Soft and grainy results with ILFORD Delta 100 and XTOL 1+1

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Tom Kershaw, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    For various reasons most of my B&W negative work this year has been with Kodak T-Max 400 processed in XTOL 1+1, with excellent results. However, I recently processed a few rolls of Delta 100 in XTOL which from the 3 or 4 negatives I've printed seem rather soft and grainy.

    Previously with both D-76 and Pyrocat-HD I've not had any issue with Delta 100 and as XTOL is a known product that gives excellent results with T-Max 400 I will investigate further, however is anyone here familiar with the Delta 100 / XTOL combination? Coincidentally I had planned to conduct some film and development testing, so I hope I'll be able to make some conclusions...

    tech specs:

    6x7 Mamiya 7II negatives onto approx. 16"x20" print.

    Tom
     
  2. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Delta 100+XTOL should the antithesis of soft and grainy. Should be virtually grainless and sharp as sharp gets. Bad XTOL?
     
  3. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Exactly. The XTOL was from near the end of the 5 litre mix, but I've used XTOL before in this condition. The stock solution was mixed up on October 15th, and the film processed last Saturday (November 5th).

    Tom
     
  4. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Tom,

    There used to be a problem with XTOL and sudden death but that was fixed (I think). Did you use a tank with floating lid or did you have a lot of air space ? If so, I would say that it was fairly oxidized and weak. That has to be the reason. I always use the 5 liter with floating lid and usually I don't get to the bottom any sooner than 3-4 months and never had issues.

    Max
     
  5. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Max,

    I wasn't storing the 1+1 mix, but the full strength solution, diluted just before use. The print times in my Multigrade 500 / De Vere 504 are reasonable, and the negatives look fine from a density point of view.

    Tom
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Your Pyrocat-HD Delta 100 negatives should be noticeably grainier than Delta 100 in XTOL 1+1. Delta 100 "graininess" should be similar to, maybe slightly finer than TMY2. With XTOL 1+1, Delta 100 rated at EI 64-80 and developed for 9 minutes at 68F should give an excellent normal contrast negative (60 seconds initial agitation followed by 10 seconds each minute).

    Regarding the famous XTOL death syndrome (which I never experienced), Kodak eventually traced it to the 1L packets being faulty, which is why unfortunately it is only available in 5L packets now.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2011
  7. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    When the murky weather clears I'll go and make some comparisons to check.

    Tom
     
  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    That's a 3x enlargement - like making a 4x5" print from 35mm - and it should by rights be 'grainless'.

    Is the grain sharp and the image mushy or is it a case of oatmeal-like grain?

    I have had occasional similar experiences. I found some subject matter just makes the grain stand out - anything with areas of very smooth ZIV-ZV tone like a featureless blue sky and #25A filter or young darkish skin.

    Sometimes the negative just comes out mushy for no reason that I can find. Sometimes the 'mush' turns out to have been camera shake and disappears when I re-shoot with a tripod. My suspicion is the other cases can probably get traced to bumping the focus, a poor seating of the focusing screen/ground glass, ditto for the film holder or back, buckled film

    Oatmeal grain seems to be a function of film/developer combination - when it happens I stop using that combination and so my observation isn't statistically significant. Though I haven't tried it, I wouldn't have thought Delta 100/Xtol would be one of those combinations, but it might. TMax 100/Xtol is certainly grainless.
     
  9. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Nicholas,

    I agree that oatmeal type grain can occur with certain combinations, but why the fine results with TMY-2 and not with Delta 100, considering the similar technology employed? I will check against TMX. The lens was the 150mm, hand held in reasonably calm conditions, bright but hazy, on the summit of a hill. Hand held use can affect sharpness and acutance but shouldn't influence grain I'd have thought.


    Tom
     
  10. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    The TMX films are noticeably finer grained than their Delta counterparts. That will show up in areas of featureless density such as skies.

    I've got tests on this I can post if it will be of interest to anybody.

    How is a 16x20" print from a 6x7cm negative a 3x enlargement??
     
  11. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

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    I also vote for the possibility of XTOL sudden death. I loved that developer, but just couldn't keep up with it sometimes.
     
  12. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Frankly, hard to notice, Michael, at least with Rollei RLS and even XTOL. Delta does seems to give better separation and detail even though it can resolve at 65 lp/mm compared to 80 for TMX. Anyway, assuming proper development in a fine grain developer, the limiting factor is always lenses, focus, and motion blur if not using a tripod.

