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fatihayoglu

Visiting (maybe again) developers for B&W film

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Hi all,

So, I am planning to start to develop my B&W films at home, as labs are closed and in the long run it can be a more cost efficient.

Based on my research, there are far too many developers which confuses me greatly and I was wondering if you could help to choose or to understand. I know choosing developers are quite personal and depends on the films one uses. So as a background I use TriX, HP5 and Delta 400. I almost always expose them for 800 and sometimes push processed them either a stop or two. I shoot always outside on the street.

Because, developers are quite personal, I am not looking for feedback who uses what. What I am looking for is, which developers can be used for my films and for my background, what results I’ll get with those developers, ie Developer A and F works for your films. Dev A makes good tones, fine grain but Dev F gives you grittier look, higher contrast more grain etc.

And also, if you happen to know any website which gives me this comparison, please direct me to there as I couldn’t find it.

stay safe,

F

Edited by fatihayoglu

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For those films I prefer Ilford DD-X as it controls grain and offers nice tonal range. I use it as a 1-shot diluting 4:1, so need 50 ml for a single 35mm roll. For slower films (PanF is my favorite) I use Rodinal for its ease of use and economy (10 ml per 35 roll), and really like the tonal range. But it emphasizes grain some on higher speed films - at least when scanning negatives instead of wet-printing. Rodinal also keeps very well when you don't process very often.

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1 hour ago, fatihayoglu said:

Hi all,

So, I am planning to start to develop my B&W films at home, as labs are closed and in the long run it can be a more cost efficient.

Based on my research, there are far too many developers which confuses me greatly and I was wondering if you could help to choose or to understand. I know choosing developers are quite personal and depends on the films one uses. So as a background I use TriX, HP5 and Delta 400. I almost always expose them for 800 and sometimes push processed them either a stop or two. I shoot always outside on the street.

Because, developers are quite personal, I am not looking for feedback who uses what. What I am looking for is, which developers can be used for my films and for my background, what results I’ll get with those developers, ie Developer A and F works for your films. Dev A makes good tones, fine grain but Dev F gives you grittier look, higher contrast more grain etc.

And also, if you happen to know any website which gives me this comparison, please direct me to there as I couldn’t find it.

stay safe,

F

Developers are roughly divided in 3 categories:

1. Non-solvent, high acutance developers (Rodinal, etc.). Those give large grain and usually lose some speed. On the upside, the grain is very sharply defined.

2. Solvent, very fine grain developers (Perceptol, Microdol X, etc.). Those give very fine grain, but lose 1 stop of speed. Also the grain is not as sharply defined.

3. General purpose developers (ID-11, D-76, etc.). Those strike a good compromise between grain size and sharpness, as well as speed. I.e. they give full speed and grain smaller than the non-solvent developers (but larger than the very fine grain ones). Of special note among those is Xtol, which gives even smaller grain than the rest in this group *and* even higher speed. Usually you sacrifice one for the other, but Xtol does both, owing to its much more modern formula using ascorbates instead of hydroquinone.

Lastly, you have pushing (speed enhancing) developers (Microphen, also Xtol). Those sacrifice grain size, for some extra speed - real speed, i.e. details in the shadows and keeping contrast in check when pushing film. 

 

Anyway, don't sweat it too much. Start with a general purpose developer, get Xtol if you can find it, otherwise one of the others. Those can be finetuned to give any results you want.

For instance, increasing dilution with a general purpose developer will give larger but sharper grain (the solvents are diluted and hence can't dissolve the grains as effeciently). Contrast depends on developing time, not developer per se. If you want more contrast and grain, underexpose your film (say 1 stop) and develop longer (say +15-20% time). If you want less contrast and grain, overexpose your film by a stop and develop for 15-20% less time. All those are techniques you can do with general purpose developers and apply to all films. So start with a developers and try all those techniques before you jump to another. I can provide various examples if you want.

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4 minutes ago, fatihayoglu said:

That’s great, thanks a lot!!

 

could you please explain what you mean by losing speed with developers?

When a film is tested for its speed (the ISO you see on the box), this is determined using a specific methodology.  A specific developer is used, for a specific time and agitation, to yield normal contrast. On such a negative, some specific curves are plotted and the ISO is calculated based on some points on that plot. I won't bore you with the technical details, but the key point is, ISO is not "universal" and the value you see on the film box is valid *if* you use the same developer (or very similar) to the one the manufacturer used when determining the ISO. Ilford for instance uses ID-11. 

