something else like contrast). Download the data sheet from the Ilford website to get starting times for D-76 (1+3). You can use the same time as for ID-11 as a starting point.
     
  8. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Delta-400 will not give Tri-X like grain whatever you do to it. It does start to show grain at an 8x enlargement - but possibly it is on the cusp with your prints. I only use a little in 35mm - mostly 120.

    The 'muddy' comment could mean your printing is not making best use of the paper range (or the respondent was one of the 'must have full black and clear white' camp). Delta's tonal rendering is different from conventional grain films. At E.I. 200 I have never needed to use a filter to get good tone in blue skies, for example.

    The best way to get acutance, even without a notable acutance developer is to avoid over agitation. One inversion per minute at most. Dilution increases will bring in some compensation for highlights and shadows, but compress the mid-tones more - one way to 'muddy' tones.

    With a 2.8 enlarging lens you should be able to focus without the magnifier - in fact I doubt that you will see the grain with Delta, I usually focus the image - and you can test for focus shift by making two exposures on the sheet. Half the sheet at f2.8 for time T, and the other half for f8 and 4 T seconds. Do you have to adjust the enlarger in any way if you are using contrast filters?

    Without seeing the negatives and the prints this is all really speculation, of course.
     
  9. Tach

    Tach Member

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    To be fair, there are reports from respectable sources[1] that at 1:2 and over, Microdol-X (and Perceptol) become acutance developers, as the sodium sulfite concentration drops too much for the dissolving action to take place. I have not tried this (yet).

    Another high acutance developer for tabular films you could try is TFX-2. Again, no experience.

    [1] Barry Thornton, "Edge of Darkness".
     
  10. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Delta 400 in Rodinal 1+50, printed on a condenser (I always use a grain magnifier - but it usuallyonly serves to confirm what I already saw) - POPPING sharp grain! Of course, for a Delta film - you want grain, go TriX as suggested, or my favorite FP4+ (fine grain, but very much there, subtle, yet full of character) or the HP films. Stay away from t-grains to please grain junkies.

    This person sounds like he could use to spend some time on a forum such as this - I learn SO much every time I visit! And looks like he could stand to close his mouth and open his ears...

    Then again, it is the "hand that feeds" - so work to order, please him. Him wants grain, get him grain. Unless artistic integrity is at stake (translation: this does not pay the bills :smile: )
     
  11. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I think BT's take on it was not that they become acutance devs as such, but that they give good sharpness and fine grain by virtue of edge effects caused by dilute metol now being visible as solvent sulphite has been reduced by dilution. His view was that undiluted they produce unacceptible mushiness and by diluting them you get the triplee whammy of reasonable acuatnce, fine grain and highlight control. I have used perceptol a fair bit at 1+2 and 1+3 and it is fine grained and provides reasonable sharpness. It is still poles apart from a true acutance developer. I did a 20x16 off a 5x4 fp4 plus neg dev'd in both perceptol 1+2 and Exactol lux (fine grained pyro dev). Even dev'd at 1+2, perceptol was way mushier than the exactol lux and grain was not visible in either. I would expect the results from smaller formats to be more obvious still. Pyrocat or Dicxactol produce greater acutance still than Exacctol Lux.
     
  12. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    Equipment troubleshooting: RF alignments spot-on? Enlarger lens absolutely haze-free? Very little haze can radically affect overall tonality and accutance. Is your enlarger aligned perfectly? Is it truly solidly mounted and stabilized? Do you have any subtle vibrations from equipment or environment that travel through the enlarger?

    Developing: Are you certain that your combos are getting proper curves? Humps and flat spots can make certain tone ranges go "dead" on you. Your current materials are not known for this sort of problem but add in technique, agitation, metering, local water, etc and things can still happen to have you chasing your tail on these things. You may simply be seeing dry-down effect and a simple 1/2 step in contrast or exposure adjustment will bring some sparkle back?

    Consider getting a step wedge and explore the paper limits and behavior of your materials. If you don't have a darkroom meter, consider getting one. The simple Ilford meter is a good simple one and there are many others that are also inexpensive (especially in the used market).

    You might also try some tripod vs hand-held tests.... It's humbling to see the difference and can re-inspire some taking technique practice and respect for smooth shutter release motions. This is all pretty basic stuff but when stretching 35mm into 8X10 wall hangers, small deviations at the various steps can stack up to results that aren't quite what they would/could be.

    I would take this person's comments with a bit of scepticism as he seems somewhat confused (at least on terminology). You should take my advice with a similar trepidation, too!
     
  13. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

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    Just for a sanity check, would not f/2.8 to f/8 be three stops, and therefore call for 8X exposure?

    On the muddiness side, here's a quick idea. Just do everything that you normally do when developing the film with one exception: develop for, say, 50% longer than normal. This should punch up your negs dramatically (or possibly catastrophically, but hey, it's a test).

    Then take one of the negs that was criticized for muddiness and print at the minimum time for maximum black. Do the same with the new +50% negative. Compare for relative muddiness/contrastiness. You will now have two firm guideposts and you can triangulate from there.

    Also, be sure that you are spending enough time in the print developer. If you are in a cool basement or similar, then you may need more time in the print developer than the factory recommends.

    Best to you,

    jk
     
  14. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    I just had another thought.... I had some Delta 400 in the freezer and grabbed a few rolls in error, thinking I was taking some HP5+. I have been luke warm about Delta 400 results in the past and had kind of avoided the project of sorting it out. I used the film that day and tried Ryuji's DS-10 on them. I don't recall ever having easier to print negatives and I'm going to work out my times, true film speeds, etc when I can get to it. The combination really seemed made for each other in this small trial of mine.
     
