Divided developer: Does anybody use it?

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Greetings! As a Christmas gift, I received John P. Schaefer's "The Ansel Adams Guide: Basic Techniques of Photography, Book 2". In Chapter 4, "Using Characteristic Curves to Evaluate Films and Developers" the author mentions using a 2 part developer for B&W negs. He gives an example recipe for this style of soup, saying it's commonly known as Farber AB.

Listed among this type of developers virtues are: Relative time and temperature insensitivity (claiming that 2 sheet film tests done at 68 and 80 F resulted in identical charicteristic curves), absurdly long shelf lives and re-useability, and finally claimed that film speed was not a factor either (ie, develop TriX, HP5+ and Plus X at the same time).

Drawbacks cited were: Relative inability to push/pull process or contrast-control (a la zone system) and the fact that one needs to do the alchemy oneself, making the soups from components such as hydroquinone, anhydrous sodium sulphite and elon/metol (whatever that may be). The author also suggests that while film developing is the same for different films, he makes the caveat of "with the possible exception of tabular-grain films", by which I presume he means T-Max and Delta films.

I've not seen a thread regarding this... does nobody use it? It seems to me that if it produces decent negs, it's ideal for somebody like myself who does quite a low volume of processing, of subjects that have a average contrast range.

I'm normally subscribed to the Medium Format Digest, but I thought this would be a better place to ask. Please excuse me if I've missed a thread somewhere that answered this already.

Thanks a lot! -Scot.

-- Scot Murray (sa_murr@cam.org), December 27, 1999


You probably want the Photographer's Formulary for strange chemical concoctions. I tried "Divided D-76" but I didn't use distilled water, so the chemicals didn't work right. I have learned my lesson since then. :-)

They have a few divided formulas, so you will have to go and experiment. Since I started using Xtol, though, I haven't felt the need to try the alternate chemicals.

-- Brian C. Miller (brianm@ioconcepts.com), December 27, 1999.

I use a two part developer called AB-55 which is available in kit form from a couple sources. I believe Calumet carries it. Its not bad and it does work dependably at different temperatures and film speeds. I mostly use it when I've shot a bunch of mismatched films and don't feel strongly enough to mix a bunch of batches for individual control of the sheets. I will say that the negatives have a "generic" quality to me. You might want to read the Film Developer Cookbook for further advice. Also control is possible with this developer but it reduces the products economy.

-- kevin (kkemner@tateandsnyder.com), December 27, 1999.

I have tried divided D-76 and D-23, and had very poor results with both.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com), December 27, 1999.

I've used a couple of versions of split D-76 including the Farber, "split" D-23, "split" D-25 and AB-55 with successful but somewhat pointless results. D-23 and D-25 aren't really split; they're just followed by a borax bath.

Facts: these _are_ temperature sensitive, with the least sensitive being split D-76 and AB-55. Part A of all of them, though, does develop the film all by itself thus requires time/temp control.

Contrast can be controlled by the dilution and time in solution A.

Using at least a couple of modern films (HP5+, Delta 100), with the exception of D-25D, they don't give any significant compensating action. Used at "normal" times, though, they can give a useful contraction.

You can buy D-23 and split D-76 from Photographers Formulary in small quantities to just try them out. "Split" D-23 just adds a borax B bath; borax is the ordinary 20 Mule Team variety, mixed at 10g/L, and give three minutes in the B bath with continuous agitation.

You can of course buy the ingredients from Kodak or Formulary, but the metol and hydroquinone are in large containers and would be a tremendous waste of money if you try out the developers and then decide that you don't want to continue using them.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), December 27, 1999.

i have found that divided developers are excellent for ISO 4000 films only and conventional ones at that, HP5 and Tri-X only, not T-Max 400 or Delta 400. The gradation is very beautiful, especially with Tri-X but the best asset is the reduction in high tones density, making printing easy with very little burning in to do, the shadow detail is also excellent. Divided D-76 has no advantage over the D-23 version at all. the best divided developers are ones that contain sodium sulphite in the second bath or at least sodium chloride in the first bath to prevent swelling which prevents streaking. Streaking is the most common problem with two bath develoeprs. a very good easy and cheap two bath is to use Ilford perceptol as the first bath and 10 grams in a liter of water of Borax in the second bath with tri-X and develop for five minutes in each bath with no wash imbetween baths. but remember , from my experience no two bath developer works well with anything but 400 ISO conventional films.

-- tom paul (J.W.Paul@talk 21.com), January 17, 2000.

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