Thoughts on DiXactol?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Eric Jones, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. Eric Jones

    Eric Jones Member

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    Hello,

    Does anyone have any experience or opinions of DiXactol? I was thinking of giving it a try but I am wondering if Pyrocat-HD may be a better way to go. Also, is there a U.S. supplier of DiXactol. I read that Photoformulary had it but did not find it listed on their web site.

    Thanks
     
  2. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    I used to use DiXactol. In the 2 bath configuration it usually gave me results that were N-1 or N-2 contrast - even with a condenser enlarger on graded paper. In the monobath configuration I could not tell the difference in performance between it and Pyrocat HD. It is good developer - fine grain (but not like XTOL or Microdol X) staining - but a different color than PMK. Compensating - I photographed a burning light bulb filimant with it and you can see the coils and read the label on the glass bulb. - Quite a feat! Buy some chemicals and mix up some PyrocatHD- you will save a lot of money in the long run.
     
  3. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    I think that DiXactol is no more. It was replaced by DiXactol Ultra, which then became unavailable when Barry Thornton died in late 2003. Look at Peter Hogan's website, www.monochromephotography.com for the current situation. He ships to the USA. I have no experience with his developers, so can't comment on them.

    I rather liked DiXactol, especially with the previous version of APX400 rated at EI 250, but there's no accounting for taste.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  4. Leon

    Leon Member

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  5. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I would go for pyrocat every time. I am in the early stages of testing it (P'cat) and find that is finer grained, produces far less B+F and is about 5% of the cost. As a single bath it held an 11 stop scene, so I cannot fathon why one would need 2 bath dixactol. Dixactol produces coraser grain and is argaubly suited to modern tabular films or slow conventional ones far better than 400 speed films with which grain can be considerable. Exactol Lux is finer than pyrocat in grain terms and would be a better choice if you were using 35mm 400 speed films or possibly even fp4/apx100, if you desire fine grain. P'ct is an ideal compromise between exactol lux and dixactol. I had superb results with Acros in Dixactol, but have no reason to suspect that pyrocat will not do just as well. As acros has ridiculously small grain, dixactol was able to give great sharpness to what would otherwise be a rather mushy film. Pyrocat will do the same. Why pay £13.95 for 150ml or so when I can make litres of pyrocat for a similar amount? Just my opinion......As I shoot little 35mm and when I do, I tend to go for visible grain, I have no need for Exactol Lux or its successors. Dixactol IMHO is simply bettered by pyrocat HD in every respect. Dixactol may prioduce greater sharpenss still (I dunno), but as grain is a seriously limiting issue, I feel the drive for ultra sharpness went too far with this dev (apart from with tabular films such as acros, delta, tMax 100 etc) Pan F might be great in this dev. I tried a roll, but in 6x7 on a 10x8, you could just start to make out grain....but that was a one roll test, so dont read into it too much. Dixactol with Maco 820C produced base fog that was like a light coating of primer paint! and grain was comparable with this otherwise smooth film on an 8x10 from 6x9 to what I would expect from 35mm fp4 plus. Others may have had different results. However, I think it is great for tabular slow films and pants for the rest apart from at puny enlargements.........even making you wonder what you bother shooting 5x4 only to get that grain......

    Tom
     
  6. Leon

    Leon Member

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    pants

    lol - that is a great way of putting it Tom. I must admit I had a bit of a nightmare all round with DiXactol and grain. I never tried the new one (ultra) though. I too think that P'cat is the best of the catechol based devs that I've tried and find it is good all round for all circumstances and great for particular circumstances.
     
