Which developer for tmax 400 at box speed ?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by charles_eliason|1, Oct 28, 2011.

  1. I have seven rolls of tmax 400 film, three are bridal portraits, the rest various subject matter, exposed at 400 with my rb 67 prosd. I had originally thought to use microphen. I had run speed and development test with same, but have been reading that microphen has increased gain. I have tmax rs, ddx, d19, microdol, and xtol, and hc110 developers on hand. I'm thinking on running development tests and switching to xtol or tmax rs for finer grain.
    Does anyone have an opinion as to the best developer to consider ? Even though my original concern was grain, if there are any other characteristics that I should consider for an optimum result I would be interested in your opinion.
  2. Xtol seems made for this film from my experience and the 1:1 a good compromise for minimal grain in 6X7 and good, printable tones. My bride shots are easier to tame (white satin, etc) with PyroCat soups but I need to back off to EI of 200 to pull the shadows out as I wish them to be. You likely would be a bit short on exposure for that but many people actually like that look, too. I've used DDX with success but can't give any meaningful insight with Microphen that I played with many years back. My instinct with potential hot highlights (depending on your lighting, though) would be 1:2 Xtol with a minimized agitation scheme and slightly extended times. 68°F, 16 minutes, 60 seconds initial gentle, slow inversions and then a gentle inversion each 3 minutes as a starting point. I believe you would need to get into very large prints before TMax in 6X7 would become a distraction?
    Just curious, how big are you expecting to print? Some of my info above is based on my dislike of fighting blown highlights and are clouded somewhat by personal taste, too.
  3. I typically print 11x14. Sometimes 16x20.
  4. XTol in any dilution will satisfy your needs.
  5. Xtol and TMAX are made for each other. It just doesn't get any better.
  6. If you are using 6X7 negatives and shooting with TMY2 to make 11X14s, grain should not be a problem with any of the developers mentioned. I would prefer undiluted D-76, undiluted Microphen or Microdol-X/Perceptol at 1:3. People who use these devcelopers and think they can't get box speed from the film are either underexposing, underdeveloping or both.
  7. While I agree with the recommendations above, I think you have far too many developers on hand, and fear you are not getting the best out of them - because you have too many.
  8. XTOL at the dilution of your choice between 1+1 and 1+3.
  9. Christer,
    Indeed you are right, too many developers I do have. I went on a little shopping spree at the local camera store a few months back. Fortunatly by reading comments in this forum that working with a few is better than working with many I have focused on just a couple. I have concentrated on FP4, PanF, and HP5 in Rodinal, Tmax 100 in DDx, and am now going to add Tmax 400 in XTOL at 1:1.
  10. That's still too much :)
    I'm pretty sure that just about any developer of quality can do a decent job with Tmax 400 at box speeds. Since 400 is neither fast nor slow by today's standards, just about everything hits it. Also, the larger size of your film frames will negate many concerns over grain at the print sizes you mention.
    The fact that you say that you develop your finer-grained films in the grainier developer (Rodinal) and the grainier films in the fine-grained developer makes me concerned that perhaps you're not selecting films and developers for the right reasons. Are you using them because they work well together, or because the final result is useful to you? Let me show you what I mean.
    Personally, I do as much as I can with FP4, typically rated at 64. I shoot 6x6 and 4x5 this way, and occassionally (but very rarely) 35mm. That's my go-to film. If I'm shooting outdoors and it's an overcast day, I might use PanF. I used to like PanF a lot more for its sharpness and tight grain, but after switching to a shoot-and-scan system I find it's just too hard to tame that contrast without giving up the fine grain or the tonal range that it's known for, so I only keep it around as a backup. I usually develop these films in Moerch Tanol, a Pyrocat derivative. It helps hide the grain and supports better tonal range - which is why I'm shooting at 64 ISO. I'm not shooting at 64 so I can make contrasty, reasonably-grained negatives.
    For 400 speed, I shoot HP5 because I prefer the look to that of T-grain films. I develop in Tanol or Rodinal, depending on how contrasty the scene was and whether I feel I need to increase or decrease that.
    Above 400 ISO I prefer T-grain films as I feel they push process much better, and I always use Rodinal. If I'm shooting at night I often need to increase contrast, and there's no sense in trying to fight grain at the cost of something else, since 1600 ISO film is going to be grainy no matter what.
