Dixactol .... initial results

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Well, I've now done three batches of development of 4x5 sheet film in a Combi tank with 2-bath DiXactol, and here are the results. Despite the instructions indicating that dilution, not time, was the key factor, I found that 5 minutes for batch 1 gave very thin negatives. In addition, the suggested agitation of an initial 30s, followed by an inversion every 30s, gave very uneven stain, to the extent that these negatives are probably unusable. (The film was Fuji Neopan Commercial in Quickload format). For the second and third batches, I gave an additional 45 seconds for each bath, and adjusted the agitation to an initial one minute, followed by an inversion every 15s thereafter (i.e. PMK agitation). This has resolved many of the problems, but there is still some unevenness, especially in sky areas, which I have never experienced with PMK. The acutance seems comparable to PMK, and the stain is more subtle. Any further suggestions on how to obtain even negatives?

The next tests will probably be with TMax100, which didn't seem to do too well with PMK. However, Ilford Delta 100 / PMK Pyro seems at this point to be the most attractive combination. Any other thoughts on this?

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), September 14, 2000


In my initial try with 2-bath Dixactol (using 120 TMX in Patterson tanks) following the recommended agitation procedure I also got uneven staining noticeable in areas of smooth tone, such as sky. Those negs with large areas of continuous tone are probably ruined. I did not find the negs, which were developed for 5m in each bath, to be thin. Neither did I find 2-bath Dixactol to have quite as strong a compensating effect as I'd hoped. The rolls I developed had shots with signficantly varying contrast ranges. The contrasty scenes have lots of density in the highlights and will be very hard to print.

This was only my first try with Dixactol, and I intend to try again, but I was not overwhelmed. I know that others really like this developer, and I too would appreciate any experience on how to extract its advertised potential.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), September 14, 2000.

As a confirmed DiXactol user I originally had very similar problems to those you outline. The unevenness you mention is often due to the use of spirals that have been used previously. In discussions with Barry Thornton I persevered and just bought a couple of new spirals which I keep just for DiXactol. Since then, no problem. I find that the monobath version is virtually as good as the 2 bath and is a lot easier to manage.

Some films react better than others, especially as to compensating effects. I now virtually exclusively use HP5+ in 120 and, believe it or not, Paterson Acupan 200 in 35mm. Used as monobath it can cope with very extreme contrast levels, although I at times extend the time in the 2nd use of the developer by up to another minute. it's not the finest grain developer I've ever used, but it can be bitingly sharp.

Personally I found it worth the effort to carry on, and you can find some updated info on Barry's website at:


John Henry johnh@piperschool.com

-- John Henry (johnh@piperschool.com), September 15, 2000.

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