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06-25-2019, 09:16 AM   #1
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What B&W Developer to Choose

Hello,

I was out doing some photography with a roll of Kentmere PAN 400 and I was shooting it at box speed. I managed to capture several pretty rare shots and want to develop it with the best quality I can get. I am sending it out to a several-decade-old professional lab here in China, and they have several developers I can choose: D76, ID-11, Rodinal, and HC-110 is available at their "standard tier," and for their premium tier, I can choose between TMax RS, DD-X, Xtol, and Silvermax. I have used HC-110 and Xtol before, and would like some more information and suggestions on the other developers and how to choose them.

Sincerely

06-25-2019, 09:44 AM   #2
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Far from being knowledgeable about the subject, I use ddx and have used ilfosol3, because it seems easier to mix liquid for one roll at a time, I only shoot 1-2 rolls per month. But I stopped using ilfosol3 because it couldn't push much if at all.

Last edited by aaacb; 06-25-2019 at 11:47 AM.
06-25-2019, 10:51 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by butangmucat Quote
Kentmere PAN 400 and I was shooting it at box speed. I managed to capture several pretty rare shots and want to develop it with the best quality I can get. I am sending it out to a several-decade-old professional lab here in China, and they have several developers I can choose: D76, ID-11, Rodinal, and HC-110 is available at their "standard tier," and for their premium tier, I can choose between TMax RS, DD-X, Xtol, and Silvermax. I have used HC-110 and Xtol before, and would like some more information and suggestions on the other developers and how to choose them.
First, if you have some "rare" shots, then this is not the roll to discover and learn the pros and cons of various developers. Each developer has its own pros and cons relative to the film used, the desired characteristics, and price/convenience.

Here's one of many sites that analyze and breakdown commonly used film developers:
Choosing a B&W Film Developer | La Vida Leica!

Knowing what you shot and what you want out of the image (sharpness vs. grain vs. shadow detail) will help you decide what may be "the best" after reading that link.
Price and speed of developing are only a factor if you DIY.

In our school lab that I run, we use Kodak XTOL as it's a jack of all trades and has a good overall balance for many different types of films.
Of the choices in your case, I'd go with ID-11 for the standard tier. If you're willing to pay for a higher tier, then Xtol.

From my experience, I'd only use TMax developer with TMax film and DD-X with Ilford Delta film. There's no harm in using TMax or DD-X with other films, but they are more expensive and I haven't seen any benefit.

It takes time and a lot of trial and error to see and learn how different films are affected by different developers. Kentmere 400 is a decent "value" film, but even using Ilford HP5+ 400 would be a slight step up and I would suggest you use the same developer with different films to find your "best" or favorite and then use the same film with different developers to see which gives you the look that has the aesthetic you're looking for.

In general, Kodak chems work best with Kodak films, Ilford dev with Ilford film, etc. because they are tested and formulated for optimization. Kentmere is owned by Ilford, and is almost the same, but not identical.

And BTW, in the linked article, they often refer to one developer as comparable to another. This is because the chemical ingredients of those comparable developers are nearly identical with a very minor tweak to avoid patent infringement.
06-25-2019, 02:49 PM   #4
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D76 & ID11 are pretty much the same thing, they are fairly conservative standard developers. That would be my choice if someone else was developing my film, they're pretty hard to screw up.

06-26-2019, 07:44 AM   #5
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Years ago, I decided to do a definitive test of the developers I had on hand. I shot a roll of 35mm (APX 100, I think) of a building across the street lit in full sun, with the camera on auto bracketing. In the darkroom I chopped the film into four sections and loaded them into four developing tanks. I developed one in HC-110 (dil. B), another in TMax, another in Rodinal 1+25, and the last in Rodinal 1+50.

All developed up just fine, and upon analysis I was ready to triumphantly discover which offered better tonal scale, shadow detail, grain structure, etc. etc.

Honestly couldn't tell the difference between any of them. An earlier test I did comparing different 50mm lenses on one roll of film brought out much larger shifts in sharpness, shadow detail, etc.


I have since learned not to be so precious about developer choice. A good, middle of the road developer, like D-76, or Ilfosol 3, or HC-110, does just fine 99% of the time. The only thing I caution against is using a surface working developer like Rodinal with a 400 ISO film - sharp yes, but a little too much grain for my taste.

Over the years we get excited about particular film/developer combinations. I've been guilty of it myself, but looking back on it, I realize my photos sometimes looked great, or not so great, because of lighting or subject matter. If I had a good day, it wasn't necessarily because of my film choice or darkroom technique. I was just having a good day.
06-26-2019, 08:07 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by aaacb Quote
Far from being knowledgeable about the subject, I use ddx and have used ilfosol3, because it seems easier to mix liquid for one roll at a time, I only shoot 1-2 rolls per month. But I stopped using ilfosol3 because it couldn't push much if at all.
I am sending it out, so I am not the one dealing with the chemicals. It is my first time working with the specific lab, but it does have a very good reputation among Chinese B&W photographers, so I trust their operations won't screw the chemicals up.

---------- Post added 06-26-19 at 08:33 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
First, if you have some "rare" shots, then this is not the roll to discover and learn the pros and cons of various developers. Each developer has its own pros and cons relative to the film used, the desired characteristics, and price/convenience.

