Why are my developers failing?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by albada, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. albada

    albada Member

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    I just mixed up another 5 litres of XTOL using distilled water, and dev'd a roll of Tmax-400 (TMY2). I first did a leader-test, which came out with acceptable density. The roll was dev'd in 220 ml of undiluted XTOL in a stainless steel tank for 6-1/2 minutes at 20C.

    But the leader of the roll has considerably lower density than the test-leader, and the roll is thin. The developer was yellow when poured out. Any idea why new XTOL would fail like this? I'm also having identical failures with homebrew developers, so something is happening that's not XTOL's fault.

    Some ideas I have:

    • 220 ml (undiluted) is too little to develop a roll. I have a hard time believing this because folks dilute XTOL all the time, using less than 220 ml per roll.
    • My distilled water has an additive secretly added by the grocery store called "DK" -- Developer Killer. :sad:
    • Iron is leaching from the tank (far-fetched, as there's no corrosion).
    • Somehow I'm contaminating the developer.
    I have no idea. Further clues: When I dissolved XTOL packet A, the water turned orange. Does that happen to you? Dissolving packet B changed the colour to very light yellow.
    I'm hoping somebody out there can offer some help.

    Thanks,

    Mark Overton
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Mark:

    Kodak's datasheet for X-Tol (J-109) says:

    "1. Start with an amount of water that is approximately 75 percent of the total volume indicated on the package. See the table above. The water should be at normal room temperature, about 65 to 85°F (18 to 30°C).
    2. With stirring, slowly add Part A. Stir until the powder is completely dissolved. At this point, the solution may appear somewhat tawny or copper-colored. This
    is normal.
    3. Continue stirring, and slowly add Part B. Stir until the powder is completely dissolved. The coppery tint will clear from the solution as you add Part B."


    I think this addresses your concern about the colour.

    It also says:
    "The volume of diluted XTOL Developer needed to cover the film will depend on the size of your tank or tray or the design of your rotary-tube processor. However, the minimum amount of diluted developer needed to cover the film may not contain enough active ingredients to develop the film fully in the recommended time. We recommend always starting with at least 100 mL (3.5 fluidounces) of full-strength developer to prepare the diluted solution for each 135-36 or 120 roll (or the equivalent of 80 square inches [516 square centimetres])."

    I think this addresses your concern about the amount of developer used.

    My thoughts would be to:

    a) check that you mixed the X-Tol with the right amount of water. Is there any chance you had one of the old 1 or 2 liter packages but mixed it to 5 liters?
    b) check for other sources of contamination.

    With regard to b), do you have another tank (and measuring graduates) you can try?
     
  3. albada

    albada Member

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    But I used 220 ml of full strength dev, so I figured I was okay there. Thanks for pointing out the copper colour in Kodak's data-sheet.

    These were new packets recently received from B&H. They are for 5 litres.
    That leaves other sources of contamination. I have several tanks and graduates, and have been using various graduates, always with this result. Maybe try another tank, but I can't see what damage a tank could do. Well, who knows; it would be worth a try...

    Thanks,

    Mark Overton
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    If as you say you've had problems with other developers I'd first stop using the distilled water, if it's coming from a Grocery store it's not necessarily even distilled it may well be de-ionised and even then not properly.

    Also try using a plastic tank it is just possible you have hidden corrosion in the top of a stainless steel tank, unlikely but you need to find the cause of the failure.

    Ian
     
  5. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Very odd. Colour change after part B is added is normal, your dilution is fine (100ml of full strength dev is all that is needed for a roll).

    It has to be something to do with the water or tank.
     
  6. Trasselblad

    Trasselblad Member

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    Here is one clue:
    I would rule out Xtol then. The water? maybe, but unlikely.

    Second clue:
    Could it be traced to using contaminated graduates or other vessels? Most likely fixer contaminated? Remember, it only takes a few drops of fixer to destroy a gallon of developer. The other way around is less sensitive, by design.
     
