Web based resource for film developers?

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Is there a good web based resource regarding the properties of the dozens (if not hundreds) of available film developers. There are so many that nobody could possibly have time to try them all and if you add in different effects with different films there are probably thousands, if not millions, of possible developer-film combinations.

My web searches haven't turned up anything (except for the time/temp data in the massive development chart).

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), November 05, 2001


While not exhaustive, you can find interesting information at silver print

-- Xavier Colmant (xcolmant@powerir.com), November 05, 2001.

try the unblinking eye site. It has some great information, but not as intensive as the massive chart, but interesting. I am curious as to why you need more than the massive development chart.

-- Ann Clancy (clancya@mediaone.net), November 05, 2001.

Because I want more than time/temp info! I'd like to see facts/opinions on how cetain developers (e.g. Rodinal, HC-110, DD-X) work with certain films (e.g. HP5+, TMZ3200, Acros). That information is scattered across the web (much of it in small packets in this forum) but there seems to be no real compilation of the data in one place.

Given a huge number of possible film/developer combinations it would be interesting to know how and why people chose the one they did. It couldn't be by investigating all possible combinations since there are just too many.

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), November 05, 2001.

Just to agree with that last point. It is one thing to have times, temps, agitation, etc., but it is quite another to have in-depth information about what the reasons were lying behind a decision to use a particular combination, and an evaluation of the nature of the results.

I understand that the results are always personal, and that no comparison can ever be totally objective, but it would be good to have some background...

-- Ed Hurst (BullMoo@hotmail.com), November 05, 2001.

You might want to investigate the properties of the various developing agents and their combinations. My article on Mixing Developers covers this information, and I go into some detail about the properties of D-23 and PMK. There is also an article by Patrick Gainer about vitamin C developers, an article on Divided D- 23, and an article on Rodinal.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), November 05, 2001.

Try & find a copy of....the Chemistry of Photography by Robert Chapman & Patrick Dignan. It was originally sold through Darkroom & Creative Camera magazine which I think is know Photo Techniques. The British Journal of Photography also publish a lot of information on chemistry and is said to have the biggest list of formulas available.

-- Melvin (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), November 05, 2001.

As for books, If you don't already have it, get the 'The Film Developing Cookbook' (by Steve Anchell and Bill Troop, published by Focal Press, an imprint of Butterworth-Heinemann). This is the only recent book I know of which discusses in depth film developers.

-- Xavier Colmant (xcolmant@powerir.com), November 06, 2001.

there's alway Ansel Adam's "The Negative" and "The Print" Lots of useful info regarding your question in these classic books.


-- John Welton (jwelton2@home.com), November 07, 2001.

Much as I admire "The Negative", it really doesn't go into much detail on developer/film combinations. Adams used HC-110 in various dilutions much of the time and the other developers he mentions are mostly sidenotes. Plus the book was written before many current developers and films were available.

I'm wondering if many people's "favorite film/developer" combinations aren't simply the result of habit rather than an exhaustive comparison of alternatives. For example, in medium speed film I tend to use HP5+ at EI 200 in HC-110 dilution F, mostly because I tried it and it seemed to work OK. The effort of trying D-76, Microphen, Rodinal, Pyro, DD-X, Xtol and all the other developers on the store shelf just seemed like too much work for a (probably) marginal gain. Add to that the possibilities of Tri-X, Neopan 400, Delta 400, APX 400, TMY etc. and I'd end up spending all my time testing developer/film combinations and never get around to actually taking pictures!

It's probably true that most film/developer combinations give perfectly good results once you've found the right EI and time/temp, and the quest for something better is a close relative to some photographer's quest for the ultimate lens or camera - a distraction from photography itself.

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), November 07, 2001.

> It's probably true that most film/developer combinations give perfectly good results once you've found the right EI and time/temp, and the quest for something better is a close relative to some photographer's quest for the ultimate lens or camera - a distraction from photography itself.

Bob, I think you've summed up the whole thing. While different developers do give different results, for the most part those differences are rather subtle aside from "wild" excursionns such as low-dilution Rodinal or straight D-25; they're just slightly different ways of achieving essentially the same thing.

I do, however, like to fiddle around with different developers but the reality is that it's something interesting to do when I don't have "real" photography to do and I know there's nothing better than intimate familiarity with one combination.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), November 07, 2001.

Probably the main differentiation in developers is between those that tend toward high definition (high acutance), and those that tend toward fine grain. Usually the fine grain developers contain sodium sulfite (or other substance) that has a slight solvent action on the silver grains that makes it less noticeable.

The characteristics of a particular developer can change by using different dilutions. For example, undiluted D-76 and Xtol are usually considered fine grain developers, but when diluted 1:3 the solvent action on the grain is much less pronounced (the percentage of sodium sulfite is less) and they produce fairly sharp negatives. Very high dilutions also can sometimes have the effect of increasing “edge sharpness” between areas of light and dark in the negative.

Obviously, the size negative you use (and how much enlargement is required) has a big impact on how much apparent grain you can live with. Ansel Adams had a definite preference for high resolution developers, but he usually used large format cameras (often 8x10) where grain is not a problem.

Rodinol is a high acutance developer (without any sodium sulfite). Used in low dilutions such as 1:25 (it is packaged as a very concentrated liquid), it is fairly high in alkalinity, which can increase the apparent grain (sometimes called grain clumping). Used in dilutions of 1:75 or 1:100, the alkalinity of Rodinol is reduced, and the developer becomes more neutral with regard to its effect on grain, while maintaining its very high acutance.

Diluting a developer can have other effects on the negative, such as contrast control. Usually, the more dilute the developer, the lower the overall contrast. Highly dilute developers are sometimes called “compensating” because of their ability to compensate for high contrast scenes or high contrast films. Since slow speed films (ISO 50 or less) tend to have more inherent contrast than higher speed films, many people tend to use a more compensating (diluted) developer with these films.

There are other special purpose developers (with or without sodium sulfite). Pyro is a “staining” developer, whereby a stain is deposited on the negative to improve the printability of highlight detail. Xtol is marketing by Kodak as a more environmentally friendly developer because of its main developer component being ascorbic acid. It is also supposedly easier to mix at room temperature, but some problems have been reported.

Then, there are developers which have the ability to have a greater than normal impact on film speed and/or contrast control (expansion or contraction using the Zone System). The effect of a developer on these factors often depends on the film being used. For example, I have found that Xtol gives a higher film speed (especially with T- Grain films) than most other developers.

Some people have a preference for developers that are packaged as a highly concentrated liquid solution, rather than a powder that has to be mixed and stored in a larger bottle as a “stock solution.” Once a developer is mixed into a stock solution (usually 1 or more liters), its keeping properties are decreased, especially for people who develop infrequently. But unmixed powder has a very long shelf life, which has its own obvious benefits. Rodinol is supplied as a very concentrated liquid and has legendary keeping properties. In the relatively small bottle of a developer supplied as a highly concentrated liquid, the air can conveniently be removed by placing marbles in the bottle as the developer is used up, something that is more difficult with stock solutions of 1 liter or more.

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), November 07, 2001.

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