I started off working with PMK Pyro. It is a very straightforward developer, and there is TONS of information out there on how to use it successfully. After using it a bit, and discovering its strengths and weaknesses, I switched to Pyrocat HD. I have since standardized on Pyrocat HD as my developer of choice. My reasons for this are:
- lower base stain, which means that my shadows come out better.
- more tolerant of rotary processing. I shoot almost exclusively sheet film, and I don't scratch my film when rotary processing, unlike in trays, where I always manage to scratch or ding it up somehow.
- less toxic. PMK has more health risks than Pyrocat HD. This is not to say that either are immediately DANGEROUS, nor is it to say that Pyrocat HD is as harmless as distilled water. I wouldn't drink either PMK or Pyrocat, but I'm not worried about the occasional splash or spill either.
You'll find that when you do develop pyro negatives, that they will probably look a bit thin by comparison to what you're used to with non-pyro developed negatives. Don't be fooled - the stain adds density that your paper can see, but your eye doesn't, or at least doesn't see the same way.
Originally Posted by Doug K
I would recommend starting out with PMK primarily because of "The Book of Pyro". Gordon Hutchings book is an excellent beginners guide to using staining developers. While there is a lot of information on the net I found having an actual book to be very helpful.
The other thing I lke about PMK is the stock solutions last indefinitely. Pyrocat-HD will go bad over time although the version formulated with glycol is supposed to last a very long time as well.
One final consideration is how do you process your film? Do you use some kind of rotary processor like a Jobo or are you using a manual tank? If you're using a rotary processor, you may find Pyrocat a bit easier to use as it doesn't oxidize as quickly. Ultimately, you will probably end up trying both so whatever you decide, I'd still recommend getting Hutchings book.
Get a copy of The Book of Pyro by Gordon Hutchings. It is the most comprehensive source of info available. In the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site is an article explaining how staining develpers work. You can download and keep it for reference.
TBOP is available from Bostick and Sullivan and the Photographer's Formulary. Before proceedng any farther i would read these resources.
I have used many different pyro based developers over the last 60 years. The Book of Pyro is an excellent source for information much of which can be applied to more than just PMK.
I find that pyrocat hd, or one of its derivatives, most easily produces negatives suitable for enlargement. The base stain is minimal which helps keep enlarging times reasonable. Although I mix my own, it is available from Photographers Formulary and Bostick & Sullivan.
I can't help you with times on roll film as I rarely use it anymore and thus do not have a chart of times. The older I get, the larger the camera.
Good luck. This is a good forum for you.
PMK is a great developer. (The P stands for "pyrogallol" so calling it PMK Pyro is redundant. :) ) It's very long-lived (up to a decade) so it's great for an occasional user.
When you say you want to experiment with pyro, you have to decide what you mean. Pyro traditionally refers to pyrogallol. There is also pyrocatechin (which many people call catechol or catechin) which has some similar traits but not identical. Both are staining developers. (So is hydroquinone but to nowhere the same degree.) Each has a different flavour.
The Pyrocat formulas seem to be the most respected of the pyrocatechin developers. To be honest, few developers have used this ingredient in recent memory. That is not to say that it's not a good developing chemical - it is. The number of people on here that are happy with the Pyrocat formulas seems to speak volumes as to the quality of them.
I've tinkered with both. I know PMK a lot better, and I prefer it. I can't tell you why. Photography is sometimes a little like that. :)
I'd recommend you try PMK first, because of its long shelf life and outstanding results, but no matter what, pick one and get to know it first before trying the other.
Doug, I must agree with everyone here. When I came back to Photography after a long period I did a lot of research. Read as much as you can and use Google a lot. There is a lot of information out there. Then post a question on this forum. We are all here to help. I have posted some dumb questions in the past but I have learned a lot by asking! The wealth of information on this forum is astounding. I came back to my photography using my 120 camera and now I'm using 4x5 through 8x20 ( which I built myself with the help of generous people here) not knowing or ever developing film myself. I now use Pyrocat-HD that I mix from scratch and do things I would have never ever imagined without the help I received here. It is all a learning process for all of us, from the one's first starting out to the most accomplished professionals here. My passion for my craft has grown by leaps and bounds by all of the help I've gotten here. I can't thank everyone enough. Keep posting, please.
Welcome to APUG Doug. I hate to start off with a new member by telling them they're wrong, but in this case, happily, you are. :) (thats about it, everyting else is JMO)
Originally Posted by Doug K
The experience that is here at APUG is cumulative, so you can ask a question and get a hundred years worth of experience in reply.
Regarding Pyro developers, I would recommend PMK as well. It is very basic, very forgiving, very predictable, and very stable. If you use a Jobo or some such, a a Pyrocat developer is more stable, and is a fine developer, but has a different stain (brown) than PMK (green/yellow). All pyro negs look kinda weird, and can appear to be unprintable. The only way to really judge them is printing.
Hope this helps, and please ask question you have a mind to.
In the interest of full disclosure I use pyro. Pyro is like all other things in photography, you need to try it for yourself and see it if works for you. Some swear by it others see no difference. I have tried Pmk, pyrocat Hd, and have finally settled on my personnal dillution of ABC ( which is roughly 1-1-1-10/11). compared to other developers I found that pyro yields a better print (more midtones, more highlight and shadow detail), and the negatives are more sharp (not that it matters for my work).
Give it a go, and take all opinions with a grain of salt.
Just for the opposite opinion: I used pyro, but no longer use it except in very special cases.
But that decision was made because I prefer to use graded papers, and a pyro negative that gives a decent print on G2 graded is useless for anything else. I also like to be able to switch between graded and MC papers, which you cannot easily do with pyro stained negatives.
Doug - I entered the Pyro realm years back via Gordon's book and B&S's chemicals. Always been pleased with the beautiful PMK negs from single-sheet tray development – but if your development is 'tubular' your likely ticket is "Rollo Pyro, Pyrocat, etc. Also, the good book's guidance to post-stain for a minute or two in used developer is not necessary and no longer recommended (I found this out the hard way).