Is Fixer really necessary for B&W film processing?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by jiajun_yang, Nov 5, 2009.

  1. You do not need fixer, in fact I tried it with out fixer at this link

    Developer Only

    Then after that I put the now dried film that was exposed to light in fixer and this link is the result

    Developer Light then Fixer

    These images were developed with caffenol

    I am going to try this with D76 and see how it comes out
  2. I know this thread is old but I also agree that fixer is needed, at least for optimum quality. If you run out of fixer and the nearest available is 2 days away with express shipping you might go to a place that sells aquarium supplies. They have a solution to take chlorine out of the water which has as its active ingredient: sodium thiosulfate. I don't know how much you'd need so you'd want to test it on a piece of film first.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  3. All I'll say is that if that's supposed to make me a convert to not fixing, you've sorely failed. Your negatives show extremely low contrast, which is exactly what I'd expect from a negative that hasn't been fixed.

    Fixing them several hours after exposing them to light likely won't do a darn thing either-particularly if you didn't use a stop bath.

    You may have been able to get a scannable negative, but I seriously doubt that the negatives you've shown would print acceptably if at all.
  4. Not too many negatives will last a bit of time without fixing. . . what you will have is a strip of film with a lot of silver sulfide & other crappy images. Bill
  5. BTW, the above scans also show the importance of thorough washing with the correct amount of Photoflo and/or using distilled/DI water.
  6. Well they are caffenol processed so relax with the cynicism, just showing that you can that is all. I have photos with D -76, and Ilford ilfosol-3, no distilled water, no stop bath. Here is what you need Developer, Water, Fixer, Detergent, Air, I also develop at 30 C and 10 C . It just nice to know that where ever I am in the world I can develop film, with only the basics. Like when I was in France, Ireland, Germany, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Turkmenistan, so forth, good luck finding distillate water.
  7. While I'm not a fan of the caffenol process, I've seen it produce results that look as good as a commercial developer.

    There again, your unfixed negatives look exactly as I would expect-they're mudding and low contrast. Once they've been exposed to light, too, going back and attempting to fix can have mixed results-if you don't use a stop bath, they will continue to darken under room light until you get all of the developer washed out. I'm not talking out of my rear on this either-I've done it and watched it happen. Ammonium thiosulfate fixers are acidic enough to stop development so will give good results without a stop bath(although there are still arguments for using one) but attempting to forgo the fixer is just generally a bad idea.

    I'd be interested in seeing your negatives on a light table-I wouldn't consider a low contrast, muddy scan to be a "success" and at least for me I don't want a negative that I can't print.

    I know everyone has different standard, but film is expensive and developing is time consuming enough that I want to do it right. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get around to developing. I have a nice little pile of film holders with Velvia 50 in them now because I don't have ENOUGH to make mixing a batch of E6 chemicals worthwhile(I only do E6 when I have enough film to exhaust a batch of chemistry and a free weekend to do it). If I need immediate results, I usually use digital, and if I'm traveling with film I can wait until I get home.

    BTW, distilled water isn't an absolute necessity although I use it(or rather deionized water) for the final rinse. Good washing with a rinse agent and getting as much water as possible off before hanging to dry can go a long way. In the absence of Photoflo, a TINY amount of dish soap can be used in a pinch, although Photoflo is ideal.
  8. These are far from perfect but were my first attempt at developing with Caffenol:





    Interestingly enough, my most recent attempt at processing with Caffenol resulted in really muddy images and based on what I've learned from this discussion, it may be that I didn't leave the fixer in long enough or possibly over-diluted it. The anti-halation layer was not completely removed. I was using Ilford Rapid Fix and fixed for 2 or 3 minutes. I ended up re-fixing which helped but was still left with muddy images. I was blaming the Caffenol or not being careful enough about temps but it sounds like maybe that wasn't it.

    I guess it's nice to know that in a pinch you can get images with just household products, but other than the novelty of it (which can be fun), I'm not sure what the point is. For $30 to $50 you can get a solar charger for your phone that would let you take pictures pretty much anywhere, - even without electricity.

    That isn't a knock against Caffenol and I think I understand what LetterRouge is getting at. DYI developers and stop baths are simple enough to create with stuff you have around the house, though honestly neither instant coffee, washing soda, nor vitamin C powder are common household items anymore. Fixer is the one thing that you can't readily make at home. So I understand why some would be tempted to do without it.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  9. Just so that it's clear, the above images were processed using a fixer.
  10. I moved the images to this site:


    Sorry: they were clogging my photo stream
  11. Early pioneers of photography spent years trying to find a way to fix an image so that it didn't blacken or fade.

    Fixing not only makes the image permanent, it clears the undeveloped areas of the negative of semi-opaque silver salts. An unfixed negative is almost impossible to print with any quality.

    I guess some people are hard to convince that other people know better, and that there's a good reason why things are done in a certain way.

    To answer the original question - "Is Fixer really necessary for B&W processing"
    - yes, oui, si, ja!
    How many more posts does it need to confirm that?
    ben_hutcherson likes this.
  12. Sodium Thiosulfate & sodium sulfite are readily, and cheaply, available on the net. Get a scale, find some water, recycle a 2 liter bottle & you are home free.
  13. And they continue to run contrary to your point.
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Some opinions / concepts are are just not "Fixable". Film, on the other hand must be Fixed for optimum results and longevity.
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.
  15. I might add that caffenol developing has produced a large, excellent body of work for me. Do not blame any screw-up on caffenol if you have not exposed the film correctly & developed it with the same energy you put into the camera work. Most caffenol negatives work best with an alkaline fixer. . . same drill of 2x clearing time. Bill
  16. The black & white image is comprised of microscopic flakes of metallic silver.
    These flakes are opaque thus they block light when film is examined using a back-light to view or projected by an enlarger. This silver is the result of the action of the developer. The developer is a fluid that seeks out exposed light sensitive salts of silver. These are present on the film in the areas that received sufficient exposure when the camera’s shutter was briefly opened.

    The developer seeks these exposed silver salts out and then ruptures them. One component is metallic silver, which remains on the film, the other component is absorbed by the waters of the developer. While many such silver salts were attacked and reduced by the developer, many more were not exposed and thus they remain on the film as salts of silver.

    The task of the fixer is to remove silver salts. This fluid leaves undisturbed metallic silver. Thus we can define the task of the fixer is to remove unexposed and thus undeveloped salts of silver while ignoring the flakes of metallic silver. If the fixer step is omitted, we will see an image on film or paper. However, this image is fleeting because adjacent to the metallic silver that comprise the image will be undisturbed salts of silver. These salts will continue to receive light energy as we examine the film or paper print. Over time this light energy accumulates. After a time, these salts of silver will self-reduce. In other words, they break down to metallic sliver their other component (halogen a salt maker). The result of this reduction is, the picture will darken and soon fade to naught. Thus the job of the fixer is to render film and print paper permanent.

    We also need the fixer when we develop and print color films. They dyes we see in the final image are deposited in proportion to the amount of metallic silver present. After the dyes are in place, we use a bleach followed by a fixer to completely remove the metallic silver. If not removed, its opacity will shroud the beautiful dyes.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  17. There is one thing that made Photography possible. The ability to fix and image so it would not fade away. For centuries people were able to make "photographs" of sorts. Problem was - the images would fade away. From sunburns on skin to silver to whatever - the images were not permanent. The discovery of a way to keep them from fading away is what made the difference. You friend and his great discovery is going to bite you big time if you try using it. Buy and use photographic fixer if you want the images to last.

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