Is there much advantage using PMK with 35mm film? : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

The photographers who praise PMK appear to be large or medium format photographers. Is there anyone with experience using PMK with 35mm film who finds it useful, and with which films?

-- Alan Shapiro (, February 24, 2001


This topic has been covered, although any new responses would be welcome.

-- Don M (, February 24, 2001.

It's been over a year since any worthwhile findings have been presented. Lots of promises, no followups.

-- Bill Mitchell (, February 24, 2001.

The thread Don referenced was started by me last May. Since that time I haven't found anything new from reading on the net. However, my darkroom area is finally functioning and I will be develping my first rolls of HP5 within the week. I'm getting back into this stuff after 20 years. I've dedided to try two and only two developers. ID- 11 and PMK. I will be ordering the PMK with Hutchings book this week. I won't make any bold promises, but I will let you know what I think when I finally get to compare. Should be interesting.


-- John Kilmer (, February 25, 2001.

It would not suprise me to find no one that aggrees with me but I like PMK with T-Max 100 in 35mm and T-Max 400 in 120. I used PMK exclusively for two years in 35mm, 120 and 4x5. At the end of that time I found that the advantages in the sheet film were on a par with its disadvantages and have gone back to using conventional developers for the most part, still using PMK occassionally. Where I found a big advantage with PMK is in roll film. It is very easy to see the difference even under a grain focuser, greatly improved sharpness and in printing it has a more pleasing pallete of grays. It is the only developer that I use with roll film (except maybe for copy negatives). My only word of caution would be to not underexpose. Underexposure with this developer tends to leave really blank shadow areas. Have fun.

-- Jeff White (, February 25, 2001.

I love Tri-X in 35mm format in PMK. I blow up to 11x14 with very little visible grain. The shadows are just perfect and the highlights are even better.

Once you've tried PMK you'll never go back....

-- David Parmet (, February 25, 2001.

Its sharp with 35mm HP5+. The grain seems to be very small (however I can still see it on an 8x10 condenser enlarged print but my nose has to be right beside it). Gradation is excellent on Agfa Multicontrast Classic glossy. You have to be careful not to underexpose it because it can get grainy very fast. However it can handle overexposure VERY WELL. It can also handle high contrast situation quite well. People seem to have the best luck with FP4+ and HP5+ and that why I've choosen to use these films.

-- David Payumo (, February 25, 2001.

Well I certainly like it with Delta 100 and 400 films in 35mm, which I rate at 64 and 250, respectively. Very little grain and very good highlight detail, while the slower film speed rating sees to it that there's detail in the shadows. I'm going to try it with some sheet Delta films in the near future, which should be a lot of fun.

-- Kip Babington (, February 25, 2001.

I contributed to the earlier thread, but will follow up with what I've learned since.

1. I believe Anchell/Troop's prediction in the Film Developing Cookbook that a pyro afterbath would be unneccesary if the film were fixed in an alkaline fixer is true. Going straight from TF-4 to the wash seems to work fine at my house.

2. Hutchings' suggestion to mix the developer an hour or so before using to increase stain seems to be helpful. I also find that as my developer gets older, its staining power seems to increase. I'm thinking of buying another kit and aging the "A" solution as he suggests.

3. I also find Hutchings' recommendation to use PMK double-strength to increase film speed works well, especially with P3200, where it also helps staining. I have a high school basketball season's worth of negatives to bear this out.

4. This one doesn't make sense to me, but I do find 35mm FP4+ harder to stain than its 120 version. Has anyone else had this problem? It does seem to work okay using the steps outlined in #2.

5. Unlike most findings, I find my tap water seems to work better with PMK than distilled. I do live in a small town with an excellent water system, which may account for this.

6. I've been using PMK for about a year now, and the better I get to know it, the more I like it. As a previous poster mentioned, it does very well with HP5+ AND FP4+.

-- Brian Hinther (, February 26, 2001.

Brian, have you tried the pinch of amidol (.1 gram per litre, I believe) to increase the EI? I would think this would be more cost effective than doubling the strength. However, I don't know what it looks like either way. I was thinking of ordering some amidol along with my first kit of PMK just 'cuz I really want 400 out of my HP5+.

Just wondering.


-- John Kilmer (, February 26, 2001.

Sorry, John, I haven't. I like to try things by the book at first and then gradually work in other procedures as needed. While I've been downrating FP4+ to between 80 and 100, depending on content, I haven't felt the need so far with HP5+. I've just been letting the camera DX 400 without any problems, for whatever that's worth.

-- Brian Hinther (, February 28, 2001.

I have always read the questions regarding pyro and PMK as well as responses that vary from fanatical to damning with amusement. I will try to give some of my experience that may be helpful to anyone who has toyed with pyro or are thinking about it. I think I am actually a fanatic but instead of telling everyone how magical it is I will try to give some practical advice. Due to a personality flaw I hava a problem ditching things until I have completely mastered them, I think many B+W photographers have this tendency.

A few years ago I decided I wasn't quite happy with my rodinal APX100 combination because of the inability to reproduce skin tones, specular catch lights in eye's, and other highlights in portaits with the seperation and subtle gradation I was after. Don't get me wrong that combination is good, but I wanted more. I remembered reading in various places many pyro users raving about the highlight seperation that they were getting. I decided to see what PMK could do, so I bought the book, some chemicals, and some HP5, FP4, and Pan F. I started to play around and did see some of the things that made pyro different but it was not near as good or easy as most fanatics declare from my standpoint.

No disrespect intended but I think Gordon Hutchings left some critical details out of his book for People just getting into PMK, especially with VC paper.

When using VC paper:

1. Forget everything you have ever learned about when making prints. This is going to be a new experience that you have to re-learn from a visual stanpoint.

2. Unlike other negatives, highlights change slower that shadows when you make exposure adjustments. This translates into changing exposure also changes contrast at the same time. more exposure = more contrast, less exposure = less contrast. If the highligts look just about right but the shadows look way way too dark do not reach for a lower contrast filter, try less exposure first (Sometimes a lot less).

3. All of the instant reactions to test prints that you have made with other negatives over the years are absolutely wrong for pyro negatives. You will have to readjust your reactions and visual evaluation over again for pyro on VC paper.

4.When learning to readjust your exposure/contrast reactions. Deliberately make a print that is way too light for a reference. You will be amazed that the highlights won't look flat white. Then make it darker until you get good blacks. If you cannot do this without bringing the highlights down into the upper midtones then increase the contrast a little bit and try again.

5. If you react the way you normally would, you will be way off.

Once you get a feel for this the way you did with regular negatives getting to the right exposure/contrast will be much less tricky and you will understand how magical pyro/PMK is (Think the best print you ever made, the one that just glows. Now imagine that any negative at all can look like that. That is just about what PMK is like once you readjust your printing habits)

I happen to like all of the Ilford films and Verichrome pan processed around what Gordon Hutchings recommends as N-1. They print great on G3-G31/2 VC paper and great on my huge stock of Ektalure when appropriate.

email me if you have any specific questions for a one time pyro hater turned true fanatic over the last 2 years.

-- Robert W Boyer (, March 20, 2001.

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