  7. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Mark,

    The color changes you describe are normal (I also use distilled water). I use Xtol almost exclusively (well over 10 years now) and find no problems with as little as 75ml of stock solution per roll. (I've actually never had a single problem even when storing it long term in those accordion bottles.) I would start with very basic questions. How good is your thermometer? How consistent is you agitation? How do you measure your developing time?

    Neal Wydra
     
  8. MVNelson

    MVNelson Subscriber

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    I would consider checking your film exposure Techniques and camera/meter/lens to be sure that your film is really getting exposed properly .... I went through this before ??
     
  9. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    My thoughts in not in particular order:

    220ml is plenty sufficient to process a roll per tech sheet, so it's not the volume.
    Your dev time at 20c is correct per tech sheet
    If your leader (from the real roll) is coming out thin, it rules out the exposure/camera issues....
    How long of time has passed between your initial test and the roll that came out thin?
    Do you replenish or are you using it as one-shot?
    When you said "poured out yellow" do you mean out of jug or tank?
    Naturally expired XTOL does not change color...
    Developer out of a tank processing TMY2 should come out purplish, not yellow... huh?
    Color change during mixing is normal.
    Is your process repeatable? If you stick in a small piece of exposed film now, would it still turn out thin?
     
  10. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    you have a cross contamination problem. Wash your storage bottles ( glass cleans best ) and only use developer for developer and fix for fix even if you wash. Even the measuring grads should be separate and clean and labeled.

    you mixed a package that was out of date. I had a out of date one before they were dated, it died in a week. It worked perfectly the day I mixed it, was partially dead in a week. Stored in full stoppered glass bottles.

    I was informed by Kodak after I complained about the above, THERE IS NO HOME TEST FOR PROPER ACTIVITY INCLUDING THE CLIP TEST YOU DID. The problem being there may be enough developer for a small section done in a large tank, but when you add the full roll there is not activity.

    I keep to developers that change color as they age.
     
  11. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    After never having had a similar problem with any other developer, I quit using XTOL the first time this happened. I found that the date on the package was one month out of date. I don't want anything to do with a developer which dies while a powder in the original package.
    I have used numerous developers, both packaged and self formulated, since and never had the problem. I will never try XTOL again. There are too many very good developers which do not have such a problem.
     
  12. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Jim, was this recently and related to a 5 litre pack? One month out of date would seem unlikely to have such a bearing on dry chems. If it was a long while back and a 1 litre pack, then it makes more sense.
     
  13. Pat Erson

    Pat Erson Member

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    XTOL is the Ford Pinto of film developers. Stick to reliable formulas like D-76.

    You use it but you know something bad's going to happen sooner or later.
     
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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Xtol is a very reliable developer I used it from it's release until about 3 years ago, always replenished. I had no problems with older 5 litre packets either, there was a point in the early 2000's when is went out of stock and I bought quite a few packs while visiting the US/CAnada .

    Ian
     
  16. fotch

    fotch Member

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    The OP states "I'm also having identical failures with homebrew developers, so something is happening that's not XTOL's fault."

    Eliminate the variables, one at a time. Change the water source, perhaps try with the home-brew first.
     
  17. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    But he said that it happens with home brew developers, too. I've used Xtol for 12 years and have never had a failure. I mixed up an expired package (by 6 years), and it was fine. By the way, an old lady down the street still drives her Pinto and it's in mint condition :smile:
    Old, mixed Xtol stock does turn a slight yellow. NEVER use at this stage.
     
  18. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Is the lid for your film tank plastic or stainless steel. Could be you have dried chemical residue in the light trap that will kill your developer. Try a very long soak in hot water.

    How does your store sell distilled water? Normally it comes in sealed 4 liter or 1 gallon jugs. If it's coming from a dispenser unit, I wouldn't even buy it.
     
  19. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    The lady has been lucky she has not been hit in the back so the bolts that hold the bumper in place are driven into gas tank which results in leaks/fires. That was the main problem or at least a major problem.

