Ilford Pan-F+ - Why don't more people use/recommend DDX?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by MatthewDunn, Sep 26, 2013.

  1. MatthewDunn

    MatthewDunn Member

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    In the short time I've been here (and a much longer time lurking), it seems that DDX is rarely recommended as a developer for Pan-F. I only note it because I believe the Ilford data sheet notes that, among liquid developers, it is the "best" for overall image quality, grain, sharpness, wart-curing, peace-in Syria-ing, etc. No horse in this race here and purely asking out of curiosity as to why so few people seem to recommend the developer that the manufacturer seems to think is tops...
     
  2. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    It would be a bit strange if a manufacturer of a film, in this case Ilford would recommend a different developer than what they make in house.
    I think the recommended developer DDX is the best of what Ilford makes and not necessarily the best developer altogether.

    Best is also very subjective, what is best? only the photographer can make that determination based on experience and vision.
    Pan-F is a fine film but in my experience difficult to use in particular if lighting conditions are different from the first to the last frame. It really is a film that would work much better in sheets where you can meter and develop for the individual frame.
     
  3. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    Re reading your post Matt it finally dawned on me that it was not so much the film that was in question but the developer.
    I think one of the reasons for the lack of recommendation is the price, it is fairly expensive in use compared to other developers and I think many here on APUG mix up own developers based on the multitude of recipes that are out there for free.
     
  4. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    DDX is similar to Kodak Tmax Developer, being a good general purpose developer and an excellent developer for pushing high speed films. There are better developers for slow films like Pan-F. Rodinal gives beautiful tonality and sharpness with Pan-F. Even D-76 works better than DDX for Pan-F, in my opinion, but Rodinal 1+50 is great.

    [​IMG]
    This is 35mm Pan-F developed in Rodinal 1+50.
     
  5. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Pan F Plus responds really nicely to being processed in compensating developers
    . If you want to have a try then 510-PYRO is an excellent place to start.


    RR
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    High speed film, low speed film, DD-X works real well.

    I've yet to see it do a bad job, like ID-11/D-76 it is a great general purpose developer.

    Rodinol may get you a bit sharper look, but I'd bet you'd need a microscope to see it in a controlled test. Compensating developers are fine too but compensation is essentially a tool to get the film to shoulder off sooner, it compresses the highlight detail on the film; that may or may not be what you are after.
     
  7. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    True.

    Handy with roll film though if you may have had to "over" expose the highlights because you were making sure of some shadow texture...

    RR
     
  8. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    DDX is my go to developer for PanF+ EVERY time.
     
  9. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The alternative is burning in the highlights. Burning, in contrast to compensation, can provide more contrast in the highlights on the paper.
     
  10. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    I suppose you could create some grey in the highlights but if the highlights are blocked all you can do is fake the texture. It's a lot easier to retain some highlight texture in the negative and simply work without trying to burn in something that is no longer there because the highlights have gone solid.

    RR
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I'm with markbarendt - it's better to have a full contrast negative than a severe shoulder. That highlight compression makes it MORE difficult for me to create a print with good texture in the highlights than one that is dense but has good definition of tones.

    To the OP: The choice of developer is one that you should be making based on what tonality you can achieve. That is the most important thing. And that negative tone curve should ideally fit what your photo paper is capable of. This way you have much less headache in the darkroom while printing, and a LOT less waste of paper. Sometimes it turns out so well that the negatives print themselves. DD-X is great because it has a lot of energy, gives great shadow detail, and is still keeping it sharp with moderately fine grain. You can't really go wrong with it.

    The grain that a developer produces is actually not that big of a difference from one developer to the next - IF you develop the negatives to the same contrast. Seriously - try it some time. You'll be surprised how little difference there is. But you may also be surprised at how different the tonality is.
    Grain is something you see when you press your eye to the print surface. Tonality SCREAMS at you from across a room. Never forget that.
     
  12. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Surely that is easier to do if all the information has been preserved in the negative instead of being overdeveloped and lost through blocking?

    Those compensating developers and the semi-stand regime for the agitation make it more likely, well they do for me...


    To answer the OP's question DDX is more expensive than many developers and certainly more expensive than many of the make-it-yourself recipes such as 510-PYRO, CAFFENOL (and its variants) and OBSIDIAN AQUA etc., etc. So maybe that is one reason why more people don't use or recommend DDX?


    RR
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    You misunderstand. I can usually make negatives that print very well with very little darkroom gymnastics. But if I'm presented with having a compressed negative, then I'm tasked with stretching those tones back out to feature good contrast again, which means I'd have to somehow apply a higher contrast in those parts. That, to me, is more difficult than to have a negative of high density highlights, but with normal contrast, and burn in that area.

