Patterson FX-50 - anyone tried it?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Leon, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. Leon

    Leon Member

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    I've been looking at trying some developers aimed at giving good film speed (at least the manufacturer's guide), small but tight grain and good accutance for my new adventures in 35mm. I'm a big fan of catechol developers for my MF stuff , but find that with pyrocat and prescysol I'm getting speeds of up to 1 stop less which is fine with a tripod, but not so good for hand held RF photography.

    FX-50 strikes me as a possibly good option, reported good speeds and high accutance with low grain, and a little less harmful to the environment than others - so other's experiences back this up? I havent heard of anyone using it before other than Roger Hick's review a few years back.
     
  2. alien

    alien Member

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    Hi leon,
    I use FX 50 quite extensively.

    I use it with a range of films, for example Delta 100 and Paterson 100 (which is the same as Foma 100, i think).

    I am very happy with the results, if you have a look at my gallery, you will find several examples of the use of FX 50.

    I use it as a 2 bath developer, as recommended in the instructions. I test all my films with a standard greyscale and test the results with a densitometer, to get the contrast I want. I find that using FX 50 in this way it gives me better mid tone control.

    In terms of speed increase - it depends. I found that I get a lot out of Delta 100 (400 ASA), but almost nothing out of Pan F (64 ASA) - both for normal contrast.

    Ansgar
     
  3. mikeg

    mikeg Member

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    Hello,

    I tried it after Roger Hicks article in B&W Photography magazine. I followed the instructions for single bath and got really thin negs. A few months later I found out that the printed times were way out (as if I couldn't have guessed!), but by then I'd discovered Xtol and Rodinal. Xtol is supposed to have similar environmental benefits to FX-50 being based on ascorbic acid. I must admit I threw away the rest of my FX-50.

    Mike
     
  4. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    to me it has all the faff of pyro devs ie not single solution etc. If I want that hastle I will go for pyrocat where speed is not an issue.

    Leon,

    Have you thought of trying FX-39? It gives superb acutance, full speed and grain is still reasonably fine and also controls highlights of t grain films. I have read a test somewhere on the web where a bloke tested it with delta 100 against DDX, ID11 etc and it gave as fine grain as the finest with acutance that stood out as far higher than the rest. I also saw some curves from it with various films and it seems to produce a nice S with many films. I know Roger Hicks swore by the stuff. I think this in partnership with Aculux 2 when you want finer grain and exception a tonality is a good one.

    Worth a thought. I am certainly really impressed by their devs as as much as I like the speed of DDX, the acutance is only fair and the price silly (at 1:4 esp).
     
  5. Leon

    Leon Member

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    thanks tom et al - the only problem I have with fx-39 is that all the references suggest it isnt advised with conventional films about iso200 - i am planning to be using delta 3200 and hp5 ... maybe aculux is the answer although I am wanting to see grain, but tight and sharp grain is what I am after ...
     
  6. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    I don't know if Paterson has made any improvements in the formula but early shipments of FX-50 suffered from the same "sudden death" syndrome as Kodak Xtol.
     
  7. tbm

    tbm Member

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    I bought a package of it from B&H in New York a year ago, left it in my refrigerator for 6 months, developed a roll of Fuji Acros in it at ISO 200 pursuant to Geoffrey Crawley's recommendation, and discovered that my negatives, exposed in standard sunlight at a street scene, were very thin and unprintable. Thus, the FX-50 had gone bad before I used it! I bought another package of it from B&H a few weeks ago and put it in my fridge. I'm going to shortly expose another roll of Acros at ISO 200 and see if this package, too, is dead. Makes me wish Patterson had packaged the liquid in small amber bottles rather than plastic ones! Damnit!
     
  8. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I think this is because of the acutance effect and grain. Still, some like rodinal with trix and HP5. Wont be coarser than that or even close....

    Aculux is very nice IMO with HP5. Printed on polywarmtone, some shots of my kids just glowed! Grain is not bad, but not havving done 35mm hp5 for a while i did not know what to expect. I will be trying fx39 with neopan 400 as this is very fine grained and whilst super smooth otherwise, FX39 might give a great acuatnce optio for crisp more prominent grain. Neopan 400 at 400 in DDX is way finer than HP5 (I have side by side negs AND the neopan was more heavily developed). I reckon neopan is about 1/3 stop slower at 400 in DDX. Hp5 gives at least this.
     
  9. Grunthos

    Grunthos Member

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    I think your problems are caused by slipshod techniques. You seem jump from one product to another without bothering to figure out for yourself what really went wrong. You start by keeping a bottle of developer in the fridge for 6 months without trying it first, then you compound the error by shooting an unfamiliar film/dev combination at twice Fuji's recommended ISO speed, expecting great results the fisrt time out. Then when you get poor results, you chuck the developer down the drain and conclude it's no good. For what it is worth, getting full ISO speed out of most films is optimistic at best. Most people end up shooting a film at half to two thirds ISO to get acceptable results. I personally would have started out by shooting Acros at EI 50 to EI 125 with FX 50. This would have given me a range of negatives that could tell me if there was a problem with the developer. This is why I tend to only use films and developers that I know well. I want pictures, not failures. Life's to short to be endlessly doing film testing. That said, I still occasionally test film when my curiosity gets the better of me, I just don't risk important shots to unfamiliar films or processes.
    End of rant....

