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  1. #1

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    What developer for the best mid-tone gradation?

    Using a "classical" film like FP4+, Tri-X, HP5+, what would be your developer of choice to achieve the best mid-tone contrast ?
    The same question could be: what kind of developer would you use today to get the most S-shaped curve? (this is a question about contrast, not about old films).

  2. #2

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    My gut tells me XTol...

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    clayne's Avatar
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    D-76, XTOL... *not* HC-110
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  4. #4

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    Excellent mid-tone contrast does not require, nor imply an s-shaped curve. The films you listed are all modern, straight line films and will give excellent mid-tone contrast with the vast majority of general purpose developers. The only developers which can be harder to work with for strong midtones would be high acutance formulas. Other than that, virtually any standard solvent developer at stock strength or relatively mild dilutions will work fine. D76/ID11, XTOL, DDX, TMAX etc will all do the job.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    The films you listed are all modern, straight line films and will give excellent mid-tone contrast with the vast majority of general purpose developers.
    That's true. But...

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    Excellent mid-tone contrast does not require, nor imply an s-shaped curve.
    That's not so true. The perception of contrast is greatly sensitive to the context: if you put a well-illuminated egg on a black or on a white piece of paper, the contrast of his volume will not be the same as if you put it on a grey paper. The straight curve of modern films is thus indirectly responsable for loss of contrast perception in mid-tones (compared with old films). From a physical point of view, there is no difference, but the human eye makes it.

    Given the fact that all these films are very (too much) consistent in their contrast progression (for my taste), I wonder how to make them a little more "flat" or "soft" in the dark and illuminated areas.
    Last edited by Harold33; 02-20-2012 at 10:01 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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    Easiest way is exposing them at a non-native EI. By far, pulling 1 or 2 stops will have a greater effect then which developer you choose.

    However, if you're looking for mid-tone contrast, are you looking for more or less gradation in the mid-tones at the expense of shadows and highlights, or vice-versa?
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  7. #7
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold33 View Post
    Using a "classical" film like FP4+, Tri-X, HP5+, what would be your developer of choice to achieve the best mid-tone contrast ?
    The same question could be: what kind of developer would you use today to get the most S-shaped curve? (this is a question about contrast, not about old films).
    Your question is not so much to do with the developer as it is to do with your technique. Exposure and film development process is largely determining this, and it's time to start practicing with your film.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  8. #8
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    When I think of midtone separation I think of a close up scene with crazy texture, like an industrial building wall, with old cracking parts that is lit by overcast light and relatively flat to a light meter. That just makes me want to under-exposure and over-develop to bring out all those wonderful midtones!

    I agree with those above who said this is more about technique than a developer. You can make those films FP4 and HP5 bend to whatever you want if you just take some time and play with different EI's, agitation, dilutions, and development times to get what you want from a particular scene. And, you can do it all with one developer. Just pick one and go with. My recommendation, ID-11 (D-76).

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold33 View Post
    That's true. But...



    That's not so true. The perception of contrast is greatly sensitive to the context: if you put a well-illuminated egg on a black or on a white piece of paper, the contrast of his volume will not be the same as if you put it on a grey paper. The straight curve of modern films is thus indirectly responsable for loss of contrast perception in mid-tones (compared with old films). From a physical point of view, there is no difference, but the human eye makes it.

    Given the fact that all these films are very (too much) consistent in their contrast progression (for my taste), I wonder how to make them a little more "flat" or "soft" in the dark and illuminated areas.
    I don't agree, but I think I have a somewhat better idea what you're after now. It will indeed have more to do with how you develop the film than which developer, and all the developers I listed will work fine. Testing will be required. The most probably solution might be to underexpose your film a little, and extend development. This will simply reduce the amount of shadow detail, and maximize mid-tone local contrast. It won't blow out the highlights though, unless they fall extremely high on the scale.

    I would also say, before one uses modified development procedures, it can often be useful to first look for a film which inherently has the characteristics you want. So for example, if you want a shorter scale, something like Pan F will generally give you less local contrast in the lowest and highest values than the midtones, because it is a higher contrast film to begin with.

    One thing I'd like to stress is that trying for a more s-shaped curve in the negative won't necessarily give you what you're looking for in any case, because much of the final result has to do with printing. For example you can use a higher contrast paper/filter when printing, to push the shadows down to darker values, keep the highlights white, and maximize local contrast in the midtones. You can do that with virtually any negative, even if it has a long straight line characteristic curve.

  10. #10

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    What about pre-exposing the film to try and soften the shadow contrast? Then you could flash the paper when printing to soften the highlight contrast.

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