    That, to me is very basic darkroom printing. Compressed highlights are, to me, more difficult to deal with than a full range of tones with normal contrast, even if they don't immediately fit on the paper tone curve. Compressed highlights carry with them the burden of needing contrast adjustment at the printing stage, while a normal contrast with dense highlights just require burning, which is super easy to do. See what I mean?
     
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  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    There are many general purpose developers and each has it's own aficionados. But in actuality they are all capable of producing negatives which print well. People tend to buy what is economical and readily available.
     
  16. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I think the confusion lies in the definition of "blocking". Highlights which do not fit onto the paper in a straight print are not blocked. Most modern films can handle a long scale scene quite well (a much longer scale than paper), they simply need burning in at the printing stage, as Thomas writes. Highlights become blocked when the exposure and development is so extreme that the highlight areas begin to loose contrast / separation / detail in the negative itself.
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Exactly.

    Compensation though purposefully compresses the highlights (in essence partially blocking them up by forcing the film to shoulder early). Compensation is used as a compromise so that burning can be avoided.

    Both methods are workable but better contrast in the highlights is generally available with burning because there is better separation of tones on the negative.
     
  18. MatthewDunn

    MatthewDunn Member

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    So again, apologies for what might seem like basic questions, but I am trying my best to learn and this has been a great resource so far. I think I might be confusing tonal compression, exposure density, and what actually happens on the shoulder of an emulsion. In the limited amount of printing I have done thus far, it's been easiest when there is clear tonal separation in the highlights that is present in the negative itself. When that has been the case, I find that a slight increase in the contrast filter (if even necessary) gets me the print that I am looking for without having to dodge and burn (as a general rule - again, the new kid on the block and just starting out). Based on what I have read and what I understand, which is what I am trying to confirm, this means that the range of exposure/development on the film falls more or less on the straight line of the curve. My understanding is that, had there been overexposure, the upper zones or highlights would have been pushed on to the shoulder, resulting in little to no separation in the various tones of things like clouds.

    Am I generally on the right path here?

    So, my question is then about the comment that compensating developers essentially force the film to shoulder off sooner and why that would be desirable? Again, based on my understanding at this point, that is likely to make life more difficult as you are likely to lose tonal separation in the highlights of the negative itself, making the printing process more difficult.

    Guys, I really want to stress a couple of things: first, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the help I get on these forums. Compared to certain other sites where the tone is much less friendly (no need to name some of the usual suspects), this just seems like a chat in a bar over a beer with a couple of buds; second, part of my confusion seems to stem from the fact that there is a ton of contradictory information on the internet and the information can be a little difficult to piece together from different sites, books, etc.

    Thanks in advance for all your help.

    -Matt
     
  19. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Put all the shoulder and curve stuff to one side for the moment...


    With roll film it is very easy to end up with several exposures that are quite different from each other. If your exposures were made to ensure that you had some shadow texture, or even shadow detail, there is a very good chance that highlights on those frames will be so exposed that if they are developed "normally" they will end up solid black on the negatives and will have no discernible information in them for you to print, so will be pure white with no texture let alone detail. A way round this is to use a compensating developer and an agitation regime that reduces the amount of development that the highlights get, yet still allows all the other tones to develop fully. This usually consists of taking advantage of the fact that the heavily exposed highlights will exhaust the reducing agent in the developer more quickly than the less exposed areas and so stop developing and not go solid, but the less exposed areas carry on developing to their full values. Stand and semi-stand agitation routines allow you to do this. Some developers are especially good for this regime. A few were mentioned earlier in the thread...


    RR
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2013
  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Matt,

    I'll try to explain. There are a couple of things here that are dynamic. The paper and paper developer combination has a certain range. It is s-shaped just like the negative tone curve, so it isn't linear. You want your negative to match that curve as closely as possible, except it will be mirrored, because we are working with negative materials.

    Now, over-exposure raises the tones you record higher up on the film tone curve, but it does not change the shape of it.

    Longer development stretches the shadows and highlights farther apart, increasing total contrast of the negative.
    If you develop too long, the highlights will block up, meaning there is no tone shifts in the highest highlights where there ought to be tone shifts.
    Note that blocking the negative up is NOT the same as having tones in the negative that fall outside the natural range of the paper, and this is the key to everything.

    A shoulder in the negative tone curve simply means that your shadows and mid-tones are developed normally, but the highlights have been 'shrunk' or 'contracted' so that all of the tones fit in a shorter span of range. Because your shadows and midtones are virtually 'normal' you are challenged with addressing only the highlights in the print, and that is, in my experience, difficult.

