Honest Talk About the Various B&W Developer Choices

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Andre Noble, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. Andre Noble

    Andre Noble Subscriber

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    Hello,

    I love this site because of the passion people have for traditional film processes. I imagine there are many people who have shot 10's to 100's times more film than myself.

    Nevertheless, I get the feeling based on reading many threads here and on photo.net over the years, and based on modest experience with various developers myself - that convienence is the number one factor that people use when selecting their developer for B&W film.

    I feel the pyro developers (Wimberly, Pyrocat, PMK, etc) are superior in what they do (with traditional silver emulsions, not with T Grain films) in normal to high contrast situations.

    But the liquid/syrup developers are very convienent (HC 100, Rodinal, Diafine) and that's why we use them instaed.

    agree or disagree?
     
  2. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Not for me. It's how the developer makes my negs look is why I use a specific developer.
     
  3. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Not for me personally... I have used D76, Pryocat HD and Rodinal over the past 15 years. I settled on Rodinal because of the "look" and because of the success I had in using it to control contrast. I'm glad it's convenient but that's a bonus for me not a reason to use it.
     
  4. zsas

    zsas Member

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    +1
     
  5. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Years ago I discovered that it matters much more HOW we use our materials than WHAT we use.
    Sure, there are differences between developers, but in my experience technique is infinitely more important.

    Here's something to think about: John Sexton, for example, uses standard materials in his process. His prints are known for their exceptional and meticulous quality. Looking through his galleries you will find all sorts of lighting conditions, and the only thing that's varied is his technique. That's worth considering.

    My best mentor uses three different developers, all based on lighting conditions, and creating negatives that fit the scale of the paper, every time and with little to no darkroom gymnastics.

    I'm no superstar, but have found my way with a run of the mill developer, and seldom feel any inspiration to switch to something else.

    So, what is your motivation? I say your question will yield many answers, and all of them will be correct, based on those individuals' experiences and needs. And simultaneously it may be that none of them are correct for you.

    What it boils down to is what your needs are. Some people love pyro developers for VC paper printing, and I find that my darkroom waste come printing time is much higher. Some love pyro for graded paper printing, and I do too. This is a good example that it depends on what your output is, and how easily you can get the negs you want based on that. What prints best in the darkroom, for your tastes, and what scans best - similarly for your tastes.

    From what I've seen, in my own experience, printing on mainly Ilford and Foma papers, but also Varycon, Emaks, Kentmere, Kodak, and Agfa varieties, I usually end up getting what I want by adjusting technique as opposed to changing developer. Opinions are easy to come by, but you will not truly know what's right for you until you've spent a great deal of time with specific materials.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The differences in results due to differences in developers are real, but they are also quite small.

    Same goes with differences in technique.

    Convenience may be a fair word to use, but it may also mislead. The liquid developers I use (HC-110 and Polymax T) are more convenient, but that convenience is important because of the limited, non-dedicated space I have available for use.

    So it is necessary that I understand the materials I use, and the techniques available to me in the circumstances I work in, in order to obtain the results I want.

    If my circumstances were different, the pyro developers might be an easier way to obtain the results I want, but I doubt that the results possible would be fundamentally better than the ones I can obtain with what I use.
     
  8. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    No, people on APUG are interested in making quality photographs not convenience. This is why we are interesting in traditional methods and not digital. But I have to admit that there are a few that appear too lazy to invert a developing tank. :wink:
     
  9. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    My developer selection is made prior to shooting a particular film, solely for the look, never for convenience. I choose the film/dev combo to match the subject and how I want to portray it. The only thing convenient is the stock I keep on hand. My favorite trio of developers, D-76, Pyrocat-HD, and Rodinal, in that order.
     
  10. RPC

    RPC Member

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    It's mostly quality over convenience for me. If I wanted convenience over quality, I would shoot that other medium.
     
  11. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I choose combinations of materials based entirely on the results they give.

    Having said that, the results from film developers depend so much on how you use them that in general I think many of us place too much importance on that particular choice. I have at times been as guilty as anyone of this sort of obsession. There are of course meaningful differences, but sometimes even those differences can become blurred as relative working characteristics are altered by film exposure, dilution and development procedures.

