Xtol update... dreaded Xtol failures

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This past week I queried The Yellow Godfather on Xtol & the problems of the Dreaded Xtol Failure. I got through two levels of support on it with both assuring me this is a thing of the past & only happened with the one litre packets. When I informed them this had happened to me on three occasions and all three were with 5 litre packets, and they happened with stock, 1:1 and 1:3 dilutions and two happened while using distilled water I was bumped much higher on the technical ladder. What it came down to is simple. I got two EK scientists in the B&W division experienced with Xtol. Their summation was simple. If you like what you are currently using, don't change. Xtol still has unexplainable failures and no one can predict them. They have tried to remedy the problem by now recommending NO Xtol dilutions greater than 1:1 and would prefer it be used as a full strength solution only.

I have had problems with it but if the Yellow Peril had the problem solved, really and actually solved, I was willing and eager to give it another go. Seems it still has not got all the bugs worked out.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 11, 2001


I only use Xtol as a stock solution, and have experienced numerous failures. As I can recall, failures occurred with TMX, TMY, Agfapan 100, and Kodak HIE. I have had possibly five failures out of three- hundred rolls of films of various types. one failure I attribute to a change in my agitation. I experimented with a 5 second agitation at 1 minute intervals (instead of 30 seconds) and concluded agitation and disruption of the development layer is critical. it is good to know that Kodak is listening.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), September 11, 2001.

I read somewhere that the Vitamin C derivative in Xtol is the main developing agent even though it contains phenidone (or derivative) as well. Since Vitamin C is good for us, maybe it's good nutrition for some biological life that might be breeding in the solution, maybe mould or something. If it were being eaten up, development would be reduced.

I've never lost a negative through a chemical or film problem. The thought of losing a roll due to Xtol failure is unacceptable. My time and opportunities are too valuable. So I don't use it even though I'd like to.

-- John Stockdale (jo.sto@bigpond.com), September 11, 2001.

I just had to chime in. Though I do not doubt the veracity of Dan's experiences, I have never had Xtol failure. I use the five liter packs diluted with filtered tap water, stored in a tank with a floating lid. I develop 1:1 in a Jobo processor. the films I consistently develop are Ilford films mostly. About the closest thing I had to failure was when I ran some tmax 100 for the first time using Kodaks reccomended time and ended up with extremely thin negatives. I did a second run, virtually doubling the processing time and the negatives came out fine, but it did give me pause. thankfully TMX is not a film I, or my clients use. a couple hundred rolls in Xtol so far and no failure yet. Knock on wood.

-- Paul Swenson (paulphoto@humboldt1.com), September 11, 2001.

Dan, I've read several times about XTOL failure, but never experienced it in 5L packages (I had one bad 1L packages but it was obvious that the content was bad: the smell, the consistence). I don't like to sit on the keg of power (a Russian expression) but I like the result, that's why I keep using XTOL.


May be the following can be interesting: I keep the XTOL not as stock solution, but as 2x stock solution. In the first time I just had no 5L vessel on hand and decided to fit into 2.5L. That time I only occasionally used this solution and it stood more than 8 months at room temperature, in tightly closed but partially filled vessel, -- no problems! From that time I always prepare 2xStock solution for keeping. As far as I remember chemistry, the more is concentration of a substance in water, the less gases (oxygen) can be dissolved there. I also use only distilled water (my films never touch tap water).

Regards, Andrey

-- Andrey Vorobyov (AndreyVorobyov@mail.ru), September 12, 2001.

For those who have experienced or are concerned about suffering Xtol failure, I strongly suggest you give Ilfosol-S a try. It's a phenidone-ascorbate liquid concentrate, easy to mix, seems to be readily available, and has consistently provided me with results comparable to good batches of Xtol. I've used Ilfosol-S 1:14 at 75 degrees with 120 TMX on a Jobo CPE-2+. I've no connection with Kodak, Ilford or any other photo industry entity; just a happy camper who finally found the combination to stick with.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), September 12, 2001.

> About the closest thing I had to failure was when I ran some tmax 100 for the first time using Kodaks reccomended time and ended up with extremely thin negatives.

that qualifies as a failure to me. anytime unexpected results occur, the process should be questioned. the additional observation that processing times are considerably longer that Kodak's expectations should be a indicator of potential problems. through experimentation, I have always had to increase times by 30% to approach useable negatives. I have often wondered about this.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), September 12, 2001.

