D76 or Rodinal - slowish films

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by carl_neilson, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. Newbie question here. I have been having a great experience developing my own B&W film for the last few months,
    but so far I have stuck exclusively to Tri-X and D76. I also have a fair bit of Plus-X in the freezer that I will shoot when
    the conditions are appropriate, but in all likelihood I won't be shooting it all that often.

    I have read that the most appropriate use for Rodinal is for slow to medium speed films, which is the category that
    the Plus-X falls into. Rodinal also has a huge reputation for its longevity, which would be a big plus for me when
    slowly working my way through my stocks of Plus-X. To be honest I don't go through all that much D-76 either, so
    it's always a worry that it'll go bad before I finish it. As a result I generally save up quite a few exposed rolls in the
    fridge before mixing up some D-76 and developing them all in one hit. On the other hand Rodinal could be mixed and
    used each time I finish a roll of Plus-X rather than saving them up to do a big batch job, so for that reason combined
    with the "Rodinal = slow film" theory I am tempted to buy some Rodinal just to use with the Plus-X, and stick to
    developing my Tri-X in D-76.

    My question is, what differences would I see when developing Plus-X in Rodinal versus D-76? What I really want to
    out is whether the convenience of Rodinal is worthwhile, but I don't want that convenience would be at the expense of
    the end result if D-76 would give me better negatives with this film.

    As far as slow films go, I havn't settled entirely on Plus-X yet, and will probably try FP4 too. I have also already used
    some PanF in the past when I used to get a lab to do the developing and I like that film too, so the same question
    applies to those Ilford films.

    Would the experienced users of Plus-X, PanF and FP4 choose Rodinal over D76 for these films? And what
    differences would I expect to see? I'd really like the answers to relate to only these film/developer combinations as
    that's what is easily available to me in my hick town.

  2. Rodinal gives more conspicuous grain, but also greater sharpness and detail. D-76 gives smaller, softer grain, but not quite as much sharpness. It's almost (but not quite) like someone took a Rodinal negative and slightly blurred it in the enlarger. Which is "better" depends somewhat on your taste, as well as your scanner or enlarging technique. You should try both.
    If you're specifically trying to avoid a digital look, you may like Rodinal. Its big grain with great sharpness doesn't look at all like a desaturated digital photo. D-76 is a classic developer, and there's nothing wrong with it at all. It's more suited than Rodinal if you're looking for the smoothest-looking, most grain-free enlargements.
  3. Richards decription is a good one. I would only add that I believe that its inportant to know what your film and developer combination will give you as far as contrast, highlight and shadow detail. Once you know a combination inside and out , then work on another developer film to learn that as well.
  4. Just to really confuse you....you might replace D76 with HC-110.
    It is a syrup and can be used like Rodinal....lasts forever too.
    Similar look to D76

    Rodinal just looks so SOLID. Not appropriate for everything but I use it most of the time with Tri X.

    This guy is my Rodinal with Tri-X HERO

  5. Now that the members of the church of Rodinal have had their say, I'll have mine. Rodinal is great with some films, not so good with others. I use it with Foma 100 and with Ilford's PanF+ when I can tolerate the reduced film speed delivered by this developer. To get reasonable shadow detail without blowing the highlights all to hell, you need to over expose the film by 1/2 to 1 stop and go easy on development. But truth be told, I've never liked the pairing any of Kodak's films with Rodinal. Oh sure, there are people who get fantastic results with Rodinal and Plus-X and even with Rodinal and Tri-X. I've even seen a few (very few) nice prints made from TMX and TMY negatives souped in Rodinal. If you are seeking that Rodinal look, and know what you're doing, it can work. If not, you can wind up with overly contrasty negatives with a lot of grain that are hard as heck to print.

    My advice is to stick with D-76 for Plus-X. I've found very little that can best it save XTOL. If you want more sharpness and grain, use them diluted. Read the Kodak tech sheets for times. Either of these two developers will last at least six months if kept in completely full, well closed bottles. When making up a gallon or larger batch, split it up into smaller bottles. HC-110 is a reasonable alternative if you want a (semi) liquid concentrate with a very long shelf life.
  6. Thanks for the replies so far - very much appreciated. Keep 'em coming :)

    On reading my original post back I don't think I worded it too well. I wasn't really looking for a general comparison between the two developers so much as some guidance on whether or not the experienced folk out there think believe that Rodinal is actually a better choice than D76 for these slower films. I'm really happy with the results I have achieved so far with my Tri-X and D76 combination, but when shooting slower films I'd be more than willing to use a different developer (i.e. Rodinal) solely for that purpose if it gives me more of what those films have to offer.

