Just get one developer (exactly which one does not matter really) and keep at it until you know it backwards and forwards. I started out with Tmax RS. Nowadays I use R09 (Rodinal clone) 1:50 mostly. The developer is only a small part of the whole chain in making a good print. Flailing about between different films, papers, chemicals does no good when you want to learn. Keep the variables to a minimum. I speak from experience here.
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When I started taking photography classes in college, the bookstore sold only Arista chemicals and film (all B&W). I started out using Arista EDU 200 and 400 film developed in http://www.freestylephoto.biz/1641-A...lon?cat_id=301 .
After a short wandering off in to the realm of digital, I started shooting HP5+ and FP4+, both developed in Rodinal 1:50 (by the way, I dont think the high speed film and rodinal combo is as grainy as it's made out to be, but that's my subjective opinion). I'd say go with ID-11 or D-76 because it's an easy to get developer, and lots of people like it. I cant comment on it, though, because I've never used it.
Good luck with your venture in to film
D-76 is probably the best general purpose developer - nobody has found much better in the past 80 years. You could stick to this developer for the rest of your life and never lack. It isn't uncommon to find comments like "I haven't used D-76 for 20 years, having used pyrodneocrawfine. I just put a few rolls through a tank of D-76: wow, what a great developer, I'm going back..." XTOL is another good choice, but it has a problem in that it doesn't turn brown and stinky when it goes bad; you have to test it before each use. Xtol doesn't fail any more often than other developers - it's just that you don't know it until it is too late.
D-76 and Xtol are best used 1-shot at a dilution of 1:1.
You don't say what size film you are using. If it's 120 or large format you might find HC-110 to be a good choice. It isn't that great with 35mm as it has poor grain structure at high enlargement ratios and is a bit too contrasty for very small negatives.
If you are shooting 35mm another good choice is Microdol-X, it works exceptionally well with TMax-100 when diluted 1:3. Microdol used to be available in liquid form, but it was a bit pricey when purchased this way.
Ilford makes equivalents to these developers: ID-11 for D-76; Perceptol for Microdol-X; Ilfotec-HC for HC-110; DDX for Xtol.
My go to developers are Xtol and D76 (ID-11), I get great results from both and they are easy to mix up.
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XTOL and D76 used both straight.
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Your choice of developer depends a lot on what film format you are using. Until we know this any advice has to be very generalised.
There are 2 schools of thought, first is that going with a standard developer like ID11 (or it's Kodak twin D76) when you start is most meaningful, because that developer is so well known with so many films, that most darkroom rats have seen just about anything that can happen with it.
Originally Posted by thisispants
The second school, pick a developer, any developer and one film, and use that combination until you know it so well, you can look at a set of negatives straight out of the wash and know how well they will print. Then you can move on to other developers and films. Although many people end up very happy with the combination they have, they never really do move on.
The first school is probably better if you have a vibrant darkroom community or club locally, so that you can take your negatives to the darkroom rats that know that developer so well. I learned in high school, and I think they went through a gallon of D76 replenisher in under a week. I switched to ID11 for home, I think because Ilford had gone metric and I found ml easier to figure out because Kodak only sold their stuff in those weird US gallons, which wasn't even a real (Imperial) gallon. Now of course you can get D76 in 1L bags, and it was $2 cheaper, so I am using D76 again, not bothering with the replenisher though. The developer is an old familiar friend though, never really saw a reason to use anything else. With the second school ID11/D76 is a perfectly good developer anyway and it's usually cheap.
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Xtol 1:1 and Rodinal cover everything I need out of a film developer.
I'm very happy with ID-11. I shoot Delta 100 and Delta 400 mostly. I use the 1:3 dilution.
Rob, what differences could one expect with D400 using the 1+3 dilution compared to 1+1? Do you find the Ilford times for 1+3 about right?
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