The Best Developer

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by aaronmichael, Mar 15, 2011.

  1. aaronmichael

    aaronmichael Member

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    I know I'm getting into some rough territory here as there are developers that fit the needs best of certain films and situations. However, I just wanted to ask the question to everyone - what is the best developer in your opinion? I hesitate to use the word "best", I think more of what I'm trying to say is "well rounded." I ask because I'm a student and the two developers that we have in the lab are D-76 and HC-110 dil B. Are these the most well rounded since it's the two that are supplied in our lab? I might be interested in buying and mixing my own developer just to experiment and therefore wanted everyones opinion. I've heard great things about Rodinal. Any thoughts or suggestions greatly appreciated! Thanks.
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    All things considered, I would name those exact two as my "all-around-best" developers. I would put HC-110 ahead of D-76, though, as I prefer its ease of use and shelf life, not to mention its slight difference in tonality. I would just pick one of those two and go to town for a while. Once things are under control for you, maybe try some Rodinal and some PMK and learn what it is good for. Oh yeah, D-23 is a great one too, though I have only started using it recently. It and HC-110 make are a great, simple two-developer "arsenal." They are both capable enough of being general-purpose developers, yet each has its own – roughly opposite – slight bit of character.
     
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  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    How much developing are you going to be doing? Are you going to be developing large format negatives? Your answers may lead someone to suggest using a developer in a workflow that involves replenishment. If so, XTol has a lot going for it.

    My circumstances make HC-110 the best choice for me.
     
  4. stark_674

    stark_674 Member

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    Rodinal

    A very well known website of B&W photography here in Italy speak in a very well way about Rodinal and its combination with Agfa APX100 (now Rollei Retro).
    Very good results are obtainable also with Ilford HP5.
    Agfa APX give more results on highlights "closing" a bit shadows, HP5 is a better compromize between darks and highlights.
    I am using APX 100 and Rodinal and have not so much experiences with others; I presume those choices are good combinations cause I read many technical articles talking about.
    Bye
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have 2 best developers ...
    one is caffenol c ( spiked with some ansco 130 print developer )
    and the other is ... ansco 130

    aside from those 2 developers ...
    sprint film developer is tops, its hard to beat it ..
     
  6. degruyl

    degruyl Member

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    I'd also suggest that you consider whether you want to go once through or replenished / reused. I suspect that the school darkroom D76 is meant to be reused and replenished (because of the volume of developing) rather than used once through 1+1. I prefer my D76 to be fresh, so I use 1+1 and run through a gallon in about 1-3 weeks. I also use Rodinal once through (and it works better for that) but it is not what I would consider an all-around developer.

    D76 is dirt common and works with everything.

    I have never had good results with HC-110, but that might be me picking up bad habits from years of Rodinal abuse. (I've tried dilution B once, but mostly tried much less concentrated dilutions. The negatives were no great shakes because of light leaks, and I never tried it again).
     
  7. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I keep three developers on my shelf. First up, good old tried and true D-76. My second choice used for nearly all my LF is Pyrocat-HD. Third on my list is Rodinal. I've had this bottle for several years, still works very well. D-76 doesn't have nearthe shelf life of the other two, but works perfectly every time I reach for it. I've been working out of the same bottles of Pyro for over a year(nearly out)a little fussy, but once you have it dialed in for a film you wont use anything else.
     
  8. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I have tried Rodinal, D-76, and HC-110 and I like all of them.

    Jeff
     
  9. ruilourosa

    ruilourosa Member

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    There is no such thing as the best developer, but...

    PC-TEA is a good close: Price: cheaper than tap water; Quality: good allrounder, good in almost every aspect; Low toxicity; Excellent shelf life; Easy to make; Times close to D-76 1:1 @ 1:50;

    although there are millions of developers and it´s combinations, start trying, and post the results :smile:
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    The developer that is available, and you know the best, is the best.

    D76, HC-110, Rodinal, etc - these developers have been good enough for some of the legendary masterful printers out there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with HC-110 or D76; they are as good as any other developers out there. The difference lies in mastering the use of them. You will find that the limitations of the outcome of your print seldom lies in your materials, but rather in how we use them.
    As a student you are far better off just picking one of those developers, and use it to your heart's content. They are all good. The rest is nearly academic. As interesting as it may seem, the changes you see due to alterations in your technique far outweigh the differences you see between different developers.

    Good luck.
     
  11. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    D76 is good, nothing bad to say about that. I used it for 20 years with nice results, then tried xtol and found it a tiny bit nicer for me, even though I need distilled water to make the stock.

    It is also good to have a compensating developer. I have read dilute hc-110 can be used for that but I have not tried it. I use PMK, other people use pyrocat-HD or something else pyro. I have also used Caffenol-C with good effect, but it's not really for TMY2 and I haven't got the extra ingredient yet to make it into the variant suitable for higher speed film. These developers are like HDR (done tastefully) for film allowing you to print a wide range of lights and darks with really nice tones.
     
  12. jawarden

    jawarden Member

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    I just use Xtol. I've tried three others, but the differences are quite minimal when compared to the other variables in photography (camera, negative size, drunkenness and mirth) so I've stopped thinking about it.
     
  13. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The best overall developer is probably HC-110 as it can be used with all films. This contrasts with Rodinal which is not suitable with fast films. D-76b as a one shot is good but replenished D-76 has variable activity depending on age and usage.
     
