Testing developer and film combinations
Spring is here and I have decided to improve my knowledge of developers+film combinations. I've started to make a list but would be happy to hear suggestions for good/interesting combinations. My goal is to have more of an idea what result to expect, and just to generally learn more about film development. I mostly shoot medium format, and some 35 mm, and do a lot of lith printing as well as some alternative processes. For the past few years I've been looking to get a moderately contrasty an nicely grainy look, but now I find myself curious to look into a softer tonality.
The films I've thought about including are:
Rollei Retro 100 (I bought a lot of it at a good price a while ago and I've developed it in Rodinal and got nice, contrasty result.)
Tri-X 400 (I've mostly tried developing it in Rodinal, and got grainy-in-a-nice-way result.)
Ilford FP-4 (This and the HP-5 was my favourite in th 80s. I didn't know much about developing then, but I liked the tonality, and when I look at those negs now I thought it would be interesting to try these films again)
Ilford HP-5 (see above)
(TMax-100 or 400 - Not sure if I should include these. I was given them and I've never been able to get a result I'm happy with (Rodinal, D-76 and HC-110))
Rodinal (I've been using it for a while, mostly just 1+50, sometimes semi-stand or stand dev)
ID-11 or D-76 (I understand these are fairly similar?)
My plan is to shoot the same scene with the same camera and exposure (adapted for ISO) and then develop strips of the different films in different ways.
Tri-X in D76. Not grainy unless you're dealing w/ bad exposures. It's essentially all I shoot, and what I started out with strangely enough. Fantastic tones. I play around w/ Rodinal and Acufine now and then, but this combination does it for me. The TD-16 from Photographers' Formulary is almost exactly the same and has a much better (more stable) shelf life once you mix it up.
Tri-X and TMax 400 are going to give you fairly different results unless you know how to tweak them. Tri-X is less sensitive to film developing variations and TMax is the opposite in that it's extremely responsive to developing changes. In return, TMax 400 is much more tolerant of under- and over-exposure than Tri-X is, several stops more tolerant. That's probably why you haven't gotten results with TMax that you like. It takes some time to learn them.
Other than that, I can only echo momus above, to try D76 with all of the films you have. I'm afraid that if you use all three developers (D76 and ID-11 are about identical), you will have 18 different combination to try, and chances are you will not learn anything really valuable about them, unless you photograph a lot with each of them. When you compare films you should make sure to develop them all to the same contrast level in order to make meaningful comparisons.
If it were me and I had all that film I'd use it up one batch at a time. When you do, you learn more.
HP5+ and Tri-X are more similar than they are different, and TMax 400 and FP4+ are also remarkably similar unless you enlarge it very big in which case TMax 400 is sharper. It appears that you don't like the TMax films, so just leave those by the wayside.
But it does sound like fun, and I wish you the best of luck in finding your way.
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Tri X and HC 110 high diluations and Tri X FP4 with pyro developers , I did not see better than them in 25 years.
Originally Posted by myosotis
if you don't mind being kind of a mad scientist
try whatever films you have in caffenol c
there is information on the http://www.caffenol-cookbook.com website
with examples, recipes &c ...
that is what i have been using for a long time ...
can't really find much better ( or worse ) ..
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Thomas is right on with regard to his description of how tmax400 and tri-x work.
I'd suggest you narrow down the list a little and use more than a strip of film to judge the output qualities.
I get nice smooth results from tmax400 and fp4+ and that's pretty much what I use. Both are similarly priced here for MF. I mostly use pyrocat hd in glycol, sometime PMK for more compensation. These developers are what provides the smoother tonality and make a negative suitable for both silver and alt process printing. Acros 100 is also very capable of smooth tonality but with a different look.
I'd say shoot 10-20 rolls or use a developer for a month to get the hang of it.
Last edited by jp498; 03-12-2014 at 04:42 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Another one for PMK Pyro. Don't let its somewhat exotic nature and unjustifiably dangerous reputation (pyrogallols) keep you from testing any film with it. At one shot and reasonable keeping qualities (though not to the extent of Rodinal), producing fine tonalities, grain and accutance, it has become my go to developer for all generally available films of any format. My only other concern would be testing films that may not be available for long. That may mean only Ilford films, though they are certainly fine films.
If not PMK then any pyro variant like Pyrocat-HD which I'm just now got a kit to experiment with on 4x5 (HP5) to see if contact prints and scans work out.
A couple of combinations I particularly like:
Acros in dilute Xtol (I like the 1+3 dilution for "night" shots a lot)
TMAX 400 in Pyrocat HD or HDC I like a lot too in medium and LF sized (haven't used it with 35mm)
I will echo the thoughts expressed by several above. TMAX films are NOT forgiving of errors in timing during development. Not like Tri-X at all. When they first introduced it, many people hated it with a passion - soot and chalk negs. A lot of them were the sorts with "that's close enough" attitudes in the darkroom - OK for the existing film of the times, but not for the TMAX family. (that and the "pink" thing...)
PMK is one thing, rodinal is another thing, and D-76/ID-11/Xtol/perceptol/microphen are all basically different flavors of the same thing. PMK and rodinal have great shelf life, and D-76 also does great in stock form in tight bottles.
FP4+ is great in all three of these. PMK is probably the cheapest, then probably D-76 or Xtol if you go 1:1. Rodinal might be cheaper if you go 1:100 or 1:150 stand.
I generally use FP4+ on a tripod, Tri-X at 320 hand held, and Delta 3200 if somebody buys it for me on my birthday. All in PMK.