    Interesting article by Erwin Puts here..http://www.imx.nl/photo/Film/page123/page123.html
     
  13. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I find it noticeable (depending on enlargement factor of course - enlarging a 6x7cm negative to 16x20" is enough to show the differences). Although as with all variables there is a tradeoff. The smaller, thicker Delta grains (compared to TMAX) mean slightly more prominent grain, but they are slightly easier to print than TMAX when it comes to highlight detail. But in essence I agree with you these differences are small.
     
  14. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Shoot a roll of Delta 100 and a roll of TMX side by side, with the same lighting and subject matter.

    Only then can you find out whether that is a difference of the films, or how they were processed.

    To me, TMX has always looked 'softer' than almost any other film out there, due to its ultra smooth grain.
     
  15. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    I always said, if I got to shoot TMX, might as well shoot digital. Soft, flat, and boring. The absence of grain doesn't make it any more appealing. Delta 100 is a lot better for my eyes.
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Wow. I don't even know what to say anymore. I'm outta here.
     
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  17. Brandon D.

    Brandon D. Member

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    Sorry to hear about your problems. Are you sure it's the film+developer combo itself, though?

    Ilford Delta 100 in XTOL 1+1 is the only thing I've ever used, and I've never had any problem with it. No sudden death or anything questionable at all.

    Basically, I follow a personalized version of Kodak's recommended agitation technique: A) 3 initial inversions, and then I let the tank sit for the remainder of the first 30 seconds B) after the first 30 seconds, 3 more inversions and then C) 3 inversions every 30 seconds thereafter.

    In side-by-side comparisons, I find the film+developer combo sharper than my $3,000+ Nikon DSLR system. I've never seen any obvious grain. Plus, I get far better dynamic range -- especially in the highlights. I've even rated it at EI 125 (and sometimes EI 160), developed it for 9 minutes at 68F and I still get more shadow detail than I want.

    I wish I could compare it to T-Max and print it really big to do my own comparisons. But, unfortunately, I just don't have the equipment to do so.
     
  18. Brandon D.

    Brandon D. Member

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    He could always do a clip test and find out for sure.
     
  19. mrred

    mrred Subscriber

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    I have only experienced 'Sudden Death' once. I had a batch of xtol that was just over a year old. I used a working 1ltr bottle and kept the rest in a tightly sealed 4ltr bottle. When it came time to use the last ltr, I did a strip test and it passed. I then processed a roll and it came out blank. That was about as sudden as you can get.

    Then I used dilute (1:2) quantities and with drum processing only 150ml per roll (one shot). For the cost, it wasn't worth stretching it out that long and introducing a failure. I now use it replenished, which consumes more total xtol. It does give me the same dev times and I use 5ltr in about 6 months.

    Note that the 'Sudden Death' is just that. The grain mentioned in this thread can not happen from this. XTol is kinda digital, good and then not and no in between. I would suspect the freshness of the film / exposure, before anything else.
     
  20. Brandon D.

    Brandon D. Member

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    ... or might as well be out there drawing cartoons. :tongue:
     
  21. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    Why would you be (apparently) offended at what sounds like just honest difference of opinion here?

    I'm in the "can't see as it could possibly matter in medium or large format" camp, but your eyes and tastes may differ. I shoot mainly conventional films in 6x6, Tri-X and FP4+, and print up to 11x14. An 11x14 (or 11x11 or so square) from a 6x6 FP4+ negative is "grainless for all practical purposes" to my eyes, meaning if I get really close and look really close, without my glasses (I am very near sighted and can see very well if I get very close) I can make out the grain, but otherwise not. Tri-X is a bit more but still invisible unless you look closely for it. I would not hesitate to make a 16x20 from a MF Tri-X negative. Now if I were making 16x20s from 35mm, then maybe the differences between Delta 100 and TMX would be significant even to me.

    Even if one can see the difference and prefers TMX, I can't see it being enough to question the film/developer combination. Something else is going on here.
     
  22. Brandon D.

    Brandon D. Member

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  23. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    yes, but they have much greater acutance and bite to the grain, so the term 'mushy' should not apply. Xtol 1+1 and D100 is a super all round combo and it is both smooth and sharp. I do not know what could have given rise to the problem stated.

     
  24. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I don't use solvent developers with D100 and I stopped using Xtol due to it sitting around too long. I'm now on to Ilfosol 3 in 200ml bottles which keeps very well in the refrigerator and doesn't separate like Xtol. You can also try FX2 for biting clarity.
     
  25. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Further results should be forthcoming.

    Tom