Is Xtol reliable?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Brad Dow, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. Brad Dow

    Brad Dow Member

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    I mostly use D76 for 400Tx and HP5+. I'm considering changing to Xtol, which I've used and like. I mix Xtol or D76 in steam distilled water, store it in full, dated, 500ml glass or PET bottles, use an entire bottle for up to 240 sq. in. / liter at 1:1, and dump unused bottles at 6 months. I believe D76 used this way is absolutely reliable, but I have nagging doubts that Xtol is not.

    The failures, so much talked about years ago and not much seen these days, were probably due mostly to the now discontinued 1 liter packages, and to fairly basic user errors, like storing it in the notoriously bad accordion bottles or over-taxing it's capacity (1:3 in Jobos, for example). Nonetheless, I asked one person I consider an impeccable authority whether he would trust irreplaceable film to Xtol. He said not without a clip test.

    The person I reached at Kodak professional film technical support insists that failures were caused by a manufacturing problem long since resolved (in part by removing the 1 liter packages from distribution). Also, I gather Kodak has changed the way the ingredients are distributed between the two packages, which suggests some tinkering. I know there are many formulae available which purport to achieve Xtol's properties without the risk of failure, but these days I'm determined to use only well-proven commercial developers.

    Can anyone shed light on this?
     
  2. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It's a very reliable and good developer. Period.

    I store mine so that it has very little air in the bottles, and I find I can go though a 5 liter packed quickly enough, that I don't have it sitting on the shelf for too long. Try searching the archives here, this has been discussed a lot.
     
  3. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I've used Xtol for over a decade, and I've had one "developer failure" during that time. I don't know the cause, and I only use 5L packets. I don't see that as any worse failure rate than any of the other developers that I use. It gives a very good combo of fine-grain, high-speed and sharpness. That said, all developers go bad. Some, though, start to change color when going off. Xtol doesn't. As a result, given your stipulations, why not stick with D76?
     
  4. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Yes, it is reliable.
     
  5. Venchka

    Venchka Member

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    Lets SQUASH two internet rumors with one big stick:

    Xtol stored in a wine in a box bladder in my refrigerator is good for 8 months plus.

    Xtol 1:3 in a Jobo tank spun on a Uniroller or Beseler motor base absolutely works.

    Thus concludes the lesson for today.
     
  6. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I've been using Xtol diluted 1:1 for about 3 years now. It's my main developer besides Rodinal now and then. Xtol is a wonderful developer which gives great shadow detail and balance as Peter said between fine grain and sharpness. I've never experienced a failure. I develop enough film to use up the 5L amount in less than six months and always store it in the Air-vac bottles which you're referring to as the "accordion style" bottles. Brad, what is the problem with these types of bottles? I've never heard anything bad about them.
     
  7. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Yes, its been reliable for at least 10 years.
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Yes, it is. I have used XTOL that was 8 months old without a problem. I prefer to not use it when it is over 6 months old. I buy the 5 liter package and store it in expandable [compressible?] storage containers. I use XTOL full strength.

    Steve
     
  9. It's very reliable; and a great developer.

    I've read -- on this forum, recently -- that it's the "D-76 for the 21st Century". But, then, D-76 is still a great developer. I use either one, diluted 1:1, with distilled water (stock and working solution).
     
  10. Brad Dow

    Brad Dow Member

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    Michael P. Dosch did an impressive study of developer activity over time, stored various ways (http://www.udmercy.edu/crna/agm/phenvitc.htm), and comments on the Falcon bottles:


    The difference in shelf-life between a single batch of D76, split between a glass bottle and a Falcon plastic accordion-type bottle was notable. ​

    and

    Strangely, attempts to prolong its useful life by storing it in an accordian-type plastic bottle and excluding air resulted in less time before exhaustion occurred! I can only guess that the plastic container was not impervious to oxygen in the room air. Otherwise I cannot account for this- excluding air from the bottle "should" have worked, according to everything I have read. ​

    I've never used them, so I'm just repeating hearsay. It may very well be that what you're using differs from the Falcon Michael used in his study. My own analysis is that while they reduce the volume of air, the plastic they're made of is among the most gas-permeable plastics, especially at the flexible seams. I tend to be perhaps a little obsessive about developer storage. I even use Saran wrap to line the cap (Saran wrap is much less gas-permeable than the polyethylene cones in typical Boston round amber glass bottles.) I sometimes used empty Perrier bottles (made from PET plastic), which are nearly as good as glass, and much better than the plastic used in typical darkroom bottles. (That information is based on a discussion with a technical expert at a bottle manufacturer. I believe Ryuji Suzuki has commented favorable on PET for developer storage.
     
