Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath

Started 8 months ago | Discussions
Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 7,381
Re: Why?
1

My experience with scanning B&W negatives, which I did a lot of before I knew digital existed!, is that scanners can detect very thin parts of a negative very well, dense portions are more problematic.  Keep development controlled.  You can pump up the contrast in digital processing.

Yes, I think a developer like D-76 can do quite a bit (i.e. almost anything), even with films like Delta 100, which for me was the only acceptable T-/D- grain film.  I never cared for TMax.  It lacks bite or a real acuity to me.

If you are in the US, I recommend Freestyle Sales.  They have economical liquid versions of D-76, so you don't have to mix a gallon size portion of powder.

OP KayL Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
1

Steven Seven wrote:

D76 or ID11 are probably best for beginners

Why? What is so special about them to be "best for beginners". Why not Xtol or DD-X or HC-110?

Nothing wrong with those developers for beginners - also excellent choices. Just don’t use monobath

 KayL's gear list:KayL's gear list
Kodak DC215
OP KayL Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Why?
1

Gesture wrote:

My experience with scanning B&W negatives, which I did a lot of before I knew digital existed!, is that scanners can detect very thin parts of a negative very well, dense portions are more problematic. Keep development controlled. You can pump up the contrast in digital processing.

Yes, I think a developer like D-76 can do quite a bit (i.e. almost anything), even with films like Delta 100, which for me was the only acceptable T-/D- grain film. I never cared for TMax. It lacks bite or a real acuity to me.

Yes, same here - I have a folder full of T-Max negatives processed with D76 and T-Max RS. They were very challenging to print using my condenser enlarger, and are still difficult to scan. The highlights just get really dense due to the linear response - it’s almost like slide film when overexposed. Printing with grade 0 or 1 paper to try and preserve highlight detail led to very flat mid tones.

These days I’m exclusively scanning, and prefer the older films like FP4 and Tri-X for this reason. XP2 is even better when it’s available. I only use Delta 3200 for low light settings, and to be honest I end up using digital in those scenarios most of the time.

 KayL's gear list:KayL's gear list
Kodak DC215
Steven Seven
Steven Seven Regular Member • Posts: 362
Re: Why?

Even scans and curves adjustments cannot correct completely for poor exposure and development....a good scan needs a good neg.

So you agree, that the image above sucks? I've done 3 rolls of HP5+ and every single frame is like that. Either DD-X is not working for HP5+ or this look is a "signature" HP5+ look or I'm going crazy...

justinwonnacott Senior Member • Posts: 1,073
Re: Why?

justinwonnacott wrote:

Steven Seven wrote:

Thank you, your explanations in the post above were helpful. The neg I posted above actually has a ton of details in both shadows and highlights, they were clipped intentionally in post-processing because I like the contrasty look. Delta 100 is amazing.

Basically my interpretation of what you're saying is this: "using conventional emulsions and developers like D76 one can play with tonality & contrast of negatives by manipulating dilution, temperature and development time"

And since I never wet-print, I only scan. So I can do the same thing with standard "on-the-bottle" processing routine and use the curves tool in CaptureOne instead. Delta films (and Tri-X) are amazing for this. Not so with HP5+ that thing just gives me a bunch of nearly identical grey, I will try it again in other developers. I really want to like it (because of it's cult following) but it's really hard... This is my typical HP5+ scan:

Even after a ton of curve tweaking, it's basically pitch-black plus a bunch of grey. I hate this look:

HP5+ in DD-X stock

Even scans and curves adjustments cannot correct completely for poor exposure and development....a good scan needs a good neg.

Lee Friedlander has made some great work with 35mm and plus. Some of his work has a long scale and large format feel. Just good exposure and development for his subjects. A great photographer.

 justinwonnacott's gear list:justinwonnacott's gear list
Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM
OP KayL Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Why?
1

Steven Seven wrote:

Even after a ton of curve tweaking, it's basically pitch-black plus a bunch of grey. I hate this look:

HP5+ in DD-X stock

Hi Steven, I think that overall your photo looks pretty good and is what I would expect from this scenario. It’s a very high contrast setting, taken in full sunlight with a high sun. Some of the ‘flatness’ you dislike is probably subject-related, rather than processing-related (flat textureless ground and sky).

Ansel Adams might consider this situation an ‘N minus 2’ scenario whereby you open up the dynamic range of the film approximately 2 ‘zones’ by exposing a bit more, then holding back on your final development time. Then you might bring out a bit more shadow detail (the extra exposure) without that foreground guy’s white sweater and sneakers turning solid white (the silver isn’t depositing as much due to slower development).