I have been using Xtol for about 8 mths with no problems. I may seem strange but most of the Xtol failures reported have been whilst developing Kodak film! I use the stuff diluted 1 part developer 2 parts water. I keep my stock solution in a collapsable plastic container ( that held cheap wine) I also mix it at least 10 deg F higher than Kodak reccomends. So far so good. I really like the results with Delta films. I doubt Kodak has much interest in B&W anymore. The people who developed the product were "let go" after Xtol was released;so dont expect too much from them. It may be usefull to find out how the failed Xtol was mixed & stored. Incomplete mixing can lead to chemical separation during storage. My containers have never been used for any other chemical other than Xtol which may or may not mean much. Or!! it may be that it is a bad product in which case it will possibly be discontinued.

-- Melvin (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), September 12, 2001.

Dan, you have been advising people about your Xtol failures and saying you wouldnt ever use it again for like...a really long time...at least a year if not much longer...so I have to ask how recent these failures were. Maybe thats why Kodak bumped you up the ladder so quick. Did you tell them that most or all these failures happened quite some time ago, or did you suddenly decide to change your mind and try Xtol again despite all your considerable past negative experience?

-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), September 13, 2001.

Part of the reason I queried The Yellow Godfather was to see if the problems are finally solved because Xtol is a very good developer... if it is reliable. The other reason is that I do some custom processing and have a few clients who specifically request Xtol for their negatives. To date too many very good and careful darkroom worker have reported failures for me to rely on Xtol for anything. It is very nice when it works. But with EK now recommending no use of dilutions past 1:1 and their preference for it used straight, while at the same time seeing the original recommendations of "stable performance through a wide range of temperatures, dilutions, and agitation methods", "excellent keeping properties", "long, stable useful life", "Robust, abuse tolerant, and clean working". It seems that while the developer has the possibility of being an excellent product, something has gone seriously wrong somewhere. EK has admitted problems with the one litre packet. But the shelves of dealers across the world are still littered with leaking powder from the 5 litre packets that have not been properly sealed. I just threw out two 5 litre packets that were leaking due to improper sealing and both were replacement packets sent to me directly from Kodak in Rochester. With this problem still not solved & clients asking me to use Xtol to develop their film, I asked The Yellow Godfather once again if the problem was solved. The marketing people said yes, it is solved. So do the B&W pro products people at EK. That I had to get above them to get to the truth does not speak well of Kodak these days. Xtol could have been a Kodak flagship product. But, for whatever reason, it has failed to perform as advertised and Kodak has not been honest with us, its customers. While I have those who want me to use Xtol sign a release saying they know there can be a sudden & complete failure I think I will just stop using it completely. As I tell many who ask about products from The Yellow Peril. Agfa and Ilford make some very good products.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 14, 2001.

I have just read that ascorbic acid developers are sensitive to the presence of iron. When stainless steel is scratched it can rust. Could this be a cause of sudden failure? Do the folks who have experienced the Xtol failure use stainless tanks? I store Xtol in glass and plastic bottles and develop in plastic tanks with no failures.

-- Tim Brown (brownt@flash.net), September 14, 2001.

Plastic everywhere.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), September 14, 2001.

I am one of those who has had Xtol failures in the past and I have posted comments to that effect previously on this site. Since my previous posting 'The Trouble With Xtol', Kodak got in touch with me and advised that the problem was solved with all production code numbers above 2300 I think. That is the 23rd week of 2000. They eventually sent me 20 litres of replacement developer and I agreed to give it a try once more. I have not had any failures since. I'm not saying that I think the problem is or isn't solved and I still cringe every time I pour in the developer. My thinking was and still is that by ordering the 1 litre packages in their shipping cartons of 10 units, that I would eliminate any potential damage from dealer handling as well as have control of how long the stuff hangs around. As well mixing smaller units would ensure that you are always using relatively fresh developer. I like this developer and I hope the problems with it are solved. I want to be able to use it with confidence which may take some time to restore. I'm willing to give it this last try, but if I have one more failure I'm afraid that will be it for me.

-- Bill Lester (wlester@lesterconstruction.com), September 14, 2001.

XTOL has been a good performer for me over the past 3 yrs. or so as a replenished tank developer. I use it for all my traditional films, and have used my current tank for almost 2 yrs. now, albeit replenished (turned over every couple of months). TMAX RS replenished is my favorite T-grain & delta films developer though. Manufacturers times are just starting points, everyone will have their own time depending on their system.

