Tmax+XTOL vs TriX+D76

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by tkamiya, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    My experiment is still on going, but I'd like to solicit opinions from folks far more experienced here.

    I have been having problems with getting what I want from my chosen 35mm film+developer, Tmax400-2 + XTOL. I have shot them with EI200, EI400, developed full strength, 1:1, regular time per chart, -20%, -15%, etc.

    The result seems to be too high in contrast with not much of smooth middle gray. It goes from shadow to highlight too quickly. Developing it at -20% to lower the contrast ended up being too thin, -15% showed not enough contrast but also no smooth middle gray. For lack of better way to express the result, the result is "jumpy" from shadow to highlight.

    Now, I just shot my first roll of MEDIUM FORMAT film and developed it. This time, the combination was Tri-X 400 developed with D-76 1:1 -10% dev time. The result was fantastic. It had the level of contrast I liked and very smooth and long gray tones. This was the result I was looking for.

    Now, the question part:
    1) What's my problem with Tmax-400 and XTOL combination?
    2) Are these the expected result?
    3) Is this the result of different enlargement factor? (135 vs 120)

    I have a frig full of Tmax. If there is a problem with my shooting or processing, I'd like to keep using them. I'm very tempted to get Tri-X for 135 and/or process Tmax in D-76... but I'd like to get my bearing before I start mixing matching.

    Thank you.
     
  2. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    You could be doing any number of things wrong. I use TMX and TMY more than a little bit, and I never have that sort of problem with either. For the record, I develop both in either D-76 or XTOL 1+1. I don't find TMAX films to be lacking at all, but they are more sensitive to development controls than the old standbys of Plus-X and Tri-X. Make sure your thermometer is accurate and consistent, and when all else fails, RTFM. Find it here for TMX and here for TMY.
     
  3. 3e8

    3e8 Member

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    Aggitation?

    How and how often are you agitating? Too much agitation can lead to too high contrast for a negative. The standard method is 5 inversions every minute, followed by tapping the tank to dislodge airbubbles.

    Cheers,
    Bryan
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I RTFM'd so much that at one point I had Kodak literatures on my bed side table. My adgitation method is:

    Strong tap!
    5 inversions
    30 seconds wait
    2 inversions
    30 seconds wait
    and repeat 2/30 combination for rest of the processing time.
     
  5. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    The difference is in the film, not developer so much. In either case you need to zero in on the accurate development time and quit bouncing around using different films/developers. Each combo needs to be zeroed out to print properly and then compared, same subject. same time.

    Published times are not necessarily correct. there are differences in enlarger, enlargings lenses, water, thermometers. If all you stuff is not perfect, the times are off. Diffusion enlargers require a more conrtasty neg than condenser.

    I find Kodak times almost perfect if I take 10% off for a condenser enlarger.
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    What causes the symptoms I described though? If I developed, the contrast will be lower. If I developed longer, it will be higher. What is the cause of this lack of smooth middle gray?

    For the record, I am not jumping combination... My choice for 35mm is tmax400 + XTOL. I picked Tri-X + D76 for medium format. I intend to stick with this combination.

    I appreciate the tips, but can someone please offer practical directions that I can take my experiment? Symptoms are rather consistent. It is obvious the problem exist on my end as others are getting excellent results. I'd rather not randomly change my parameters. (or is that an only way?)
     
  7. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    You are on the right track. As Frank Schifano said above, TMY is less forgiving of development error than 400TX. Your goal should be to identify and control varaibles: subject, exposure (meter and methodology), temp, time, agitation, developer strength (freshness, dilution.)

    May be time to start over. Start at box speed for tmy which you should easily attain in either developer. Start with fresh dev used full strength as long as you'll be using times of at least 5 min. (I think it's foolish to reuse developer, given how cheap it is compared to the investment you make acquiring the images.) Go with Kodak's recommended times minus 5-10% to start. They aren't far off.

    Try to shoot scenes of average contrast and full tonal range for testing purposes. I'd meter off a gray card if reflective metering so that you minimize that variable.

    Choose an agitation method and stick with it, precisely. And use a water bath to control your developer temp; I'd say this is where most people go awry, and a degree or two off is enough with TMY to make a difference. Ideally you want at least a 5-min dev time so that small errors aren't so large a proportion of the total time. Include fill and empty time in your dev time, or not---just do things the same way every time.

    Print the resulting negs on grade 2 paper/filter and see what you've got. I'd recommend adjusting only dev time at first as you zero in on your "correct" time, just so you don't have so many variables in play. You can also adjust contrast with agitation, but time is simpler and does the same thing more or less.

