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Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Panoman617, Jul 22, 2011.
What works Best? Is one type better for one kind of film them an other?
It's a personal choice, I've used both alongside each other with a wide variety of films. My preference is Pyrocat HD, but there's so little in it that I'd be just as happy using Xtol.
So my preference isn't based on the type of film, however if you were taking about Rodinal then I would only use if for slower emulsions. Pyrocat HD is like Rodinal on steroids quite different.
Well I have used both and from my limited experience with PMK pyro the biggest difference I saw was better highlight retention. XTOL for the most part gave me flatter negatives than I normally like, and I found to correct that I had to change(increase) my agitation procedure compared to any other developer I have used. But it does give a slight speed increase which is welcome. I use PMK, I guess, mostly as extra insurance against blowing highlights. Of course that depends on what I shoot.
A film developer is a part of a system, and will have to fit in with the rest of the components to do its best.
1. How much contrast does your lens have? Modern lenses have a lot of contrast, older ones not so much. This makes a difference in how you develop your negatives.
2. Certain films are more prone to building contrast while developing than others, and some developers give more contrast than others.
3. Pyro is staining. Xtol is not. This makes a difference when you print.
4. Your paper and paper developer combination has a certain characteristic that you should try to match, and they all do different things.
5. Do you print with a diffusion enlarger, or condenser? Condensers yield more contrast than diffusion, so you need to develop your negs differently.
The list is actually longer, but I'll stop here hoping I made my point.
It's impossible to answer.
Xtol might give a bit more muted tones than most Pyro developers. But it yields an unbelievable amount of shadow detail. And as replenished I prefer Xtol over regular Pyro, simply because it fits how I print better.
You have to try it to see if it fits into your system or not.
It might be a matter of 'personal taste'. I have gone through many bottles of Xtol over the past number of years.... then found PMK to be more than adequate and a LOT cheaper... but changed to PyrocatHD when I started doing more non-silver printing in order to 'gain' from the 'stronger' stain under my UV light box.
While I found Xtol to be 'easier' than D76, it turned out to be slightly more expensive with both ilford and Kodak films.... and with the disappearance of 'local' retail availability, both became a bit more of hassle.
I am now more than satisfied making up my own developers as opposed to driving 200+ kliks to the nearest outlet.
By pyro I must assume that you are asking about a staining developer. By "works best" just what do you mean? Finer grain? Xtol is a fine grain developer.
The answer is that a stain image can never have as fine grain or accutance of an ordinary image. The reason that this is true is that the stain/dye migrates away from the silver halide grain during development. The result is that the apparent size of the grains is increased by the larger dye clouds. The dye cloud also masks fine detail. This can be easily seen with the use of a microscope. Each silver grain is surrounded by a stain halo. This is why staining developers are not recommended for 35mm films.
Echo what Ian and Thomas are saying. They are not really comparable developers. They are too different, and all capable of producing excellent negatives.
What I can say though is since OP is a multi-format shooter, I've never been that impressed with small format Pyro/Cathechol negatives. In general, even with considerable stain, I find them too grainy, whereas they can be wonderful for contact prints and minimal enlargement of large negatives. And my personal experience and opinion is that Pyro and Catechol developers don't produce better highlight gradation than other developers (contrary to what many people say). That is a personal view though. For a general purpose developer in small or medium format with an optimum balance of acutance, fine grain, tonality, contrast control and speed I can't think of a better all around choice than XTOL.
Note if you go with a staining developer vs a non-staining solvent developer like XTOL, you have to potentially change a few things in your process. These are not a big deal, just differences. Presumably with Pyro you're looking for imagewise stain, and that means you need to get salts out of your process. In particular, sodium sulfite, a common preservative in photographic chemicals, inhibits and/or removes stain. So for example, don't use hypo clearing agent in your wash process.
Also keep in mind the stain will change how you evaluate your negatives visually and/or with instruments, and it will take some getting used to when you print. Again, these are not things that should sway you in either direction, just things to know about.
Codswallop. Never heard so much rubbish before.
There have been Super fine grain staining developers which also have very high acutance.
Sure these developers aren't the same as say the Standard Buffered Borax Fine Grain Developer D76/ID-11, but they can be finer grained and have better acutance and also better tonality. But perhaps you are fogetting the tanning effects
Negatives aren't printed using a microscope so it's how a negative prints that's important. Personally I find Pyrocat negatives to be the easiest I've ever had to print from and I've printed commercially many thousands of negatives.
I've used Xtol 1+1, xtol 1+2, PMK, and pyrocat HD. I think PMK does the nicest job at highlight detail with TMY2 film; I couldn't get good results out of PMK with fomapan 100 though; probably needs more work on my part. Xtol is good stuff; sort of neutral /all purpose in handling of tones. Pyrocat HD seems to produce a little more snap/bold contrast than xtol for me with TMY2, but doesn't mess up the contrast the same way increasing the paper grade would do. Perhaps it's because it requires less exposure than PMK?.... I haven't done much with pyrocat HD and fomapan100 yet though.
I mostly use MF and LF and TMY2, so grain isnt much of a problem with any developer. I did shoot an indoor concert with 35mm TMY2 in PMK and it was excellent; as stage lights are usually blowing out highlights madly. Good highlights, not much grain to my surprise. I shoot so little 35mm, I haven't tried pyrocat HD in it yet. Xtol is an excellent developer for most 35mm needs.
you are comparing an orange to a beef steak!
go with x-tol, Pyro is bad for your health.
pyro alone is a bad developer
also, i got good results in 35mm with some pyro developers, specially pmk+amidol and a version of abc pyro,
And where's the facts ?