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  15. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    The worst thing you can do is go into a mode where instead of making photographs you are testing materials. Just stick to one economical developer such as PC-TEA (I don't recommend HC-110 and Rodinal as they lose speed vs. others, especially Rodinal) and a couple of films, spend your time focusing on making better photographs.
     
  16. aaronmichael

    aaronmichael Member

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    Thanks for the advice about just sticking to one and working on technique.

    Thanks to everyone else for the great replies. I'm glad to hear that I'm not missing out on anything spectacular by using D-76 or HC-110. Prior to this semester I had only used D-76 but recently used some HC-110 to push a roll of Legacy Pro 100 to 400 and I liked the results I got from it. Maybe I'll start using that instead of D-76. I know I should be focused on making better images rather than experimenting with new developers but we usually have some time in between projects and I'm interested in using a different developer just for the heck of it.
     
  17. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I do this all the time too, but with a different developer. Doesn't matter which one. The point is, you can over-expose, under-expose, over-develop, or under-develop, whatever you want, and your changes in those parameters will change how your prints look. By doing this you really learn to be the master of your materials. You control the outcome; materials don't, they just exist with a certain array of qualities, but it is your brain and your human hands that put it all together.

    No! You're not allowed to have fun! :smile: Just kidding, of course. Doing little excursions or experiments is good fun, and I encourage it. But they will tell you very little until you learn how to fully exploit one type of developer first. When your technique is good, you will learn how to get what you want from almost any developer / film combination.
    Don't forget that what you're trying to accomplish is to make negatives that suit your paper and paper developer combination. Once you accomplish that you can start tweaking, and you will actually understand what happens in the process as you change parameters. That is real freedom.
     
  18. JOSarff

    JOSarff Member

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    I tried most all when I was young D-76,D-23, dk-50, ID-11, HC-110,accufine, Diafine, Dektol, Bromophen, etc. to various degrees of success.

    Since the early 1990's PMK pyro for film, acid Amidol for paper.

    Joe
     
  19. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    The *worst* thing you can do is probably buy a Chevy Vega without a warranty. :smile:

    I never really found HC-110 to be a speed-losing developer---as far as I can think it typically pretty much gives box speed, doesn't it? Maybe a fractional loss; e.g., a lot of people seem to prefer TX at 320 rather than 400 in it.

    I dunno---I agree with the "don't get sucked into the gear rather than the images" philosophy, but let's give some credit to the fact that tinkering is part of the fun for many of us. I use more developers than I really need, mostly for that reason.

    PC-TEA is a good all-rounder, for those who don't mind moderate grain or the overhead of mixing their own (and it's about as easy as "mix your own" gets). The results are widely felt to be similar to Xtol (the developing agents in PC-TEA 1+50 are identical, and the pH at least close, to Xtol 1+2, if I remember aright), though personally I find it *so* much easier to work with a one-shot from syrup.

    But I do think it's a mistake to chase "the best" developer rather than a "good enough" developer. They all turn activated halides into metallic silver, after all, which ultimately is the name of the game, right?

    -NT
     
  20. nick mulder

    nick mulder Member

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    Pyro in trays - the relative hassle is nothing compared to the results gained in UV based processes (or the hassle of most of those processes themselves)
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Going against convention I'd only recommend HC110 if you're low volume users for it's convenience, it give a slight loss of film speed and worse grain than D76 (ID-11) and other Kodak developers, that's experience and Kodak's own data..

    Best all round developer is a toss up but Xtol's is by far the best Kodak film developer by a long way, and well worth using replenished for it's convenience, economy and consistency.

    Pyrocat HD is the other developer I'd recommend, it's like Rodinal on steroids, good film speed, very fine grain, superb sharpness and very economic.

    Rodinal is gives exceptionally fine grain with T-grain (and similar) emulsions, it's superb with Agfa APX100 & Tmax 100 even with 35mm films, not so good with older style faster films like Tri-X.

    Ian
     
  22. aaronmichael

    aaronmichael Member

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    That's a very good point you have there. Like I said in my original post though, I wasn't necessarily asking for the "best" develop, but rather the most well rounded developer. From the replies it seems like the two that we have in the lab (D-76 & HC-110) are the two most well rounded. Which makes sense since they're the two supplied for us to use. I think I might do some more research on PC-TEA and try that out if I get a chance since multiple users said it's a affordable well rounded developer. I've never mixed my own developer though, so that would be something new.
     
  23. ruilourosa

    ruilourosa Member

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    it´s easy!!!!!

    an electric heater (those used for food), an erlenmeyer in pyrex, trietanolamina, phenidone and vitamin c

    follow the instructions on the web

    good and convenient developer...

    cheers
     
  24. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You'll do just fine with either one of those two. I would not have any reservations about them.

    What school do you attend, BTW? Just curious, as I live in L.A.
     
  25. aaronmichael

    aaronmichael Member

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    I'm a junior at Cal State Long Beach. It's only about 6 miles away from my place which is always nice when I want to head into the lab on weekends to get some work done or just mess around.
     
  26. Crashbox

    Crashbox Subscriber

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    I'll throw in my two cents' worth here. I think both D-76 and HC-110 dilution B are probably the two most versatile film developers for producing negatives of normal film speed and contrast. The HC-110 has additional flexibility WRT dilution and resultant contrast levels- I have used dilution E on Panatomic-X many years ago... HC-110 also has (or at least had) crisp grain structure going for it, too.

    Though I have not used either developer in a very long time since I'm mainly a pyro man now, D-76 and HC-110 IMO have a very substantial level of versatility.