    Once you've nailed the "normal" time for average-contrast scenes you can start playing with the other variables. Make changes in 5% increments and keep good records, and you'll have it nailed within a few rolls.
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Mike,

    I think you are right - I should start over. As you say, I have too many parameters that are changing and that's part of my problem. I don't know what to change next. I've got a frig full of Tmax400-2. I think I'm going to do a scientific experiment in controlled environment. I knew, Tmax is sensitive to development parameters but may be it's far more sensitive than what I assumed.

    I *always* use fresh solutions. Not freshly mixed but NOT reused. I just didn't add yet one more parameter. It's confusing enough!

    Thanks again.
     
  9. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    TMY is less forgiving of development error than 400TX

    This has been urban legend from the first time a lab guy souped test Tmax in HC-110 and didn't get Tri-X. Development error is very difficult to achieve with TMY & XTOL.

    Here's what it looks like (from Foto Import, agitation every 30 seconds)
    [​IMG]

    TMY-2, in EITHER XTOL or D-76 is totally linear over a 14 stop range. No jumps, bumps, lumps, or potholes. There isn't anything YOU can do to change that. The tonal relationship doesn't change, only the slope, so if you overdevelop by two minutes you still have a linear tonality, but you have to print on a softer paper. BTW, overdeveloping by 2 minutes is a 2 stop push with TMY2 and XTOL. Tri-X and D-76 needs 2'45", so, yes, I suppose TMY2 IS more sensitive to a mistake, but missing the mark by 2+ minutes isn't really a 'mistake'.


    How are you evaluating your film ? Eyeball, Scan, or Print ?

    MAKE CONTACT PRINTS if you aren't.
     
  10. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    DC,

    My evaluation methods are very unscientific. I print it using D-II enlarger with #2 filter to Ilford RC MG, process it with Dektol, then view with my own eyeballs. I have contact prints but frames are so small (35mm) that they are unsuitable for evaluations. Right now, I neither have the equipment nor the knowledge to do any other form of evaluation. But, I do know, my current results aren't what I am looking for. They are very hard, harsh, and not very pleasing. I will be taking Mike's advise and do more testing from scratch. Sensitive to processing or not, I think I will benefit much more by having a solid set of data.

    Thank you for the chart and assurance that there are no technical issues with this film in conjunction with what I am trying to achieve. I am VERY sure, I am the problem, not the product.
     
  11. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    No telling. However, it seems to me that it could be that you are over exposing (pulling the shadow detail up the characteristic curve). As a side effect of over exposure you get higher density in the highlights. When you reduce development to tame the highlights you drag them down the characteristic curve. Taken together, there's not a lot in the middle between the shadows and the highlights. And that might be just what you are experiencing.

    The cure for this is to properly dial in your personal exposure index (EI) for the film/developer/processing you are using. Then, dial in your "N" development time so you get the highlight density that works best for your printing method of choice.

    Do this (find EI and "N" times) for both film/developer combinations. It's a PITA, but it's the only way to come as close as possible to an apples-to-apples comparison. Then, shoot one or more scenes with both films at their respective EIs, development them in their own developers for their respective "N" times, and compare them on the light table with a 10x or greater loupe. Or make prints. But dialing in darkroom printing at least doubles the variables, so I prefer to make this kind of evaluation on a light table with a 10x loupe.

    When I've done this testing myself I've found that I get about a 2/3 stop increase of real film speed (that is, my personal EI) with XTOL using a given film over either D76 or HC110. And that 2/3 stop difference may be resulting in a 2/3 stop over exposure when using XTOL if you don't compensate for it -- which may just be what you are complaining about.

    The thing about TMY-2 is that it shows you exactly what you ask it to. No more, no less. It's not as forgiving of exposure and processing errors. Tri-X is considerably more forgiving of both. But when you nail your EI and "N" times, it can excel beyond what Tri-X can give you IMHO.

    But take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm using sheet film. This lets me nail each exposure individually. On roll film this may not be possible or practical. And if that's true for you, Tri-X may turn out to be the better choice. But that's the reason to do the testing -- to give you a rational basis for making that very choice.
     