My understanding is that DD-X is a high energy developer that was initially designed for push processing Delta, but functions reasonably well as a general purpose developer. This however might make it less suitable for contrast control (compensating) development, as it’s so active. I haven’t tried this personally, but you could try DD-X in higher dilutions to see if this does the trick, but Perceptol, HC110, or Rodinal in high dilution might be better.

HP5 isn’t a contrasty film, it’s very similar to Tri-X and will deal with extreme contrast well.

”Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights”

 KayL's gear list:KayL's gear list
Kodak DC215
Steven Seven
Steven Seven Regular Member • Posts: 362
Re: Why?
1

Thank you!

HP5 isn’t a contrasty film, it’s very similar to Tri-X and will deal with extreme contrast well.

See, people say this all the time, but I found Tri-X results to be spectacular. It always gives me options in digital post-processing and overall appears to be "wider" with rich mid-tones. HP5+ with DD-X seems to "compress" so much dynamic range into a narrow range of grey values... Having developed a few rolls of each, the difference is impossible to ignore.

Here's a couple of typical Tri-X frames I've gotten with my routine. Note that very little post-processing effort was required.

Tri-X with stock DD-X

Tri-X with stock DD-X

And then again, the greys of HP5+ Note that a ton of post-processing effort was required to make them less "flat".

HP5+ with DD-X

HP5+ with DD-X

OP KayL Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Why?
1

Hard to say. Although after looking at your samples I still think it’s subject and lighting related, rather than film/processing technical. The Tri-X samples have more directional light and contrasting shapes, whilst your HP5 samples are open overcast scenes with uniform textures.

Perhaps this is a good point of departure from the lab side of things, use this info to your creative advantage (selecting different films for different scenes) and make lemonade from lemons

And when all else fails... Clarity slider 🤣

 KayL's gear list:KayL's gear list
Kodak DC215
justinwonnacott Senior Member • Posts: 1,073
Re: Why?
1

Steven Seven wrote:

Thank you!

HP5 isn’t a contrasty film, it’s very similar to Tri-X and will deal with extreme contrast well.

See, people say this all the time, but I found Tri-X results to be spectacular. It always gives me options in digital post-processing and overall appears to be "wider" with rich mid-tones. HP5+ with DD-X seems to "compress" so much dynamic range into a narrow range of grey values... Having developed a few rolls of each, the difference is impossible to ignore.

Here's a couple of typical Tri-X frames I've gotten with my routine. Note that very little post-processing effort was required.

Tri-X with stock DD-X

Tri-X with stock DD-X

And then again, the greys of HP5+ Note that a ton of post-processing effort was required to make them less "flat".

HP5+ with DD-X

HP5+ with DD-X

The 2 last images are flat to begin with....soft diffused hazy light as opposed to the sunlit scenes before them. If I still shot f film I would overdevelop the hazy cloudy day roll and shoot at a half stop higher iso. Net effect is to boost contrast and hopefully not overexposed,

You are probably compensating for this with curves after the fact. Different lighting and subject contrast requires different treatment. If no important parts of the scene are on the toe or shoulder of the film curve and the image lives well within the straight line part of the curve you can steepen the curve to get more contrast reasonably safely....differently lit scenes on the same roll will need different curve corrections.

Cloudy days are tough in BW.

 justinwonnacott's gear list:justinwonnacott's gear list
Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM
Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 7,381
Re: Why?
1

I thought it was an excellent image.

Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,026
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath

The monobath has been around for a few years now which means it's had plenty of time to be evaluated - really, what's not to like?

Well, for me, the process is part of the fun.

Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,026
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
1

Steven Seven wrote:

D76 or ID11 are probably best for beginners

Why? What is so special about them to be "best for beginners". Why not Xtol or DD-X or HC-110?

I (re-) started with D-76 because it's what I used as a kid and it's known to work with everything (including D-76).

I switched over to HC-110 a couple of months ago because the liquid concentrate is more convenient, but I found a problem: Development time for Ilford HP-5 (one of my go-to films) in Dilution B is 5 minutes -- too short for my liking. Dilution H has a longer time but doesn't hit the 6ml minimum developer threshold for my single-reel tank. (Can't imagine why you'd need a minimum amount if it's diluted, but I did think the negatives looked a little flat.) I went back and bought more D-76 and now use it for HP5 while I do my FP4+ in HC-110 Dilution B. I'm happy with the results. I'd hoped to settle on one developer but, well, the best laid plans, etc.

I think D-76 is better than HC-110 for beginners for another reason: While it's a pain to mix up the stock solution, it's easier to dilute. If you're pouring out 110 ml of water and 110 ml of developer and you're off by a couple of ml, no biggie. If you're adding 10 ml of HC-110 to 315 ml of water and you're off by half a mil on the developer... biggie.

