Modern Staining Developers for Enlarging
I have been using PMK for the last few years with good overall results. While I occasionally print on graded paper, I usually use Ilford’s Multigrade papers. Most of my work is with medium format with only modest enlargements. I have not experienced the ‘flat highlights’ problem that is attributed to PMK; I assume that since I print with a condenser enlarger that the collier effect counteracts the effect of PMK’s ‘dye mask’(image specific stain) on variable contrast paper.
With the potential of Ilford cesing production, I am forced to rethink my film development procedures. I have experimented with Forte papers but the resulting prints are grittier than ones printed on Ilford papers. My assumption is ‘dye mask’ created by PMK is more transparent to the sensitizing dyes used in the Forte papers than Ilford’s.
I gave PyroCat HD a casual trial last year. Evaluating the prints for overall quality I felt that PyroCat produced sharper but grainier prints than PMK. Evaluating the negatives under magnification the actual grain size was similar for both PMK & Pyrocat; since the Pyrocat prints looked grainier I deduced that it produced less usable ‘dye mask’ for silver printing than PMK did. The PyroCat negatives printed similarly on both brands of papers; which leads me to believe that other Pyro formulas are better suited to the characteristics of eastern block papers.
Recently there have been a number of new staining developer formulas published. Are any of them optimized for enlargement quality negatives? Also, does TEA as an accelerator provide any benefits over carbonate or metaborate accelerators other than the obvious benefit of a single solution developer?