Neal concludes that the topic of pre-soaking is pointless to argue and that you should just do whatever the heck you want.
That may indeed be the case for many, perhaps most kinds of development, and for most developers, but this is not a one-size fits all group.
There are certainly two situations where I am absolutely convinced that pre-soaking makes a big difference. One situation I have already mentioned, i.ed when using staining developers with rotary processing. Another situation would be when using minimum agitation or stand agitation. In the first instance failure to pre-soak is an almost sure recipe for uneven staining, and in the second failure to pre-soak will almost surely lead to air-bubble formation on the film, and cause local uneven development at this point.
In most other situations I would agree that it probably does not make a lot of difference if you pre-soak or not, assuming you make the adjustment in time to get negatives of equal contrast.
Hah!!! I was right - LOTS of discussion.
Another area for consideration... Tetenal is *very* adamantly opposed to "pre-soaking" in their C41 processing - very definitely advising a "DRY" five-minute "Pre-Heating" as the first step of the C41 process.
Together wil the sacrilegious "breaking of the five-minute minimum" barrier (Color Developer; 3 minutes 15 seconds @ 38C), there is lots of fuel for those who tend to doubt empiracal truths.
I wonder just how much of the color film technology is different from black and white - and how much is directly applicable.
I am only saying that it is pointless to argue between photographers because whatever works in your darkroom is right. Davis, Schranz and Jobo seem to agree that while pre-soaking will have distinct effects on different films, It is up to the individual to decide their own preferences or needs.
The general consensus seems to be that pre-soaking is an essential step in processing with staining developers. I don't do Pyro but I find that it is needed to avoid unevenness and air bells when rotary processing. When I use invertables or hangers I have never found that need. Of course, I have tested and use different times for each method although I assume that the constant agitation has more of an effect than the pre-soak on density and contrast.
I don't think there is any disagreement between Sandy and myself except that as far as saying "you should just do whatever the heck you want.", I suppose that I should have appended "If it works".
JOBO's first couple of sentences agrees with you...
"JOBO’s recommendation of a 5 minute prewet of B&W film is probably one of the most disputed suggestions we have made. It causes many people to choose up sides."
Who would think that a few ounces of plain old water would stir up such a hornet's nest? :)
I've pre-soaking for a couple years, everything from 35mm rolls to 4x5 sheets, 30 seconds to 3 or 4 minutes. Noticed a change for the better using a pre-soak. Haven't been able to notice any difference the time in the pre-soak makes.
Started out using DI water for everything, now I use tap water escept for developers I make up in bulk. Again, no difference noted between tap and DI water. But, tap water varies greatly from well to well, so there's no guarentees associated with it.
That may be one reason why manufacturers now recommend against it. The corporate legal-beagles hate being held responsible because someone's precious negatives failed because the consumer wasn't warned about the varying results due to local variations in water.
Pre-soaking has been used longer than most of us have been alive. Emulsions have changed over the years but I don't think there's good evidence of pre-soak hurting anything, given no major contaminents in the water.
I've been pre-soaking for years in tap water. It makes sense to me to expand the emulsion then drain for a couple of minutes to remove excess moisture. This allows for a more immediate and complete saturation response from the film to the chemestry in the initial moments of processing. Once I started this streaks and bubbles dissapeared in my process. I'm still a dip and dunk guy in 3 1/2 gallon tanks so it could be an inherant need.
I as well didn't found much differences between the dry and pre-soak methods. However, if you are running processes at higher temperatures, a pre-soak is the more effective way to pre-heeat film and tank.
There are some exotic film/developer combinations that need or must not have a pre-soak, but generally it does not have a significant effect.
since the Amaloco C-41 Process recommends a pre-soak, I accidentially developed some films with the Tetenal C-41 Process with pre-soak, too (my ATL was programmed that way). If worked very well. I have not seen any differences/problems and thus didn't change the programm.