Film developer suggestions
It will soon be time to jump into processing in a serious way. I've done occasional B&W over the past few years (and my technique needs improvement), but I've never really delved into developers.
The information here and elsewhere on the web is great, and now it's time to learn how to apply the "book"-knowledge.
I want to get a feel for what can be done.
Polypan F (of which I've read quite a lot about) sounded like fun, so I now have 90 meters, but I also have some Ilford, and intend to experiment with Kodak as well. My intention is to shoot (and bracket) several rolls of 35mm per experiment. Even if I don't print any of my experiments, my ultimate goal is optical printing.
At this time, I need to see "obvious" differences - things a beginner can notice easily. (I've a little dark room experience from elementary school and my undergrad, but now want to actually _understand_ what I'm doing.) When I get better I can then learn about the finer points. I have tried push-processing twice, but don't yet have a full appreciation of it beyond theory.
So far, I've only ever used D-76 at stock strength.
Please suggest some developers, and how I can "play" with each one. To start, I intend to use three or four developers, each being a different class from one another. One will be D-76, and one will NOT be caffenol (that will come with time, though). All fresh 35mm film in daylight tanks.
I am not trying to find the "perfect" developer or end up with "perfect" negatives in the experiments. I want to see differences both within and between chemicals.
Obviously I'm trying to learn about grain and tonality, and how some tools are better for certain situations or can create a certain/different feel. However, I'm open to extremes and just about anything interesting - so long as I learn.
Oh, and a "stupid" question... I can use the same stop and fixer regardless of developer, right?
May I ask what you are trying to accomplish? You really won't see any obvious change by using different developers, if all you do is develop normally or push or pull by one stop only. I'd just stick with D-76 and get more familiar with it. If you look over internet sites, including this one, you'll see very passionate claims on what each developers will do and how much better one is over the other or how different they are. My own experience with very commonly available developers such as D-76 and XTOL showed me changes are very subtle. Of course I haven't done anything exotic, except I recently processed my film with Dektol (which is really a print developer).
I hear a lot about Rodinal and Dianfine, so if you really insist, you might want to try that. But, until you get to a point where you can get consistent result from one developer, you really won't know the difference you are seeing is because of your process variance, your own eyes tricking you, or really the difference developer made. My suggestion is not to bother at this point.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I have used four developers:
Started out using D-76. In fact, when I started out, when somebody said, "Developer," they almost always meant D-76 diluted 1:1.
I learned to use XTOL, just a couple of years ago and I like the results. In fact, now, XTOL is pretty much my Go-To developer. I still use D-76 because it's what I learned with. However, I like the results XTOL gives me.
I have a bottle of HC-110 in my cabinet, just because. It keeps forever if you make sure the lid is on tight. I'll always have it if I need it.
I use it occasionally but I know XTOL and D-76 better.
Just got a batch of Diafine and I like the results I have been getting with it but the jury is still out. I probably will keep using it but XTOL will probably still be my favorite. Only time will tell.
Best advice: Pick one and use it until you understand it well before trying another. If D-76 suits you, there's nothing wrong with keeping on using it.
I don't know much about Polypan F but, that aside, if you would like to experiment with different developers, XTOL is probably a good place to start.
About stop and fixer, the answer is YES. You can use the same one for any and all developers.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
Keep it simple. If you want to try some extremes of look, I'd start with Rodinal and Xtol. There are pretty much as opposite ends. If you prefer the look of Xtol, you want a fine grain developer. If Rodinal, look toward things like Acufine and FX2......fast and gritty. Personally, I like Xtol for 400 speed and up 35mm film and Tmax 400 in 6cx6 and Rodinal for Acros in med format or 35mm. Honestly, I can't a huge difference between xtol and D76 or even HC110. For me, the most important thing is to make sure your stock is always fresh. That leans toward HC110 and Rodinal. Xtol stored in full glass bottles (I use 5 1-liter brown Boston rounds from SKS) last at least 6 months or even a year
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Check beer and wine making shops. There's a place, just down the street from me called "Bierhaus International." I get clear glass jugs really cheap. $5 for a gallon jug. The last time I went there, the guy behind the counter said, "Oh, yeah! You're that crazy guy who still uses film!"
Originally Posted by Mark Fisher
My darkroom is actually dark unless I'm in there with the lights turned on. Amber or clear doesn't make any difference for me.
Well, I am fairly consistent, but not necessarily good, lol. I also plan to do regular processing - it won't all be experimental.
If I only use one given developer, in the same dilution, at the same temps and times, I will get better at it, but won't learn much. What I learn will be by mistake, not on purpose.
It may be helpful to illustrate how I think:
When I first learned how to make cookies, I followed instructions for the cookies I was going to give people, and they turned out fine. Then I experimented by altering the ratio of ingredients. Yes, I know you don't do that when you bake, and (knowingly) came up with some terrible cookie-shaped inedibles. One result was a very hard object that tasted a bit like a pancake. Not worth eating, but it did give me an idea of how things worked and how I could "tweak" them.
Originally Posted by Truzi
There is lots to learn with one developer - you can vary film choice, exposure, development time, dilution, temperature, agitation - all will change the result.
If you do that, you will really learn that developer, and can then proceed to compare it to the others.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Although this questions comes up almost weekly, it just made me think why I use the developers that I use. One point not regarded before here in this thread is toxicity. That's why I would avoid today developers containing Hydroquinone, and the best known is D-76. Hydroquinone can cause severe allergics and is supposed to be cancerogenic.
So if low toxicity counts, my choices would be developers containing ascorbate instead, either Xtol or self made developers with Metol or Phenidon and Vit-C. The probably most harmless developer that can compete with regular developers is self made Caffenol-C.
Metol and phenidone are known allergens, and are cross-sensitizing. That means that someone that has developed a sensitivity towards metol will likely also be sensitive to phenidone and vice versa. For some, that rules out most of the PQ and MQ developers. I agree about the non-toxicity of caffenol, and its virtues as a developer, but I must note that it is very expensive to make. On the opposite end of the cost scale of home-made developers is parodinal (in use identical to Rodinal), and it too is not very toxic, especially when used in lower dilutions. It costs me about ZAR0,50 per film developed, that is about 5 EURO cents. Caffenol is at least ten times more expensive, if not more. And it smells funky, too . I think the phenidone-ascorbate developers deserve more attention, as they potentially cut the middle ground in terms of cost and environmental concerns. The quantity of phenidone used is miniscule, so should have very low impact in the bigger scheme of things.