FWIW, according to a recent dealer spec sheet from EK, the one liter XTOL packs have been discontinued. So, for those of you looking for conspiracies up in Rochester, here's something to think about, they list a replacement for the small chemical packs as D-76. I think this is because the next size in XTOL is the larger 5 liter pack, but I guess you can read into it whatever you want (a bit of sarcasm...). It's also not the only chemical change, check with your dealers for more info, but alot of the smaller quantities of chemistry are gone...such as the 8 oz. bottle of selenium toner or the 1 qt. bottle of Polytoner. This is dated 8/2001.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), September 17, 2001.

Has Kodak ever requested anyone to send in their unused solution when failure was experienced?

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), September 20, 2001.

The first two failures I just dumped it out in frustration. I finally called EK after the third one and asked about sending the jug of what was left in and they weren't interested. The line was 'it must be something you did wrong'.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 20, 2001.

People who use XTOL with no problems should speak up. I have used 1 litre packages of XTOL for 3 years. The dilution ratios I use to develop Verichrome, Tri-X and FP-4 is 1:2 in medium format and 1:1 in small format. I experienced one bad roll out of about 100 and it was APX 100. I normally reduce the recommended development times by about 10% as I use a condensor enlarger. To be safe I mix the stock developer in distilled water and will toss any remaining developer out after about 4 months. A recent article in Photo Techniques found XTOL keeps longer than any developer, including D-76.

-- Richard Jepsen (rjepsen@mmcable.com), September 29, 2001.

let the voices ring out, but that doesn't diminish the problems so many of us have experienced. if you have had one failure in a 100 rolls, doesn't it concern you that you will have another? will you advertise to your clients, that their important work may be lost, but not to worry .. it *probably* won't occur? those of us who have observed this failure, are knowledgeable and conscientious, and merely wanting to sound the alarm. we are all saying the same thing, that there are two types of Xtol users. ones that have seen the failure, and the others that will soon enough.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), September 30, 2001.

I suppose one way to try to put all this into perspective is to determine the failure rate of other develpoers. For example, is there such a thing as the "dreaded D-76/ID- 11/PMK/Microdol/Ilfosol/Perceptol/Rodinal etc Failures"?

-- Frank Alvaro (fa@alvaroedwards.com.au), September 30, 2001.

I would play it safe and not use XTOL if I owned a lab. Most commercial customers would not see the difference in D-76 and XTOL negs. A serious shooter will. There are many variables and the scope of the problem is unclear. No doubt, some people experienced legitimate failures. Failures are mentioned more frequently with newer tab films than traditional films such as Tri-X, FP-4, Verichrome, Plus-X. I believe APX may also require XTOL to be fully active. It's been mentioned that the activity of XTOL can fall rapidly and is affected by PH. The package problem is well know and should be solved.

-- Richard Jepsen (rjepsen@mmcable.com), September 30, 2001.

I mixed some up in Feb 2001, and as of last week (end of Sept 2001) no problems. Been using it in all dilutions. I keep the bottle full using marbles. The last batch I tested with a film leader. My water is filtered tap using a counter top unit.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), October 01, 2001.

The only problem I have ever had with XTOL was in 1998 the developer not last 3 months.It was stored in one of those accordion containers. Since switching to glass bottles, I have had no problems with the 1 liter packets. I did have some bad packets about 2 years ago but Kodak replaced them. I now understand that Kodak is discontinuing the 1 liter packets in favor of the 5 liter only. This would be unfortunate but I guess we all have to get accustomed to the big photo companies getting out of Silver Based Photography. I guess rushing the product into production with inadequate Quality Control has sealed the fate of XTOL. It seems that many photographers will never trust it. I certainly hope we don't "cut off our noses to spite our faces". BTW I am a serious ametuer (and proud of it even if I can't spell it) who does his own darkroom work, however, I don't relish the prospect of mixing my own developers. I use 35mm (all manual state of the art circa 1974) and a 30+ year old condenser Omega enlarger exclusively, because that is what I have and quite frankly I prefer to spend my money on film, paper and chemicals. I use as many elements of the zone system as practical and tend to expose several 36exp rolls process them & then print at my lesure (I'm doing this for fun after all). I use Kodak, Ilford, Forte, Agfa, Ethol, Edwal & Heico products. Sorry to ramble but I really like the look of my Delta 400 negs (ei 320) in XTOL 1:1 (with 20% pull) and I hope we don't inadvertantly bad mouth the stuff to death. Iacta Alea Esto! RO

-- Robert Orofino (minotaur1949@iopener.net), October 01, 2001.

