I say "Do what works for you", but for me, I learned PREWET.
And, I must say that Kodak taught that in the 40s and 50s in their publications on film processing. I have the old manual which shows a prewet being used and the text suggests it. I have done it since I was about 9 years old using that old manual as a teaching guide.
Several things hit me on the processing cycle described. And I'd like to know a couple of details the OP did not mention.
The presoak seems wildly over-long. I've never had any need for a pre-soak, but it's gospel for others. But, why so long?
I'd use an acid stop if processing gets the slightest bit out of kilter - and it's way out here.
I'd want to see a couple of rinse cycles of rinse, agitate and toss clean water immediately after the fix and before the clearing agent.
What are the disposal and replenishment schedules for all the solutions - which get discarded immediately and which get reused, and if so, for how long, and when are they tossed? How long does the mixed Permawash get used? Ditto the fix?
What is the dilution used for the Permawash - is it as per mfr's recommendations?
Have you tried discarding everything and starting with utterly fresh solutions to see if some solutions is either contaminated or just worn out?
Thanks for all the responses, folks. Based on your ideas, I'll suggest we try the following:
-Cut the prewash time by a bit. We used to do a 30s-1min prewash, we changed recently on someone else's suggestion, but because we were having similar problems. We might just change it back to eliminate one variable.
-Change agitation to 5 seconds every 30 seconds. Agitation issues are one of our main suspects.
-Try using an acid stop bath, especially for the mammoth 56oz tanks.
Hopefully we will have some more to report in the short term.
I agree with both PE and CBG ( partly ) .
1. Prewetting helped me to get rid of the air bubles more than thirty years ago and I have kept on using it ever since.
2. I would also use an acidic stop bath in order to minimize the risk of uneven development.
3. If you use Xtol stock solution I suppose you replenish it. Is the replenishment ratio suficient ? I know Kodak recommends about 70 ml of fresh solution per roll but from what I have read and from my own experience a litle more ( about 100 ml ) is no problem.
4. As the center part of the picture is bright on the print, the negative must be darker in these areas indicating increased developer activity. This can be the result of an un-uniform flow patern over the film surface during agitation resulting in developer exhaustion in the surrounding parts with darker sky. Do you have enogh air volume in the top of the tank so the developer will be stirred sufficiently when agitating ? Is the spacing between the film rows on the reels even ? Any of this in combination with to litle developer volume per film and/or unsufficiently replenished developer can be a problem.
These are my personal thoughts . Good luck with the detective job.
BTW: I use stop bath and a water soak after development, followed by two more fill/dump cycles of clear water.
Not only do I think it works better but I like to reuse my fixer until testing shows that it's spent. Rinsing with water not only stops the film better by first neutralizing the chemicals then by diluting them, it also stops developer and stop bath carryover into the fixer which, I believe helps my fixer work better, longer.
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I'll toss this in.... Prewashing was an issue for me when I was using "soft water" the emulsion would swell.... now soft-water mixed with developer is no longer "soft". Anyway... I'll trust PE, I don't process too often and stopped prewashing with the soft water issue... I no longer run soft water into my darkroom.
I'll also toss in that when you do things by manufacturer tested ways problems are fewer. I am not putting a wet blanket on your wish to try something new.... that is great and it is good to share your alternative methods. I have just learned (sometimes the hard way) that Kodak/Ilford don't have folks like PE on the "books" just because they like to pay people.
It still cracks me up that a professor once tried to tell us that "stop bath" was too harsh of a jump from alkaline and we needed a "gentle" transition as if film had feelings. That being said I do occasionally do a "water bath transition" from developer... my thinking and I think A.Adams wrote about it is that developer is exhausted first in the dense areas of the negative and the developer in the "gel" of the thin areas keep acting.... I'd like PE to weigh in on this ... it seems to make sense to me.
Looked at OP's original post/photo.... sure looks to me as if agitation is too little ..( some call it Bromide Burn). I had similar results with some film 20 years ago... I went from over agitation to nearly none with 4x5 in handers (still can not get good results from hangers)
Last edited by vpwphoto; 10-01-2011 at 09:14 PM. Click to view previous post history.
In dense areas of a negative, we measured an acidic pH during development unless the developer was highly buffered. We did this by coating a ballasted indicator dye as an underlayer, coating an indicator dye in the layer and then measuring the color change as a function of density. Many tests show that a stop cannot harm a properly hardened coating. BTW, I demonstrate this to my students under very harsh conditions. We use an unhardened coating in a carbonate developer followed by a stop! Our reference is a hardened coating.