Some developers give lower iso compared to what the box says, usually fine grain ones (2nd category in my post). Perceptol for instance, when used undiluted, halves the film's iso. If you want to develop, say HP5+ in Perceptol, you have to shoot it at ISO200 instead of 400, as that developer is "speed losing".

General purpose developers give you full speed, you can shoot at what the box says. Speed enhancing developers can give you *extra* speed, for instance Xtol gives ⅓ of a stop if not more (you can shoot an ISO400 film, say TriX, at ISO540 if you plan to develop in Xtol), and Microphen gives you ⅔ of a stop (you can shoot, say HP5+, at ISO680 if you plan to develop in Microphen).

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I am a fan of TMax films, lower grain, but need a compensating developer, so I use TMax developer, I feel it works well, also works on TriX and HP5+ keeps the grain down. For slower speed films I like Neofin Blue, really good with Kodak Panatomic X and Ilford Pan F, not very good with high speed films

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thanks all,

so going back to losing speed, I am bit confused. Let's speak with some examples as that might help me to understand a bit.

When I check HP5 data sheet, it gives timings for different developers. If we take EI400 here, the table says it requires 20 mins at 20C for ID11 1+3. Also forAgfa Rodinal it requires 11 mins at 20C if we have 1+50 dilution. So, do they give similar results in terms of exposure, or Agfa one will give me a full stop darker result.

Also, if I want to push process my films, do I simply more to the right side of the table and check times for EI800 and EI1600 or do I need to use different developers?

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Many photographer try to find what their actual speed of the film they are using is, a question of shadow details vs highlights, many use say TriX at ISO 200, to get a correct reading takes a lot of testing. I know photographers who do this and then never take any interesting pictures because they have blown out the desire with all the testing.

So if you photograph at a lower ISO you need less development time because you are giving the film more exposure or light. I looked at the Massive Development Chart and HP5 is interesting because they have it down to 50 ISO, if I wanted to use 50 ISO I would work with a slower less grainy film. Though this would probably have less grain than HP5 at ISO 400, still wouldn't have more grain than FP4 or PanF. Still shows this is one versatile film. 

This also has to do with the activity of the developer, not sure why you want to use ID11 1:3 other than saving developer, 1:1 is the general one use dilution, but I see there is timing on MDC for 1:3, that is up to you, but not sure if it would help you at all, will sure give you a lot of time in the darkroom or where ever you develop film.

Don't get hung up about this, if you are using HP5, start with 400 and see what it gets you. Expand out after your first few rolls.

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(Note, film developing is a chemical reaction. To fully understand it, one must have at least a little understanding of or affinity for chemistry. Otherwise, developing will be a mysterious "black box" and the best one can do is just follow the manufacturer's instructions faithfully).

Film ISO or "speed" primarily (and according to ISO (International Standards Organization) procedures) is derived by measuring shadow density. And density is a function of both the exposure AND the developer used.

A manufacturer's lab gives a film a series of exposures (I.E., at different possible ISOs) to a known target with different tones from black to white - and then develops it in a "standard" developer (D-76 being one, ID-11 being another) - and then measures which exposure produces the standard for shadow density (0.10 more density than unexposed film, for a part of the grayscale target that is a dark gray that is just barely distinguishable from black). Whichever exposure delivers that correct density defines the actual speed of the film. Experienced film chemists will, of course, have a fairly close idea of what the measured ISO will be when the "design" the film.

Some developers produce more or less silver (usable image) from film given the same exposure.

One obvious example from giannis' list are the solvent fine grain developers. They produce fine grain by literally dissolving the grains slightly (removing silver and making them smaller) as they form during development, resulting in less silver in the negative than normal. To restore the normal usable density (just made up of more finer grains), one must apply more light (shoot a 400 ISO film as though it was only a 200 ISO film - 1 stop more exposure).

Conversely, some developers are chemically engineered to be very active, but also "poop out" or get used up faster in the highlights, where there is lots of silver to react with. Between agitations, they will continue development in the low-exposure shadow areas, while developing the high-exposure highlights less and less. This is a "compensating effect" and will result in a bit more shadow density/detail for a given exposure, and the highest normal (unpushed) effective ISO. Examples are pyrazolidone-phenidone developers such as Ilford DD-X and Kodak TMax. Which are promoted as "full film speed" developers.