  11. Brad Dow

    Brad Dow Member

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    I shouldn't have referred to using Xtol 1:3 in Jobos as a user error. It's just that the guy I talked with at Kodak said they don't recommend that scenario and attribute some reported failures to it. Phenidone relatives have great capacity, so I have no reason to think that isn't a good practice if sufficient care is taken that there's enough stock solution per roll to ensure consistency.
     
  12. Brad Dow

    Brad Dow Member

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    Just wanting the extra 10%.
     
  13. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Brad, very interesting link, thank you.
     
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  15. brianmquinn

    brianmquinn Member

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    I have used it as my main developer since 2001. I make it with distilled water and have stored it in full glass bottles to test how long it is good for. My longest test (so far) is three years after I made it up and it was perfect.
     
  16. david b

    david b Member

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    It is truly amazing how something so long ago can still come up.

    The problem that (rarely) occurred had to do with 1 liter bags that have long been killed.

    Follow the instructions on the bag and use distilled water and you will be fine
     
  17. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I have used it for over ten years at dilutions up to 1-3 and never had a single problem. Great developer.
     
  18. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    PITA to mix, but well worth it, great developer!

    Mixes well with rodinal.
     
  19. SchwinnParamount

    SchwinnParamount Subscriber

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    Kodak would have killed XTOL long ago if it was not reliable. They would have killed it long ago if we (the film user community) were not buying lots of it. They would have killed it long ago if it was a good developer but had a bad reputation as an unreliable developer.

    Kodak didn't kill it and like all of these other good folks have said, it is good and it works.

    I've used it for 10+ years with nary a failure. In fact, it never occurred to me that it might fail. I also never heard a credible source saying it had failed. There were reports in the first year of use that XTOL could suffer "sudden death". Those reports have ceased because either:

    1) The early adopters were unfamiliar with XTOL and reported a product flaw that was actually user error.
    2) The problem did exist and Kodak addressed it.

    btw, I prefer to use undiluted XTOL. It gives the best result for me with minimal grain. Surely, a packet of powder lasts half as long if I don't dilute 1:1 but that is almost irrelevant as XTOL is cheap. My images are priceless (to me anyway) and I want to give them the BEST development I can regardless of a nigling detail such as the cost of developer.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2009
  20. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Not any harder to mix than D-76. In fact, it's notable for being mixable at room temperature and is easily soluble.

    I'd really wish these XTOL reliability threads would just spontaneously fail and never appear again. They're tiring.

    It's not the BEST to use undiluted - it's just another route. You trade grain for acutance. If grain bothers you, then by all means, keep using it undiluted. However, I would like to point out that the aesthetic difference between 1+0 and 1+1 is almost negligible in practice.
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Dosch's survbey is flawed on the one graph all the developers do in activity significantly in week 13 only to bounce back two weeks later, that says more about his methods than the developers themselves.

    Xtol keeps extremely well, again, another question why trawl up Kodak's early packaging problem (of the small amateur size pack) the developer was never at fault.

    If you replenish Xtol the results are far better negative qualities, finer hrain, better tonality & sharpness, then add to that conveniecem and economy, and a shelf life in excess of a year and Xtol is a sure winner.

    Ian
     
  22. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    I would not trust any aged developer without a clip test.
     
  23. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    Is it flawed, or is the precision lower than what is presented?
     
  24. cmo

    cmo Member

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    You name it.

    And the reason is that bad workmen always blame their tools.

    If a user fails at mixing, storing or using XTol he probably needs a basic course in darkroom techniques.

    First lesson: affix a label to the bottles. Write on it:

    - "Don't use after XX/XX/XX".
    - "If diluted use min. 100ml stock solution per film."
    - "Don't drink this. It's for the films."
     
  25. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Yes the week 13 results show there is an obvious lack of precision which makes the whole dataset less reliable or valuable, it looks like no controls were being run to calibrate the readings.

    Ian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2009
  26. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    A D76/ID11 user for 10 years then moved to Xtol 10 years ago. Store stock in wine bladders and use 1+1. Have used once or twice when stock solution was over 1 year old. Never had a problem. Also read those same old articles about the 1 litre packs at the time but they were never available so I never bought them! Make the change! Keep up the demand and sales!
    And as Kirk says if in doubt use that roll of 35mm you have lying around for the fixer test to do a developer test. If it starts to turn black pretty fast it's all go!