    Grunthos the flatulent
     
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  10. alien

    alien Member

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    I agree with Grunthos the flatulent!

    I have used FX 50 quilte a lot now, and I am very happy with it. can not say anything negative about it, but you have to know what you are doing.
     
  11. Grunthos

    Grunthos Member

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    I've never tried it myself, but I would have tested it more thoroughly than TBM did. I would not rush to judgement on the developer being dead unless the film was completely blank. I think his big mistake was believing that he could get good negs by shooting Acros at 200. I am skeptical of so called speed increasing developers anyway, and I would want to verify or debunk any film/developer manufacturers claim through careful testing before using unknown materials for important work.

    GTF
     
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  12. tbm

    tbm Member

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    My decision to process Acros 100 at ISO 200 in FX-50 was based on Paterson's FX-50 PDF file, a screen capture of which is attached, and I used the development time Crawley recommends. The flatness of my processed film was clearly based on a problem with the quality of the liquid in the package I had, not on the processing time. Again, perhaps the bottles in the package B&H previously sent me had sat on their shelves for a phenomenally long time and had oxidized to some extent, whereas perhaps this does not occur as much in photo stores in England. I don't know for sure, of course. Crawley is a genius in the photography world and his recommendation on the attached page can certainly be trusted. Perhaps if, upon receiving the previous package of FX-50, I had immediately transferred it to two small amber glass bottles I wouldn't have experienced the processing failure. Again, I don't know.
     
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  13. pauldc

    pauldc Member

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    I have just bought some FX-50 having read the same pdf article and will be experimenting with it at some point in the next couple of weeks. Also, the Roger Hicks review which Paterson provides as a companion pdf was glowing too. It sounds to me like an attractive developer but I will await the practical experience!

    However, one observation I will make at this point is that having used Aculux (a lot) and Acutol (a little), both Crawley / Paterson developers, neither of these delivers the speed increase that is claimed for them. Infact, with Aculux, instead of the 1/3 stop speed increase, I find I rate FP4+ at an EI of 64 / 80 to get decent negatives. So when I play around with FX-50 I am likely to be cautious with the EI and still err on overexposing. If anyone has any further experiences with FX-50 I would be very interested to hear about them.
     
  14. Jordan

    Jordan Member

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    I tried FX-50 a while back and was not hugely impressed. As developers go it seemed very expensive per roll processed -- at the time it seemed like just under $1 per roll in terms of working-strength solution. It also wasn't available locally (had to order from B&H). Negs were a bit thin using the recommended dev times and I also saw an unexpected amount of fog (not sure why). I printed some of the negs and needed Grade 4 to get reasonable contrast. One of the concentrates went bad on me about a month after opening the bottles so I chucked the whole thing. It was around then that I started using Pat Gainer's phenidone-Vitamin C developers -- same developing agents as FX-50, but cheaper and easier to deal with IMO.
     
  15. alien

    alien Member

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    Speed increase using FX 50

    I calibrate my films, using a greyscale and a densitometer.

    These are the EI settings I got for the use with FX 50 and for 'normal' contrast:

    Delta 100 400 ASA
    Foma 100 200 ASA
    Pan F+ 64 ASA

    So at least for my conditions and use, there is an increase in the EI, but it clearly depends what film you use...

    It required several tests to get these results, but with these settings I am very happy, and I get good pictures. The recommeded development times did not work for me at all.

    I generally use the two-bath method, meaning that I develop in standard solution for some time, then pour half of the developer away and fill the other half up to the same volume again with 35 degree warm water. Then I keep developing, roughly 1 1/2 the time again (depends on filem, contrast etc. again). The rest goes as normal.

    it is not an easy and straight forward developer to use, but I very much like the results!

    Ansgar
     
  16. alien

    alien Member

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    exposure meter

    I forgot to mention that I use Gossen Variosix F to measure exposure.

    I find that Nikon exposure meters measure pretty much exactly like the Gossen, whereas my Contax cameras all measure 1/3 stop faster - meaning that if i calibrate a film with ASA 400, I have to set the exposure meter on the Contax to 500 to get the same result as with the Gossen.
     
  17. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    film speed depends upon what values you are trying to achieve on the neg as we all know. I go for fairly slow speeds to get the shadow detail I want in landscapes (tends not to be dead flat contrast scenes) , downrating film by as much as a stop, depending upon dev. DDX however I find does give box speed in the case of HP5 and FP4 anyway and although I have not fully explored it, I reckon a wee bit more (160 from FP4 and 500 plus from HP5) under normal contrast with normal development. This is very real speed - oodles of shadow detail. In contrast I rate FP4 plus at 64 in pyrocat HD for most of my landscapes...

