A crazy idea about combining film developers

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I'm guessing that this is the kind of question that anybody with common sense should know better about but...

If its common practice to do split developing with graded papers (such as dektol first for the darks and selectol for the high lights) is it possible to combine film developers for the same purpose? Say starting out with something vigorous like rodinal for zones 1-4 and then finishing development in PMK for zones 5 and higher. You could split the time between the two 1/3 and 2/3 as a starting point. Is there any historical basis to this idea or is it a formula for a Frankenstein's monster?


-- Kevin (kkemner@tateandsnyder.com), December 03, 2000



you might be onto something. why doesn't Kodak mix a little TMax 100 with TMax 400, a pinch of Plus-X, a tad of TechPan, a smidgeon of Tri- X (of course), and a dusting of P3200.

now that would be one heck of a film!

-- daniel taylor (aviator@agalis.net), December 03, 2000.

Sounds like an interesting idea. The obvious reason for doing it with papers is that if it doesn't work out or if you haven't got the right combination, you can get another chance. Also, because film has a wider tonal range than paper, it's not usually as much of an issue, but heck, why not try it?

If you are using sheet film and have a difficult lighting situation, you could try taking 4 identical exposures and trying out your split development strategy. It's not unusual among LF photographers to shoot 2 sheets of a scene, holding one in reserve in case the initial processing strategy is less than optimal.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), December 03, 2000.

Hello Kevin,

your idea is not as wrong as it seems. Tetenal offers a B&W film developer for such a processing but I do not know the details. It is called Emofin. I do not know if you get it in the USA.

Regards Wolfgang

-- Wolfgang Reinhard (wolfgangrh@gmx.net), December 04, 2000.

Emofin is not a split developer of the kind meant in the original post but a two-bath developer, bath 1 of which contains the developing agent, bath 2 containing the activator. The process works strongly compensating because when you soak the film in bath 1, it absorbs a certain amount of developing agent. Bath 2 activates this. In the dense areas of the negative, the developing agent is consumed much faster than in the thin areas. Therefore, development stops sooner in the dense areas.

I guess the problem with the idea is that you don't usually develop negatives by inspection, and that - as mentioned above - you have got one shot per negative. If it doesn't work out, you've blown it.

-- Thomas Wollstein (thomas_wollstein@web.de), December 04, 2000.

why doesn't Kodak mix a little TMax 100 with TMax 400, a pinch of Plus-X, a tad of TechPan, a smidgeon of Tri- X (of course), and a dusting of P3200.

Well, I think the new Ilford Delta 400 has one layer from Delta 3200 and one from 100 Delta, so they've beaten you to it!

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), December 04, 2000.

Verichrome Pan is also a two emulsion film, accounting for its wide latitude and detailed highlights.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), December 04, 2000.

Kevin, you ask a question that has raised some silly answers and some serious ones. In fact, I have been using a blend of Xtol and Rodinal for the past year with great results. I found Xtol lacked a little snap but I liked its grain, and Rodinal had the famous rough grain but I liked its tonal qualities. So first I tried using them in series (not satisfactory) and then I tried blending them (very satisfactory). I find I get a great tonal qualtiy, nice contrast, good highlight detail and good enough shadow detail. Grain on 35mm is fine enough that Tri-X enlargers easily to 11x14 without coarse grain. Delta 100 in 120 is wonderful. So I don't think your idea is crazy. The film/developer combination you use depends on what you're after.

-- Sam (sselkind@home.com), December 04, 2000.

(TX)135 souped in a solvent developer such as Xtol will have grain above 8x10. Rodinal 1:50 with a 400 speed small format film has even more grain which appears like fine sand enlarged to full frame 8x10.

-- Richard Jepsen (rjepsen@mmcable.com), December 04, 2000.

The Spirit of Adventure lives ! It's a great idea, but take a good look at what qualities you're ascribing to a particular developer (say, PMK) and seperate myth from reality. Use a *recent* original text like Anchell & Troop for guidance. There really are no rules, and the biggest mistake to make is to predict photo behaviour without testing it. You may want to rinse between baths to avoid fog caused by a sudden pH change, i.e Xtol to Rodinal.

A similar approach is to tweak a developer you like, adding a little of this or that for a particular purpose. For instance Diafine (which is basically split Microphen) gives splendid results with TMX. It brings out the TMX shoulder, which is great for long scale scenes. Adding from 1/2 gram to 2 grams of Glycin to bath A turns Diafine into split FX-11 (well, almost) and gives a higher straight line and less shoulder. Who knew ?

Oh, yeah. Don't mix ammonia with bleach, peroxide with metal salts, and stay away with those old fixer formulae using cyanides...

-- Donald Cardwell (cardwell@voyager.net), December 06, 2000.

I tried mixing Microdol and D-76 in some proportion. I was able to get a brilliant print with nice gradation, but it was grainier than had hoped for. I didn't try it again.

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), December 11, 2000.

Rodinal and Xtol works well. I have processed sheets of Tri-X and FomaPan 400 2/3 in Rodinal (nice sharp edges) and then finished in very dilute Xtol for a massive compensating effect. This is particularly good for working with N-2, 3 or even 4 developments.

FortePan 400 is another dual emulsion film, the lower emulsion is ISO 50 and the upper is around 320 in daylight, 400 in tungsten. it is based on a now discontinued Kodak emulsion.

-- Marty Deveney (freakscene@weirdness.com), December 12, 2000.

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