    So in a way, convenience can play a role. With practice and adjustments, if someone gets their HC-110 negatives to look and print the same as the way they looked and printed with PMK, I'd say go with HC-110 and avoid the hassles of staining developers. If one can get the same image sharpness, graininess and tonality with D76 1+3 as they can with FX-2, go with D76 instead of having to scratch-mix FX-2. Etc etc.

    In the end printing skill is where it's at. Pyro developers are great, but they do not change what is possible in the print as some would have you believe, they just alter the procedures used to get there (or not as the case may be).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2012
  12. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Heresy everyone knows that pyro developers give you negatives that don't require any printing skills to get perfect results.

    Know your material and know how your material responds to certain lighting conditions. Fiddling around with 1001 developers is one thing but to get the best results you have to have consistency. Choose one or two developers and a film not different films one film. Get to know that film and developer combo, try it out under different conditions and analyse the results. That's the way to success imho

    Dominik
     
  13. Arkasha

    Arkasha Member

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    er, yes, but -

    The Wimberley Wd2d+ is available in liquid form, as is PMK and Pyrocat. You can see them for sale at Photographers' Formulary.
     
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  15. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I want consistency and to know that all my negs will be printable. Thats why I always use D76 1:1 and I can't remember when I last had a film that didn't turn out ok.
     
  16. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I'm just curious. What do you base this assessment on?
     
  17. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    What constitutes an inconvenient developer?
    Most inconvenient: Buying measuring equipment, various discrete chemicals, then mixing it up yourself.
    Less than convenient: Developers that come in powder form, premeasured.
    Convenient: Liquid developers, including PMK premix.

    Since the majority of the process isn't mixing the chemicals, then the most important thing is the effect of the developer on the film. As for precise controllability, heck, I use a Holga a bunch! I'm happy when something actually shows up on the film. Arthur Fellig (Weegee the Famous) commented that you shouldn't be a "chem head." Pick something and just stick with it.
     
  18. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    I base developer choice on the material decisions I made earlier on.

    Anything shot at box speed, or over exposed, from EI 400 and less, gets Rodinal, or D-76, depending on subject matter, and how I feel that day.

    Anything pushed gets Acufine or D-76, depending on the subject matter, and how I feel that day.

    Essentially, I stock 2 developers to account for extremes in my subject matter, and one that takes care of the in between.
     
  19. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    I use D76, (or ID-11, they're identical), all the time. I adjust development time to match any exposure other than the rated film speed, and that's it. Consistency and predictability.
    Mixing up the developer is just part of the process, and doesn't bother me a bit.
     
  20. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I too use D-76 1:1 and only had one occasion where the developer was bad. In my life.

    My regret is that I can't give a fair opinion about anything else... because I don't use anything else.
     
  22. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Convenience is such an imprecise word. For some this means not having to make up developers from scratch. For others it means using standard recommendations and following them. For others it means mixing stuff straight out of the bottle as per always. For others it means not having to think about stuff and just getting on with it.

    For me, testing is of great importance to pin down all the variables and then the 'convenience' is not having to do this again until a particular combination of technique, film, developer, processing and paper are no longer available.

    For a developer, I would never choose convenience over results but I would also never choose a developer that, to get repeatable results, was so difficult to use that it would be a pain in the proverbial backside.

    For the past 10 years my personal solution has been Delta 400 with an EI of 200 developed in two-bath developer. It is 'convenient' because I know exactly what results I will achieve before I press the shutter. It is 'inconvenient' because you have to mix it yourself from raw chemicals.

    Each to their own but, for me, 'convenience' is not the question but rather predictable consistency.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  23. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I agree, but I seem to remember reading some time ago that there is some slight difference and if not, did Ilford copy kodak or vice versa? Also, I would imagine D76 is more popular, why?
     
  24. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    How does the the subject matter influence these decisions? I ask because I am ignorant of any developer other than DD-X and T-Max. I'm new to this and my decision has always been based on what is in stock locally.
     
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  25. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    D76 seems to have been around for ever, so I don't know who was first. I think Ilford substitutes one of the ingredients for something that does the same job, maybe to get around some patent situation. From everything I've heard, and from my own results, they seem to be identical in how the film turns out.
    D76 is usually a lot cheaper, for some reason.
     
  26. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I choose film developers based on how the negatives look, and pretty much nothing else.

    Based on my testing, I chose Rodinal as my standard developer more than 50 years ago, and see no reason to change.

    - Leigh

    NB - I do use Diafine for tray development, and find its results are comparable to Rodinal.