XTOL negitives seem brown .. is this normal?

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I just tried XTOL with TMX film. I developed it at 70 degrees, 1:1, for 8 min expecting a contrast index of 0.52. My negatives have a very low contrast index (about 0.35) and they are "brown" compared to other developers.

My question: Is this normal for XTOL (Brown and clear)? Why is the contrast so low?

Does XTOL replace the silver with a brown dye? If so .. then what is the execpted life of a negative developed in XTOL in years?

Thanks Ken

-- Ken Heflinger (khefling@ichips.intel.com), March 27, 2000


I think your Xtol may be dead, since you got very low contrast.

Fine-grain negs developed to a low CI are often brownish in color; I believe that's common with Xtol. It's of no consequence.

Kodak has had trouble with Xtol packages leaking air. Usually the powder is caked, but dead developer has been reported with no caking.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), March 27, 2000.

I have tried various batches of XTOL and have found poor consistency. Each batch must be tested to determine development times. Eight minutes with one batch equaled the results of twelve minutes with another batch. I quit using it for this reason.

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), March 27, 2000.

just too much inconsistency to trust Xtol. Jobo Expert drum processing would yield black tones, and the next would be brownish, underdeveloped, flat negatives. got to the point that I could not predict my results, so I quit using it. it has been mentioned that my water source and questionable mineral content might be contributing. my results with Tmax RS and ID-11 were just too outstanding to continue and play russian roulette with Xtol.

darn. talked about so favourably, and my hopes were high.

-- daniel taylor (aviator@agalis.net), March 27, 2000.

The phenomenon you describe is one I have experienced with both TMX and 100 Delta developed using Xtol in a dip-and-dunk machine under extremely tight control at a professional lab. However, I would characterize it as yellow more than brown. The big problem this presents is that a non-proportional coloration results. There is virtually no effect on low negative values, and a signficant shift in areas starting at roughly 0.9 gross density. If one attempts to print these negatives on graded papers, highlights are very blown out, and can't be controlled by selecting a lower overall paper contrast, since the negative's curve shape (as read through a blue densitometer channel) is so strange. Printing on multigrade papers also presents problems, though the situation isn't quite as bad. Green density readings aren't as significantly distorted by the yellow stain, but they do still increase non-proportionally.

When an article on the genesis of Xtol appeared in Photo Techniques magazine last year, I wrote to the authors asking about this problem. They replied with an explanation concerning the depth of emulsion which gets exposed at higher light intensities, and how this would result in the yellow color with certain films. The specifics are at home, not here, so I can't give more detail from memory. Should anyone be interested I'll post an expanded summary tonight. Most important, however, was the author's statement that he realized he was offering an explanation of, not a solution to, the problem. My solution: I've bitten the bullet, bought a Jobo, will use ice in the summer to keep things at 75 degrees, and now process TMX in T-MAX developer. I had relied on the convenience of a lab, but Xtol's siren song of long life and virtually infinite replenishability took away that option. If you want it done right...

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), March 28, 2000.

I talked to Kodak customer support today regarding the apparent problem with lot to lot consistently in Xtol. They were very up front and indicated that they had some issues within the past year and that they could indentify the lot numbers of the bad batches. They claim they have the problem resolved.

-- Chris Hawkins (peace@clover.net), March 28, 2000.

Thanks guys for the input. I am dissapointed in XTOL.

I did try one more time .. increased time and temperture and got a contrast index if 0.50 (tried for 0.75).

Kodak indicates that the brown (yellow) tint is due to insufficent fixing. Does this ring true?


-- Ken Heflinger (khefling@ichips.intel.com), March 28, 2000.

No, it doesn't ring true. The commercial lab I mentioned above uses "a short stop, two counterflo rapid fix solutions, a hypo eliminator, three separate washes, and a photo flo final bath" to quote from its service guide. I have never had any indication that negatives developed by that lab, either in Xtol or other developers used previously, were even slightly underfixed.

I'm now at home and able to reference earlier correspondence with Dick Dickerson and Silvia Zawadzki, the former Kodak employees who wrote "The Genesis of Xtol" in the September/October 1999 issue of Photo Techniques. Their response to my inquiry stated: "With both TMX and 100 Delta, at high exposures, you are punching light into the bottom portion of the film (closer to the film base). Both of these products have very fine grain emulsion in this area to capture heavy exposure (not nearly as fine with 400 speed films where you don't see such a problem). With Xtol, these grains that are very small to begin with are only partially developed (because it is a fine grain developer). Result would be extremely small developed silver particles - and when such silver particles start getting really small, they do take on a distinctly yellow cast which blocks blue light."

Perhaps this problem hadn't been seen before Xtol because there was no reason to use a fine-grain developer with these two already very fine grained films?

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), March 28, 2000.

Hi Ken,

I too corosponded with Dick & Silvia on this same topic just a few weeks ago. You are not alone, as there seems to be a general dissatisfaction with TMX and XTOL. IMHO, the combination is very poor, producing low Dmax (an early shoulder) even for normal development. I haven't measured the full curve, but intend to do that soon. I haven't had a consistancy problem with XTOL and other films, and have been fortunate not to run across any of the defective "caked" developer packets. I finally got decent tonal quality from TMX and Rodinal, but the grain is excessive. Strongly suggest buying The Film Developing Cookbook by Anchell, ISBN 0-240-80277-2, which talks about t-grained films in general. Based on their information, and on my experiences, I have abandoned the use of TMX. It's produced a decade worth of poor results for me, and enough's enough!

