What's your developer of choice?
I'm organising to develop my first roll of film and I'm not sure which developer I should get. Ive downloaded the ilford pdf which explains the steps really clearly, but Im unsure which developer would suit my needs. I guess because I'm starting upm I'll need a very general but good developer.... liquid of powder? Is the Ilford Ilfotec HC any good for most situations? OR should I go the powder Ilford ID-11.....which is explained as the "standard pwder".
Any advice would be cool. thanks
It depends on where you are at. Since this is your first roll and I'm assuming you don't yet do a lot of developing, you should aim towards something that is reliable rather than the highest possible quality. Therefore, get a liquid-concentrate one-shot developer that will not go off in the bottle. LC-29 is the one usually recommended for this purpose; Rodinal also lasts forever but it's pretty grainy on high speed films and most people prefer only to use it on slow, fine films. Just buy a small (250mL) bottle of LC-29, get good at it and when it's all gone you will know a lot more about how developers work and can then make a better-informed decision as to which you will move to.
Ilford HC is the same as LC-29 but more concentrated. Kodak HC-110 is basically the same as HC or LC-29, I'm not sure which concentration it is.
There are many many threads here on "which is your favourite developer" and the answers people give will be their answer, not your answer, because their circumstances, aims and experience levels differ.
Edit: If you already shoot a lot of film and are moving from having a pro lab do your development to doing it yourself, D-76 would probably be a logical choice. It is very cheap, the quality is very good and it's about as general-purpose as it's possible for a developer to be (it's flexible in terms of solvent effects, contrast, etc). I think it's the most popular developer. You do need to be able to tightly bottle 3.8L of the stuff, preferably in glass, to prevent it going off. It will keep a few months in full bottles without refrigeration, so if you're doing a roll a week or more, it's good. If you're doing less than a roll a week, a long-lived concentrate is probably a safer option. I believe it keeps for more than a year bottled in a fridge but the power you pay running the fridge probably makes that not worth it.
Last edited by polyglot; 07-31-2009 at 12:21 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Both Ilfotec & ID-11 are excellent developers, and have directly interchangeable Kodak equivalents (HC110 & D76) these are the standard benchmark developers.
Ilfotec will be the most economic in the long term, and it's far more important to just choose 1 developer and 1 film to begin with while you master basic techniques. A good combination to start with is FP4/Ilfotec/Hpam (fixer).
Ilfotec HC is highly concentrated, there's also LC which is just a lower concentrate version, once made up they are identical.
I would go with a liquid that is easy to get, will last a long time in the bottle, and works well for general use. Depending on where you are, probably either Ilfotec HC or Kodak HC-110 will do the trick. Most of us around here will recommend that you not make the stock solution of either but use a small syringe, such as a baby medication syringe or one of these from Photographers Formulary to accurately measure the concentrate. You will find that if kept concentrated, these developers will stay good for a long time.
The reason for these recommendations is the convenience factor when starting out, also these developers will work well with most films. I agree also that you should use just one film at first, either a 100 or 400 type film would work fine, depending on which speed you prefer. Once you have the process down and feel like you are getting regular predictable results which print well, you can start thinking of changing developers and or films.
XTOL to get the finest grain in Tri-X and soon to start with Pyro Rollo for fine grain and keeping the highlights from being blown out.
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ID11 and Perceptol so far. I have some Microphen but I don't really push film that much so I have yet to mix it.
For your first developer, I wouldn't try to think too hard or try to be imaginative. If you must get Ilford, I'd just go with ID-11, which is functionally identical as I understand it to Kodak D-76, which is an old reliable standard. Very tolerant. I'm personally still exclusively using D-76.
While it's true that D-76/ID-11 doesn't have the greatest longevity in stock solution form, I wouldn't worry about that either. It's only a few bucks. Get yourself shooting a few rolls and you'll go through most of it. It's not a huge loss if you end up not quite getting through it all before it goes off. You'll have at least two months, six or more if you can store your stock with all the air out of the bottles.
D-76 or ID-11 are good developers to start with. When you get comfortable with one developer and film then experiment with others. I'm still using D-76 or an equivalent either stock or 1:1 and still having fun in the darkroom after 40 years.
If you're just starting out then you will soon learn that consistency is one of the keys to success. Considering that, it is often a good idea to start with a developer that doesn't have an overly short development time for the film you are using. This can sometimes be a problem with some developers unless you take the extra time to learn about different dilutions. Most developers can be used with different quantities of the developer stock solution and water. Look at the developer data sheets and start out with one that will give you development times well above 5 minutes as times below this are sensitive to variations in your technique. You may need to use a higher dilution to get the time into a comfortable range. D-76 and ID-11 are probable the most common developers people learn on because so many schools use this developer. Both are often diluted 1+1 (one part stock solution and one part water). If you think you might want to take a class somewhere, perhaps to take advantage of their darkroom facilities, you might want to start with ID-11 of D-76 because that is likely what they will be using. By the way ID-11 and D-76 are based on identical ur-formulas and differ mostly in packaging. ID-11 comes as a two part package and Kodak obviously adds some extra chemical to make it possible to put all the chemicals in a one part package. Most folks think the mixed solutions perform almost identically. Picking a favorite between these two is often one of the first pleasures of starting out in the darkroom even if your final selection is more religious that scientific.
My standard developers are:
ID11 (D76) (all round great results)
perceptol and xtol (for generally higher edge detail)
POTA (for extreme compensation)
wd2d+ (for staining amusements and when I am sure I will need to scan and when the neg is somewhat fragile, like the Efke stuff)
...and I have a lot of tmax developer that I inherited and use for various things.
Oh I also use PQ sometimes with ortho films, in a pinch.