  7. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I only used the later one, Ultra, which just camer out as I placed my first order. I wondered how on earth Bary T was getting nice sharp pleasantly grained 12" prints off 6x6 HP5, as he claimed. I could see this happening if one developed using shorter times for graded papers, maybe, perhaps not looking too close. I realised how wayward things had become when I ran out and developed a few 5x4 HP5/Fp4 plus negs in ID11. Exactol Lux is another beast altogether and hard to fault. Still, Look at the price for it and the new Presyscol - about £13.95 plus 3 quid or so P&P for 100 Ml. Nothing is going to tear me away from pyrocat at those prices. I am in no doubt that I will get pyrocat really singing for me soon enough, but may use a conventional dev for low contrast scenes where there are no highlights in danger of blowing. I love the Aculux 2 as I have harped on about, but am keen to try a 'brew your own so I know I can never be caught out by manufacturers pulling products or going under. I was telling philldressser that just as I had decided to stick to APX100 in all formats, AGfa pulled it in sheet. I had ONE box of 5x4. I then decided that it would be FP4 plus...........then Ilford looked rocky just as I was expanding into 10x8 and sheet film was looking particularly precarious. As Ilford seems stable (please, please no kiss of death this time) I think I will now stick to FP4 plus but more fully explore Efke/Maco 100 too, just in case!

    Tom
     
  8. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    I think some of the above criticism is unduly harsh having achieved very pleasing results in DiXactol from a range of films, APX100, Delta 100 and 400 in both 120 and 4x5 for the first two.

    Using the recomended single bath partial stand method, I found the transition to this type of "Exotic" developer easy and beneficial and did not experience the streaking which others have reported. Prior to this, I had tried Ilfosol, ID-11 and Rodinal.

    For those who do not want to mix their own chemicals, do masses of film+developer testing or shoot relatively small amounts of B+W film such proprietary products are welcome in my book. Why shouldn't Developer developers (!) try to gain some recompense for their efforts? Allowing photographers to get out and shoot some pictures.

    I am not advocating that Dixactol is the best, but that it should not be so easily dismissed just because it is not flavour of the month. It is certainly easy to use with agitation every 2 mins a recurring thought of the good old days as I now get to do this operation every 30s.
     
  9. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Baxter,

    I am not dismissing Dixactol. I am of the opinion that it seemed suited to slower films, especially tabular ones, especially in larger formats, which reflects your usage of it. This is a far cry from hp5 or even fp4 plus in 35mm. I also state that I had great results from Acros 5x4 (also 120, tho only a brief test). Your Delta 400 is a very fine grained film for the speed, easily comparable to FP4 plus in terms of grain neg and you are talking 120...............

    I also appreciate that other may have had better all round results that me. However, as I have had great results from fine grained modern films, I suspect that it is not what I was doing, rather the nature of the dev. Bary admitted that these issues were why Exactol came about.......later commenting (on the benefits of Exactol Lux)that Dixactol could be rather intollerant of imperfect exposure/development . This was not what he reported in his literature (or Edge of Darkness) for Dixactol! The polar opposite in fact! Again, hat off to Barry for doing what he did (important person in revival of pyro devs) and Exactol Lux is uniquely fine grained for a pyro dev. His books are IMHO essential reading!. In terms of cost, I am not knocking them for making money. They have to to live, I appreciate this. But when I am faced by the choice of 5 packs of Diaxactol Ultra/Exactol Lux etc at total of about £80-90 inc P&P, I chose to buy digital scales (400g total - to 0.1g accurcy) at £50 and enough chems to keep me going WAY past those 5 bottles. Many of the chems I use only 2g or so at a time from a 50g pack, so the cost goes down and down after the initial buy of chems as I only need a few of the ingredients. I can understand why people do not want to mix their own, but unless you are a very low volume user, I cannot see a good reason not to. It just seems a little bizarre that the market for these ready made pyro devs is at fairly advanced users (despite what Barry thought I cannot see many newbies popping open a bottle). Such people are inclined to experiement and are more aware of alternatives............that might just results in them getting some scales

    I am absolutely not interested in flavour of the month products, only those that work. I use 'normal' film and confess to being rather fond of Aculux 2 (hardly a sexy product with a cult following). I only went to pyrocat because Barry died and his products ceased to be available. In the meantime I discovered something better for me (in all honesty expecting it to be worse!) and therefore have no reason to go back now that they are on the market again. I am glad that Dixactol produces results that you like with your films and if I do not get the acutance I need with acros from Pyrocat, I may keep a bottle in stock for when I have been overseas and used packet film. However, from what I have seen of the devs sharpness so far, Prince Harry is more likely to become King of Israel!