    Or to put it another way, from trawling through many old threads on this forum I know that generally speaking Rodinal will give better results with 50 or 125iso film than it gives with 400iso film, but that doesn't automatically mean that it is the developer of choice for slow films. Will it give better results with 50 or 125iso film in a side-by-side comparison with D76? Or does D76 give results that are equally pleasing, or possibly even more pleasing, as Rodinal with slow films.

    I realise that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are times when you may be intentionally trying to achieve a grainly look, etc, but I'm speaking of these developers in terms of all-round general purpose use.
  7. Frank - I spent so long between starting to compose my last post and coming back and finishing it that yours wasn't there when I started. Thanks for giving your opinion of Rodinal when paired with PanF+ and Plus-X.
  8. Michael - Your comment on getting to know the developers' contrast, shadow and highlight detail has my attention. Would you agree with Frank's comments on Rodinal being overly-contrasty to the point of being a nusience? (Sorry for paraphrasing you there Frank, especially if I got it wrong).
  9. Carl, I found that Rodinal does not block up like a high energy developer such a HC110, so that is not my concern. I
    think when you are using a developer combination that you should be doing it for a reason. Rodinal does give the
    appearance of sharpness, but at the expense of noticeable grain in the photo. If you have a lot of detail in a photo,
    say trees with a lot of leaves , or a brick building , then you do not notice large grain. If you are shooting something
    with a lot of open sky, or smooth skin, then the grain is more noticeable and might take away from the subject, of
    the photograph.

    I think when taking a photo in terms of what is the subject , and how do I make the subject stand out in the photo ,
    so that you, the viewer know what I trying to show you in the photo. Things like light objects on a dark background
    makes the eye move to the light. Detail in a photo make the eye pause for a second as it appreciates the detail. A
    lack of detail also has purpose in directing the eye. By picking a film and developer , knowing what it can and can't
    give you make it into a active tool , to help you make a successful photograph.

    If you look at most of my B&W work , 99% of its D76 and Trix. I know what it can and cannot do , whether a one
    stop push will boost the contrast on a cloudy day, or a 1 stop pull with keep the shadow detail without blowing the
    highlights at noon in Arizona in the summer time harsh light.

    I have over the years used just about every film and developer combination to find the magic one that will give me the
    perfect photo every time. I have learned that there is no such thing, and when you keep adding variables to any
    combination , that you fight a losing battle.
  10. So perhaps if I'm taking portraits with my Plus-X I should use the D76 for a smoother look, but when taking
    architecture, landscapes, etc Rodinal would be the choice to make maximum detail pop out?
  11. Carl:


  12. Haven't tested enough to generalize, but I have tested D-76 and Rodinal with FP4+. IMO, some of the folklore about Rodinal results from the IMO goofy development times listed on the box. They tend to be long, and give grainy contrasty negatives. *IF* and it's a big if, you rigorously dial in both your exposure and development, using test targets and a densitometer, such that the curves match, the two developers yield results so similar that side-by-side 8x10s will be indistinguishable. This is true for quite a few developers, but not nearly so romantic as the idea that developers all give different and unique results.
  13. Carl,

    The REAL answer is...if you are interested, TRY IT YOURSELF.

    Great images have been created with just about every Film/Developer combo out there.
    You can't really go wrong using D76 or HC-110 or Xtol.

    You CAN go wrong using Rodinal (and I LOVE Rodinal).
    I personally like to be at least a LITTLE wrong :)

