Pyro Developers

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by thefizz, Nov 18, 2005.

  1. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    I just saw a photo by jimgalli in the apug gallery which prompted me to ask what Pyro is all about. His pic has an unusual look to it which I like.

    Can someone give me a quick run down on what Pyro developers do?

    Are there certain films it works best with?

    Peter
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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  3. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Do a forum search for Pyro, PMK and Pyrocat. You will find all kinds of threads discussing various staining elixirs. In a nutshell pyro dvelopers provide better seperation in the highlights and some increases in apparent sharpness due better seperation at contrast edges.

    It has proponents that endorse it with relgious like zeal and others who claim it provides no real advantage over regular D-76 or XTOL when proper exposure and developing techniques are used.

    I have been using pyrocat HD for awhile now in addition to HC110 and Xtol. It really provides some adavantages with smaller formats IMHO. But as with with everything photographic your results will depend on exposure, brand and speed of film, developing technique, subject matter, lighting used, etc.

    I would read as much as possible and then get a kit of Pyrocat HD from Photographers Formulary. Easy to mix up and use and it is pretty economical stuff. Five it a try with your current methods and materials.
     
  4. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    Pyro devs (pyrogallic acid and catechol) can be wonderful and a PITA all at the same time. On the negative side (get it? of course you do) the stuff is toxic, stains everything, requires lots of agitation and often, and long dev times.

    On the positive (he we go again) side, I find that the grain produced by the pyros is sharp, but smooth. This is caused by the staining of the film; the stain is said to fill in the spaces between the grain. I've noticed that my midtones with PMK and WD2D are absolutely wonderful.

    Pyro is not a magic bullet; there isn't one. It can be good, even wonderful, but don't get too hung-up on devs. I try to spend my time finding a good subject to shoot using good techniques of composition. Any dev will give you a good neg if use properly.
     
  5. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    There have been brutal ugly wars over which staining developer is best - about a year ago. When all was said and done the general conclusion was that a staining developer is better than a non staining developer. Historically there were many pyro developers. Edward Weston used one called D-1 which, now days, does not have too many advocates. In the early 1980s Gordon Hutchings developed a new formula called PMK which combined pyro and Metol (this was not the first pyro-Metol combo but many feel it is the best one). Gordon's book is called The Book of Pyro and is available from Bostick and Sullivan. I have used this formula since the early 1980s and have never felt the need to change. Pyrocatechin is another variation but some of us feel that the film speed loss with this is more than we want to workwith. If you do roller drum processing then the Rollo Pyro formula might be the best one.

    These formula create an oxidation stain that is proportional to the density of the silver image - there is more stain in the higher values. This means that you do not need to push the silver density as far up the curve thus keeping it on the straight line section and getting better high value separation.

    Again, when the fighting subsided we all agreed that a staining developer was better than a non staining developer.


    steve simmons
    www.viewcamera.com
     
  6. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    My personal choices for films with PMK are FP4+ and Tri-X. Some feel, and I probably am one of them, that the benefits of a staining developer are somewhat waisted on T-Max as their grain structure minimizes the benefits of the staining process.

    steve simmons
     
  7. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    While I haven't used ABC pyro in a while, I have gotten beautiful 400TMax negatives developed in it. Should my developer of choice become unavailable, I would use only ABC. (ABC is the more common description for what Steve refers to as "D1". D1 was Kodak's number for what they called their "Tanning Developer". The reducer in this formula is pyrogallol.)
     
  8. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    Thank you all for the info. Sounds interesting.

    Peter
     
  9. PhotoPete

    PhotoPete Member

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    At the risk of starting a lengthy debate, is there any consensus on which dev would be good for a beginner to use to get his feet wet (and stained) with pyro?
     
  10. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    If you're going to be enlarging the negatives, I'd start out with Pyrocat HD, available from the Photographer's Formulary. If and only if you're planning to contact print onto Azo, I'd recommend ABC.

    I think you'll find, however, that the consensus on this board will be to use Pyrocat for everything.
     
  11. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Steve,

    I don't agree at all. The T-grain films benefit as much as older emulsion films from the use of a staining devleoper. In fact, T-grain films may actually benefit more, because with appropriate developer and technique to enhance surface development these films show very serious enhancement in sharpness.

    Have you ever compared the resolution of traditional films like FP4+ and TMAX-100 developed in staining developers? If not, you should.

    Sandy
     
  12. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    To which I add that the highlight control when stained negs (especially PMK) are used with VC paper can be very useful with such films (and others, of course).