  15. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If you want acutance then either PMK or espescially Pyrocat HD will give relatively fine grain with high acutance and sharp details. Pyrocat HD used as a stand eveloper is outstanding. I have not used it with 400 speed film. I use very little high speed film. However, The developer is outstanding in acutance and sharpness with resonably fine grain.. The unblinking eye website has a really nice article by Sandy King on using this developer. It is very easy to work with. Here is what I do for stand development.
    ALL TEMPERTURES AT 70ºF
    One liter of tap water,
    4 milliliters of Pyrocat A.
    3 grams of washing soda or other SoDium or Potassium Carbonate.
    stir to make a homogeneous solution. This should be done shartly prior to staring development not a day ealier for example.

    Start with a 5 min presoak in tap water with agigtation.
    transfer film to developer and agigtate for the first minute.

    Leave developer stand for the remainder of the time without any agigtation.

    I use about 100ml of vinegar to tap water for a mild stop bath.
    Fix, I have been using Kodak Rapid Fixer w/o hardener which is trouble free. As far as I know othr fixers should work fine but I have not used them.

    The developer is used one shot....IE not reused.

    I use a lifting rod on an open tank. A different tank for each solution. My agigtation is by gently lifting the rod upward about 2 inches..the rod is NOT twisted.. and allowing it to setlle and re-lifting in about 1.5 second cycles for whatever time I am agigtating the film. Agigtation should be followed as above for presoak, for the first minute of stand development and regularly for the other baths.
    wash
    rinse in wetting agent and distilled water.
    Dust free drying .
    This has given me nicely developed negatives with the best acutance I have ever experienced in 43 years of photography.

    I would, because of the high dilution, recommend no more than the equivakent of one 36mm exposure film per liter of developer unless you test to be certain that the liter will develop more film area without pooping out.

    For scenes with a lit to shadowed area of 2.5 to 3 stops as measured with an incident reading or reflection reading from a gray card
    rate the film at 200 ISO speed and a 45 minute development time for an initial test,. This is a TEST and should only help you to zero in on what works best for time. Do this for important negatives without testing might be very foolish.

    An appropriate devlopment HC110 and Rodinal will also get rid of mushy grain.
     
  16. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Claire, if your just using the "B" solution premixed, are you uisng it 1:1, or what? The 3 grams is throwing me off.



    Obviously your using a large tank for a liter of solution. Is there an interlayer agitation effect going on here that precludes further agitation from such a seemingly weak solution?
     
  17. JohnArs

    JohnArs Subscriber

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    Hi

    I just recommend the winner in sharpness, fine grain, and film speed.
    XTOL at full strengs or 1:1 was the winner some years ago in a german Lab mag.
    8x10 should be not a problem at all! I printed 400 and 100 ASA up to 30x40 cm! Are you working with modern lenses and they get cleaned regularly? Are you using prime lenses or zooms? If zooms only the best are good enough!
    When I got sometimes lenses from other photogs in front of my eyes then I see just dirt allower it kills sharpness and contast!
    Working as much as possible with the sharpest aperture on you lenses. On most modern lenses is 2-3 f stops closed the sharpest!
     
  18. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I am not using a premix of solution B. I am merely adding 3 grams of washing soda (Sodium Carbonate) to the mixture of PyroCat HD A and water. If you try to make solution B full strength with Sodium Carbonate you are unable to reach the recommend 75% solution by dissolving 750 grams Sodium Carbonate in a liter or 75 grams in 100 ml of water and have to work with a lesser dilution of say 20% solution. Apparently this can be made into a full strength 75% solution with Potaasium Carbonate. The Pyrocat B if full strenght is usually added in the same porportion as the Pyrocat A. So the easy way for me to do it is to add 3 grams of Sodium Carbonate directly to the water/pyrocat A. instead of having a premix. It is for me no more trouble to weigh 3 grams than It would be to add 3 ml of 75% solution of Potassium Carbonate. 30 seconds af stirring and you are ready to go.

    This works like a charm. The presoak in water is important and should not be omitted.
     
  19. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    This method is intended to maximize the edge effects of Pyrocat A. Read the article by Sandy King on the unblinking eye. He explains this developer much better than could I.
     
  20. psvensson

    psvensson Member

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  21. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    my opinion is that is just is not essential to use an acutance developer to get great results. by far the best solution all round is to use an allrounder developer to keep things in the middle......and you were already doing that!

    Pyrocat HD is a great dev and I use it lots. BUT it is more hassle than ready made single solution devs and you do not need to use such things to produce outstanding results.
     
  22. Maine-iac

    Maine-iac Member

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    I use Delta 400 exclusively for my 400 speed shooting, though I usually work in medium format rather than 35mm. However, I have used it for 35 occasionally, and the following developer formula has always given me very good sharpness and fine grain. I rate the film at 200 rather than 400.

    Try the following for very fine grain and very high sharpness and long tonal scale:

    1 liter water
    1/2 teaspoon Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C powder or crystals)
    1 teaspoon Sodium Metaborate (Kodalk Balanced Alkali)
    4ml 1% Phenidone stock (diluted in 90% isopropyl alcohol)

    Delta 400--6 minutes at 70 degrees
    Delta 100--9 minutes at 70
    FP4+--8 minutes at 70
    ACROS--9 minutes at 70.

    Sodium carbonate can be substituted for the metaborate with barely noticeable increase in grain, but with considerably shortened development times due to higher alkalinity.

    I mix it fresh each time and use it as a one-shot. The simplicity of three ingredients makes the mixing time hardly any longer than keeping an already mixed stock and diluting it.

    Larry