PMK expections : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I am new to PMK; I developed two rolls of film in PMK and made some trial prints over the weekend. The films were FP4+ in 120 and T-Max 100 in 35 mm. I used the development times and agitation recommended in the ‘Film Developing Cookbook’ and the instructions that came with PMK.

Previously I was working with TFX-2 as a film developer (Glycin-Metol, Non-Solvent) using a semi-stand development. I was interested in trying PMK because my current developer/agitation technique produces high micro-contrast, and because of Pyro’s reputation for separating nearly adjacent tones. I was suprised by my initial results; the prints were less sharp and grainier with no apparent improvement in graduation.

Since I was able to print with a Number 2 filter on Multi-Grade IV FB with the contrast that I wanted, development times with PMK were close to ideal. The FP4+ stained more than the T-Max, although the stain on the T-Max was enough to require doubling the exposure time vs. my non-stained negatives. For the record, I print with a condenser enlarger, and I used TF-4 alkaline fixer.

Obviously PMK is a fine developer or it wouldn’t have the following that is does. Are the some processing techniques that I should be aware of? Any help would be appreciated.

-- Joe Guay (, February 04, 2002


Joe, you need to get "The Book of Pyro" by Gordon Hutchings. I use PMK Pyro with HP5+ in both 120 and 4x5 formats. You didn't say what size prints you 8x10's from 120 HP5 are almost grainless and extremely sharp. My development times are much shorter then most books and web sites recommend.

-- Don Sparks (, February 05, 2002.

I firmly agree with Don's response. I used FX-2 and TFX-2 extensively before trying PMK. PMK delivered much finer grain, higher acutance and better gradation than I got with any FX-2 formulation or processing technique. Not that FX-2 is bad--it's actually very good--but PMK is simply better.

One thing you'll find with PMK or any good tanning/staining developer is you can reduce development considerably from what looks to the eye like a "good" negative. The proportional buildup of stain allows you to achieve highlight density without extending development, which is in large part why it achieves the fine grain, sharpness and subtle gradations it is noted for. Good PMK negatives look rather thin and flat. Try reducing your time by 20% and see how it works. With 35mm I would recommend targeting your idea filtration to a #3 filter.

Hutchings' book is a very interesting reference, and I recommend it not only for instruction on using PMK but also for the many useful tips that apply to LF photography and b&w processing in general.

-- Ted Kaufman (, February 05, 2002.


TMX does not stain well in PMK. My personal favorite is Tri-X, rated at 250 and processed in PMK. I get absolutly grainless 8x10's from 35mm. However, I print with a diffusion VC enlarger. I am still fine tuning my development times (I keep terrible records) so I can't help much there. But, I did find Gordon Hutchings times to be a great starting point.

A couple of things that I have discovered to be true: Use a straight hypo fixer (no hardener), go right from the fixer back into the used developer for two minutes, then right into the wash. Do not use any wash aid and leave the film in the wash for 30 minutes. The stain clearly growes in the wash.

-- Ed Farmer (, February 05, 2002.

I started using PMK pyro about a year ago. My TMX negatives don't stain nearly as well as my tri-x negatives. I am so impressed with the pyro negatives that I use it as my main developer over 90% of the time. Only when I need compensating development, or high speed do I use anything else.

I don't know if you are using tap water, but Gordin Hutchings "Book of Pyro" notes that pyro is very sensitive to impurities in the water. This is especially important for roll film processing.

I have used distilled water to mix all the chemicals involved, and use six water baths, 5 minutes each for the rinse. Filtered water should be fine too.

It's a pain, but my water supply is high in sulfur and minerals, and I have not yet installed a filter. You might try this and see if it solves the problem.

As far as fixer. I use the Kodak rapid fix, I just leave out the hardener. I'm sure TF-4 is just fine too.

-- Eric Verheul (, February 10, 2002.

Keep persevering. I'm still learning about PMK myself, but I've gotten some very encouraging results from it (with Tri-X and Plus-X; oddly, my Ilford results, with both the Delta films and the traditional emulsions, have been disappointing thus far, but I haven't tried Pan-F yet).

Agitate like a madman. Pyro oxidizes very rapidly. I give three very violent shakes of the tank every 15 seconds. I use a one-minute running wash, fix with TF-4, two minutes in running water, two minutes in the used developer, and fifteen more of wash. Tri-X and Plus-X stain magically. (I get base fog with Plus-X but it's not objectionable.) I used Hutchings' recommendations for time and EI for both films.

-- Jim MacKenzie (, February 13, 2002.

PMK and all pyro developers really like thicker emulsions, the thicker the emulsion the greater the stain. Are you sure your prints are less sharp? I thought so at first because of the smoother contrast ie less percieved edge definition. However I cannot really say because I have never used TFX2. BTW at the risk of being flamed pyro is not in my experience a fine grain developing agent. I have found pyro negs have had larger grain than those developed in ID11, however the stain somehow manages to mask this grain. Anyone have similar experiences re: grain?

-- Steven Crabtree (, February 13, 2002.

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