Developer Notes

In Memoriam One very unfortunate consequence of the digital revolution is the passing of one of my favorite developers, Agfa's Rodinal. Rodinal was actually the oldest commercially produced developer in the world and the developer of choice for photographers looking for the sharpest grain and most film speed and contrast when shooting at night. T-Max developer at 75 degrees is a good alternative for pushing films. The venerable Rodinal will be greatly missed.

KODAK XTOL is a powder that comes in two-parts that can be mixed at room temperature. Designed as a general-purpose developer it gives very good film speed, fine grain, and good contrast. Be sure to mix XTOL precisely as recommended by Kodak and, although I suggest using this as a one-shot developer, it can be "self-replenishing." (See note below).

Note: All developers exhaust themselves as they are used due to the accumulation of residual by-products as you process film. Some are designed to be "one-shot" developers that you discard after using them once. Edwal FG-7 is an example. This guarantees that you're always using fresh developer, which is vital for consistent results, but this is clearly not the most economical or ecological darkroom practice. For this reason, many photographers and photo labs use developers that can be "replenished," which means that they can be brought back to full strength by adding a carefully measured amount of a special, concentrated batch of the same developer brand. "Self-replenishing" developers like Kodak's T-Max and XTOL have the advantage of allowing you to replenish them with a batch of developer mixed to the same dilution as your normal solution. You do this by simply bringing the volume of developer back to your normal amount, usually one-half or one full gallon.

KODAK D-76 is a general-purpose developer sold as a powder. It can be used either straight, as a stock solution (diluted from powder), or diluted one part stock to one part water. D-76 gives slightly finer grain and can be replenished when used straight.

ILFORD ID-11 is very similar to D-76 but gives finer grain and is good for Expansion developments.

EDWAL FG-7 is a fine-grain liquid developer that has a slight compensating effect (see Appendix K) when used at dilutions of 1:15 or greater. Adding sodium sulfite will reduce your development time and give you finer grain. To make a 9 percent solution of sodium sulfite, add 45 grams of sodium sulfite to 15 ounces of water. Add 1 ounce of FG-7 to make a 1:15 solution.

KODAK HC-110 is an excellent all-purpose developer that comes in liquid form, which makes it quick and easy to use. HC-110 produces negatives that are as fine-grained as those developed with Edwal FG-7 with sodium sulfite, but HC-110 provides greater contrast. HC-110 works well with Kodak T-Max P3200, giving good film speed and contrast. Kodak lists a number of dilution possibilities for HC- 110 on the bottle. Dilution B is one part stock solution to seven parts water (1:31 from concentrate).

ILFORD ILFOTEC HC (High Concentrate) is a liquid developer similar to Kodak's HC-110, although my tests show that it gives slightly less film speed.

ILFORD PERCEPTOL is a softer-working, fine-grain developer that is useful for Contraction developments because of its relatively long Normal Development Times.

KODAK T-MAX is an excellent and versatile high-energy developer designed specifically for Kodak's T-Max films. T-Max gives good contrast and film speed with any film, but it is especially good with T-Max 100 and 400 when used at 75 degrees. T-Max developer comes in a liquid stock solution that is mixed 1:4 for a working solution.

Note: Kodak T-Max developer isn't recommended for use with any sheet film. Occasionally a dark, blotchy coating called dichroic fog will appear on the emulsion side of your film and can only be removed by vigorously washing the film by hand, which carries the risk of scratching the image. Because roll films don't use the same adhesive coatings as sheet film between the emulsion and the film base, dichroic fog isn't a problem when T-Max developer is used with roll films.

KODAK T-MAX RS developer is very similar in quality to T-Max developer except that it produces negatives with slightly more contrast.

T-Max RS is formulated to be self-replenishing. (See the note below Kodak XTOL developer.) Kodak recommends replenishing at a rate of 1 1/2 ounces per roll processed. This system is easy to use and has the advantage of making it impossible to over replenish. When the second half gallon is finished, you can assume that the developer is exhausted and ready to be replaced.

Unlike T-Max developer, T-Max RS developer is recommended for sheet film because it is designed for use in machines and contains buffers that prevent the silver from re-plating on the surface.

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