Developer- film combination

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by tom_vogel, May 4, 2016.

  1. I have been more seriously shooting for around a year now. I started with digital, but fell in love with film. I started shooting with HP5 with D-76, but mixing the chemicals kept resulting in tiny tiny white specs on my film (I know it was my lack of mixing skills)- I gave Xtol a try and liked that, but mixing was still not my favorite. I then switched to Ilfosol 3- but I am half and half on the results.
    I have been reading a ton and am sort of stuck between going back to D-76, or trying out HC-110
    I have been shooting with a mix between T-MAX 400, Tri-X 400, and HP5+ 400- but am deciding which of the three to stop stocking
    I have shot concerts, fashion shows, portraits, and landscape and would like any insight on any developer/film combos someone would recommend for sharp with contrast. (concerts I have switched to shooting digital because of such low light conditions)
    I do not make prints yet- I've been scanning my own (eventually plan on enlarging)
    Any insight on any of this would be greatly appreciated
  2. are you using a decent stop bath and do you use photo flo (or similar) before drying?
  3. HC-110 is a good developer, and very economical if you mix directly from the syrup.
    Ilford DD-X is a very fine developer, but pricey.
    But if you aren't getting enough contrast with Ilfosol 3, perhaps you need to use longer developing times.
  4. White specs during scanning are typically dust particles - indeed using a washing agent at the end should help cure a lot of those. It seems extremely unlikely to me that they'd be particles of the developer powder, anyway, if you implied that (not sure if I read you correct).
    Personally (based on the little experience I have) I much like HP5 in HC110, if you need sharper than that, slower films as FP4+ or Delta 100 might be a better choice. Or sharp and lots of contrast: Tri-X in Rodinal, but that will show more grain than HC110. Both Rodinal and HC110 are cheap and easy to mix.
  5. If you are mixing developer from a powder then let it sit for a while and then filter it using a coffee filter. It can also help to filter fixer when you pour it back into the container.
  6. I have developed thousands of rolls of film in D-76. It does not leave specks on the film. If it is properly mixed, there are no specks to be left.

    Kodak says to mixed D-76 at 125F. First step is to make sure you are getting water at that temperature (or slightly higher) from the faucet in your darkroom. At one place where I lived, the hot water heater was set at 120F and I had to turn it up a notch. But be careful -- if you have young children in the house, you don't want to run the risk of them getting burned by hot water.

    You also have to stir thoroughly, and use a large enough container that you can stir without splashing liquid out. I use to use a plastic pitcher that was just barely one gallon. I switched to a two-gallon floating-lid dakroom container. Mixing in that, I can splash around all I want with nothing splashing out.

    You have to mix until all particles are completely dissolved. That gets tired with just a spoon or mixing paddle. I have a paint mixing device from the hardware store that goes into a cordless electric drill. All I have to do is stand there and move it around a little. Makes it much easier on my arm than stirring by hand.

    I always mixed chemicals at least a day before they are needed so they can settle down to room temperature (around 75F plus or minus in my house) before using. That way no need to fiddle with adjusting their temperature when I'm using them.

    "If you are mixing developer from a powder then let it sit for a while and then filter it using a coffee filter. It can also help to filter fixer when you pour it back into the container."

