A question regarding film , developer and development

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Now, I realize I may place my patriotism in question, and the right to EVER take photos again in jeaopardy, but I just gotta ask: Are we not doing newer photographers, and some older ones a disservice by the constant, neverending search for the Holy Grail of grainless negatives, and the PERFECT film, and other such Photographick Proctologye? I suppose all this is a LOT of fun, and I have pretty well tried everything (it got me, too!) except Tetenal Neofin Blue and Rodinal at higher dilutions. BUT! Are there any BAD films that are more than 5 years old? How about developers? XTOL? It REALLY looked good in the stuff Kodak sent me. Have the problems been solved? What are the old standards? Tri and Plus-x, Ilford films, of whatever designation, and if you really need to be anal about processing, the newer T Max films. For full film speed, great shadow detail, and sharp enlargements, the older developers, D-76 Ilford ID-11 and , for that matter, Ethol UFG, and Acufine have done very well for years. D-76 has been around since before my service days,(1958)and my boss in college had a thing for Acufine and Tri-x rated at about 1200(he said) for yearbook photos of student activities and concerts. Remember, Tri-X was THE high speed emulsion back then, and it was really daring to rate it at 800. I thought the soot and chalk results were marginal, at best. When I asked "Jerry, what can we do to get better shadow detail?" he didn't have an answer. Probably, that was the best we could do, back there in the stone ages. Now, we have films at any speed up to 3200, with fine grain that would make the photographers of yore dance and sing, and pharmacologies of developers- enough to confuse a rocket scientist, which most of us ain't. Right? A modest suggestion would be: Select one film and developer, learn to produce excellent negatives using that combination, and brilliant prints from those negs, and then switch to somthing else, if the need is overwhelming. Who knows, the need to change may never appear, and more time can be spent on improving the seeing and composition skills. Lord knows, most of us could use that! The old stuff is very good, or it would not still exist,is relatively easy to use, and matches or surpasses the performance of the newer whiz-bang creations. Now where did I put my high-button shoes?? Dear, Where is the bugggy whip?

-- Carl Crosby (humminboid@aol.com), January 24, 2002


IMHO, everybody should start with a medium speed film and D-76. In fact, special licenses should be issued before one is allowed to fool with new-fangled films and exotic developers. At least that way, everyone would have a decent standard of comparison for their experiments. I don't think "the search" is really due to dissatisfaction with the traditional products, but a touch of boredom after doing the same thing for a long time. BTW, there may not be many bad films or formulas, but there are certainly some hideous combinations!

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), January 24, 2002.

Conrad, You are an INTELLIGENT person! I could tell right away by how well you agree with me. "Licensed to develop"? Perhaps that could be expanded to "Licensed for a 1 or 2-stop push", Or "licensed for the Zone system". The possibilties are endless. Maybe the biggie, "Licensed to fool around in the darkroom". Boy, THAT would have ruined the whole reason a lot of the kids in my photo classes signed up.(besides the easy physics credit)LOL! CC

-- Carl Crosby (humminboid@aol.com), January 25, 2002.

Well said Carl!
What goes around, comes around; or, there ain't much new under the sun.
I couldn't agree more that the pursuit of 'the perfect film and developer combo' is like the search for the Holy Grail. If it ever existed, and you found it, how would it improve your life? Marginally, is my guess. And even then, some other malcontent would gainsay that it was the one true Grail.

Another old saw is - "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", and if the bird in the hand is FP4+ and D-76, and that gives you stunning results, then why go chasing a more exotic species?
Of course, some people will get their kicks from shooting Minox, and getting results that are barely distinguishable from 35mm. Good luck to them; but let's not pretend they're quality freaks. Chuck the Minox and buy something (anything!) larger if you really want quality.

As for high speed film: 3200 is just a number on a box.
Even with the most wishful thinking, the highest speed film available to the general public today has a true rating of about 1200 ISO

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 25, 2002.

I teach a non-credit HS photography class and recommend TMY to all of my students. A few of the better ones end up shooting some TMX or TMZ. Everything is souped in HC-110 (as supplied by the school) except the TMZ for which I supply TMax developer.

My own work is pretty much limited to Tri-X in PMK and TMZ in TMax. I have been down the road you talk about but, I returned long ago. I really think that many of us have our view f the world skewwed by photo.net. The mix here is heavy with "techies", much heavier than the outside world. This makes us think that everyone's darkroom is stocked with 10 films and 15 developers. I don't think that is the case.

-- Ed Farmer (photography2k@hotmail.com), January 25, 2002.