    If I NEVER shot at 'regular' speeds, I would only use Tanol and a high-speed developer, since those are the only 'looks' I need. Since I sometimes do shoot at normal speeds, Rodinal works great.
    If I were you, I would think about what films and what developers fill a need that you have. If you only do weddings and portraits for instance, then I would say you only need FP4 and HP5. If you don't print bigger than 11x14 often, then I would say there's no reason to try to work with PanF. If you always use a tripod and only shoot stationary subjects (portraits count!), then you'll get about the same level of grain from TMax 100 and a grainier developer as you would 400 and a lower grain developer, so why use both? And so on down the line.
  11. I agree with Robert, except for the last part.
  12. Zack, thank you for your comments. After I had aquired the camera and darkroom equipment that I wanted, built the darkroom the way I wanted it, stocked up on all of the films that I wanted in the refrigerator in my darkroom, developers,etc. and read all that I could in the meantime, I found my self sitting in my darkroom paralyzed with all of the choices that I had assembled in front of me.
    Rodinal seemed like a good choice as did ddx. I spent a couple of days testing film and got busy making pictures with the thought that I would later adjust and refine things.
    Now a year later and after reading your comments, I'm now making adjustments and refinements :).
  13. If you feel too overwhelmed by the choices Charles, I would just use Rodinal as your only developer for now. The reason why it has so many diehard fans is that there is absolutely nothing it's bad at: slow film, fast film, push/pull, stand development, rotary tank, wamer/cooler developing, you name it. It's not the best at much of anything, but it will never do a bad job, even if the bottle has been open for a year or three. And with your 6x7 negs making 11x14 prints, you shouldn't even notice the slightly higher grain.
    Once you've got a consistent developer and that variable is out of the way, it's easier to figure out what films suit you best. You may find that you really like T-grain films at other than box speeds. If so, something other than Rodinal will give you the best results. Or you might find that you like PanF at 25 ISO (which really is awesome btw, even with the crazy contrast), which means again that Rodinal isn't the best choice. But you really need to only test one variable at a time, and using a single developer is a LOT more convenient than mixing up five developers and always shooting the same film speed.
    To be fair, I should tell you that even though it sounds like I'm being really hard on PanF, most of my favourite outdoor shots (that don't include people) were taken using it. It's not a bad film by any means - it's just that the very long and contrasty tonal curve makes it difficult to predict during exposure, and it ends up being a very hit-or-miss film for me, so I try not to use it often.
  14. I've only used TMY a few times since it was improved, but for my tests I used HC110 dilution B and and was pleased with the results. The older TMY didn't quite reach box speed, IIRC.
  15. When I started doing serious B&W I picked up a bottle of Rodinal. That was 20 years ago. That was the only bottle I ever purchased and was glad it was gone when I finished it. I never liked anything developed in it including Agfa pan 25. I was shooting 4x5 and some 120, no 35mm. The local camera store was a Kodak alternative supplier so I tried a few other developers, some of which were OK but none that I liked.
    Then Xtol came out and I tried it. I started using it diluted so that I did not have to keep track of how many rolls had been processed and calculating the extra time for development. I wanted a standard time temperature for a given film.
    Any thing in Xtol exceeds what Rodinal can do on its best day.
    Rodinal stands on its cult following.
    Xtol, HC110, and D76 and their copies stand on their technical merits.
    If you have never tried Xtol do so, you may well be glad you did.
    I'm not shooting as much film presently so I switched to HC110 as it keeps well in concentrate. I use it at the unofficial dilution H at 68 degrees F. It is almost as good as Xtol. If I go back to shooting a higher volume of film I will go back to Xtol.
  16. Rodinal stands on its cult following.
    Xtol, HC110, and D76 and their copies stand on their technical merits.​
    I believe that to be an wholly inaccurate statement. Although i do use XTol, I also use Rodinal. What I can say, Rodinal relies more on technique to get great results.
    When I start with any developer, I commit until I discover all that I can get with it. Rodinal took about a year and I enjoy it when I use it. Not much of a cult here.