    Try using Dixactol for a 120 or 35mm HP5. ..............I dare ya!

    Tom
     
  10. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I tested it as a 2 bath developer with 120 Ilford HP5 and Fuji Neopan 400 and produced very grainy N-1 or N-2 contrast negatives. My results were confirmed by at least two other photographers in the UK. Having said that, on workshops I have printed several negatives developed in DiXactol as a single bath that produced excellent prints with little evidence of grain.
     
  11. Leon

    Leon Member

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    Baxter - I'm not dismissing Barry Thornton's work either - I was totally commited to exactol lux before the supplies ran out after Barry's untimely death. his books were invaluable to me when I was first getting into darkroom work etc.

    With DiXactol, I did experience all the streaking, uneven development, high grain etc. The one bath was better, but still not really good - however, as you rightly point out, many people got amazing results (although i think this was more in the LF arena) I know that much of this was a result of the extremely hard tap water in my area, and as a hobbyist, i cant justify either buying water or having a filter system installed.


    Exactol went a long way to resolving the problem for me, but I find the grain too smooth for me. Pyrcoat just seemed to be the best mix of the two - and judging by the amount of people using it now, I think it's going to be a bit more than recipe-of-the-week. I just wish the development times and film speeds I'm getting were respectively shorter and faster - but that's for a different thread!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2005
  12. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    I've got to agree with Les on this one. I shot some Tri X and developed it using the two bath method, flat as your hat and disappointingly grainy.
     
  13. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    Tom and Leon
    It seems we have all made similar progressions, from DiXactol to Exactol and then sought alternatives due to the length of time taken to market BT's products after his sad death. I too was surprised at how few photographers wanted to make the switch to using a compensating/staining developer from their trusted brews.

    It seems that we photographers are a pretty polarised bunch, either those who stick with what they know and bury head in sand over possiblity higher performance for same/less effort or the other camp who are willing to experiment and may never settle.

    I do not use much B+W dev and so have just about finished my first lot of PMK and still have some remnants of DiXactol to Exactol, although both must be quite stale now. I was given another set of PMK (too fiddly for some!) but retain an open eye, ear and mind for things that will offer even better performance, especially if easier to use!! I am happy to stay behind the leading edge,( seeking an easy life) to ensure all snags are ironed out.

    I think we are all after something which works for us and offers both reliability as well as performance. Life is too short to try to reinvent the wheel. I fully accept that you have found limitations in the performance of DiXactol, I take this as read and would avoid using that combination!

    If you feel that Pyrocat is better than PMK then I shall investigate this avenue especially potential savings, I am equally intrigued by Prescysol. I chose PMK as it was easy to order and seemed to have a good reputation. Cost is/was an issue and am prepared to accept that not just fish have scales!

    When will someone produce a developer without an odd name?
    Perhaps this could be a good topic for a thread in "the lounge".
    A brew with good mid tones - "Earl Grey"
    One for the Shadows - Cliff.
    One for the Highlights - Beckham.
    One for heavy compensation Sue-Mo
    Something for the weekend Sir?
     
  14. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I reckon the issue with Dixactol is all about what film you use. You would never beleive that Acros (in Dixactol), (prob same for deltas and Tmax) and HP5 (same) had been thru the same dev (acros, smooth, creamy, glowing prints, exceedingly sharp for a fine grained film with no discernable base fog at all and ONLY image stain), (HP5 tarmac grain, base fog like a brown beer bottle that has been frosted, no sparkle or glow and in need of grade 9 paper). Now Les mentions the film he used for his disasterous test it makes sense........

