Homemade Microdol Questions

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by henry_finley|1, Apr 16, 2021.

  1. Ever since the discontinuation of Microdol-X developer, which I always favored 1:3, I've been using this homemade stuff from ebay ingredients that has seemed to work as far as actually obtaining a printable negative. The best formula my computer research has led me to is supposedly pre-Microdol-X. 5g metol, 100g sulfite, 30g kosher salt. for 1L of water. The true formula of Microdol-X is in the graves of the chemists. So be it. Although I question the "grainlessness" of this formula I've been using. Back in the 70's I could shoot Tri-X 35mm and Kodak Microdol-X 1:3 at 400 ASA, and got full speed and grainless negatives. An 8x10 would look perfect. Now it seems like a 5x7 is as grainy as you would expect from most any other "moderately fine grain" Kodak developer like D-76. It seems D-23 was always about the same grain as D-76. And since D-23 is the same formula with 2.5g more metol, and no NaCL, I wonder what the heck I'm doing. Does the salt really do anything, or is this a fools errand?
    Has anybody out there tried my homemade Microdol?
  2. I am not a chemist, but table salt was used in Caffenol developing to reduce fogging. Seemed to work nicely, so it was part of my chemistry while working with that developer for 4-5 years.
    I also used the 1:3 Microdol with Tri-X in the early 70's. A few years back my only surviving 35mm neg of that soup was compared to my current use of various Pyro staining developers. 1k x 1k crops of both developers with both Tri-X and 400Tmax showed me that the pyro based developer was an order of magnitude less in grain and the negatives had much better "body" to them. I am an old Dead Head on the Zone System and now use Pyrocat HDC or Hypercat for my developer. Both are DYI and can be mixed for 100 ml batches.
    Ref here is EDU 400 material (FOMA), currently available. The extreme crop gives you an idea how the grain is controlled. Fed-2 / Jupiter-8,EDU 400 (FOMA) @ 250, Pyrocat HDC @ 13m, V600 scan. 2k21-2k20-087-016 ces13 bc bm fsn-horz RFF.jpg
    My 2 cents: Forget the Microdol "experiments". Purchase a 200ml bottle of Pyrocat HD from Formulary and Enjoy !! Aloha, Bill
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
  3. How were those scanned Bill?
    Direct from film or from prints?

    No criticism intended, but I've never seen scans with such a 'lithographic' appearance.

    The grain in my negatives typically looks like this:
    FP4+ , IIRC.
    No fine black lines outlining anything. And no 'pepperpot' scattered pure white.
  4. I used Microdol-X way back and though it was good, I never got "grainless" prints from Tri-X or anything else. There's also a slight penalty in edge sharpness at that dilution. Still, good stuff! If you haven't, a careful read of pages 69 & 70 of The Film Developing Cookbook by Anchell and Troop would be enlightening, as it explains the history and probable formula for Microdol and Microdol-X. I experimented with PPD based developers long ago and thought I came up with something as good, but for some reason PPD never became popular as a developing agent.
  5. Joe's posting got me digging into my files ( Love not having to REALLY dig into the files !) and I reviewed what I had done with the post production. My "Big Goof" in putting up the reply for Henry was cropping my final print which does result in Joe's excellent descriptive "effects". I re-edited the work and can see how each step when expanded to the 1k x 1k size starts to produce the end effect.
    Once I have defined the dimensions of the negative, I twiddle the various editor controls and arrive at what I want as a final "effect". I have done the same with all my wet printing over the years. Viewed at 3 + feet, small details are obscured by the over all visual effect. Nice that computers give us the "micro surgery" ability !
    By the way, all this work is done with an Epson V600 scan with native software. My editor is one of many semi PhotoShop offerings.
    First set is native scan (no controls) and the 1k crop. Second set will be my final print and it's 1k crop, where Joe's observations are very apparent.
    Aloha, Bill 2k20-087-016 ffn-horz rff.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
  6. I didn't mean to put you to that trouble Bill.

    However, I think it illustrates well that B&W film truly is pure black and white, with the illusion of mid-tones created by a dithering of opaque silver against a white or transparent ground.

    I can get a similar effect from my example above just by playing with the curves tool in an image editor. The micro-contrast can be boosted a lot, while keeping the overall contrast fairly normal.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
  7. I do wonder if Kodak named (and formula not available) developers are actually similar
    to numbered and available formula developers.

    Then you only have to figure out which one.

    Is there old, but still working, Microdol-X available?
  8. For those formulae still being sold, there's almost no hiding place these days for 'secret' ingredients.

    The MSDS that has to be published, especially in health, safety and ecologically concious countries like Canada, lists every ingredient and practically the percentage amount too!
  9. The 'X' in Microdol-X is for the addition of some pixie dust that prevents dichroic fog. The standard metol, sulfite and salt formula will produce fog with modern films and produces lots of fog with TMax films.

    Photo Engineer on APUG identified the two additions to make M-X from M as Sodium Citrate and 4-chlororesorcinol. In one post he identified the citrate as the 'X' ingredient by putting an '*' next to it, but this may have been a typo. S. Citrate can be made from S. Bicarbonate & Citric Acid or can sometimes be found at the grocery store. The 4-chlororesorcinol seems to be hard to track down though it is a common ingredient in hair coloring dye. Alibaba lists it at ~$10/kg, Sigma-Aldrich et al. want $43 for 100g.

    TMax-100 in genuine M-X produces a Tech-Pan level of grain; however, it doesn't produce that same large format like creaminess.

    Nicholas Lindan
    Darkroom Automation / Cleveland Engineering Design, LLC
  10. I never did figure out X, but it seems that Kodak likes it.

    So many film names have a -X.
    Until they started naming films after their ASA/ISO value, I suspect more had -X than
    didn't have -X.

    So it didn't seem at all strange that developers should have -X, or that it would have a special meaning.

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