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Looking for a few good developers
Old 02-28-2005, 05:38 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I feel almost strange posting this (I guess 'cause I've seen a lot of digital-related stuff here today or something) but I've got a question about black & white film developers. In particular, I'm looking for suggestions for some good developers for different purposes: 1) general purpose, 2) speed increasing, 3) fine grain 4) acutance/sharpness.

I'd prefer one-shots (space is at a premium in my little darkroom), but I'll try just about anything if it's good enough. The only developers I've currently ever used are Kodak's D-76 and Photographer's Formulary's WD2D+. I'm open to any others. Some I'm considering are/currently using:

1) Ilford DD-X, Ilford ID-11, Kodak D-76 (currently using), Photo Formulary TD-16

2) Patterson FX-50

3) Photo Formulary WD2D+ (currently using)

4) Photo Formulary WD2D+ (currently using) (it's freaky how good this developer is [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img])

As stated above, I've really only used D-76 and WD2D+, so I'm really wide open to any suggestions -- in all categories.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you guys have,

Sam
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Re: Looking for a few good developers
Old 02-28-2005, 08:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ok, a lot of people get snobby about it, but I still think D-76 is a very good general purpose developer, as good as they come really. And I love the subtle old-school look it gives with old-school emulsions (never for T-grain films) like Plus or Tri-X.

For fine grain as well as maximum sharpness/acutence, I suggest Agfa's truly remarkable Rodinal, which is admittedly a pain in the butt to get dialed in, and will likely cost you about a 1/3 stop in speed with a lot of films. But get that one dialed in, and you've got the fine grain of Microdol-X but with great sharpness and a LONG tonal scale with most films. I particularly recommend it with Fuji Acros. That film/developer combination will give the impression that you went up like a half a format (say from 35mm to near 645, or from 6x7 to near 4x5, not quite of course but you get the picture).

For contrast, as well as sharpness/acutence, and a slight increase in apparent speed, try HC110. With HC110, in my experience most of Kodak's emulsions are actually as fast as they say they are! (Gee, that's a novel idea [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] )

Definitely though, there's nothing that's as easy to use, and just looks so damn good in its own way as good ol' D76 that I've ever used.
 
 
Re: Looking for a few good developers
Old 02-28-2005, 03:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Oh I sure don't have a problem using good ole' D-76. That's what we used in school, and I'll always have a soft spot for it. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

The Rodinal/Acros combo sounds pretty sweet. I'll definitely give that a try, and the HC110, too.

Well, looks like I've got some chemicals to buy, and a lot of testing to do. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

Thanks much,

Sam
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Re: Looking for a few good developers
Old 02-28-2005, 06:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Ditto on HC-110, love the contrast, worked great on Ilford FP-4 also

Dusty
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Re: Looking for a few good developers
Old 02-28-2005, 10:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It's been a VERY long time since I've done any b/w developing, but when I was active (20 odd years ago), I used HC110, D76, Microdol, Rodinal, Acufine and a couple of others I can't recall (was there a Diafine?). I found Rodinal (which I used with TriX) to be the most satisfying overall.

I did a modified zone system, exposing a couple of rolls at a grayscale at various ASA ratings (er, ISO ratings?), and developing for different times, and comparing the prints to establish the best rating and development times. Compensates for agitation, small variations in, e.g., shutter speed, meter, etc. Takes a bit of time, but worth it, IMO.

BTW, I seem to remember that Rodinal was a bit more finicky regarding temperature. Could be faulty recollection, though.
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Re: Looking for a few good developers
Old 03-01-2005, 12:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Hmm, I keep seeing Rodinal and HC110 mentioned. I guess I'll have to be sure to try those.

That's what I'm doing now is Zone System testing. I agree it's totally time-consuming, but I feel at least my technical ability will be better for it. Now if I can just get the artistic side up to par, I'll be set. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

Thanks everyone for your help,

Sam
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Rodinal
Old 03-01-2005, 01:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Rodinal IS a very finicky developer. Needs to be diluted quite a bit, and gives a slightly different character with different dilution/temp combinations. But the beautifully smooth, fine-grained, sharp, LONG tonal scale is the reward for bothering with that somewhat bothersome developer. The real beauty of that developer, aside from the very fine grain, is that sufficient exposure/development to hold the shadows does not block up the shadows nearly as fast as other developers. Hence the very long tonal scale. And the impression that you almost used a half a format larger than you actually shot with.

D76 won't do this, but it's easy to use, and it gives a great general-purpose or documentarian sort of look with anything but a T-grain type film like TMAX or Delta.
 
 
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