Here's one of many sites that analyze and breakdown commonly used film developers:
Choosing a B&W Film Developer | La Vida Leica!

Knowing what you shot and what you want out of the image (sharpness vs. grain vs. shadow detail) will help you decide what may be "the best" after reading that link.
Price and speed of developing are only a factor if you DIY.

In our school lab that I run, we use Kodak XTOL as it's a jack of all trades and has a good overall balance for many different types of films.
Of the choices in your case, I'd go with ID-11 for the standard tier. If you're willing to pay for a higher tier, then Xtol.

From my experience, I'd only use TMax developer with TMax film and DD-X with Ilford Delta film. There's no harm in using TMax or DD-X with other films, but they are more expensive and I haven't seen any benefit.

It takes time and a lot of trial and error to see and learn how different films are affected by different developers. Kentmere 400 is a decent "value" film, but even using Ilford HP5+ 400 would be a slight step up and I would suggest you use the same developer with different films to find your "best" or favorite and then use the same film with different developers to see which gives you the look that has the aesthetic you're looking for.

In general, Kodak chems work best with Kodak films, Ilford dev with Ilford film, etc. because they are tested and formulated for optimization. Kentmere is owned by Ilford, and is almost the same, but not identical.

And BTW, in the linked article, they often refer to one developer as comparable to another. This is because the chemical ingredients of those comparable developers are nearly identical with a very minor tweak to avoid patent infringement.
OK, let me disclose the full story to see if I can get more specific inspiration...

So it was a sunny day, and I decided to experiment with doing some rail photography (railfaning) with B/W film, something I have rarely done before, and I loaded up my LX with a roll of fresh Kentmere 400. I was not expecting that, but a "Dr. Yellow," or a track inspection train went through and I did my best to capture some shots of it (I would have used Portra 400 for this job if I expected it coming).

I managed to dig up some color shots that I have made before, to better illustrate the difference.





Basically, the standard version carries a white livery, and the inspection version has the white replaced with a dull yellow color. However, the exact composition of that day has quite a lot of sky in it. I used a Tamron 17A with no filters. I would like to emphasis that the inspection train was carrying a yellow, not white livery, and want to have the best dynamic range available.

I am not sure which developer fits the bill, nor the grain characteristics of Ketemere 400 (it was my first roll of this particular emulsion). However I am ruling out HC-110 for now because it seems that this developer focuses on enhancing contrast, and I fear that it would eat the available DR. I have never used Rodinal before, but have heard good things about it. I know that DD-X is a slight speed booster and works best with faster Delta films, but also never used it before. So far my favorite developers are Xtol and Clayton F76+ (which is not available in China), but I mostly worked with Delta films before, not the cubic grain emulsions.

Sincerely
06-27-2019, 02:31 AM   #7
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
First, if you have some "rare" shots, then this is not the roll to discover and learn the pros and cons of various developers. Each developer has its own pros and cons relative to the film used, the desired characteristics, and price/convenience.



Here's one of many sites that analyze and breakdown commonly used film developers:

Choosing a B&W Film Developer | La Vida Leica!



Knowing what you shot and what you want out of the image (sharpness vs. grain vs. shadow detail) will help you decide what may be "the best" after reading that link.

Price and speed of developing are only a factor if you DIY.



In our school lab that I run, we use Kodak XTOL as it's a jack of all trades and has a good overall balance for many different types of films.

Of the choices in your case, I'd go with ID-11 for the standard tier. If you're willing to pay for a higher tier, then Xtol.



From my experience, I'd only use TMax developer with TMax film and DD-X with Ilford Delta film. There's no harm in using TMax or DD-X with other films, but they are more expensive and I haven't seen any benefit.



It takes time and a lot of trial and error to see and learn how different films are affected by different developers. Kentmere 400 is a decent "value" film, but even using Ilford HP5+ 400 would be a slight step up and I would suggest you use the same developer with different films to find your "best" or favorite and then use the same film with different developers to see which gives you the look that has the aesthetic you're looking for.



In general, Kodak chems work best with Kodak films, Ilford dev with Ilford film, etc. because they are tested and formulated for optimization. Kentmere is owned by Ilford, and is almost the same, but not identical.



And BTW, in the linked article, they often refer to one developer as comparable to another. This is because the chemical ingredients of those comparable developers are nearly identical with a very minor tweak to avoid patent infringement.


But I am getting a flat rate for each tier i.e. I pay the same price for DD-X and Xtol, since they are both the “premium” tier service. In this case is there an advantage of DD-X?


06-27-2019, 03:04 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by butangmucat Quote
But I am getting a flat rate for each tier i.e. I pay the same price for DD-X and Xtol, since they are both the “premium” tier service. In this case is there an advantage of DD-X?
I would favor Xtol in your case as DD-X is best for higher ISO, pushing film, and can be a bit more contrasty, while Xtol will give you finer grain. If you were shooting Ilford Delta 400 rated at 1600 or Delta 3200 @ EI 3200, then I'd go with DD-X.

But not Delta and Kentmere 400 shot at 400 ISO? Then Xtol.

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