  17. Rodinal stands on its cult following.
    Xtol, HC110, and D76 and their copies stand on their technical merits.​
    I guess it depends on what you're doing with it. I almost always overexpose my film, and develop for low contrast for a longer tonal curve that my scanner likes better. HC110 and D76 were both significantly worse at this, at least for my own work.
    Do be careful of your accusations though. It would be just as easy for me to say that D76 is only used by inexperienced, unknowledgable photographers because that's what they used in school. It would be equally easy for me to say that film itself stands on its cult following - at least in the 35mm format.
  18. I did a quick and dirty film speed test and determined that 400 EI works for me.
    I then developed three rolls of film, one at 20% less than the reccomended time of 9'30" for
    xtol 1:1 from a Kodak tech sheet, and one at 20% more than reccomended.
    I've attached the plots as pdf files.
  19. And here are the inputs by zone. I used an x-rite 810 densitometer. I should have subtracted b+f from the inputs, sorry for the confusion. It looks to me that I should add about a minute to the recomended development time of 9' 30" for a time of 10' 30".
  20. I recommended Xtol as I know it will produce fine grain. I go by print at paper black or scan to determine my development adjustment. If I had a good densitometer I would probably use it.
    Tmax films are not leaner and increased development time can build up too much density. From your -20% to tech sheet start point is a 40% increase and from tech sheet to +20% is a 71% increase at zone 0. You are wanting to increase your zone 0 density by 43% to get it to text book correct.
    I think somewhere around a 10% increase in development time will give you what you want.
    9 minutes 30 seconds = 570 seconds. +8% = 10 minutes 16 seconds; +9%= 10 minutes 21 seconds; +10%= 10 minutes 27 seconds; +11% = 10 minutes 33 seconds; +12% = 10 minutes 38 seconds.
  21. Many thanks to everyone for your suggestions.
  22. I have just printed some pics from a TMY @ 400ISO 35mm film (indoors, available window light), developed in straight XTOL (-undiluted- stock solution / small tank) for 6 minutes at 20ºC; perfect results on MGIV VC paper grade 3, condenser head. The best developer/dilution for this film, for -my- taste.
    You have received very good advice here; I`d like to emphasize Zack`s comment about your film &developer choices... "That's still too much :)". I`d limit them to ONE film type and ONE developer, in all formats. I`d choose the more convenient buy (avoid expensive or hard to find options). Learn how to get the most of it, it takes a lot of time and work. If you spread the choices with diferent materials, it will become a nightmare, and I`m pretty sure you`ll not notice their differences in deep.
    Don`t pay too much attention making testing charts. IMHO they are a pain, and at least in my own experience, it doesn`t work as a "starter". I`d now simply enjoy shooting and printing, checking if the results suit your needs. Modify your processing accordingly, on the way.
    BTW, even having been a Rodinal user for years (or decades, with APX films), I have never understood the reason of being a "cult" developer, as I think it is for some; an absolutely nonsense in my opinion. I simply consider it a practical, cheap, easy to use choice, but not better than any other developer; each has its own look. I think I currently hate it...
  23. Recently, I've started developing my TMAX 400 in XTOL stock solution - at 27 centigrade - for just 3 minutes with vigorous continuous agitation. I'm very pleased with the results. Using a densitometer, the base fog gives 0.70 and highlights give 1.24 - giving a contrast ratio of 0.58.
    These negatives are easy to scan and post process. The blacks are coming out jet black and the highlights sparkle. Just very nice results that are reproducible and suit both interior and bright daylight outdoor scenes. I get excellent results rating the film at 250, 400 or 640 asa, with 400 as a probably being the best.
    I don't use filtered or distilled water. There's never a problem with air bells or streaking provided the agitation is done "figure of eight" and is vigorous and constant.
    I've done direct comparisons with Tri-X. TMAX is "better" in terms of sharpness, grain, shadow details and general texture. The grain is fine enough to make 12"×16" prints (from a 35mm negative) that appear grainless at normal viewing distances. Some people prefer the appearance of Tri-X and I can understand differing opinions on this. I used to be a die-hard Tri-X user myself but I believe TMAX has improved, in all quantifiable respects, on Tri-X. (I also believe TMAX is substantially more pleasing than HP5 - again, just expressing a personal opinion.

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