    That said, if I am shooting gritty street images, I rarely use the same speeds as there is sometimes trouble getting the blacks and impact I want in my work, esp if weather is overcast here in the UK. I would very much doubt FX-50s ability to deliver speeds claimed if you are shooting in contrasty light and reducing development, which many people do without thinking about it! However, in flatish conditions and for street images, I bet that it does give an effective speed increase. DDX does, as does acutol, which certainly produces way over iso 100 with Tmax100.

    Everyone gets differing results, but since I stopped using the same speeds for street images and punchy shots of the kids outdoors as I do for landscapes, I get negs with more oomph than before and in some cases that has effectively meant letting some of the lower values drop a touch. Most people dont go using spot meters for street images and if you go wandering about the UK on teh average day and shoot scenes with reduced film speeds as per a landscape session, you flat negs!
     
  18. Grunthos

    Grunthos Member

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    I have always been skeptical of claims for speed increasing developers. Most films do not give the claimed ISO speed in real world shooting conditions.This also applies to films souped in standard developers. This is due to all kinds of variables that can not be accounted for in a laboratory test, (too expensive for the manufacturer). Little things like differences in shutter speeds, light meters, processing conditions, enlarger light source, etc. can have a big effect on your results.

    The way I would approach it, after having a temper tantrum because the film didn't come out as hoped for :D , would be to reshoot the film at a range of exposures from EI 40 to EI 160 and develop the film at the same time and temp as the previous roll. Only change one variable at a time. This should give you some denser negs, especially at the lower end of the film speed scale. You should then be able to try printing some of them to see if you're getting enough shadow detail. If you're getting shadow detail, but the contrast is still flat, try shooting a third roll, at the lower speeds, and increase your your developing time by 25% or more. For Acros, your new time would 11 minutes and 15 seconds, using a 25% increase. It is better practice to think in terms of of percentage increases or reductions in your developer times rather than adding or subtracting a "minute or two".

    What kind of light source do you have on your enlarger? If you have a condenser unit, the negs might not print a flat as their appearance on the lightbox may suggest. When I stopped printing my 35mm negs on a diffusion enlarger, I had to cut my dev times way back to get the contrast I wanted on my preferred paper with a condenser enlarger. I ended up diluting the developer more so the time would not be too short. I like my dev times to be in the 7.5 to 11 minute range.

    Crawley is a genius when it comes to photochemistry, but even geniuses are not infallible. He also probably uses testing methods that are vastly different from anything you or I would use. Remember, he is working for a company that is selling his formulas, and therefore may be slightly biased in his opinions regarding this formula. He may also be making dev time recommendations for condenser enlargers. I believe that people in Europe are more likely to use condenser enlargers.

    As you mention, storage conditions probably are a factor here. We don't know exactly how old the developer was by the time you received it. Maybe it just does not have the shelf life that other developers have. For this reason, I do not keep store bought liquid developer concentrates on hand for long periods of time. Except for HC-110 syrup or Rodinal, I try to use up any developer concentrate I have within 1.5 months of purchase. I usually just make up my developers from scratch, mixing up only as much as I think I'll need for 1 or 2 weeks. It seems to be less wasteful.

    I know that you like Delta 100 souped in Microdol-X diluted 1+3. Have tried souping the Acros with that setup? It might be just what you're looking for. At least it would be easier to compare differences in the behavior of these two films if you are using the same developer for both. Just make sure that the Acros and the Delta are not developed together.

    After looking up all kinds of stuff about FX-50, I notice that there is a wide range of opinions of it. Some folks think it's great, some think it's a dog. I haven't used it myself, so I have no opinion. Apparently this developer is subject to sudden death syndrome just like Xtol. At this point in time I am leery of any commercially prepared developer containing Vitamin C. Too many shelf life issues. I have played around with Pat Gainer's formulas, some of them look promising, and they are dirt cheap.

    GTF
     
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  19. tbm

    tbm Member

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    Yes, I normally develop Acros 100 at that speed in Microdol-X diluted 1:3 at 74 degrees for 18 minutes and get great negs for printing with my dichroic enlarger, just like Delta 100. Based on my bad experience with FX-50, perhaps I'll experiment with Acros at higher speeds, still using Microdol-X. Thanks, meanwhile, for your response.
     
  20. Grunthos

    Grunthos Member

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    TBM,

    I don't know if it's possible to squeeze much more speed out of Mic-X, usually, all you'll get is more contrast. If more speed is what you're after, you might want to try Acutol. The reason I'm suggesting Acutol is that it has been around a lot longer than FX-50 and it seems to have a decent track record as a compensating developer that does give a true speed increase with some films. I don't know how it does with Acros though. I haven't tried it yet, but this is one of those developers that I want to play with when I have some goof off time. This developer is one of Crawley's formulas and has been popular for quite a few years, and it doesn't contain ascorbates. Like I said in my previous post, I do not trust commercially prepared developers that contain Vitamin C because they don't live long enough. I have tried some of Pat Gainer's Vitamin-C formulas and have had good luck so far, but these have to be made from scratch prior to use. If you ever decide to try any of Gainer's formulas, get your Vitamin C at Trader Joe's. They have it in 1 pound bottles for $9.99 and a little bit goes a long way.

    GTF