Any opinions about XTOL? : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I've never used XTOL, just read about recently. Does anyone have experience with this developer and how it compares to, say, PMK or D-76?

-- Don Karon (, August 18, 1999


There is a great article in the latest issue of Photo Techniques on the development of Xtol--it will give you an idea what its special qualities are.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, August 18, 1999.

Don, Let me say up front I'm going to give you a completely biased answer! I use mostly T-MAX 100 (TMX) and couldn't control the highlights. They tend to burn out with this film. I also shoot some Plus-X, and a roll of T-MAX 400 (TMY) & Tri-X now and then. My previous favorite developer was HC-110. Though Plus-X in D-76 1:1 is loved by many, I found it lifeless. Developed in full strength, it's OK. XTOL brought the TMX highlights under control, without losing the tonal qualities everywhere else. It works just as well with the other films I've listed. I just got the 1999 Kodak Professional Photo Catalog, and it has a chart on page 19R comparing 6 developers. I'll try to summarize it. They rated shadow detail, grain, and sharpness. If you number their chart from 1 to 10, with 10 being a lot, fine, and sharp, respectively, the results were: T-Max 10, 2, 7 Xtol 8, 7,10 D-76 7, 3, 9 Duraflo RT 7, 2, 9 HC-110 5, 5, 7 Microdol-X 2, 9, 1

If that's confusing, best get the catalog. At any rate, Xtol is the clear winner in most areas and is beat by only a slight amount in shadow detail by T-Max and grain by Microdol. The grain advantage of Microdol seems completely wasted, as the sharpness is the worst of the group.

I usually use Xtol 1:1, but haven't found much difference in tonal quality. I just do it to save a bit on developer. There is extensive data for Xtol on the Kodak web site- highly recommended before using the stuff! Good luck.

-- Conrad Hoffman (, August 18, 1999.

D-76 was a great developer in the '50's, but the only reason it's still around today is that manufacturers use it as a 'standard' developer to test their films. Because it has a tendency to block hightlights and generally over develop new tabular grain films, there is no good reason to use it today. In my experience, PMK is the best overall film developer available today, but some timid types may be frightened by its toxicity. Xtol is the next best developer to PMK and is extremely safe and easy to mix. It produces full film speed and excellent shadow detail. When diluted 1:1 or greater, the solvent action is reduced or eliminated. This is the very best film developer for someone starting out in the darkroom.

-- Michael D Fraser (, August 20, 1999.

I agree with Mike F. XTOL may be the last film developer to come out of Kodak R&D. It is a D-76 update. It is high in human and environmental safety with improved grain and sharpness compared to D- 76 and T-Max. When diluted, speed increases by 1/3 to 1/2 stop with no grain increase. Increased dilutions result in characteristics similar to a non-solvent developer. The Film Development Cookbook by Stephen Anchell and Bill Troop discuss Xtol and PMK. Full frame enlarged 8x10s with 35mm FP-4 souped in Xtol 1:1 have almost no grain. PMK will extend highlight separation by 2 zones from what I read.

-- Richard Jepsen (, September 12, 1999.

I have had a love/hate relationship with Xtol. I love the way it can be so easily mixed at room temperature. I love the way it can bring out the full film speed without fogging the film base or compressing the highlights. And I like the fact that it keeps so well in a full or partly full bottle.

But I hate the fact that on at least three occasions I have opened a fresh package only to discover that Part A (Xtol must be mixed as a two-part solution) has caked in the pouch. It's supposed to be a powder. I have also discovered that if you mix the caked solution anyway you will end up with drastically underdeveloped negatives. Kodak has acknowledged producing a few bad batches and has even sent me replacement developer. (Thanks Kodak, but this didn't make my underdeveloped negatives any darker.)

Here's another problem: if you dilute Xtol 1:1 you will have to increase the recommended developing time by 15% to compensate for the developer's reduced capacity. If you dilute 1:2 you will have to add yet another 15% to the time. This fact is hidden in the fine print of Kodak's tech bulletin for Xtol, but believe me, if you try diluting Xtol without these increases you'll have thin negatives to show for it.

The bottom line is that I got tired of not knowing for sure how my negs would turn out. I'm now back to using Kodak TMax Developer.

-- Gordon Lewis (, November 10, 1999.

For HP5+ and Delta 100, Xtol 1:1 gives slightly more speed, slightly higher acutance and slightly bigger grain than D-76 1:1.

Curve shapes for those films in the two developers are very similar.

-- John Hicks (, November 11, 1999.

In counter to Gordon: There was a problem with bad packaging in the 1 liter size, and some of those bad packages might still be sitting on store shelves. They can be spotted without opening the package. A refund shouldn't be a problem. I use the 5 liter packs and have never had a problem. If at least 100ml of stock is used per unit roll (36exp 35mm, 120, 8x10 sheet), regardless of dilution, there should be no need for additional time compensation. Just remember the published development times are a suggested starting point.

-- Tim Brown (, November 12, 1999.

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