Gainer's Vit-C developer : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

Last weekend it rained a lot here in NYC, and since shooting was a dismal prospect, I decided on some darkroom entertainment. I'd read the article by Patrick Gainer on Ed's site discussing l-ascorbic acid developers. I realized I had all the necessary chemicals on hand, so I gave one of his variations a shot.

What I found really surprised me. I tried his version using metol combined with sodium hydroxide, borax and l-ascorbic acid. I was intrigued by this since earlier tests I had done with vit-C revealed excellent sharpness. Well, not only were the results exceedingly sharp, but the tonality was beautiful. And the grain, which I expected to be on the harsh side, was not harsh at all; it was smooth and very fine with a tight pattern. This is a really outstanding developer. Sharpness-wise it's definitely equal to anything I've seen, including PMK, Rodinal or FG7. I also tested Ilfosol-S at the same time, and this stuff was much sharper and had tighter grain with better tonality. Moreover, its easy and cheap to make. Development times are the same as D-76, either straight or 1:1.

I don't know why this stuff hasn't had more attention. It's really outstanding. Try it!

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 28, 2001


That Gainer article is at I've been so busy I haven't had time to try any of these, but after Ted's glowing endorsement I must get busy and mix some up.

You might also check out the article on Appreciating Rodinal. The very last paragraph gives a Rodinal- like formula of Patrick Gainer's which includes ascorbic acid and hydroxide. In a few days I'll add a couple of his photographs from negatives developed in this formula. I haven't tried this formula either, as I have never stocked paraminiphenol before, but it sounds intriguing. Gainer also points out that 4 grams/liter of ascorbic acid added to Rodinal (1:50) works a lot better at reducing grain than large quantities of sulfite.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, November 28, 2001.

I just read the article on Rodinal again. Gainer's use of vit-C is very interesting. And since I'm so impressed with his other developer, now I'm very curious about his Rodinal variation. I'll have to order the p-aminolphenol, but when I get some, I'll try Gainer's formula and offer my findings.

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 28, 2001.

What film(s) did you try it with?

-- Sal Santamaura (, November 28, 2001.

Sal: I developed Delta 400 (@320) and TMX (@80) in 35mm size: 9'30" @ 70 for Delta 400, agitation for one minute at outset, then 10"/min thereafter; 8'-0" for TMX, same agitation. The Delta 400 time was very good, printing at #3 on my Aristo VCL4500 cold light head. TMX was close to correct, but probably would have been better with 30 to 60 seconds more, say, 8'-30" @ 70.

Of interest, TMX, which I find extremely fine grained in my normal developer, exhibited more grain than I expected; Delta 400, however, showed exceptionally fine grain. Comparing the two, grain-wise, displayed only a slight advantage to TMX, certainly less than one might expect. However, TMX was *really* sharp, and showed none of the diffused look so many complain about. The grain difference might be attributed to TMX being slightly underdeveloped; I didn't test enough to really say for sure. In any case, both films looked terrific in this stuff. It has some of the look of Rodinal, but even sharper and finer grained. Hope that helps to give you a better idea of what you can expect.

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 28, 2001.

Correction on the development time for Delta 400! It's was 10'-30", not 9'-30" as I listed. My memory is not what it used to be, I guess :).

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 29, 2001.

I've been using Pat Gainers Vit-C / Borax / Phenidone variation on 8x20 HP-5 negs for a couple of years now, and I love the results. However, I occasionaly bump into a streaking problem that has me puzzled. I use it one-shot and have tried various agitation techniques, but every so often I'll get what appears to be "bromide drag" streaking. To further complicate the issue, I've tried to develope 120/220 FP-4 on Nikor reels in lifting-rod tanks, but the streaking was catastrophic. (I've developed thousands of rolls using lift-rod tanks over the past 15 years, and have never seen such streaking).

I wonder if Pat Gainer has experienced some problems, since his latest article (about re-developing in pyro) discusses using a different Vit-C formula which he refers to as "My Favorite" .

Has anyone else experienced a similar problem??

--Reiny Schable

-- Reiny Schable (, November 30, 2001.

Haven't seen any streaking. Last night I mixed up another batch, this time dividing the developer ingredients (metol and l-ascorbic acid) and the alkaline activators (NaOH and borax) to use it as a A + B type developer.

I then went out and shot on a foggy night here in NYC. Many shots were of bright lights reflected across the East River and culminating with a dazzling array of Christmas lights arranged through a grove of trees. Both situations were extremely contrasty.