Some developers are unique, and don't exactly fit a category. Kodak HC-110 is not a high-solvent developer, but still produces slightly weaker (darker, lacking in detail) shadows, and finer grain. Agfa/Adox Rodinal is a very low-solvent, high-dilution developer that produces full grain size and a compensating effect, but there is debate as to whether it actually produces full shadow speed or not.

I don't consider Xtol to be a "basic standard developer" since it uses oddball developing agents: phenidone and sodium ascorbate (a cousin of Vitamin C - ascorbic acid/ascorbate). D-76 and ID-11 have been the "standards" for decades and decades (D-76 dates to 1928).

___________________________

Essential advice for beginners - Use a basic standard "jack of all trades" developer. Kodak D-76 or Ilford ID-11. They are a good all-around balance between effective film speed, grain, contrast, tonality, cost and so on.

You do not need to match manufacturers - D-76 works fine with Ilford films and ID-11 works just fine with Kodak films. Follow the instructions on the packages.

After a couple of years, if you identify a specific need for: more grain, less grain, sharper grain, more shadow detail, more highlight detail, liquid rather than powder formula, etc. etc. - then (and only then) experiment with some of the more specialized developers. A lot of photographers use D-76 or the similar ID-11 for a whole 50-year career.

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Posted (edited)

thanks guys, very detailed answers here.

However, I still couldn't get answer to my last 2 questions.

Let's say I took a picture of exposure chart of 13 shades of grey (plus white to black) by exposing to the same grey area with 2 HP5 rolls EI400.

If I develop them say one in Ilford 11 and the other one in Rodinal at 20C for given time on the charts, would I get more or less similar results in terms of exposure (I know sharpness, grain, etc depends on the used developer)?

Also, as I have mentioned I usually shoot these films at EI800 or EI1600, which requires me to develop a bit more, so does it mean I simply move right on the chart and develop accordingly.

 

The reason I am asking these, if I don't understand how the developers work for my shooting conditions, I will never be able to start to develop at home.

Edited by fatihayoglu

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18 hours ago, fatihayoglu said:

thanks all,

so going back to losing speed, I am bit confused. Let's speak with some examples as that might help me to understand a bit.

When I check HP5 data sheet, it gives timings for different developers. If we take EI400 here, the table says it requires 20 mins at 20C for ID11 1+3. Also forAgfa Rodinal it requires 11 mins at 20C if we have 1+50 dilution. So, do they give similar results in terms of exposure, or Agfa one will give me a full stop darker result.

Also, if I want to push process my films, do I simply more to the right side of the table and check times for EI800 and EI1600 or do I need to use different developers?

Just follow the instructions, and better yet start with a general purpose developer that is guaranteed to give you normal contrast and speed, before you branch out to special stuff.

In your example with Rodinal, you're fine to shoot at 400 and develop for the time that was on the table. Rodinal loses a little bit of speed (1/3rd of a stop with most films) but it's no big deal and imperceptible to most. Again, the best thing to do is use a general purpose developer and not worry about speed losing and speed enhancing etc.

About pushing, you can use the times on the table. Keep in mind, some developers are good for pushing, some are meh and some are bad.

The "good" ones will give you more shadow detail and keep the contrast in check (i.e. not increase it much), for instance XTol or Microphen.

The "bad" ones will give you less shadow detail and more contrast, for instance Rodinal. Some, like the ultra fine grain ones (that are speed losing) give such bad shadow detail and such high contrast when trying to push with them, that usually the manufacturers don't even give a time for pushing.

The general purpose developers (ID-11, D-76) give a good balance of shadow detail and contrast (not as good as the "good" pushing developers but not as bad as the "bad" ones).

If you start with a general purpose developer and follow the manufacturer's instructions, you'll be fine.

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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, fatihayoglu said:

The reason I am asking these, if I don't understand how the developers work for my shooting conditions, I will never be able to start to develop at home.

I think all you need is 'The Massive Dev Chart' either use the web version or preferably the app because you can have it in front of you while you process the film. 