  14. Carl,

    HP5 in Rodinal 1+50

    This shot was TX in Rodinal 1+25

    This one is AGFA in Rodinal

    This one is TX Pushed one stop in Rodinal

    This is also a push TX in Rodinal
  15. i haven't tried rodinol yet but i love plus-x and have had great results shooting it at EI 200 and developing in ilford
    microphen. microphen is sold as a powder so it's shelf life is virtually infinite until you mix a batch. ilford's website
    has downloadable .pdf data sheets on development times for all their developers and just about any film you can
    think of. i am a big fan of this particular film/developer combination and highly recommend it to others. microphen
    provides a slight bump in speed with great contrast and no noticeable increase in granularity.
  16. You can stabilize the developing properites of D-76 by adding the following chemical per liter of developer. They are:
    8 grams of sodium carbonate and 3.6 grams of sodium bisulfite. This will stabilize the mixture. This will increase your
    contrast and I found by diluting D-76 you can get increase sharpness. The most I dilute D-76 is 1:3 for ISO 125 for
    about 10-12 minutes. But I would experiment first. Shoot a roll of film at different ISO and start at about 9 1/2 to 13
    minutes developing time at 72 degrees. If tyou don't want to go that route switch to Microdol-X with Plus-X and get
    very good results. Stay with D-76 and try.
  17. Negative and developer combinations have so may variables. Time, temperature and agitation all have a direct effect on the density, highlight and shadow detail and sharpness. I don't know if D76 can still be replenished, but, back in the day one could use the same developer time after time. Rodinal is considered a one shot developer, highly concentrated and a high acutance developer. D76 is the SUV of developers. All around well balanced and one can't mess up the soup since it's very forgiving. Your results will vary depending on the subject matter, how you've exposed your film + or - under/overexposure. The agitation cycle and how vigorously one agitates during development will also affect the highlight and shadow detail. Ansel Adam's book "The Negative" is a good read on the subject and while you're at it, get yourself a 100ft roll of film, a bulk film loader and a bunch of reloadable film cassettes to learn the materials your wanting to work with. From there, standardize your process, so you'll get consistent results.
  18. I've been using Rodinal now for about 25 years. I've used it with all films but typically I use it with films which are rated at 200 ASA or less. I generally downrate films to control the contrast though occasionally, i.e. in dull weather, I use film at box speed. Typically, I rate HP5 at 160 ASA, FP4 at 50 ASA, TMX at 50 and Fuji Acros at 50. I like Rodinal for its robustness - it's never let me down and its keeping qualities are legendary. Other than that, I like its acutance and tonality. I tend to use Rodinal at the higher dilutions, i.e. 1:50 and even 1:75, to give me longer development times which I can control more finely.
  19. Have fooled around with many film/developer combinations over the years, and have settled on TriX 400 and D76 1:1,
    which is single shot, as my standard blend. Since I shoot 6x7, grain isn't a factor with full frame 16x20s and not much if it
    all in most 20x24. My reasons for standardizing revolve around chemistry longevity, ease of use, consistency, and MY
    feel that, for me, I can do more with the prints if I have a standard candle to work with. Comes with being simple-minded, I
    guess. I would suggest that you find the combination(s) that work best for you, and seek a standard.
  20. You could always try diluting D-76 for your Plus-X at 1:1 or 1:3 for more sharpness, grain and acutance, especially at 1:3.
  21. I'm glad to see people out there who still care about these issues, or at least find them interesting.
    I developed my first 35mm roll of Plus X in (I think) in 1962. TriX about the same year. I used D76 at about the same time. I've been souping film ever since--in various formats and with various developers.
    As everyone says, there are so many links in the whole process---that it's nearly meaningless to isolate one link---developer---without reference to lighting, subject, exposure, enlarging paper, and print size. I am wholly confident that incredibly beautiful prints have been made with every possible combination.
    Best to choose a classic combination--I say stick with it a year and see what it does. Shooting one test roll can help you zero in the development time, temperature, and agitation, but it's only good for that specific subject, light, and contrast.
    Most black and white printers stick with one combo for awhile, then move on to another. After a few years, you get a set of favorites for different situations and sujbects.
    Having said all that, I still enjoy trying different combinations. I too, am looking for the City of Gold.
  22. A huge thanks to everyone who contributed here for taking the time to pass your experiences on to me. It appears that the answer to my question "Which is better for Plus-X given the choice of D76 or Rodinal?" is not as clear-cut as I was expecting. There's a lot of food for thought here and plenty of good advice to put into action in the future.
  23. Carl,

    Film SIZE matters too.
    4x5 Plus X looks different than 35mm Plus X (due to magnification)

  24. Yep, that makes sense. Nine times out of ten I'm using 120 film taking 6x6 frames with my Mamiya C330f.
  25. Carl, One more that I just scanned....The Rodinal sharpness was really interesting on this one. The Neg looked like the Beard hairs were sticking up off the Light box ;)
  26. Hey John, that's a beautiful portrait and a classic example of Rodinal's capabilities!
  27. Stupid question, but since it popped up in my head...Is it possible to break a development in say D76 and continue with Rodinal? Has anyone tried this?? It might bring both detail, tones and accutance? Or to blend them...
  28. A few of us have experimented with blends of Rodinal and other developers. Several years ago I blended Rodinal and Xtol (and dubbed the witch' brew "RodinX"). The results were good but there was no evidence that the blend was better than one developer or the other by itself. I never got around to pursuing further experiments.
    See: 2 developers at same time
    Call me crazy - Rodinal mixed with Xtol or Ilfosol-S
  29. I used D-76 for a long time, but I've switched to XTOL because I can expose at box speed and still get excellent shadow detail. It's great stuff.

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