    I have stayed well clear of the PMK vs Pyrocat debate as I have never used PMK and am new to Pyrocat. I appreciate the issue relating to the contrast reducing effect of the yellower stain of PMK esp in relation to highlights on VC papers, so personally, I will stick to pyrocat. I agree with Leon about Pyrocat requiring dev times a little over what is comfortable (at 1:1:100) and about speed. I understand that Sandy has tested the dev 'properly' (unlike me) and found that it delivers packet speed. I have found so far that this does not appear to be the case, tho that is prob because I am underdevelping the negs somewhat. Correct development chould pick up the speed a little, as will less agitation. I am going to up the concentration to 2:2:100 and try this with shorter times aiming for a Normal scene to print on Grade 3 VC (which means Grade 2 graded is still viable), which should give maximum contrast/paper options with graded and VC. I may try 1.5:1.5:100 depending on what times I end up with. Baxter, when I next make up a batch, I could send you some if you want (let me know). I should have a better handle on speed/dev times for my purposes by then too! You can then have a play!

    The other 'nice thing' about pyrocat is that it is flexible. I can easily use rotary develpment if I want, I can use VC without the contrast reduction/compensation in highlights of PMK. It has been shown to be great for building the density for alternative processes. It can be used as a stand developer or min agitation for great microcontrast/compensation. It has a lot going for it.........and it seems that whatever I want to do (even if I dont yet) I wont have to change dev (tho I may use a std dev for low contrast scenes). I have decided my films, now I need to be loyal to a dev (perhaps my first ever bottle of R*@n+al on my shelf ought to stay sealed....:smile:

    Tom
     
  15. Eric Jones

    Eric Jones Member

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    Thank you everyone for all the information. On a side note, I used the search feature for "dixactol" and kept getting the response that nothing was found, the same for "acros". Maybe it was just a temporary glitch or something. But again, thank you all.
     
  16. gchpaco

    gchpaco Member

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    I'm amazed that people don't want to pay for good water. Distilled water around here costs about a buck a gallon. With the exception of wash water and possibly stop, I use it for everything, including mixing Photo-Flo. Before I did that, I got constant hard water deposits on my negatives that I couldn't get rid of.
     
  17. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I think it depends on whether you need it or not. If you have no problems, why pay for water that is no better? For some, I realise, it is essential.
     
  18. baronfoxx

    baronfoxx Member

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    thought on dixactol

    I had very good results with Dixactol using Delta 100 making almost grain free sharp prints on 12" x 16" FB glossy paper. using Delta 400 was a bit of a disaster but was much better with "new" Delta 400.
    I changed to Dixactol Ultra when it came out and got even slightly better results.Following the death of Barry and the loss of supplies I bought some Presyscol but have not tried it yet, so I might abandon this and start straight in with the new Presyscol EF.

    I also got amazing results with Fugi Acros 100 and Dixactol Ultra which is what I am now using along with distilled water, Alkaline fixer and close quality control over cleanliness.

    regarding costs one pack of D.U. does 30 off 35 mm films at less than 50p a roll which is not bad.
     
  19. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Every person who has tried this combo (or Acros with PMK/pyrocat) is totally sold on it. It is the only modern film combo that would tempt me to use new tech film.
     
  20. baronfoxx

    baronfoxx Member

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    Dixactol

    further to my earlier post has anyone any information on their experiences with CM Pyro as sold by Arem Publishing
     
  21. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I was tempted

    I was tempted to try the Barry Thorton products after I first became aware of them. He passed away shortly afterwards.

    I have been using Pyrocat HD. In using it with VC papers, I find that though my negatives have very nice sharpness they were grainier than I preferred in 35mm if I exceeded 6.67X enlargement . I am now trying reduced development time aiming at grade 4 when using Forte Elengance. This should substantially reduce the development time and grain emphasis because the grade 4 paper will not see the stain as a contrast enhancing rather than reducing agent. Additionally, I had purchased at a bargain price 6 11X14 50 sheet boxes of the grade 4 Fort Elengance at a very nice price and I need a good use for it. What nice print color the Forte paper has. The prints are being made on a Durst floor standing condenser enlarger.
     
  22. Peter Hogan

    Peter Hogan Member

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    Just goes to show - one man's meat is another man's poison. I know some people who won't touch DiXactol and others who love it to pieces. That's what makes the world go round. If it works for you, that's all that matters. Not everyone wants to mix their own chemistry, either. Anyway, Barry's products will soon be available through Photographers Formulary in the USA.
     
  23. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    Peter, I'm glad you were able to hook up with Photo Formulary. They do an excellent job.