I have been using D-76 to develop my TMY 4x5 sheet film. Since I don't develop often enough to use a gallon of stock solution before it goes bad, I have been buying it in 1-quart (more recently, 1-liter) packages. But my local store can't get them any more. I called Kodak and was told that D-76 in 1-liter packages is now a special-order item with a 4-6-week delivery time!
Now what do I do? Can I mix a gallon of D-76 and freeze three quarts of it? I checked B&H Photo's web site and found that a one-liter pack of D-76 will cost me something like $4.50, with shipping estimated at $11!
I'm not wedded to D-76, as I haven't yet done any serious calibration of the D-76/TMY combination. Are there other developers that I should consider that have indefinite unmixed shelf life?
HC 110 is another alternative. I used it before switching to pyro based developers. Undiluted developer life is quite long. Some mix it from the syrup rather then mixing a stock solution and then diluting from there.
I, too, go through periods when I do so little photography the chemicals would go bad. I solved that by using one shot solutions - particularly HC-110 as the film developer. I store the unmixed container in my refrigerator and mix what I need when I need it. I bought the bottle I'm working from now more than two years ago, and it still works fine. Kodak recommends mixing a stock solution - I never do that. I generally use dilution B, which means I use one ounce of developer with 32 ounces of water, or for small format 1/2 ounce with 16 ounces of water.
Rodinal will also work that way. Mix the developer 1:25, 1;50, 1:100, etc.
Another solution may be to mix your own chemistry - ABC Pyro, Pyrocat HD, etc. as one shot developers.
I have heard of people freezing developers, but I don't know how reliable that has been for them.
I started out, about thirty-five years ago, using D-76. I was satisfied with the results (as if I really had much basis for judging at the time!), but I found that mixing the D-76 was a pain. The required temperature is high, and having to use distilled water was a nuisance.
I agree with the HC-110 recommendation. After I finally gave up the D-76, I used HC-110 for years as my normal developer, usually the in B dilution. When T-Max films first arrived, if I recall correctly, the T-Max developer was still not available. HC-110B gave very sastisfactory results with both TMX and TMY.
With the arrival of the T-Max Developer, I discontinued using HC-110 for the newer films, although I still use it for copy film and as a dependable fall-back for the occasional roll of TX, PX. Even though the bottle contains a "for roll film only" warning, I have always used the standard stuff (usually 1:7 dilution) instead of the RS version for 4 x 5. Results are excellent and I've never wanted to fool with the replenishment business; I've never figured out why Kodak recommends against this.
With both HC-110 and T-Max, I mix directly from the concentrate. Each time I mix, I displace the air in the bottle with carbon dioxide (deep breath, hold half a minute, exhale through a straw into the bottle) and find that the concentrate seems to work consistently for a long time--beyond a year. I don't think you can go wrong with either developer. but the T-Max film/T-Max developer combination is hard to beat--enormously flexible with predictable results at various times depending on exposure, subject, etc.
Since my "darkroom" area is small, I determined not to stock any chems in bottles larger that 1 liter.
With Dektol, I buy the Gallon package and use a scale to divide it into Four zip-lock bags. So far, I have had no trouble finding D-76 in Liter packages but now that I'm using it more often I believe that I will do the same thing, both for reasons of economy as well as for storage and freshness considerations.
Buy some Metol and some Sodium Sulfite. Mix up D-23 to what ever working strength you need just prior to use. The dry chems will keep. No glass bottles to break. No worry about it disappearing off the store shelves.
I agree. You can store chemicals in powder form for several years safely-I used some pyrocatechol the other day that was 8 years old and the negs were AOK. Incidentally, developers made up as separate stock solutions keep MUCH better than single solution ones (old PMK seems to stain more than fresh stuff BTW).