Perceptol 1+3 - not the "magic bullet" I was hoping for

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by kaiyen, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. This is not a question, just an observation.
    I know that there is no holy grail of developers. But for me, I was searching for something that would give me fine grain (not super-fine, just...less grain) with good sharpness and at least manageable speed. Enough speed for handheld in good light, anyway.
    I have heard much about Perceptol, diluted 1+3, between the general concept of a solvent developer diluted to increase acutance and of course in the FDC. I thought it made sense - it would have more sulfite than, say, D76 and thereby decrease grain, but the dilution would perhaps give me the sharpness I was hoping for. And if it cut my speed in half, so be it. If it worked out the way I hoped, I would be able to shoot TXT @ 200, which is still a solid speed.
    Unfortunately, while I have found it to be remarkably sharp and probably at least as fast, actually, as Rodinal (while scanning, which I have found faster than using a densitometer method), the fine grain part hasn't worked out. I first tried EI 200, then 400, and am pretty sure 250-320 is where I will actually need to be (spot-metering to help this out). No, these weren't completely controlled tests and I don't have 100% crops, but trust me when I say that the grain is not as fine as I'd like. It does look different than Rodinal, but not by much. Tonality is a bit less of a toe than I would have expected so it's actually quite smooth throughout. Not like a t-grain or e-grain film.
    But the bottom line, I guess, is that if I want fine grain for scanning I need to go back to Delta 100 or TMX, with apparently TMY2 as the higher speed option (I have yet to try it since I have loads of TXT to get through).
  2. Scanning and fine grain is always pain in the...
    For traditional printing, the staining developers like Pyrocat-HD gives a smooths grain quite well and still give good acutance.
    Scanning with blue channel helps.. At least I have found so.
    Here are samples (scanned at 3200dpi, scan dual IV), 100% crops. The subject of sample image is not perhaps the best possible but shows the difference in grain.
    Scanned in RBG mode, then converted to grayscale[​IMG]
    Same, but scanned in RGB and after scanning only blue channel is converted to monochrome:
    The film is Neopan 400, traditional fast B&W film. With TMY I would expect a lot of smaller grain.
    It would be nice to know how staining developers compares to perceptol when acutance is important.
    My opinion is that with staining developers, the result is better than with Rodinal. That is why I use staining developers so much in 35mm work.
  3. What you got is just about right on for Perceptol, or its close cousin Microdol-X at that dilution. For the maximum fine grain effect, use it full strength and expect film speeds of around 200.
  4. There are, of course, no magic bullets. None.
    The variable with the most control over graininess is the film itself. Some emulsions are finer grained than others. If you want fine grain you want 100Tmax or Delta 100 or Acros. That's where you start.
    The variable with the next most control over graininess is exposure, believe it or not. Why? Because graininess is directly linked to density. Where the film is most dense, the image is most grainy. That's because density is physically made up of more film grains that are closer together forming grain clumps. So, you want to expose the film just enough to give you good shadow detail and not more.
    The third most important variable is developer choice. Developers influence all kinds of things in image quality so you have to find one that does the things you like. My favorite (and there's no reason it should be yours) is XTOL. I use it 1:3. This improves its sharpness a bit but makes for a tiny bit more graininess. And it gives me a real EI of 500 (1/3 stop more than box speed). Since I'm using 5x4 TMY-2 it's a no-brainer for me. Smaller formats not so much. The developer category also includes development time. Which is directly responsible for density. So what you want is the least amount of development that will give you good highlight detail and not more.
    These two above constitute the old saying "expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights" which is as sound advice today as it was back in the 1920s.
    The forth most important variable is development time. Really long development times tend to encourage more grain clumping. But this such a small effect that many consider it negligible.
    Interestingly, agitation has no direct effect on graininess. Many people think it does, because increased agitation for a given development time creates more density -- which of course leads to more graininess. But if you lower the time to give you the same contrast index and Dmax you'll find no increase in graininess. Try it and see for yourself.
    If you are going to scan then, you can optimize your processing for scanning. You do this with proper exposure and developement to get a negative that is somewhat thin by wet darkroom standards. In Zone System jargon, a Zone VIII density of about 1.0. This does two things for you. First, less graininess because of the lowered density. Second, less Callier Effect because of the lowered density. And less Callier Effect improves the local contast in the highlights when you scan, which is a good thing.
  5. Jukka - yes, scanning has a major impact. But I don't wet print so I go off the parameters of my workflow, which means I'm seeking to minimize grain while maximizing sharpness while scanning. Please note that, of course, I realize I can't do both. I am trying to get what I can of both worlds. I don't expect to reach the...uh, "ends" of both worlds (to perhaps over-extend the analogy).
    I have scanned in RGB and then used the channel mixer to see what results I get. I get some tonal changes when using just the blue that I don't like, so I end up with a mix. Grain is a bit less in blue and then sharpness comes back up when I add, I think, some of the red back in. But still not what I was hoping for.
    It would be interesting to see what happens with staining developers. So far I have not tried it much with critical examination of grain. I like the acutance but have not noticed the staining effect from wet printing presenting itself in scanning in the same manner. But I need to do a more scientific examination. Once I finish this gallon of Perceptol I will try out Pyrocat HD in the same manner.
    Bruce - please note that I indicate that I realize that there is no holy grail of developers. I apologize that I did not also say that I realize that there is no magic bullet. I meant one to cover the other. I'm just trying to find _my_ magic bullet. I controlled exposure as much as I could via spot metering the shadows and closing down 2 stops. yes, it's a bit underexposed and that's why I need to go back to 320 or perhaps 250. I also mentioned that in my post. I realize that TXT is a pretty grainy stock but...the question is whether I can minimize the grain, as much as one can, while maintaining sharpness. Not that I was trying to get grainless yet sharp results from TXT.