    I took a picture with TMAX400 inside a cathedral including a very bright rose window, exposed for the much darker walls, dev in PMK, and found it surprisingly easy to print on Vc paper.

    (And with other types of scenes, the highlight compression can be a disadvantage too, using PMK and VC paper. Pyrocat is better in such situations)
     
  13. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    But pyrocat-hd is a highly polished one. Legend has it that it might even be blessed. Quick pull up the bridge across the moat. Those barbarians from rodinal land are getting ready to attack the castle pyro. I got hit with that sharp grain they throw at us once. It was not a pretty site.
     
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  15. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    Sandy

    Your opinons about staining developers and the new films is not universally shared. Delta 100 and 400 yes but not the T-Max films. T-Max 100 stains very little and will not give you the high value separation that more traditional films will do. Try films like Tri-X and FP4+ which are my two favorites with P<K. I did a test about a year and a half ago with Pyrocat and PMK and much preferred the PMK as i got better high value sep. But I think we agree there are many advantages to a staining developer and once you've tried one, any of them, you might be hooked for life.

    steve simmons
     
  16. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    "I did a test about a year and a half ago with Pyrocat and PMK and much preferred the PMK as i got better high value sep." Steve

    I'm curious how these results worked out in the shadow areas? I have never been satisfied with PMK in the shadow areas, just too muddy or murky in all of my tests. The Pyrocat stands far above PMK with respect to shadows and sharpness, especially with minimal agitation, a thing not possible with PMK due to uneven staining. That having been said, I do prefer PMK in some cases (Efke 25), as it is a very sharp and gives smooth print for enlarging. tim
     
  17. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    I agree that pyrocat HD is better for roll films and is great for sheet film - I think it is easier to get more density with p'cat than with other pyro brews. Then there is 510 Pyro - like PMK it gives you larger grain - but it also gives full film speed - if that is important. I used PMK for many years with no regrets and still make wonderful prints from those negatives. My number one pyro choice is pyrocat HD. - I have not used pyrocat hd in a Jobo with rolling but I have used PMK that way with good luck. I still believe you will get better results with hand aggitaion in a full tank. Pyro developers are usually kind of weak and seem to perform better with times of setting. Rolling processing often encourages using less chemical which is a mistake with any of the pyro formulas. The stuff is cheap - use enough. In my Jobo 2510, I use 1250ml and hand aggitate. I save the rollers for other things. I get sharper edges with hand aggitation.
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Steve,

    I could say likewise that your opinion about PMK and Pyrocat-HD is not universally shared by people who have used the two developers. In fact, my impression is the opposite, i.e. most people who have used the two developers stay with Pyrocat-HD. But enough has already been said about your comparison so no point going there again; you edit the magazine and get to put anything you want in there.

    However, you are simply mistaken in your belief that the T-grain films stain very little. Both TMAX-100 and TMAX-400 develop as much proportional stain in Pyrocat-HD as other films. The superior resolution of these fims may not make any difference in contact printing from 8X10 and larger negatives, but there would be a very definite improvement in sharpness and grain in a 20X24 print made with a 4X5 Tmax-100 negative compared to one made with an FP4+ negative. And a huge difference in medium format in any size print over 8X10.

    As to why many people appear to believe that the T-grain films don't do well in staining developers, there are several reasons, but I believe that the first and most important one is ignorance. Many people, most in fact, simply repeat what others say and have never actually done any valid comparisons of their own. And then, there are others who make the comparisions but don't have any understanding of film and paper curves so the conclusions they reach are limited at best, if not completely invalid and useless. I know that is not 100% true because there are obviously some people who have great control of their process and are able to optimize specific film curves to their process, as Dick Arentz for example in printing Pt./Pd with TRI-X, where the long toe and flaring shoulder of the film compensate and enhance the toe and shoulder of the print. But that kind of knowledge and understanding is very rare. In fact, my experince is that very few folks have any clue at all as to the way proportional stain affects the printing characteristics of different film types. And I must say we don't see much understanding of this type in View Camera. Maybe you can work on that.


    Sandy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2005
  19. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    To disagree is one thing but you are taking this a little over the edge. I do not have any personal agenda, I have not invented any formulae, all I want is good photos at the end. We have done articles on how a staining developer work, perhaps you did not see or read them. When I compared PMK and Pyrocat HD i did not care which was better and would have gladly switched if there was a reason to do so. I liked the PMK better in side by side comparisons. You can feel differently and that is fine. I do not need to criticize or be snide to you and I would appreciate the same from you. To disagree is fine about an issue. Calling me or the magazine into question is beyond what is necessary.

    steve simmons
     
  20. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Can you define "we all" and "better" or better yet provide a link(s) to this brutal fight/discussion?
     