    Now, there is a shoulder in all films. At some point it shoulders off. It's a characteristic of the emulsion. How the film is developed (agitation and time) will affect the shape of the shoulder and where it is located. When you photograph something with higher contrast, the general advice is to expose more (to record the shadows) and then to develop less. That's all fine and dandy, but you may end up compromising the tone curve.

    THe gist of it is that: Films have the capacity to record very long brightness ranges. Much longer than the paper. That's why paper negatives have such high contrast. If there is detail in the negative, i.e. 'not blocked up' - it can generally be put down on paper. It may require masking, preflashing, split grade printing, etc, and it may be a pain in the neck to do, but usually it can be done.

    So when I say that my 'normal' negatives are calibrated in exposure and development to print well on Grade 2.5 filter in the enlarger, with my paper and my paper developer, it means I have a lot of wiggle room. When contrast is higher it's usually fine to develop normal, because it will still fit on the paper at maybe Grade 1.5 instead. And in the rare case that highlight negative density is so high that I can't make it work at Grade 1.5, it's easy enough to just burn it in. And the key here is that when it gets burned in, it has normal contrast. No trickery needed, just one simple operation.

    Fit film curve to paper curve and you have lots of wiggle room. Get a step wedge and make contact prints of negs and the step wedge side by side to see how you're doing with film development. Adjust as necessary. If you can control that part of the process and make great negatives, compensating development will never be necessary.



     
  21. ROL

    ROL Member

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    No wonder I'm going deaf. FWIW, I've landed on PMK Pyro (1:2:100) for Pan F+ (examples posted elsewhere on APUG).
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Tonal compression is relative. It can be measured in density.

    Shoot two shots of exactly the same composition, under exactly the same lighting; develop one normally, develop the other -1. Pick any two subjects common in each negative, measure the difference in each negative between the two. The "-1" negative will have a smaller density difference between the two subjects. Like the shoulder, the "-1" curve is flatter, the tones are compressed compared to "normal".

    The flatter the shoulder gets the more compression.

    The advantage of compensation, flattening the shoulder early, is to avoid burn and dodge work. The disadvantage is that contrast in the highlights is lower than it would be if burned in.

    If you already get all the detail you need without compensation, there is no advantage for you to compensate.
     
  23. MatthewDunn

    MatthewDunn Member

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    So this is what I don't get - don't you want to strive to keep the range of exposure of your negative more or less on the straight line portion of the film curve so that you have even tonal separation from black to white? The "by flattening the curve early, you avoid burn and dodge work" seems completely counter-intuitive to me. That seems like you would wind up with compression of highlights that needed some kind of gymnastics to show the separation. Can you explain? I am dumb...
     
  24. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Matthew:

    The straight line portion of the negative is potentially a lot longer than the available straight line portion of many printing papers.

    So if you have an unmasked negative with a full range of tones, you need to either:
    1) prepare a print with blocked up shadows;
    2) prepare a print with burned out highlights;
    3) prepare a print with both blocked up shadows and burned out highlights; or
    4) use some combination of masking, flashing, burning and/or dodging to display on the print the information in the negative.

    A compensating developer may give a negative that prints straight in a way that is similar to the results obtained in number 4 above.

    Remember that a lot of negatives record scenes with less than a full range of tones - you don't need compression or compensation with them.
     
  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Everybody has different priorities.

    It is obvious from their work that Elliot Erwitt and Ansel Adams had very different views about the importance of sky (and shadow) detail in their work. They are both "right". I could see Erwitt being happy using compensation (I have no idea if he does or does not), but I cannot see Adams being happy with it.

    Keeping important subject matter on the straight-line gives you the option of better highlight detail separation on the print on long-scale subjects, but that has to matter to you before you need to put any effort into it.

    This is the key statement from you, that tells me that your normal scenes (SBR), your normal photo development, and your normal paper; are a good match. This tells me your subjects are normal, rather than long scale.

    This tells me that even using Pan-F, as long as you're metering well, your subject matter will probably fit fine.
     
  26. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    As to the original question, I think the answer is simple. DD-X is no doubt fantastic for Pan-F and being one of Ilford's better developers, it is natural that they recommend it; the problem is that DD-X is very expensive in most of the world. So few people use it that there aren't a lot of people around to recommend the specific combination. Pan-F is such a good film that you can get excellent results with simple, cheap old Rodinal; the high performance features of DD-X (good shadow detail, smooth grain with minimal loss of resolution) aren't really relevant to Pan-F users.