I am new to B/W processing. I am currently testing my hands out on Ilford FP4+ and Ilford Pan F 50 both 135 and 120. Being a photography student, at school, I either use Sprint Developers (I don't like it at all) or Kodak T-Max developer. I was considering getting some ID-11 or Ilfosol 3. I like low grain and a good amount of contrast in my negatives with good shadow detail and a wide tonal range. Would you please recommend a starting point? Is there any other developer I should look for like Kodak XTol, D76 or similar?
I would be primarily scanning my negatives on a Hasselblad scanner and printing on Canon/Epson printers.
What is it that you don't like about Sprint or T-Max developers?
All of the developers you mention are capable of delivering the result that you are looking for, at least in a completely objective sense.
But, taste is not objective, and so, there are lots of choices. XTol may give you slightly more shadow detail, aside from that most people agree that its characteristics are similar to D-76.
D-76 and ID-11 are literally the developers that all others are compared against.
Aside from grain, the differences between different developers for well exposed negatives can be very, very subtle, and it's really easy to get into a process of chasing your tail in experimenting with different brews.
Pick one, and stick with it until you've learned what results to expect. Your variables are the particular film, the exposure, the lighting conditions, time and temp in the developer and the agitation scheme. All of those things will yield different results with the very same developer.
Last edited by bdial; 04-20-2014 at 01:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I will add a little bit more before I get to your questions. Although I mentioned I would be scanning and printing on an inkjet, I have also printed in a darkroom. I observe that I have to do a lot of burning with Sprint developed film vs T-Max developed one. For kicks, I checked out a Hasselblad 500 cm with 80 CB F/2.8 from my school camera library and shot it along with my Hasselblad 501cm with 80 CB F/2.8. Both the cameras had Kodak T-Max 100 film from the same Pro box of 5 rolls. I took 2 shots of each scene once with each camera and did this for the entire roll. I developed one film in Sprint and the other in T-Max with the same agitation technique (Inverse with a twist of wrist, so the chemistry spins in the tank). The development time was followed strictly as per respective manufacturer recommendations. I discovered that while printing on Ilford Multigrade FB paper, I had to use at least 1/2 filter extra for the Sprint developed film vs the T-Max developed one to get the same kind of contrast. Also, the skies required at least a 4 second burn for a 20-25 second exposure on the enlarger for Sprint. Even with the burn, I think my T-Max film shows more texture in the clouds than with my Sprint film. I used Sprint Print developer, stop and fix in both cases, again strictly as per manufacturer recommended times.
Originally Posted by bdial
My conclusion from the above is, probably Sprint is not capable of developing sufficient contrast on the negatives. I might be completely wrong with this inference and would sincerely appreciate if someone corrects me.
About the T-Max developer, I found that with Kodak T-Max 100 film, the grain was very fine. I would say, it was so fine that it was pretty difficult for me to get the grain focus spot on. I do have a 20/20 vision and can focus films like Ilford FP4+ properly. Also, T-Max on Ilford FP4+ looked a bit strange to me with the shadows blocking up a bit.
Again, it is entirely possible that the problem lies with the human. But please help me figure out what is going on.
Last edited by shutterboy; 04-20-2014 at 01:42 AM. Click to view previous post history.
There is no magic soup. Almost all common film developers will give quite adequate negatives. D-76 (ID-11) is an outstanding developer that has been a standard for about 75 years. Xtol and DDX are newer formulations that are said to have some real advantages over D-76. HC-110 is convenient and long lived but does not give quite the fine grain of D-76 or Xtol. Pyrocat-HD is also excellent, as are a lot of other developers. Eventually you may find that some developer-film combination gives a look you especially like. But while you are learning, settle on something fairly standard. I would say probably either Xtol or D-76 (which is identical to ID-11) with FP-4+ would be good.
To echo other recommendations - ID11 or D76 both give good and dependable results. I started out with PanF+ in D76 at 1+3 dilution and had little problem with the combination (in 120). Moved on to FP4+ in 120 and 5x4 sheets and stuck with D76. I've dabbled with other developers (microphen, perceptol, 510-pyro), but fall back on ID11/D76 when I have lots to do.