I tried developing the film using 1/2 the required A component with the full B amount. This was, in effect, approximately equal to D-76 1:3. I used a three minute agitation cycle, instead of one minute intervals, and I increased my development time by 80%. I used Acros film in 35mm in a standard SS tank.

I have not printed the results yet, but the negatives look very good. This procedure provided excellent compensation with minimal speed loss, and most importantly, no streaking. I read about the streaking problem right after I finished developing the film. So either I was lucky or the streaking problem is not a consistent problem. I will, however, watch for it, but so far, I'm still extremely pleased and impressed with this developer, especially now that it is in two parts, which extends its shelf-life and versatility.

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 30, 2001.

Streaking is emulsion-dependent. I think recent films especially T-MAX and Delta lines are more resistant to it. Maybe you could add 20g to 40g of sodium sulfite to 1 liter of working developer (assuming the original formula has none) and see what happens. If it doesn't help, I might try adding some KBr or completely throw away that formula and think about next one!

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, November 30, 2001.

I have never had any streaking problem on 35 mm, 120 or 4X5. I develop the roll film in either a Patterson plastic tank or stainless steel tank. I usually use 10 sec per minute of rather vigorous agitation by inversion on roll film. I have a Combiplan tank for the 4X5 but often develop in a tray when I only have a couple to do. I thought for a while that adding a little sulfite produced less base fog. I don't use it any more except for some experiments. TMX and TMY have very clear base either way. Pat Gainer

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 03, 2001.

I was much bothered by the report of streaking and did some experiments to check it out. I developed a strip of TMY in the phenidone-c-borax concoction for 10 minutes at 70 degrees with agitation only for the first 30 seconds plus a couple of raps to dislodge bubbles. I let it stand for the rest of the time. My usual time with periodic agitation is 8 minutes. There is no sign whatever of uneven development of any kind. The negative is full scale and prints well on grade 2. (There were several negatives on the strip but all were the same subject and exposure.) I don't know what to say. I could see how there might be problems with 220 reels because of the close spacing of the grooves of the reels I have seen. I suppose you have considered that already. Sorry I can't help. If I had the problem I might be able to solve it.

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 05, 2001.

So Patric, nice to have you contributing since we are discussing your developers. Do you have any more info on the vit-C used with Rodinal at 1:50/75 or 100 for us? I like the look of Rodinal with my 5x7 & 8x10 work. Any advantages you have found if I go with the vit-C additive over straight Rodinal?

I do tray develop, by inspection. Any problems or unusual occurances I should watch for as the negative comes up under the green safelight?

-- Dan Smith (, December 09, 2001.

Thanks, Patrick, for your input.

I seem to recall reading (in the late 50's) that streaking was caused by a by-product of development, created by the silver-bromide/developer reaction, hence the phrase "bromide drag". Agitation was supposed to keep the stuff dispersed so it woudn't streak.

I saw no difference in streak patterns between the 120 and 220 reels. Other developers used over the years have never given me any indication that 220 reels are prone to uneven development.

What's really puzzling are the occasional streaks on the 8x20 sheet film. I tray develope one-at-a-time, being sooper careful to vary the agitation patterns. I'm pretty certain it's not an agitation problem.

I find Ryuji's comment about streaking being emulsion- dependant of interest. All of my "events" involved FP-4 and HP-5, whereas your recent test was with TMY. Ted used TMX and Delta films and saw no streaking. I wonder...could it be that these particular Ilford emuslions (FP-4 & HP-5) are more vulnerable to errant bromide, as mentioned above, and that the addition of Potassuim bromide, as suggested by Ryuji would help?? If I get a moment, I'll try a run with Ilford and Kodak films, with and without KBR.

By the way... why is your "My Favorite" formula (More Pyrotechnics Mar/Apr 2000 Photo Techniques) your favorite?

-- Reinhold (Reiny) Schable (, December 09, 2001.

> Do you have any more info on the vit-C used with Rodinal at 1:50/75 or 100 for us?

I ran a couple of sheets of TMX and Acros in Rodinal 1:100 with sodium ascorbate added at the rate of 4g per liter working solution.

Frankly I couldn't see any significant difference at 8x or 30x between that and Rodinal 1:100 w/o ascorbate. It _may_ have been slightly finer-grained but otoh that could've simply been wishful seeing.

