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  1. #1
    FrankB's Avatar
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    Improving my negatives

    I'm looking to -

    • Improve the tonal separation of my negs
    • Increase their ease of printing
    • Improve the levels of highlight and shadow detail I can record.

    I'd also like to see a slight decrease in apparent grain, although this is a lesser priority. I'm looking for advice on how to achieve these ends.

    My standard methods are currently as follows -

    • Ilford Delta 100 at 100 ISO
    • Rodinal 1:25 at 20C for 9 mins (Agfa agitation)
    • Ilford Ilfostop 1:19 for 30 secs (rotational agitation)
    • Ilford Rapid Fixer 1:4 for 4 mins (agitating 10 secs per minute)
    • Ilford invert and dump wash pattern for 5, 10, 20, 20 inversions
    • Ilford Ilfotol 1:200 final rinse

    All processing and washing water is jug-filtered (I live in a hard-water area and find this essential). All chemistry is always fresh and one-shot. I shoot 35mm (Nikon F80 and Pentax S1a) and 6x6 (Mamiya C330S).

    I'm broadly happy with the results I'm getting, but know that there's room for improvement. I like the general tonality and acutance (and economy and longevity!) of Rodinal but, in 35mm at least, I do find the grain a little intrusive (personal preference). I really like Delta 100.

    I'm looking at either -

    a) Testing the film speed and dev time, probably following the methods stated in John Blakemore's "Black and White Workshop" as these seem to be pretty objective and straightforward for a muppet like myself to follow. Varying dev for contrast control will be problematical given the formats I shoot (and that the Mamiya TLR doesn't have an interchangeable back) and that my only spotmeter is build into my F80, but establishing a baseline would probably help.

    b) Trying Peter Hogan's Prescysol and other alkaline chemistry. Reading the blurb on this it sounds like it'll do everything bar raise the dead (tight grain, smooth tonality, better film speed, delicate highlights and rich shadows, kills 99% of all known germs... ). Sales pitches like this tend to put me off but, having met the chap at the last APUG UK Gathering and read Les's review of Prescysol in B&WP UK, I'm starting to think there might be something in it.

    c) Doing something else! Suggestions welcome (as long as they're not physically impossible!)

    I know that there are no absolutes and that two experts will strenuously advocate very different methodologies whilst both producing stunning results. I would however like to hear the views of those more experienced than myself (i.e. pretty much everybody!).

    Thanks in advance,

    Frank
    The destination is important, but so is the journey

  2. #2

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    Hi Frank,

    for smaller grain, try 1+50. A higher dillution decreases grain with Rodinal.

    G

  3. #3
    Leon's Avatar
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    hi frank. Have you tried patterson Aculux 2? I think you might get the effect you're looking for - it is a very nice developer for 35mm. very fine grain but good accutance, very economical too. I find it gives full film speed and excellent tonality and gradation. Give that a go before you spend out on other more expensive concoctions!

  4. #4
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    Gmorning Frank

    Since the negative only puts you halfway home, how are you printing ?

    The paper and developer are the logical place to begin, because they determine what the negative needs to do ...

    The normal run of papers are capable of far more than our normal working methods let us achieve; simple home made developers are the door opener to better prints.

    Now where did I put the coffee pot...
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  5. #5
    FrankB's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses so far -

    Argus - I actually tried 1:50 when I did my initial film tests with Rodinal, so I'll dig out those negs and try reprinting them. Thanks.

    Leon - Hmmm... I hadn't considered Patterson chems. I've no idea why! After a quick trawl Aculux 2 does seem to have a very good reputation. How do you find its acutance? I notice from you blog that you acquired some of Peter's brew after Keswick; did you ever get around to testing it?

    DF - For final prints I'm using Ilford MGIV and MGWT in FB Glossy with Ilford chemistry and toning in either selenium, gold or both. Methods-wise I'm starting off with a straight print. If I have problems I usually go to split-grading, sometimes with a flash to DMin if contrast control is a problem.

    I'm really looking to have a negative with as much information as possible at both ends of the contrast range and smooth, well-separated tones in between.
    The destination is important, but so is the journey

  6. #6

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    You'll probably get a whole bunch of different developer recommendations in this thread. My guess is (as the above poster mentioned) that going to 1+50 with Rodinal will give you finer grain. The speed and dev time tests are good to do -- keep very careful notes and be very consistent with temperature and agitation. Other good books to look at, if you can find them, are the ones by David Vestal -- I can't remember the names -- he offers very straightforward and non-technical advice for film speed and dev time testing.

  7. #7
    Dave Miller's Avatar
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    I'm using Peter Hogan's Prescysol EF with Delta 100 & 400, and am very happy with the results. Give it a try. The negatives all but print themselves. I'm afraid Rodinal got the elbow!
    Regards Dave.

    An English Eye


  8. #8
    craigclu's Avatar
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    I impulsively bought a batch of Hogan's Prescysol when first introduced. I was just looking at the negatives the other night and it reminded me of how nicely they turned out and how easily printed they were. About that time, I got diverted with some extended experimenting with homebrews, Jay's mixes, Patrick's ideas, Sandy's, etc and never got back to it. It is deserving of a try for folks who are interested. I suspect it's an off-shoot of Barry Thornton's work and the stuff does does work well. About the time I would have ordered more, it was in the cold season in Wisconsin and I've had too many bad experiences shipping liquids when -20º weather hits! If you try it, give the semi-stand method a try.... It seemed the best results were coming from that.
    Craig Schroeder

  9. #9

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    You've had the 1+50 suggestion, so I'll add the 1+100 suggestion :-)

    I've not been developing that long, but I've quickly settled on 1+100 as my standard dilution. Gives very good tonal range, sharpness, not much grain (at least with 120) and is pretty easy to scan.

    Paul

  10. #10
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankB
    ...

    DF - For final prints I'm using Ilford MGIV and MGWT in FB Glossy with Ilford chemistry and toning in either selenium, gold or both. Methods-wise I'm starting off with a straight print. If I have problems I usually go to split-grading, sometimes with a flash to DMin if contrast control is a problem.
    Hi Frank

    Ilford liquid developer of some variety ?

    The reason I ask is that the paper developer will determine how much of a scale your paper will handle. Until we know that, talking about the neg is kinda pointless.

    Are you welded to Ilford liquid ? Would you object to mixing up your own ?
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

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