    I've never found any need to filter properly mixed darkroom chemicals. And in my darkroom, nothing goes back in the container -- that just creates a situation where any particles, dirt, debris can end up on the next roll of film, and also requires that you keep track of chemical capacity. All of my chemicals are used one-shot and go down the drain.
  7. HC110 should do the trick, Dilution B should be fine. I've found that using HC110 gives me a tad more contrast than D76 or ID11, with HP5+, (I haven't used Tri X for years so I can't comment on that scenario), I have used TMax 400 and HC110 and have found it to yield even just a touch more contrast, plus, it'll last longer than my three marriages! I've rated TMax 400 at 250-320 and developed at normal times & temps with HC110 and it has yielded very fine, contrasty negs without losing detail on either end. I've also gotten nice results using Dilution H. I do a lot of landscrapes, (intentional misspell), and was able to get some very nice results from a sunset project, shot out over the ocean, on TMax 400, very high contrast, turned out pretty well, I was able to dial up the contrast just a little more in LR and was pretty happy with the results. One last thing, it may take a roll or three to get it dialed in, but once you do, it should become fairly predictable for your style. I'm sure you know that all three of the films that you're considering have plenty of latitude, so you should be able to get nice negs, if you work with 'em a little, that's the beauty of B/W. For my eye, HP5+, seems to me at least, to be a little smoother, and TMax 400, a little crisper. I don't think one is any better than the other, just a little different. Whatever fits your eye.......that's the one to go with. Most of all, have fun with it!
  8. I believe that HP5+, like Tri-X, are traditional cubic grain films, while T-Max is a T-grain film.
    If you are keeping two, I would suggest one traditional and one T-grain film.
    Personally, I mostly use Diafine, but also HC-110. Both work well for many people.
  9. Wow thank you all for the responses!
    Wouter, Jeff, & Craig- looking back, I was very "amateurish" with my mixing and process at the time as it was my first time using both film and developing (have since progressed in both) So I think the white specs could have come from probably a number of things now that I probably wouldn't get if I tried it now. The filter idea is great and one I will most definitely be doing as well as mixing it up a few days before needed
    I am going to give HC-110 a shot, I might also pick up some D-76 to compare and put into smaller containers for storage
    Mark- Great feedback! I have preferred Tmax of late- I love it but I was just looking back at my photos- HP5 always seemed to be my favorite ones. Do you have any recommended development methods of HP5 with HC-110?
  10. Also- I have been looking to get new mixing/ measuring cups (not big ones for gallon size- smaller ones for 2 roll tanks)
    Does anyone have any recommendations as far as website or place to buy from?
    I have been using B & H, and sometimes Adorama if I'm in that area of NY but am curious if there are better out there
    I really do appreciate all of the feedback
  11. I think that filtering with paper works well, but at the possible disadvantage of exposing the developer to more air leading to some oxidation and shorter life. I honestly don't know how concerned one should be.
    My solution is to mix in a large glass bottle (5L) with minimal air and then leave it for some days during which some impurities will settle, even using heat distilled water. Then I carefully decant into small bottles and seal with minimal air space. The last bit of developer left in the big bottle is either discarded or used for clip tests.
  12. Ilford HP-5 was my favorite film for many years. I had no trouble with Alford liquid developer.
  13. Can not say I have ever got specs on my film from poorly mixed developer, when you say white specs is this after scanning or from looking at the negative
    White specs is dust on the negative that shows up on prints and scans, if there was anything on the negative during development the specs would be black and this is mostly caused by air bubbles on the film when you first pour in the developer, you have to make sure you dislodge them as soon as you start development.
    I used to use ID11/D76 a lot but not for several years now, it is just not very economical for me and not that great as a developer IMO and HP5 is my least favorite quality branded film.
    For now I mainly shoot with Tmax100 pulled to ISO50 and developed in FX39, this is my go to film/dev combination. I also like and use Rollei Retro 80s pulled to ISO 40 and developed in Pyrocat-HD but you have to be careful with what you are shooting with that film because it has extended sensitivity into near infra red, it is also very high contrast film and needs to be tamed down with development.
  14. I like Ilford films. HP5+ and Delta 100 mainly,
    although occasionally I'll shoot FP4.