Which ever film/developer combination you choose, you really do need to calibrate your process and find your own film speed and development times. Have a read of:
If your primary use of film is in scanning, the recommendation (from Ilford) is XP2.
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Most people find that the T-Max and the similar Delta films are very sensitive to changes in the development technique compared to films like Tri-X or FP4 and HP5. Look at some of Thomas Bertilsson's posts in particular on that subject.
Also, keep in mind that the manufacturer's recommendations for development are only meant to be starting points for your own testing. For example, with the Sprint developer, you probably need to extend the developing time slightly to get to the same contrast you see with T-Max developer. Another way to increase contrast is to agitate a little more. That may mean 12 seconds per minute rather than 10, for example.
On the other hand, highlights that are too dense mean either that the overall development time may be too long, or there was too much exposure. Since you can't extend the development for more contrast and reduce it for less highlight density, the only thing you can change there is the exposure, or switch to a different developer.
The holy grail is a developer and technique that gives the desired contrast without blocking up the highlights and that combination is probably the biggest motivator for the "magic bullet" search that there is.
It sounds like you are on pretty good ground for looking at alternatives, you have a few specific characteristics you'd like to change. But it would be good at this point to go through the process of finding your "personal" ISO for some of the films you work with the most, and your personal development time. The links in Paul_c5x4's post are one source. I'd also recommend reading Fred Picker's Zone VI Workshop.
Doing the testing may sound cumbersome or like a waste of time, but taking a systematic approach to figuring out all the variables will save you time and effort in the long run. Most of the things that affect your results have nothing to do with the specific developer you're using. The ISO printed on the box is determined by a very specific set of criteria in a lab. Testing allows you to determine what that number should be for your camera, your shutter, and your particular development technique.
I'm not trying to defend T-Max or Sprint developers here, I don't use either one. Everyone here has a favorite though, so it's an easy road to get lost on when you ask the question "what developer should I use". The choice becomes a very personal one when it's combined with all the other things.
For every terrible, bad-contrast, blocked up print you see that came from a negative developed in X, you'll find another using the same film developed in X that's incredible to look at. If it's combination you've rejected, you will find yourself asking "How the heck did they do that?"
My suggestion would be that if you really want to start this journey (it's fun, really!), try D-76 or ID-11. Learn what happens if you extend or cut the development time by say, 30 seconds. Learn what happens if you add or subtract some agitation. learn what a half-stop less or more exposure does.
Know that for scanning you may want negatives that are a little thinner and with less contrast than you would want for optical printing.
(Oh boy!, yet more variables!)
Last edited by bdial; 04-20-2014 at 07:15 AM. Click to view previous post history.
The film developer one uses is only one factor of many that affects the final print. The camera and light meter calibration, the developer's age, dilution, temperature, and timing, and the photographer's own preferences are among the others. For good shadow detail some of us use more exposure than the film makers recommend. A 16 bit negative scan permits curve adjustment of an image with adequate shadow and highlight detail. The recommendations of film and developer makers are guidelines, not absolutes. All of these variables should be mastered for optimum print quality. Experiment with one variable at a time to best understand it.
Plan on needing to burn and dodge cept if you shoot in studio.
Use long scale film Trix, HP5+, Formapan400, Double-X, etc.,... and Barry Thortons Two bath.
I think this says it all. Stick with a well known standard developer like D-76, HC-110 or Xtol. Read the information on the following websites. Once you are familiar with the process you can try out other developers.
Originally Posted by shutterboy
Last edited by Gerald C Koch; 04-20-2014 at 10:29 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Not to seem blunt, but the question you should really be asking is "Why can't I get the results I want with this developer?". Rather than changing developers stay with one of the ones available at school. Choose the one which is used more, as it will be "fresher". I would also suggest staying with one film. You want to reduce the variables. Aim to be able to predict the result at the time of exposure. Get to know your film and developer. As others have said, the difference between developers is very small, and until you know a developer well enough to see these small differences any changes will just add confusion.