In a desire to get finer grain than my normal Delta 100, I started to retest Tmax 100 in my usual developer, X-tol. With the delta 100 I had no problems with x-tol at 1:1. I mix x-tol with distilled water and then dilute it just prior to use with distilled water. I use a Jobo processor. I also make certain to have at least 115ml of stock developer per roll in any dilution. I have a large gray scale test target that I painted, 4 12' square patches of flat gray paint, exactly one stop apart in value on a 2'x2' piece of masonite. I used a Rolleiflex 6008i for all of the tests as i figure that the rollei which is designed for photogrametrical accuracy would render me the most accurate f stops and shutter speeds. My exposure readings off the gray card, which was shot outdoors in direct sun and in open shade, were taken with a Zone VI modified pentax spot meter. The rolleis own spot meter confirmed the readings. The initial film tests were done at E.I.s from 64 to 160, with each test roll including all of those E.I.s and giving me gray patches from zone I to zone 10. I would use my densitometer to read the densities. The results were unexpected. My first tests showed that the tmax 100 was not even an E.I. of 64. I shot the test again and again processed the film. Same results. So I assumed that my x-tol, which was 2 months old might have turned on me, so I mixed up a fresh batch, 5 liter packet, the "A" powder was not caked, and tried again. Only this time I included a roll of delta 100 shot at the the same time as my tmax 100. I processed both rolls together, x-tol 1:1 68@7'30". The delta 100 has an EI of between 160 and 200, which is consistent with past experience, the tmax 100 came out as being below EI 64 again, ( I would think an EI of 40-50). So now i figured maybe it's the tmax 100 emulsion, since the developer seems to kick butt with the delta 100. So i shot a test with a new batch of tmax 100 as well as with the same older batch. I used EI's from 40-80 and again processed them in xtol, and once again I can not get a zone I to reach .10 FBF. Tests done a year ago gave me an EI of 80 for tmax100 in xtol 1:1. My current conclusion is that I have 2 bad batches of xtol, and that delta 100 seems immune to this problem, and tmax 100 and also tech pan, as i have been testing techpan in xtol as well, are sensitive to it.

-- Brian Kosoff (bkosoff@bellatlantic.net), October 04, 2001.

Brian, I had almost the same exact experience as you did in using XTOL with Delta 100 and TMX. In Kodak's own statements about the XTOL "problem" they have stated that many of XTOL failures reported to them have been when developing TMX. After experiencing problems with the XTOL/TMX combination, I have used the exact same partially filled bottle of XTOL months later to develop 4 other emulsions with no problem. I have even tried developing TMX and Delta 100 in the same tank together, and achieved the same results you have reported.

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), October 04, 2001.

Michael, I think i may have found the problem. Kodak used to say that 100 ML of stock solution was the minimum needed to use xtol in any dilution, i.e, 100ml xtol:100 ml H2O or 100ml xtol:300ml H20. I think that kodak was in error there. I think you need at least 150-200ml of xtol stock in any dilution. Ilford films seem to work ok with the weaker mix, but tmax 100 must have 150-200ml.

-- Brian Kosoff (bkosoff@bellatlantic.net), October 09, 2001.

I have always used stock solutions, 300ml for 135 and 500mm for 120. in searching for an Xtol alternative, I have stumbled upon Acufine which is meeting all my requirements without the grain bloating of Rodinal. unlike Xtol, mixing is a pain, but I like its six minute processing times, push processing, and resulting quality of the negative. and of course, a high degree of trust that opening the tank lid will yield a glimpse of silver.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), October 09, 2001.

I found it interesting to go back and develop TMY in Xtol once again, just to see what improvements may or not be gained over many of the other developers I have been testing it with. when it works, it is simply amazing, especially with TMY. the grain smoothing and tonality gradation is like no other. no failures of late, though I am tending to increase process durations 30% over Kodak recommendations. if I were to use their specs I doubt if I would have any highlights, which remains a mystery.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), October 17, 2001.

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