For the films you mention I'd recommend the sound 'do-it-all' developer DD-X, it is none threatening, fine grain, sharp, and can be used many ways hence the recommendation for the Massive Dev Chart, and it works with those films. When you've done a few films I'd recommend searching Flickr for various film and developer combinations to see what other people are getting and find if you like the results, but don't overwhelm yourself with too many alternatives and superfluous info before you've started

Edited by 250swb

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51 minutes ago, fatihayoglu said:

thanks guys, very detailed answers here.

However, I still couldn't get answer to my last 2 questions.

Let's say I took a picture of exposure chart of 13 shades of grey (plus white to black) by exposing to the same grey area with 2 HP5 rolls EI400.

If I develop them say one in Ilford 11 and the other one in Rodinal at 20C for given time on the charts, would I get more or less similar results in terms of exposure (I know sharpness, grain, etc depends on the used developer)?

Also, as I have mentioned I usually shoot these films at EI800 or EI1600, which requires me to develop a bit more, so does it mean I simply move right on the chart and develop accordingly.

 

The reason I am asking these, if I don't understand how the developers work for my shooting conditions, I will never be able to start to develop at home.

To answer your question explicitly, yes for HP5+ shot ISO400 if you develop with rodinal or id-11 for the recommended times, your results will be almost the same in terms of speed. If you're being pedantic and use a densitometer, you'll probably spot a small difference (a bit extra density in the shadows for id-11) which will be imperceptible with naked eyes.

If you plan on pushing those films, you'll get better results in every possible way (grain size, contrast, shadow detail) if you use general purpose or pushing developers, instead of Rodinal. You can still try it with Rodinal though, if you have it already, and see how you like the results yourself.

 

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Ok that’s great. Thanks a lot guys. So as long as I stick to the table, I should get more or less same results. Some developers are good for pushing, keeping in mind, but the recommended general ones are ok for pushing as well.

so general ones, standard developers, ok with pushing. Good tonality, sharpness, contrast and grain

push ones, good for pushing obviously

rodinal, good for box speed developing, increased grain size.

 

Am I right with the above?

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Stick to the recommendations on the film packet until you decide to do something else from your own experience. Some people like their negatives lighter or denser than others and how you use the negatives also has an influence, scanning or printing in an enlarger and then what type of illumination it has, lots of other variables.

Do not rely entirely on the massive development chart, it’s built up from a lot of different experiences, I sent in a correction for one combination of film and developer a long time ago and the website was updated.

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Can we change the thread title to "The most succinct developers for black and white film thread you're likely to see anywhere on the net".

Thank you to all contributors particularly Giannis and Adan.

Pete

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Try FX-39, it's very good!

 

'Pushing' does no good whatsoever. The ISO speed is very optimistic. Try using 2/3 of ISO, cut development times given by mfrs about 30%. Print on grade 3. Amazing quality!

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Posted (edited)

I'm just going back to doing some B+W and C41 processing, so I can scan at home and I just like to add, at risk of sounding a bit of a toady 🐸, that the knowledge available on this forum and the willingness of people to share it is second to none.

Perhaps one thing I would pass on, from the perspective of someone just starting out (again) at this, is that the main things to watch for to get repeatable and accurate results that can be changed / built on later are:

1)  Get the temperature of the developer right, as that makes a difference

2)  Get the times that you develop / fix etc. right, as that makes probably most difference; remember to allow a little bit of time to get the chemicals into / out of the tank and to the film

3)  Follow the agitations as carefully as possible and don't overdo / underdo it, as that makes a difference

4)  Mix the chemicals as accurately as you can, using decent measuring jugs or cylinders (as the chemistry is designed by industrial chemists, rather than by a biochemist which is nearer my original background, the chemistry is quite tolerant to being off a little, by my way of thinking anyway, particularly if you're using bigger quantities; the processes are intended originally for industrial use so have a margin for error in that regard)  also be aware of what the local water is like and use distilled / deionised water if you're uncertain.

It might be worth your while, as a confidence builder, to have a look at a couple of Dave Butcher's videos about film developing in YouTube, as you can get a good feel for the subject from them, even though he develops several 120 films at the same time, using quite big quantities.  He actually wrote the tech spec for ID11 for Ilford, a few years before he retired to his home darkroom, so might be worth seeing how he approaches it.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCESPWjbhrablmq90n-3YEhg/videos

Hope this helps -I'm sure you'll enjoy what you're about to do.

Edited by robert_parker

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