  12. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Agreed that the slope of the curve is very linear. However, a warmer temperature will do the same thing as increasing the development time; the slope of the curve will be higher. Likewise, a drop in temperature will do the opposite. Temperature control is very important, and as Mike Sebastian pointed out, a water bath helps hold the temperature constant. I've used a water bath to temper the chemistry and the tank for so long now that I don't even think about it much. It is part of my standard operating procedure, if you will. Yes, it takes some time for everything to equalize, but the consistency of my results are well worth the extra time.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Do you have any 120 TMY-2? If so, shoot it at box speed and develop it in X-Tol, using Kodak's recommendations. If you get results that please you, than you can safely assume that your problem arises because of the interaction between your 35mm equipment and your metering technique - most likely resulting in over-exposure.

    Another point to keep in mind is that if you are comparing a properly exposed and developed traditional film like Tri-X to a properly exposed and developed tabular grain film like TMY, they will look different to the naked eye. Tabular grain films tend to look "thinner" when properly exposed and developed. It may be that you are "screening out" negatives prior to printing them, when in fact they will print well.

    Finally, remember that the contrast capabilities of your lenses used with 120 might be very different than the lenses used with 35mm. A low contrast and flare prone lens used with 120 might be lowering your contrast for you.

    Matt
     
  14. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Viewing the print is just fine in my book, that is how it will be judged the rest of it's life.

    I sympathize with you here, I started with MF just 2 months ago and now that I know the difference the 35mm stuff is getting frustrating.

    An easy test here with current negs is just a softer filter.

    As are we all.
     
  15. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    I can't say anything about T-Max since I only just shot my first roll.

    I will though, say that I find comparing different emulsions between different formats is virtually worthless. I shoot Tri-X 400 in 135 and 120 and the larger format makes it a very different experience. To make a comparison apples to apples, you've got to be in the same format.

    Even if T-Max proves to not be what you're looking for though, I wouldn't feel too bad. You can always trade it away.
     
  16. Stephen Benskin

    Stephen Benskin Member

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    I'm assuming you are consistent with all the variables - time, temp, agitation, and mixing of the chemicals. The results should be really similar if you follow the recommended development times for the film/developer combination. T-Max 400 has another potential variable to consider. Its emulsions tend to split when using warmer filters like orange or red. The high speed/low contrast curve has greater presence which creates really flat shadows then the higher contrast/slower speed curve kicks in later. The attempts to compensate for the lower shadow contrast causes extreme contrast in the higher tones.
     
  17. stm

    stm Member

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    I shoot T-Max 100 exclusively for B&W in both 35mm and 120 (good bye PX!) and experienced similar results (inconsistent) with X-TOL. I use T-Max 100 at it's stated ASA developed in D-76 1:1 and for really critical work, Microdol-X 1:3 at ASA 80. The development times in Microdol are long (over 13 minutes) but the sharpness and very tight grain are hard to beat! Of course, as with all films, consistency is the key; I stick to 68º for developer, stop, fixer, hypo clear and wash and agitate for 3 inversions every 30 seconds in the developer. Give it a shot and see what you think!
     
  18. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I have a preliminary result. Preliminary because I'm looking at negatives, not prints.

    I shot several objects that covers from dark black to bright white and everything in between in muted overcast light. Spot metered on gray card which is in the scene. I bracketed it to 0, -1EV, and +1EV. Then developed it in t=0, t=-15%, and t=+15%. Pre-soaked in temperature controlled water, developed it at +/-0.5F in water bath, and did everything EXACTLY the same except for developing temp.

    Amazingly, they all look "OK" to me. Full tonal range despite darkness and lightness as a result of different dev time and exposures. No strange results. Right now, I'm guessing my problem to be the first roll being WAY over developed and I started adjusting parameters prematurely which further confused myself.

    I'll report back once I have the prints.
     
  19. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I just printed the above test. I used the gray card in the scene as target and printed so that all gray cards look identical to each other and to the gray card itself. Amazingly enough, the results are pretty consistent. There are some difference From -15% dev time and -1EV to +15% dev time and +1EV. Obviously, the former is flatter than the latter. But, imagine I place the prints in 3 by 3 matrix and look at ones that are next to each other, they are pretty much identical. In this sense, apparently, this film is somewhat forgiving. What I didn't test was effect of temp change - which appears to react rather severely.

    Apparently, my issue was lack of my temperature control and resulting over development. I have the tonal range I desire and without the extreme contrast.

    Apparently, Tmax is extremely sensitive to temperature variations. In separate experiment, I observed 2F temp rise during processing without the water bath. This time, I used water bath and controlled the temp to +/- 0.5F.

    Thanks everybody for your support. I have the result I'm happy with with Tmax 400.
     
  20. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I just found a typo. On my post 219, it should read, "I kept everything the same except for the DEVELOPING TIME", not " developing temp."