Simplifying my life... buying liquid chemistry; a few questions for you fine folks.
So for many reasons I'm going liquid. Mainly, shelf life. I don't currently go thru enough chemistry to justify the powder and anything that can make the setup time of my darkroom easier, cleaner and more efficient is a welcome thing.
My main question is regarding fixers. I've only used classic Kodak Fixer and I'm not familiar with advantages/pitfalls of rapid or non-hardening fixers. Could someone wax poetic on this? I need something that's suitable for paper & film, and it should be noted that I do 4x5" in trays.
Other than my fixer, here is what I have in mind. If you know of something better/cheaper let me know. And I'd rather give my business to Photographer's Formulary than say, the B&H's of the world.
Film Dev: HC-110 (was using D76)
Pap Dev: Liquidol (was using Dektol)
Stop Ba: Kodak Indicator (same)
HCA: Edwal 4&1 Hypo Eliminator (was using Kodak HCA)
Of PF's liquid film developers, is there a HC-110 clone?
PF's TF-4 is a well-respected fixer. It is, however, an alkaline non-hardening fixer, which can have implications for other parts of the processing flow, in particular for the stop and wash steps. In theory, using a stop bath can be detrimental to the life of an alkaline fixer, although I believe TF-4 is sufficiently buffered that this isn't a problem. (OTOH, the bottle does recommend against use of a stop bath.) If you want to keep using a stop bath but are concerned about this, you can always use it and then use a quick water rinse. There was a long (and occasionally somewhat snarky, unfortunately) thread on the merits of stop baths here on APUG recently. I don't have a URL, but it shouldn't be too hard to find.
As to the wash step, the directions for TF-4 claim that no HCA is necessary; wash times are supposed to be quite short without it. I don't recall ever seeing any discussions on the merits of this claim.
Of course, you can test and monitor all of this yourself with appropriate test solutions -- fixer capacity testers and post-processing tests for retained silver and retained hypo.
As a non-hardening fixer, TF-4 could create complications with tray processing of film, since you might be more likely to scratch your negatives. If you have problems, you might be able to pre-harden the film before development or use a hardener in your stop bath; or you could stick to a hardening fixer. Most hardeners require an acid environment to work, so AFAIK there's no practical way to turn TF-4 into a hardening fixer.
For paper developers I personally use DS-14, which is a mix-it-yourself formula. A related commercial product is Eco-Pro (formerly Silvergrain) Tektol, which I've also used a bit. I can't really compare it to Liquidol, which I've never used, but the results seem pretty similar to those I got with Dektol, at least with the VC RC papers I generally use.
My interest in liquid rather than powder is mostly prep time; I don't want to wait for things to cool down or for powders to dissolve. I also like avoid dust, but that could be achieved by doing the mixing of powder chemicals outside of the darkroom.
I've used the fomafix liquid to make 3l out of 500ml. I make a 2l bottle for prints, and a 1l bottle for film.
It seems to work as fast as or faster than the kodak stuff. (Judging by the time to clear tmax film, which is a worst case test for film developing)
Foma's paper developer works well too as a replacement for dektol. I use this with rc papers.
Just some more choices...
I use Sprint liquid fixer ... great for both film and paper, in different dilutions. Lasts forever. Easy as pie to mix.
+1 on Liquidol, love the stuff.
Awesome, thanks guys.
I think a hardening fixer is the way to go for what I do. Now, does a rapid fixer usually entail non-hardening? I see that Ilford's is non-hardening and that Kodak's is a 2-part with a hardener. So with a 2-part system, I can choose to make it hardening or not?
And is there any disadvantage to a rapid fixer? If not, saving time seems like a no-brainer.
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Some (not all) rapid fixers have a hardening agent you add if you want to make it a hardening fixer. Myself, I haven't used a hardening fixer in probably 8 years.
Hi holmburgers - I've always used mostly Ilford chemistry and like you I prefer liquid chemistries. Ilford has always been very supportive of B&W photography. For the fixer I prefer the Ilford Rapid Fixer.
I see some value to hardening for film. It may help resist reticulation if washing temperature goes funny, and certainly anything that makes negatives even a little bit harder to scratch is a good idea. For paper, I see less reason to harden. It extends wash time, and may interfere with efficient, even toning. The liquid rapid fix with separate hardener would allow you to play it both ways.
I use Ilford Hypam with both film and paper. It is very convenient and economical because it is a strong fixer that lasts a long time. I don't think it's a hardening fixer but I don't care.
Liquidol is a wonderful print developer. I use it in a Nova slot processor and it keeps, with an occasional topping off, for nearly a month. As for fixer, I've recently started using Kodak rapid fix, but only because Heico NH5 is hard to find. I still use Heico Permawash with film - not with paper.