I'm obviously not Bob Carnie (which is good for him), but I'd like to ask if your acquaintance maybe runs a replenished version of the same developer you use? That would give sharper negatives that are more acute, and with slightly finer grain.
Just an aside to your thought process.
Never mind, I just remembered out conversations regarding replenished developers... Even feeble brains will try to make things better. LOL Now, where's my coffee again?
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh