Help me develop my Kodak Plus-X
I started by searching the forum archives but came up with very little.
I find that I'm shooting less and less in available light and more often in bright light, so the Tri-X I've been using is getting too fast such that I lose all that wonderful bokeh. I can't exactly go to a higher shutter speed because my Bronica SQai stops at 1/500. I don't want to rely on a ND filter because focusing through a MF waistlevel is already hard enough.
Or maybe Plus-X is the wrong choice. I don't much care for the TMax films because for some reason, silky smooth tonality and gradations don't really appeal to me, at least for the kind of picture taking I do, which is street. I feel that street photography should be gritty, with prints having a bit of unrefined roughness. Which is why my DSLR mostly collects dust nowadays. I've just read around that since Plus-X has wide, forgiving latitude, it would perfect for the less-than-perfect nature of street photography.
I love to have sharp grain and high accutance in my negatives, kind of like Ralph Gibson's work but not quite so extreme. As for contrast, I vary quite a bit in my prints, depending on the mood and subject of the print. I almost always use a #8 or K2 yellow filter because it enhances people's faces better. I use a condenser enlarger especially because I hate diffuse grain. I've tried Plus-X at EI 125 in good old D76 and was a bit let down.
What are your recommendations - developer, developer dilution, time, agitation, agitation intervals, etc? Is EI 125 appropriate, or should I be rating it at something else? I keep hearing that EI 64 is Plus-X's actual speed. Also, will a water stop bath be fine? I typically will do about 2-3 rolls a week so I'd rather have something with excellent shelf life. Thanks.
What was it that you did not like about your initial go at plus-X in d-76 ?
The grain was muddy. Obviously, it was much smaller than oh say, Tri-X (which I develop with Rodinal 1+25). But smaller grain is not a reason to have muddy grain. It was as if the enlarging lens were slightly out of focus - even though it wasn't.
Originally Posted by BradS
Hmmm, it seems a very unfair comparison - Tri-X in Rodinal versus Plus-X in D-76 (straight?)
Have you tried the Plus-X in rodinal?
D-76 is a solvent developer, the grain will be less muddy if you go to D76 1:1
Plus-X is inherently less grainy than Tri-x and less grainy in D-76 straight or 1:1 than it would be in Rodinal.
If you want the grain, the Rodinal would be a good choice.
The actual film speed depends on your methods as well as the film/developer/dilution combination + testing. The quick and dirty rule is that if you don't get the desired shadow detail, then you need to expose more/rate the film lower.
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I used D-76 because it was the only developer I had on hand that was included in Kodak's Tech Pub for Plus X, and because D-76 is so forgiving with mistakes and personal agitation styles. For me, D-76 is like the developer that's adequate for everything and perfect for nothing. I really would like to try Plus-X and Rodinal but information for it is scattered with little if any concensus. I've read about 1+50 dilutions varying 8 to 25 minutes at EI125 and 20C. I've seen nothing about it for 1+25. I've also seen nothing for the characteristics and developing times of Plus-X when pulled. (Personally, I don't like the look of pushed film.) The Massive Dev Chart only provides 4 combinations for Plus-X + Rodinal, which is woefully little compared to ample amounts compiled for something like Tri-X.
I know experimenting is fun and all, but since Rodinal is so fussy, it's gonna cost quite a lot to experiment, even if I buy the Arista Premium 100, which sadly does not come in 120 format. Then, one day, I might find out that perhaps I should have tried HC-110 or Xtol or something else, and I'll have to start from square one. I'm kinda hoping I can draw from the experience of others to give me a head start before I go though dozens rolls to find the right fit.
Is Plus-X even popular here?
Things that enhance grain: overexposure; overdevelopment (excessive agitation, temp, or time); underexposure with compensatory overdevelopment (ie, pushing); decreased developer solvent action.
Assuming you're getting adequate shadow detail, your exposure (E.I.) is about correct; you could raise your E.I. and perhaps sacrifice a bit of shadow detail to get more grain; essentially, you'd be pushing the film beyond its optimum E.I.
Easier still would be to try D-76 or Xtol diluted 1+1; the grain will be sharper edged and grittier than with straight developer, albeit maybe not by much.
Rodinal is a good suggestion; HC-110 at higher dilutions will also be grainier. Both these have the advantage of long shelf life; both have the disadvantage of delivering less than full film speed, in general. Diluted Xtol or D76 will deliver at least full box speed, if not higher. You just have to test and find out.
My first step would be to mix D76 and place in small glass bottles (250mL) completely full and tightly stoppered. It should last several months that way. You need about 200 mL of stock D76 per 8x10/135-36/120 equivalent regardless how it's diluted; it's dirt cheap so use one 250mL bottle per roll and add a bottle of water and Bob's your uncle.
Even cheaper: buy some metol, sodium sulfite, and borax and a small scale and mix your own. Pennies per roll, really, either way.
I've only ever shot it at 125 and developed in XTOL 1:1, but I liked what I got.
In addition to the developer suggestions you've gotten, I've got a couple of film suggestions: Fomapan 100 and Efke 100. Both are a bit grainier than their Kodak and Ilford counterparts of the same speed -- especially the Efke. I've only shot a few rolls of the Efke 100, and I don't recall the grain being particularly interesting or unusual, although it's definitely got an old-fashioned feel to it. Foma films tend to have crisp grain, even in developers that usually soften the grain a lot, so if it's crisp grain you're after, the Foma may be a good choice. Foma films often get compared to Agfa's APX line, so if you're familiar with them, you could think of the Foma as being similar (but by no means identical).
A couple of developers that will give you sharp grain are Rodinal, HC-110, Ilford Ilfosol-3, Tetenal Neofin Blau.
Plus-X reminds more than a little of Tri-X but with finer grain. If you like Rodinal, get some more of it. It's great with Plus-X and will give you a bit of grain. But a 120 neg from Plus-X has to be enlarged quite a bit before it gets obviously grainy no matter what developer you use. Its grain is actually quite fine.
As an ad hoc comment. Try Fomapan 400 and shoot it at EI 100 or EI 160. That enables you to stop down 1.5-2 stops and get the out of focus qualities you like. The film can handle it, and you'll get lovely negs. That film needs more exposure than most other ISO400 films I've tried to get any shadow detail, and plenty of grain. Since you're overexposing the grain will be enhanced a bit too. Looks fantastic in D76.
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