  21. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Steve,

    Where in hell did you find anything in my previous message that suggested you had a personal agenda? My comment about the content of your magazine had nothing to do with your comparison of PMK and Pyrocat-HD, which I don't care to discuss any more, and so stated at the beginning of my message. You need to learn to read with a bit more attention before making knee-jerk reactions and making a complet jack-ass of yourself.

    The criticism I made of of View Camera relates to the fact that there is very little methodogically sound information comparing different films and papers, and that was said within the specific context of my comment on T-grain films and traditional films. It had absolutely nothing to do with the PMK/Pyrocat-HD issue and nothing to do with your editorial integrity. There is a lot you could do, as editor of the magazine to improve this situation, by publishing for example articles that would illustrate the real differences between T-grain and traditonal films as they apply to different developers and processes.

    You really owe me an apology here, unless you just don't like any kind of criticimsm. But whether I get it or not, it should be clearly obvious to anyone with an 8th grade education that my criticism was not directed toward the integrity of you or of the magazine and in no way suggested or implied any personal agenda on your part.

    Sandy


     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2005
  22. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    Where in hell

    This is not the way to keep a high level professional dialogue going and I am sorry you feel the need to be vulgar and abusive.

    Long before View Camera was started several of us tried and tested many of the staining developers. We tried them with the new t-grain films as well as the traditional films. We have revisited this area several times. The pyrocatechin/pyrocatechol developers were a little better in minus situations but did not appear to be as good an overall developers as the pyro-metol combinations. This was true regardless of the films.I started using the pyro formulae about 1978 and tried everything I could find. When John Wimberly created W2D2 I liked it very much and thought it was much better then the ABC formula - finer grain, easier to use, more stable, higher useable EI, etc., etc. I have been playing with these formulae since that time and have tried every formula I could find. When PMK came along I tried it and liked it very much. I have tried all of the newer formulae and have not found any reason to change. View Camera began looking at these formula more than 10 years ago, before any other magazine (except the articles I wrote for other photo magazines back in the early 80s). We've covered much of this material. If there is more/new interest we can look again.

    I don't care what people use. I have not invented any of the formulae, I do not have any proprietary interest in any of them. IMHO too much effort is sometimes spent in testing, testing, testing and too little time spent making meaningful images.

    I have invited Mr. King to participate in View Camera several times. That invitation is still open. If he feels we have been lax in some area I would welcome his particiaption to fill that gap.

    steve simmons
     
  23. Guillaume Zuili

    Guillaume Zuili Member

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    Sometime it's good to get out of the kitchen...and take pictures !
    Best,
    Guillaume
     
  24. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Steve,

    You completely mis-understood the purpose and intent of my original message, and them communicated your misuderstanding to this forum.

    What I said was this: "In fact, my experince is that very few folks have any clue at all as to the way proportional stain affects the printing characteristics of different film types. And I must say we don't see much understanding of this type in View Camera. Maybe you can work on that."

    Could you please explain what you find in this language that attacks the integrity of View Camea or suggests that you have a personal agenda to promote one formula over another? My criticism is objective and based on pure fact, i.e. there has never been anything published in View Camera that explains the way proportinal stain affects the printing characteristics of different films types, say a comparison of FP4+ with TMAX-100.

    The only point I want to make is that T-grain films such as Tmax-100 and Tmax-400 benefit from devleopment in staining developers at least as much as traditional thick emulsion films. In any staining developer, not just Pyrocat-HD.

    I appreciate the fact that you have invited me to conduct sessions at the View Camera Conference, and I hope to be able to accept your invitation for the next confernce. Further, If you are interested in a short article comparing TMAX-100 and FP4+ in a staining developer, done with good methodology, *including sensitometry* I might consider doing short piece for your magazine. Or you could have someone else do it. But I do believe it would be fairly easy to debunk the myth that TMAX-100 does not do well in staining developers.

    Sandy




     
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  25. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Peter, I was surprised to see my name in the first post. I got to the discussion late. Out of curiosity which picture was it that you liked? I use both PMK and PcatHD. It'll be fun to see which was used on THAT picture. I'm finding the PMK prints very differently with Platinum than the Pcat does. Much longer printing times to get through the green color.
     
  26. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Post?

    Jim-are you refering to me because I did not make a post in this thread. I do believe that I did make a comment on one of your photos but not in this thread.
    Please advise....
    Peter