I processed my first ever film the other week - a roll of Ilford FP4 plus, rated at 125, in Kodak-HC110 developer, at the recommended time of 9mins, and inversions every 30 secs. Firstly, I had some problems with air bubbles despite thumping the tank after every inversion - large bubbles were visible on two frames, effectively ruining them. And the resultant negatives were somewhat unsharp after I scanned them in my film scanner, and mostly greys - not a very good tonal range at all. Some photos worked out better than others though. So my first developing experience turned out to be a bit of a dud and I am a bit apprehensive about trying it again on an important film. Is the greyness a characteristic of FP4 and should I be using something else, or is it the film+developer combination or something I did, or all of the above?
<See some of the grey Ilford FP4 images here>
I can't offer much advice, but hang in there! I had a similar problem in the early days but mine was fogging, and another time poorly mixed developer...
I should perhaps add that I used a friend's pre-mixed developer (who is an old hand at developing his own film) and he said HC110 could be reused a number of times. The lack of critical sharpness bothers me because I know its not down to focussing problems.
We have been using hc110 for over 30 years, ONLY AS A ONE SHOT DEVELOPER. the Fact that it was premixed and being re-used whould be a factor for me that to not use that batch. Everyone has their own "methods" but i would never suggest that combination of premix and reuse.
That combination of film and developer has been used quite often in our situtation with no problems.
Why not try it again using as a one shot developer and then decided for yourself?
oops forgot to mention , if you are going to re-use the developer you must start increasing the development times.
You could also try rating the film at 50 -64 rather than 125.
Also based on the times you are using solution "B"? They at the lower EI use 6 minutes for development.
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Amen to using HC-110 as a one-shot developer. I'd do this: go buy a fresh bottle of HC-110. Even though it lasts very well, your friend's concentrate could have gone bad. FP4 and HP5 are typically quite happy in this developer.
As to your photos: could it be that the light was not the best? It looks to be heavily overcast in the shots, which could cause the shots to lack any punch (i.e. "gray"). It's a delicate balance: a little overcast is great, but too much is too much. Try shooting during the "magic hours" on a sunny day and see what you get. In my experience, HC-110 is excellent for handling highlights. I like dilution H (see http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/hc110/index.html). Rate it at ISO 60 and develop for about 9 to 9.5 minutes.
Thanks for the responses so far. Yes, the HC100 was in dilution "B". I didn't think it was a problem because he'd been developing his film with the same developer and getting good and contrasty results. I will try again with a fresh batch and see.
The light certainly wasn't the best, it was overcast, as most wintry days in London are... I'm still searching for a BW film that can handle that sort of low-contrast, flat lighting reasonably well. It was the first time I tried Ilford FP4+ and I've heard mixed reviews about it. I'd used Delta 100 before in similar lighting and got better results there. Since it was the first time I'd processed film, I thought it might be premature for me to dismiss the film entirely and instead, question my development methods.
Lots of good comments so far. I would just add that as a beginner it is hard to judge if a neg is to flat or to contrasty. If you want to get an impression if your development is in the right ballpark, get your camera and point it onto uniformly white or grey wall, piece of cardboard etc. *De*focus the lens. Make one exposure with the value your meter tells you when measuring that target (eg. 1/125, f 8 ), one with the lens closed down four stops (e.g 1/500 at f 16 ) and one with the lens opened three stops (e.g. 1/60 at f 4 ). Contact print this strip. Adjust the exposure in the darkroom that the overexposed frame is just discernible from unexposed white and adjust the gradation that the underexposed frame is just discernible from the clear film-base.
If the underexposed frame is not easily discernible from the film-base (on film), decrease you ASA-setting and start again. If you have to use a soft gradation to keep that frame discernible from the film-base (on paper) decrease development by 20% an start gain. If you need a hard gradation to get near-black increase development by 20%. If you get there with grad 2 or 3, you're fine.
Sounds more complicated than it is and can be done along the usual process of contacting printing for your record. It is *very* informative to have these three frames on every other film if you're not yet set with optimizing your exposure and development. Switching films and developers before you really get your feet wet with one combo is a slippery slope which distracts more from the creative parts of photography than some carefull crosschecks.
Wish I knew that when I started to work in the darkroom! Ooops, I start to sound like an old men here! Maybe it's time to face the truth
Can I ask what tank did you use and how much chemistry did you put in it.
Bubbles can be common if you use a two reel tank with only one reel in it and not the full amount of chemistry (as if you were developing two rolls).
Vigorous inversion can produce a lot of bubbles.
Too many Chiefs not enough Indians.....
Jin, one thing I have learned is there are LOTS of folks here that can help. May be post an image in one of the galleries (you can remove it later if you feel the need). Also, FP4+ is a very good 'old tech.' film, like Kodak Plus-X. Stick to the combo you are having a problem with and resolve it, you will be glad you did and will LEARN a great deal in the process. Read, re-read all the steps you will go through, make certain that the process area is light tight for film loading, and that the tank is light tight - lid is snug, not removed at wrong time etc. If the tank is plastic make sure there are no cracks in it.d
Last, developer is cheap - maybe not in price, but in terms of problems, just use it one-shot. I think most here do that and it removes the issue of the developer.
Again, check temp of the chemicals, check dilution of developer, check the tank for light leaks, and run some more film through.
Keep us posted, we have all been through these kinds of problems.