Just to stir things up a bit, and at the risk of being flamed, I respectfully disagree with the thesis that better developers than D- 76 and ID-11 haven't been invented. In my personal experience, staining developers such as PMK and W2D2 produce a longer printable scale than any conventional developer, with no pushing or pulling necessary.

Bob Herbst, in his article "Effects of Pyro Stain in Platinum Printing", concludes:

"Another observation from these tests is that my time and temperature combination for pyro development yielded a longer scale negative than D-76. As we saw in the print comparisons, pyro compresses the subject brightness range resulting in a print with 9 stops of subject brightness without overly compressing any one portion of the scale. Prior to running these tests, my experiences in photographing in cathedrals and the canyons of southern Utah showed this characteristic of pyro. I frequently exposed images with a brightness range from zone 2 to zone 11 and this range was accurately rendered in the resulting prints. I believe that adjustments to the development of a D-76 negative may be able to produce similar results although separation in the shadow values might be reduced. This area requires further investigation before any conclusions can be made."

Yes, the old stuff is very good, but the new stuff is even better.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), January 25, 2002.

Aside from the issue of being able to render long tonal scales, etc. mentioned above, some prefer to use liquid concentrate developers with long keeping properties. I agree that that are many benefits of staying with one developer and learning it well, but does it have to be D-76/ID-11?

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), January 25, 2002.

I couldn't agree more.

I use two different developers- Ilfosol-S and PF FX-2. I fooled around with different combinations before settling on Neopan @400-800 in the FX-2, and Ilfosol-S with Delta 100 for the slower work. I am not quite satified with the Delta/Ilfosol (although quite good), and in my total of 36exp. on Plus-X (6 years ago), I recall good results from d-76. I priced out Plus-X, but figured i'd give FP4+ a try and got 20 rolls to test. Pete, I'm glad you mentioned D-76- I keep some as a "back-up" if needed.

My point is I did a little searching, but I try to search as little as possible. I agree that expending energy making progress with known combinations and refining your results is the point. Sharing your results with others is just plain good "karma".

-- Mike DeVoue (karma77@att.net), January 26, 2002.

Ilford!Kodak!D76,Xtol! All obsolete!! I am using Newopan12. Whilst it is only rated at ISO 12 it can be pushed to ISO 6400 with no problem. The film is hard to come by as it is made in Antartica by virgin maidens during the summer solstise just once per year. I have found a good custom lab to push the film to ISO 6400 It is a one hour lab located in Tibet half way up Mount Everest.Home processing is said to be difficult as the film is processed at 130 deg for 3.5 hrs (plus or minus .00003 secs) I am waiting for information on using the film with the Zone system which I will post as soon as it comes available.

-- Melvin (bramley@nanaimo.ark.com), January 26, 2002.

Melvin; We breathlessly await the posting of results, and how they might be adapted to the writings of ST. Ansel. The processing doesn't sound too hard, a bit like my wife's cooking. Temp control might be a small difficulty, but that's what we all got into photography for, to OVERCOME! Right? I am astounded at the seeming lack of maidens of the virgin persuasion, tho. Last time I was in Mexico, there were guys on every streetcorner advertising that very thing. Supply and demand? Hmmm this may need more study. Carl Crosby

-- Carl Crosby (humminboid@aol.com), January 26, 2002.

I have stadardized on 35mm Delta 400 in XTOL 1:1. My darkroom addiction lay dormant for 15 years & back then I used 35mm Tri-X in D- 76 1:1 as my standard. I find the discussions about other developers & films very interesting but quite frankly, I'm sticking with what I know. BTW I'm still using the same Camera as back then, I would't even know where to find the shutter release on the new stuff. I thought Mt Everest was in Nepal :-).

-- Robert Orofio (minotaur1949@iopener.et), January 26, 2002.

ROBERT.. .Errr! yes Everest is in Nepal,I must have an old map!!(the Romans were not too accurate! I too use Delta 400 in Xtol 1:1 with good results.It also seems to push better than the old!! films. I do however have a bunch of HP5 that needs using up & I intend to develop it in Xtol & Microphen & do a comparison;just for old times sake.When all said & done it is better to stick with one film & developer untill you completley understand its characteristics.That said'I have seen lots of wonderfull photographs taken with "inferior"older emulsions;including glass plates.

-- Melvin (bramley@naniamo.ark.com), January 26, 2002.

Why does anyone need anything other than D-23? Its soooo simple!

-- Robert Marvin (marvbej@earthlink.net), January 28, 2002.

Woops--I forgot to put a :-) after that. D-23 is geat stuff, but not necessarily the be all and end all of developers. (Although I've been using it for EVERTHING lately).

-- Robert Marvin (marvbej@earthlink.net), January 28, 2002.

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