The only difference of note is that both films were 1/3 stop slower for CIs matching the non-ascorbate Rodinal. Actually I used the same development times; the curves were the same but simply displaced.

A side note; recently I've been fiddling with Delta 3200 in D-23 1:3 for EI 1600. The addition of 4/gL sodium ascorbate gives the same EI and CI with 25% less development time and the graininess is easily visibly finer.

-- John Hicks (, December 09, 2001.

To Reiny, It's been a while since I did any sheet film, but I never had any trouble when I did. I used some Arista 400, TMX, TMY and TRI-Pro. Most of what I do now is 35 because of arthritis. I tried HP5 + without agitation without any streaking. Also TMY. Did you try an experiment without agitation? I called it "My Favorite" because of a whim. I didn't know what else to call it. It was what I was using at the time, and it works pretty well, but so do a lot of others. My experiments have been mostly for learning. Sometimes something practical comes out. Everything I have tried so far works better with ascorbate in it. The coming issue of Photo Techniques will have my article "Salt to Taste" which may be of interest.

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 10, 2001.

To John, I wouldn't expect to see any difference on those films. Especially when you're talking about sheets. I am surprised that you found a decrease in speed. I usually find a little increase. Usually I expose at the manufacturer's rated speed according to my Luna Pro (ancient) meter or my EOS meter. I suppose that makes me a heretic.

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 10, 2001.

My opinion of Rodinal is that we waste a lot of time trying to fix it instead of using it for what it's good for. Rodinal works with some films and some subjects like nothing else, grain or no grain. When you hit it right it makes pictures everybody who has any sensitivity will admire. I fool around and sometimes think I've got something. If I wanted to make D-23 out of Rodinal, I would just make D-23. That's just an example. If I find something tha lets Rodinal do something on HP5 + like it does on FP4, I'll think it's great. So far what I have found is interesting. As a learning experience, it taught me what I already knew. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 11, 2001.

> My opinion of Rodinal is that we waste a lot of time trying to fix it instead of using it for what it's good for.

I think you're absolutely right; otoh all this fooling around keeps us out of mischief.

-- John Hicks (, December 11, 2001.

I'm out of mischief a lot, but not out of trouble. I play with so many developers that when it comes to do a picture I really want to do I can't decide which one to use.

-- Patrick A. Gainer (, December 12, 2001.

I am also not fond of fixing Rodinal by adding something and telling people around "it worked well."

So Mr Gainer, let's fix your formulae :-)

The original formula I vaguely remember is metol, ascorbic acid and carbonate version. I see that is kinda buffered version of FX-1 or maybe Agfa/Ansco 45 or dilute DK-50 without sodium sulfite. (many people dilute DK-50 like A+B+water of 1+3+4 or 1+4+5)

But the version Ted Kaufman reported above is like a fine grain developer without any sulfite. (Depending on the amount of hydroxide this may behave more like metaborate or carbonate buffer version.)

So, how do you describe the difference in terms of image quality? Are they intended to be the same? Do you see any benefit of additional sodium sulfite of about 25g/liter?

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, December 13, 2001.

> I can't decide which one to use

And here I thought I was the only person who did that....

-- John Hicks (, December 15, 2001.

A number of people wonder which of Pat Gainer's formulas to try. Here's my recommendation: Part A: 8g l-ascorbic acid (you can substitute sodium ascorbate, but you should consult his article for the conversion), 0.8g metol (again, you can substitute using phenidone--consult article for conversion), add this to 500ml distilled water. Part B: 24.4 borax, 6.8 sodium hydroxide (be careful!) , add to 500ml distilled water. (Pat Gainer told me he now uses 10% sodium metaborate for his "B" solution. I haven't tested it yet, so I can't say how much.) Use it A + B + distilled water at 1:1:14, using approximately the same times and agitation as you would with D-76 1:1.

I'm really surprised at how good this stuff is. It's better than any commercial developer I've ever seen. If you've been using XTOL or Ilfosol-S, you owe it to yourself to try this developer. You'll be happy you did.

-- Ted Kaufman (, December 15, 2001.

>> I can't decide which one to use > And here I thought I was the only person who did that....

I tend to consider developer paired to film. And I use three different kinds of films (Delta 3200 is not counted in three yet) I have three developers. Buffered FX-1, D-76Ad, and Microphen. I have a lot more problem in deciding which wine to drink.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, December 15, 2001.

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