I missed this thread when it was originally started and I just finished wading through the lengthy postings. But some things generated questions in my mind.
1. It was said that a pyro negative would have a greater effect on VC paper. It was also stated that a pyro negative would be printed on a Grade #2 or VC #3 papers. Isn’t this backwards? If it has a greater effect on VC paper, then wouldn’t the VC paper be exposed at a lower contrast setting than a single-grade paper? If my question has no basis, then the comments relate to a local-contrast effect and not overall-contrast.
2. I couldn’t find it but I believe one of the commenters stated in another thread that he was having trouble getting sufficiently dark skies when using pyro developers even when using a red filter. Because of this situation, he was giving up on the pyro and going back to a more conventional developer. Has this position changed? I have also seen this effect and I will keep Xtol for shots involving a heavily filtered sky.
3. If one wanted to reprint some older pyro negatives using unsharp masking, would there be any issues that would present problems? I could see some with the stain color on panchromatic masking film. Unfortunately, I haven’t done this so can’t provide any input.
I learned a lot about pyro from this thread. If I were new to analog photography and read the post I would be tempted to believe pyro is the magic brew. I recommend the reader pick up The Film Developing Cookbook. There is much information not mentioned here about tanning developers. The authors write about low speed, high fog, poor grain, toxicity and unstable working solutions. This seems a developer suited to large format, rotary processing, and images featuring separation of high values. A class of developers for someone who knows specifically what they are trying to achieve and the limitations of other formulas.
When I look at web sites with portfolios featuring stained negatives, I often see images of moving water, surf, or fog. Some images look like the definition is unnatural. I'm on thin ground discussing pyro images. Never used the developer or viewed "in hand" an actual print. But I have a sense stained negatives favor certain images and may not be suitable as a general purpose (GP) developer.
Said another way, if you want something that looks different than the look of D-76, tanning developers may be one of several choices.
XTOL is the front line GP developer. Especially when you consider its sharpness at 1:3 and low toxicity. The speed gain is at least 1/3 gain. The shelf life is 8 months or a few months longer if properly stored. It can be used stock up to 1:3. XTOL 1:3 is arguably as sharp as Rodinal without edge effects. It's a great developer.