Microdol X - How does this product compare to xtol?

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I have developed a number of tmax 100 rolls using tmx developer with very frustrating results. I like the grain pattern but the contrast is absolutely awful. I am considering changing my developer to either xtol or microdol. Any recommendations? I am open to using other developers.

-- Orman Hall (mhallrn@greenapple.com), September 06, 1999


Hi Orman,

Get the latest issue of Photo Techniques magazine. It has an article on the development of Xtol you will find very interesting. Personally, I think T-MAX developer is a far better drain cleaner than a developer. Note that the bold faced processing recommendation is for 75 degrees. I used it for a long time at 68 degrees and the results were lousy. With T-Max 100 film, I couldn't control the highlights, or the overall contrast was unacceptable. With Xtol, everything stays under control, and the print quality is excellent. Without revealing too much from the article, Xtol is one of few developers that can have better performance in grain, sharpness, and film speed, all at the same time. It's a significant improvement.

Microdol was fun in its day, but I don't know why anyone would use it now. It has very fine grain, but at the expense of sharpness and film speed.

Look at the Kodak web site and download the Xtol application data. Also, get the current Kodak professional products catalog and look at the developer comparison chart in the back. It rates them all, and Xtol is the obvious winner.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), September 06, 1999.

Hello Orman. Call me crazy but I shoot TMX at E.I. 200 and process in xtol using the time/temp recommendations for E.I. 100. I shot a lot of TMX and, like you, hated the results I got with t-max developer. The xtol works well for me and I find the negs easy to print on 8X10 (on grade 2-2.5 paper). Try the above technique, I know it sounds like your negs will be under exposed and under developed (maybe my equipment and my brain are crap?) but give it a go and let me know if you like the results. like the results.

Good luck, Michael.

-- Michael Haas (incept@the-wire.com), September 07, 1999.

Hi again,

Hey, Michael ain't crazy! He's just underexposing by a stop, and some of the absolutely sharpest, near zero grain, prints I've made were a result of doing exactly that on TMax100. The prints can actually take on a 4x5 look. The problem is the shadow detail isn't great, but with many subjects, that isn't relevant. With a few tiny errors stacked in his favor, (temperature, shutter speed, aperture, adjitation) it's more like a half stop or so.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), September 07, 1999.

Thanks Conrad and Michael. These are great suggestions. I am going to use xtol on my next roll of tmax. One other quick note, in addition to the contrast problems, I have also experienced some pretty serious defects in the emulsion of my film. This problem appears to go away when I use tri x. Any recommendations?

-- Orman Hall (mhallrn@greenapple.com), September 08, 1999.

Defects! We don need no steenking defects! Can you describe further?

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), September 08, 1999.

My tmax negatives often produce prints that have white spots. I am using tap water to dilute chemicals and to rinse my negs. I am assuming that the water is my problem but I don't encounter this problem when developing tri x.

-- Orman Hall (mhallrn@greenapple.com), September 08, 1999.

I've never had a processing problem that was specific to one film, so hopefully someone else here will have some clues. T-Max is tough to fix, so you might have some spots that aren't fully fixed. These are usually near the edges, however. White spots on the prints mean black spots on the neg. It's either chemical contamination that converts to silver, or some surface debris that sticks to the neg. See if you can scrape it off, or if it seems to be part of the emulsion (on a scrap frame!). Are the spots perfectly round or irregular? Pour some developer into a clear bottle and hold it up to the light- see any particulates floating around?

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), September 09, 1999.

I don't see the point of using MicX with TMX, which is pretty darn fine-grained to begin with...

I used to use MicX 1:3 for my Minox APX 100 negatives, and it was a mixed bag. The grain was EXCELLENT - virtually invisible in a 4x5 print viewed from anything beyond a few inches - but... The negatives were flat and very lacking in contrast; I ended up printing nearly everything with a #4 filter. And, while I never noticed "loss in film speed" or "compromised sharpness due to dissolving grains" (both common problems attibuted to MicX), I had another issue: serious amounts of crud in the solution that adhered to the negatives (undissolved developer grains, dust, sludge, etc.) Great prints were frequently nearly ruined by nasty schmutz in exactly the worst place. (And no, I never had these crud problems with D-76 or other soups.) I also found the shelf-life of even a half-package was too short to get more than 4 or 5 rolls of Minox film - which only require about an ounce of stock solution each - out of before having to toss it away.

Anyway, I've run TMX in both good old D-76 1:1 and Xtol 1:1. (No, I haven't tried the T-Max developer.) Results in the D-76 are very good (even with Minox negatives) but tend to be a bit contrasty, and there are sometimes those problems with blown-out highlights and/or blocked- up shadows. Xtol tames the contrast and gives even better grain, but I keep borderline-underdeveloping and getting thin negatives where the fogged ends aren't totally opaque. (Now mind you, for the Minox negatives, I am agitating far less than recommended and adding more dev time to compensate - as agitation promotes visible grain, and that's the main enemy in Minox terms - but I haven't hit on the right formula just yet.)

Anyway, I think Xtol is probably the way to go for TMX, especially in formats larger than Minox where there's some maneuvering room in terms of grain/sharpness/contrast tradeoffs. But you know, that old stand-by D-76 1:1 is pretty darn good too...

-- Michael Goldfarb (mgoldfar@mobius-inc.com), September 09, 1999.

To Michael: Microdol-X, when diluted to 1:3, loses most of the effects of high sulfide concentration: reduced speed and sharpness. I used to dilute it 1:2 for more reasonable dev. times (which I had to come up with myself). You still got low contrast with Microdol with increased dev. times? I currently use Xtol and Microphen (for a speed increase) diluted 1:2. I filter all of my chemicals through paper coffee filters. To use one filter per session without contamination I go in this order: developer, rinse filter in water, Heico Perma Wash, stop bath, second fixer, first fixer. I have a filter on the faucet too. This keeps the crud off the negs.

-- Tim Brown (brownt@ase.com), September 09, 1999.

Orman, I found Tmax developed in Tmax developer to be short on tonal range with highlights blocked. Stephen Anchell and Bill Troop write in the Film Developing Cookbook that micro-contrast can be too high in tabular grain films since the lateral dimensions of flat tab grains do not scatter light as well as conventional grains. When there is an abrupt change in exposure level, there is a tendency to high contrast in micro areas. The visual result is high sharpness but poor gradation. They recommend XTOL for T-Max films at 1:3. The dilute development should aid the highlight issue however I have not tried this combo of film and developer.

-- Richard Jepsen (richard.jepsen@tinker.af.mil), September 12, 1999.

Here is my (non-helpful) response: switch to Ilford Delta 100. It's easier to control the development.

-- Don Karon (karon@ibm.net), September 18, 1999.

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