    In either case,Pinto or Extol, catastrophic failure. Pretty good anology.
     
  20. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    It has already been suggested that stainless steel tanks can leak out iron ions which will catalytically and quickly destroy ascorbic acid. I don't know for sure whether Xtol uses ascorbic acid but its MSDS doesn't list any other developing agent besides Dimezone-S so chances are high that AA is the source of Xtols problems. The other developers Mark worked on also used AA so his problems could well come from his stainless steel tanks.

    Second: Xtol isn't some cheap'n'easy substitute for D76, therefore suggesting D76 is like pointing frustrated Pinto users to Ford model T. Its high performance comes with some rare issues which many folks have been willing to live with.
     
  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    It's reliable for me too

    I find the same here, but I've been using if for almost 2 years and it's a dependable developer. Did you check your thermometer? Maybe it reads higher than it really is?
     
  22. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Xtol is great. I have used a good deal of it for it's sharpness and pushing abilities. The only time I touch d76 is when I teach my classes.

    There are way to many variables. Try a plastic tank. Double check temps. Make sure you use correct times posted by kodak(they updated this a few years ago maybe a 3page list of films dilutions and times for 35mm and 120 kodak films in xtol) I checked it's doc # j-109.

    Try it again. I find it crazy that people give up after the 1st try. If others did you wouldnt even have things internal combustion engines for your model t or the ford pinto lol. Let alone learning how to ride a bike, or propelling a man into space. Try it again and remove variables.
     
  23. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I take it that the roll of Tmax you refer to is a 35mm roll and not a 120 roll. Even if it is 35mm then what is the tank capacity for 35mm? If it is a 120 film then 220mls is way too short

    Unless you are using rotary processing and not inversion I have never seen a tank that only need 220mls to cover the film. The Jobo 1510 tank needs the lowest amount of liquid that I have seen for 35mm and that's 240mls

    I don't think that lack of enough developer to cover the film would explain everything you have described but certainly make sure that you use enough liquid. If you don't cover the film then this would explain why the problem or part of the problem occurs with other developers as well.

    pentaxuser
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    XTOL is great.

    Replenished XTOL is even better.

    The problem the OP had was an Operator Assisted Failure [OAF]. Usage: The OAF is not follow the mixing instructions.

    The Pinto's problem was that Ford wanted to save $0.05US per car to have a better profit by deceasing the safety. There is no parallel with XTOL.
     
  25. agfarapid

    agfarapid Subscriber

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    After reading all of the above, I have to add my 2cents! I've used Xtol now for about 3 years with consistent and excellent results. These are my steps: I mix the 5 liter solution (from plain tap, not distilled --I have well water) and decant it into ten 16 oz bottles glass brown bottles with plastic stopper tops. I always dilute 1:1 and develop at 68 degrees. I use it for TMax, Acros and Foma 200 for primarily 120 film in clean steel tanks and reels (which I've had for more years than I care to state). I use either a 16oz tank for 2 rolls of 35mm (1 roll of 120) or my 32oz for 2 rolls of 120 or 4 of 35mm. As stated by another poster, I keep my developer graduates separate from the ones I use for fixer. My results have been disaster free and consistent with Kodak's data sheets. Xtol, from my experience, is an excellent developer with no drawbacks. And I also use Rodinal and HC110 as well but Xtol is one of my favorites. My suggestion to the OP is to carefully review every step of his process and make sure of his water sources--that could be the source of his problems.
     
  26. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Not an XTOL issue. Purely a process issue. Pull some film from a new roll in light, clip it at about 6 frames and place it into a 1:1 mix of the same XTOL you just mixed. Swirl the solution and if it turns black after a reasonable amount of time it isn't the developer at all.

    Why hasn't the issue of the shutter or aperture issues been considered here? A screwed up aperture or shutter could result in exposing a roll 4-5 stops off what you think they are.

    What camera?