Ian, can you give me some examples of super fine grain staining developers? I'd be curious to know since I'm going through a bit of an experimenting phase right now with some stuff from Formulary and comparing to standard Perceptol, also looking at potential applications to document films etc.
On a general level I thought super-fine grain and stain do not really coexist since most super-fine grain developers use sulfite to produce the fine grain effect. I guess an exception could be a developer that relied on the developing agent itself for solvent action (eg ppd?) instead of sulfite, meaning you could use ppd in addition to a second developing agent like Pyro or Catechol and get stain with fine grain. But does Pyro have to be the primary developing agent to produce imagewise stain?
If you are just starting, it will make little difference which you choose.
Xtol or D76 would be my suggestion because there are so many people familiar them, they are very flexible, and very capable of producing very high quality work. Either could be used for the rest of your life very easily.
You need to look at a whole host of developers from Johnsons, they were around at the birth of photography until poor management in the 1960's and their withdrawal from chemistry in the 1970's.
Also some Ilford Patent developers, Sease, Edwal and Chamlin, and then Kodak HC110 used to use pyrocatechin.
My pyro notes from a private class 16 February 2008 with Per Volquartz.
Per looked at my Tri-X 400 120 negatives which I had developed in stock XTOL and said that if I am happy with the grain and sharpness, that I should try pyro for the following reasons:
hardens the gelatin
stains the gelatin
continuous grain for fog, glass, skin, water
selflimiting - compresses range
keeps highlights by preventing the highlights from burning out
I have since moved to XTOL replenished. I have the pyro and TF-4 but I have not mixed it up yet.
Pyro is grainier than Xtol and is delivers a bit less speed. I've tried pyro and catechol developers from time to time, and I like the look of the prints with medium and large format negatives. They seem to give better highlights while retaining reasonable shadows. But most of my B&W work now is with 35mm, where grain is a factor.
Just relating what I have seen when viewing the grain structure produced by several developers under a microscope.
I have lots of 35mm Tri-X negatives, processed in Pyrocat-HD, and they are very sharp indeed. Grain is about on par with Rodinal, which means it's relatively fine grain, but what appeals to me is the visual impact of the contrast that the stain yields. Super sharp and high acutance. Beautiful stuff to work with.
I also remember it working exceedingly well with Ilford FP4+, which I used in both medium format and 35mm, and those negatives print like a dream to 12x16 or 16x20.
I have to agree with Ian on your observations. In fact, you may well have your findings exactly opposite of what is generally known about developer characteristics.
Pyro based developers harden the gelatin of the film during the very first stages of reduction, grain is set at that point with relatively little change to the grain's accutance or appearance no matter the length of exposure to chemistry.
Whereas, developers with a significant presence of Sodium Sulfite do in fact promote silver migration during the last stages of exposure to chemistry. Such migration and lack of stability directly go to the accutance and impression of sharpness in the final negative / print.
MSDS information on Xtol shows a moderate amount of Sodium Sulfite makes up the formula for Xtol.
Lastly, I have never looked through a microscope at any negative, I have however seen tests done on Tri X & FP 4 developed with HC 110 and the Pyrocat HD. THese tests were conducted by a respected moderator on the LF Forum and bare out with striking clarity the thoughts I shared above.
ABC pyro negatives have the highest accutance of any I've ever developed. But they are not fine grained. You're talking about two different parameters.
I've gone back to ABC rather than Pyrocat for negatives I want to develop in a staining developer because of this higher accutance. But only for large format contact prints.
Hmm, good discussion.
I tested a number of developer and film combinations a number of years ago, and landed on PMK Pyro for for most of my personal developing (mainly, but not exclusively, sheet films), though I rarely see any of the vaunted claims other than "fine grain". Hutchings claims the big advantage to it is that you can "let the highlights go", getting some 8 or 9 zones (I participated in a Pyro workshop with him early this century). I don't particularly like handling the stuff, the negs can be trying to print through, and I find them exasperatingly difficult to judge for fine art print potential until proofed. But when it works, it works spectacularly.
I now regret not testing XTOL at that time, as I had not used it for many years. But I know it as an excellent general purpose developer, which I think I may have short-changed. I am going to try it again and compare directly to PMK.
To what extent and in what ways does the stain mask grain.
My prof was a 4x5 shooter and he always expounded the masking capability for grain and also the "edge effects" that enhanced sharpness? ? ?
I've only used PMK so far, mostly for 120 but I sure love what it does for caucasian skintones with TriX
Are pyro based developers suitable for rotary development?
I know oxidation is an issue. And I know rotary exposes far more surfaced area to air and does so continuously. But how fast does a pyro based developer oxodize?
Assuming you have everything ready, then prep the developer immediately before use and begin as soon as the developer is ready is there enough time?
Or would the rotary process wreck the accutance?
Enquiring minds want to know.
If I recall correctly, Pyrocat MC has a variant that is great for rotary. I've always done stand development with Pyrocat HD and PMK for my 120, but a buddy of mine swore by pyrocat MC and his rotary unit.
I believe "Rollo Pyro" was designed/formulated for rotary.
I'm not up on what has been done for the oxidation but I 'm sure it is on the PF page in the product description.
Obviously to get the best edge effect you want minimal agitation.