    For developing it depends. I shoot 4x5 and
    larger formats, so grain isn't a huge issue for
    me. My go to developers are HC110 using
    Ansel Adams style dilution B and stand
    developing. I also use home brewed Rodinal. I
    generally use a 1:50 ratio mix on my Rodinal.
    Tank my negs for 6.5 minutes. Agitate first 30
    seconds, then 4 inversions every minute. With
    Rodinal I don't presoak but with HC110.
  15. My Rodinal, like I said, is an old recipe home
    brew. Even before I discovered where to get
    straight, unadulterated acetaminophen and
    was crushing Tylenol (or paracetamol,
    whatever) Ive never had a problem with white
    specs, even when I don't filter my mix. A good
    photo flow usually clears up specks.
  16. Tom, as for smaller mixing cups - not sure how you intend it, but with powder developers as D-76, ID11 etc. if you buy a package for a litre, you need to make the whole litre of stock solution. With HC110 (and rodinal, which is also a liquid), this is not a concern, as you just measure the exact amount you need per time. For HC110, best to get a syringe.
    Personally, among all the combinations I tried so far, I've been very happy with HP5 in HC110, dilution E or H. Great contrast, tonality and smooth grain. I haven't tried dilution B. To get up to speed with HC110, this site is a great help.
  17. It is not difficult to mix a powder developer and you do not need particular skills. Just follow the instructions and you will be fine. If you have particles in the solution, I am pretty sure the water was too cold.
    • D-76 is probably the best developer overall (=less pros and less cons). You can control your desired balance between graininess and acutance by changing the concentration. Stock=minimal grain, 1:3=maximum acutance. ID-11 is identical when it comes to the development, but it is easier to mix since it comes in a single bag (it has something to do with coating of the powder grains!?)
    • Xtol gives slightly higher film speed (=more detail in the shadows) and slightly finer grain compared to D-76. Same principle to control grain/acutance as D-76. Xtol is also more environmental friendly and less harmful to the health. The drawback is that it only comes in 5 liter bags, it is known to die under certain conditions (not fun if you are developing your lifetime masterpiece) and it is recommended to use clean water (either boil water and filter when cooled down or use battery water)
    • HC-110 is liquid and very convenient to mix. It gives slightly worse results than D-76 and Xtol (a difference so small that it can probably only be seen by very accurate side-by-side comparisons). Dilution B gives too short development times for some films so the unofficial Dilution H is recommended (=half conc. of B and double development time). You do not have the control over grain vs. acutance
    • Ilfosol 3 has been a huge disappointment to me (which does not mean it is not good for you). The main problem is the short development times that make it difficult to reproduce the results. The grains are visibly coarser andquite ugly looking compared to Xtol with none of the advantages of for example Rodinal (Adonal) and that is not what you want when shooting ISO 400 film. It is also known to die a sudden death
    • Rodinal (Adonal) is in my opinion just for special effect. It gives the graininess a very characteristic look that is suitable for some occasions. It also renders beautiful highlighs, so you can get nice results when you for example shoot into the sun
    I like the look of Tri-X, but I absolutely hate how it curls. I like the look of TMAX 400 even better and this is my go to film for ISO 400. HP5+ look, despite what everybody are saying, exactly the same as Tri-X (as does Delta 400 and TMAX 400), but it does not curl. Thus, if I were you I would get rid of the Tri-X.
    All above are just my opinions and do not believe it just because it is on internet! ;-)
  18. I do, a couple. For many years HP5, ID11 (1+2) 13.5 mins. 68F rated at 250 A bit of a pull, keeps both ends nice & clean, nice detail, you can also try rating HP5 @ 200 ID11 (1+3) 68F 13.5 mins, that has given me a little higher contrast.
    Lately, HP5, HC110 Dilution H, (see the Massive Development Chart for the dilution amounts) 10.5 mins @68F rated at 320, again, just a slight pull. Beautiful negs.
    Tmax 400, rated @320, HC110 Dilution H, 11.5mins. @ 68F, again just a slight pull, nice crisp negs. I fix Tmax a little longer than normal, it seems to be a little rougher on fixer than some of the other films.
    I always develop so that I don't blow out highlight detail, that's just me, I too, am tweaking my times to get to where I can get good scans without having to do too much in LR, to this day, I still go by striving to get the perfect neg, which like my golf swing, I'll probably never get perfect! That's the beauty of B/W!
    Others will most certainly have their own methods, and there's nothing wrong with that, there's no right method or wrong method! So get a few rolls, play around with it, that's what makes this all so fun, and that's the best part!
    One last thing, I use a 2 min. water bath for 35mm & 120 & 4X5, it clears the anti-halation layer/coating or whatever they call it, again something I learned and have stuck to, since way back when. Some folks do it, others don't. Go shoot and fun!
  19. One more thing, I have used Paterson tanks for years, and use the "twisty" method for agitation, keeps things consistant for me, also, your agaitation method will have an impact on your development results, for me, continuous for the first 30 secs. then 5 "twists" every 1 min., again, that's what works for me.
  20. I do not make prints yet- I've been scanning my own (eventually plan on enlarging)
    Any insight on any of this would be greatly appreciated.
    If you're scanning, the biggest consideration is density and graininess. It's not sharpness nor contrast. I say this from my long experience as a drum scanner operator.
    Why? Scanning B&W has the same basic problems of enlarging B&W. Namely, silver. Metallic silver is opaque, and in film its form is fairly fractal in nature. Light can't penetrate, and it isn't absorbed -- it's reflected. Straight up Callier Effect. Just like an enlarger.
    A good explanation of silver films and scanning was made in an exhaustive study by Tim Vitale in his paper Film Grain, Resolution, and Fundamental Film Particles from 2007. Look in particular at the photomicrographs on page 19. That's how much enlargement you have to use to see film grains -- all you see in "normal" enlargements (below 20x) is film grain clumps.
    What to do about it? If you are ever going to make darkroom prints, you have to optimize the film for darkroom printing. It will generally scan just fine. However, if you are only going to scan (never make darkroom prints), you can optimize your film for scanning. This means a little less density, and small grain.
    What I ended up with for my own work, is 5x4 TMY-2 developed in XTOL 1:1. I did 1:3 for years, but in head-to-head testing I found that the tiny bit of improvement I was getting with 1:3 wasn't worth the extra steam distilled water I used to mix it. Really, you couldn't even see the difference at 15x enlargement, and that's a huge print from a 5x4 negative. I had to go to 20x to be able to tell the difference, and I've never made a print bigger than 12x from one of my negatives.
    I told my drum scanning clients. Most (of course) ignored me. The few who listened got the same excellent results that I did, so I know it works beyond my own lab. Just sayin'.
  21. I think picking a single developer would be better then jumping around. All the films are pretty good and figure a 100
    speed film is nice for low grain and great quality and a 400 speed for versatility. Just pick 2 films based on your
    experience. I use HP5 as my usual film and hardly shoot 100 speed but Delta100 has worked great for me. I use ID11
    developer in a 1:1 dilution which also means I discard and use fresh clean developer each time. I guess just pick
    something and stay with it for a while. Work on ways to keep your film and chemicals clean.
  22. I agree with ross b: "I think picking a single developer would be better then jumping around. All the films are pretty good and figure a 100 speed film is nice for low grain and great quality and a 400 speed for versatility. Just pick 2 films based on your experience."
    And I would like to add, calibrate your process for this film/developer combination.
    If you have your process under control most films and developers will give results that are surprisingly similar.
    Rodinal will still look different from Xtol and HP5+ will look different from T-Max 100. However, I do not think most people could tell the difference between 4 identical subjects printed from T-Max/Delta 100 developed in Xtol or HC-110.

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