  6. What other developers have you used? D-76 has been the gold standard general purpose developer for 60 years. XTOL is also quite good, as is Ilford DD-X. Might be worth trying one of these before going to some exotic developer.
  7. Xtol Is a developer I am about to try this week i understand it inhances speed and still has fine tight grain with good sharpness. I will check back here after Ifinish trying some Tri-X through it in 35mm and 120.
  8. I fully admit that xtol is one I haven't tried yet, and it's on my list. I'm slowly going through and finding out the characteristics of each, whether I'm getting closer one way or the other (again, I realize it's a compromise, just trying to feel out which way it goes). So I had a few packs of perceptol so I'm finishing that off. Then I have a few packs of Microphen so it'll be that and/or the pyrocat HD. And then, finally, I think it'll be XTOL. I just have too many developers to try, but at least I'm being systematic about it.
    D76 is fine, but it's not great. And fine is...fine. Just seeing if anything else out there gives me something more. I would like a bit more sharpness than D76 1+1 to be honest, but 1+3 is too grainy. That's why I thought the higher sulfite content in Perceptol might make the difference.
  9. So, you want it all: fine grain, sharpness, and full film speed. Funny no one ever mentions gradation. To my mind there is a magic bullet-TMY-2. TMY-2 carefully exposed, and developed in 510-Pyro for minimum density delivers the best compromise of characteristics of any film/developer combination I've used, by a fairly wide margin. If it's not a magic bullet, is a fair approximation thereof. Negatives developed in staining developers are often overexposed and/or overdeveloped, for reasons too detailed to go into here, and that fact might be responsible for at least a part of staining developers' reputations for graininess. Although it is true that some staining developers produce more grain than others, modern staining/tanning formulae like 510-Pyro present opportunities for very fine grain without sacrificing other characteristics, by virtue of their special properties. To quote Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." TMY-2 represents, for me, a technological advancement that seems magical.
  10. To me Plus-X in HC-110 and Rodinol gives me my POP and grayscale but I am still learning at 50. It is for me a Hobby I have made a total of maybe 4K in my life shooting photos and those were in contest and selling localy.
  11. Jay - very interesting. I only hear good stuff about TMY-2 but that is saying a lot. Any other developers you prefer - specifically 510-Pyro or anything else? What about pyrocat hd?
  12. Well, Rodinal 1:50 is the king of sharpness. But you'll see plenty of grain with Tri-X. XTOL is super fine grain, but not so sharp as you see a pattern here? One bad thing I will say about XTOL is that it can die suddenly. So I never keep it for more than 3 months, and don't dilute it; just use it straight and back into the bottle to re-use.
    For me the "magic" combo is Plus-X in Rodinal 1:50. Excellent grain, and superb middle tones. I liked APX 100 quite a bit in Rodinal too, but since it's gone Plus-X gives me good negatives. Now if I could just drag myself out into the cold to shoot.....
  13. Hi Allen,
    I'm not a fan of Pyrocat HD, but like most developers, it is capable of excellent results when handled properly. TMY-2 is a superb film, and has performed very well in all the developers I regularly use, which includes: 510-Pyro, Hypercat, and GSD-10. It really is an amazing technological achievement.
    I'm sorry to disagree, but Rodinal is hardly the "king of sharpness". In fact, I don't find Rodinal to be particular exceptional in any way, except perhaps in shelf life and ease of use, and of course, its cult status is legendary.
  14. I would like to use peceptol 1+30 dilution but i dont know what time to use (if there is one),please any sugestion will be very apreciated.
  15. For years I have used Microdol-X (same as Perceptol) diluted 1+30 at 75 degrees for 18 minutes with Delta 100, Acros 100, Tri-X 400, and the new T-max 400 and I always get outstanding results without any discernible grain at all but with full displaying of highlight and shadow details. The accompanying scan is from an Acros 100 negative image captured with my Leica 28mm M lens on my M6 TTL camera with Metz flash. When I printed this in my darkroom, my dichroic enlarger head was raised 4 1/2 feet up. Despite that, no grain is visible at all on the 8x10 inch print.
  16. wait - just to check - 1+30? quick google says 100ml of perceptol per roll. so that's 3000 ml or water to 100ml of perceptol. Are you really using a 3 liter tank for 1 roll of film?
    I'm not guaranteeing the 100ml per roll part, but that's a quick google result.
  17. I should correct my previous 1+ 30 statement to reflect the truth: I use Microdol-X 1+3. So if I am using my 8 ounce stainless steel tank to proces one roll of film, I mix a total dilution of 2+6 (1+1 and 3+3) and if I am using my 16 ounce stainless steel tank to process two rolls, I mix a total dilution of 4+12 (1+1+1+1 and 3+3+3+3). With both, I get perfect negatives year after year! I also forgot to mention that in the image I posted above, the cats are separated from the front yard by a heavy screen door, so that is what you see there rather than grain.
  18. thanks Terry for your help,but to be honest,i didn't understand your dilution metod.What do you meen by 2+6.Thanks so much for your pacience.
    (the photo is beautiTful)
  19. 2+6 means a doubling of the base dilution of 1+3 to fill an 8 ounce tank since 2+6 equals 8 and 4+12 means a quadrupling of the base dilution of 1+3 to fill a 16 ounce tank.
  20. Thanks Terry for your help.

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