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), March 29, 2000.

I tried to graph the H&D curve for the stuff .. and the curve has a big early sholder. It would appear that the straight part of the curve only goes for about 2.5 on the log scale, and the sholder is pretty strong. My measurent may be missed up because of the yellow tint, but I checked it with two meters.

On the other hand the graphs from Kodak show that TMX with TMAX developer has a rather straight curve for more than 2.5 on the log scale.

Conrad, you said that you abandon TMX .. so what did you select instead?

My original reason for swithching to TMX was that APX 100 and APX 400 is often out of stock at my local store. So I thought I would try something that the store has tons of... TMX. Just wanted to know what you adopted as an alternative.


-- Ken Heflinger (khefling@ichips.intel.com), March 29, 2000.

TMX .. outstanding in TMax RS or ID-11. Ken, Pro Photo Supply in Portland has plenty of Agfa. I assume you are in Hillsboro. there is much experimentation with TMX, but once you hone in on what it works, it truly amazes me. Rodinal, too grainy. TMX is a cut above any of the other films in terms of grain. I shoot 35mm and 4x5 and tried most all the developers. TMax (TMax RS for 4x5) rose to the top. my favourite runner up? Ilford's Delta 100 in ID-11.

TMX was the clear winner for me due to the reciprocity effect character. much less compensation, and charcoal tonality that scans very well. Xtol just didn't make the cut.

-- daniel taylor (aviator@agalis.net), March 29, 2000.

I should probably add that the thing that kept me coming back to TMX was the incredibly fine grain and the almost 4x5 appearance if everything was just right. I have some shots of electronic equipment from across the room where you can read every meter with a magnifier. Oddly though, the film often gives sharp results that don't have a visual perception of sharpness. I can't really define it (no pun intended), but it has to be some edge effect or lack thereof. Kodak's published curves using T-Max developer are amazingly straight, but my admittedly limited experience with that combination was less than pictorial. 1-1 tonal mapping is generally *not* desirable for pictorial work. It does look like a good combination for copy work. I haven't tried the RS developer, but it sounds interesting. I've recently switched to Ilford FP4+, though it's too early to offer any opinion on it.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), March 29, 2000.

I've used about 8 qts of XTOL during the last year after reading about it in The Film Developing Cookbook. I use conventional 120 film, Tri-X, FP4, Verichrome, and Agfa 100/400. My results using 1:2 dilution in a small 16oz tank produce fine grain, vg sharpness and great tonality. Developing to a CI of .54 I lowered contrast and standardized my process using XTOL except for an occasional fling with Rodinal. Verichrome, XTOL and Agfa Multicontrast paper produces long tonality. XTOL is a new product so some packaging problems and users not using correct stock quantities during high dilution are possible. The Cookbook recommended XTOL with tab grain films to control highlight problems.

-- Richard Jepsen (rjepsen@mmcable.com), April 15, 2000.

I've had the packaging problem (I've sent my nasty letter to EK). It seems that the stock solution dosent last as long as Kodak claims as well...BUT...I am getting some of the most printable negatives...using it with TMX, TMY & Delta 400. The TMY prints at 11 X 14 look like they were printed from 4 X 5 negs vice 35mm. The Delta 400 prints look 3 dimensional.Base color of the emulsion does look like a "warm" grey (reminds me of Microdol-X 1:3) vs the "cool" grey of negs developed in T-Max or D-76. I'm using the 1:1 dilution.

-- Robert Orofino (rorofino@iopener.net), April 17, 2000.

I was also extremely disappointed in XTOL when I tried it last year (mostly with TMX). I had borderline underdevelopment right off the bat (and I mixed, diluted, timed, and agitated VERY carefully per Kodak's instructions - I used to be a pro and I've been doing this since the sixties), and the solution become exhausted in a matter of weeks. Despite constantly increasing my dev time, I never got a truly good roll.

The closest-to-good negs I got on the first roll did show promise. The TMX did come out a little finer-grained than in D-76, and, more importantly, with the inherently high contrast somewhat tamed. But I grew tired of ruining roll after roll, and eventually I went back to D-76...

Personally, my gut feeling is that the newer products like TMX and XTOL really demand the extremely precise metering/exposure of modern cameras and extremely precise temp-control and agitation of machine processing. Using our old match-needle Nikons and small tanks, I consistently get much better results with old standbys like PX and TX in D-76. (And since I also happen to much prefer the look of the old films, this isn't really a tragedy.)

I'm sure if I continued in a concerted effort I could get the XTOL/TMX combo to work better for me... Maybe I will sometime, but for now I think I'll stick with the classics, which (due to Kodak's quiet incremental improvements over the years) also happen to produce better results than ever.

-- Michael Goldfarb (mgoldfar@mobius-inc.com), April 18, 2000.

I used XTOL with carefully controlled conditions: a Jobo processor, a densitometer, distilled water. Even so, I got very inconsistent results. With one batch of developer, normal development (Zone 8 at 1.30) came with 8 mins time with HP-5+; with another batch, it needed 12 mins to achieve the same density.

I called Kodak and they blamed everything except their developer. They said it was my water (which is distilled); it was my temperature (which is controlled by the Jobo); it was improper mixing or dilution; it was HP-5+ (I should use Kodak film was the implication). I have had no problems with any other developer. I am convinced, it was the XTOL!

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), April 24, 2000.

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