Aaron

Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,026
Re: Why?

@StevenSeven by any chance do you have a second camera body? A better test might be to do the same picture at the same time with two different films. That'll give you a direct comparison.

As mentioned above I have found HP5 to be a little flat in HC-110 Dilution H versus D76 or HC-110 dilution B. I don't know enough about DDX to say anything intelligent about it.

I've been pretty happy with the results from HP5. These are raw scans from my Epson V550, no correction.

This was developed in HC-110 Dilution B:

This was developed in D-76 1:1:

Another one in HC-110-B:

Aaron

Steven Seven
Steven Seven Regular Member • Posts: 362
Re: Why?
1

Very nice! They look like my Tri-X in DD-X, I can see now why people think those films are similar. My guess is that HP5+ is just not at its best in DD-X. I'll try ID-11 (Ilford's version of D-76 according to everyone here)

Wallace Ross
Wallace Ross Senior Member • Posts: 2,177
Or try ILFOSOL 3 one shot
1

Full disclosure I’m more of a C41 colour developer but I’ve been using ilford at 1:9. For B&W You mix just what you need say 300ml for a single roll and then dump it.  I’ve gotten good results and it’s readily available.

-- hide signature --
Ranger 9 Regular Member • Posts: 160
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
2

Okay, much as I'd love to unleash my inner Grumpy Uncle and dive into an argument about the merits of May & Baker Promicrol for developing Super-XX films or whatever, I'm going to loop back to the original topic of developer advice for beginners.

My advice: Start out with whatever liquid concentrate developer is easy for you to get in a small quantity.

  • Liquid concentrate so it will be easy to mix — you want to spend your time on the fun part, actually developing film, and not on endlessly swizzling a stirring rod waiting for clumps or powder to dissolve, right?
  • Small quantity so that if you decide developing b&w film is just too tedious, you won't feel wasteful about chucking it.

If you're a genuine beginner, you might even want to investigate the new Ilford beginner kit that has film developer, stop bath and fixer in single-use packets. That's pretty much the ultimate low-involvement starter approach as far as I can see.

If you decide you like film developing, it will be more economical to buy stuff in slightly larger quantities, but I still recommend liquid concentrates unless you have a dedicated wet darkroom and are doing dozens of rolls per week. Personally I consider myself as serious a photographer as anybody, and I'm using Ilfosol 3 because the local photo store sells it in 500ml bottles. That's about all I can use before the concentrate oxidizes and goes bad.

When it comes to developer selection, the brutally honest truth is that you need to be a long, long way down the film-photography rabbit hole before choosing one developer over another makes that much difference. What's more important is to be consistent with your processing (film handling, temperature, agitation) with whatever developer you do use. That way, if (for example) you decide your current developer produces too much highlight density, you'll know you can just dial back your developing time a bit instead of getting mixed up experimenting with different developers.

After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? If we're not having fun, why are we doing it?

Oh, also on the subject of small-footprint film developing, there's this:

https://youtu.be/_8Z2xr5E-W4

OP KayL Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
1

Ranger 9 wrote:

Personally I consider myself as serious a photographer as anybody, and I'm using Ilfosol 3 because the local photo store sells it in 500ml bottles. That's about all I can use before the concentrate oxidizes and goes bad.

Ilfosol is great stuff. I wish it was around when I started.

When it comes to developer selection, the brutally honest truth is that you need to be a long, long way down the film-photography rabbit hole before choosing one developer over another makes that much difference. What's more important is to be consistent with your processing (film handling, temperature, agitation) with whatever developer you do use.

Just to revisit the whole monobath thing: it seems that newbies starting off with monobath are wasting a lot of energy trying to correct fundamental problems that simply aren't an issue with standard 3-bath process. Uneven development, streaking/drag, excessive base fog, reticulation, solution sludge, and unexpected emulsion incompatibilities. So many rolls of film wasted & lost images in attempts to just get the basics right. Even Grant Haist, the guy that *literally* wrote the book on monobath, concluded by saying that there's no practical quantifiable advantage to the process. In my opinion it's a fun diversion, but should remain so.

I'm actually annoyed at bloggers and vloggers promoting monobath to neophytes. But whatever gets the clicks I guess.

The hardest part to processing your first roll of film is loading the tank and drying it without water marks or dust. The wet part couldn't be easier.

 KayL's gear list:KayL's gear list
Kodak DC215
Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 7,381
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
1

Started with the Kodak Tri-Chem pack, contact prints on Velox paper.

In the U.S., Freestyle Sales has a good selection of liquid chems, which I agree is more convenient than dissolving a gallon pack of D-76 powder.

Steven Seven
Steven Seven Regular Member • Posts: 362
C41 question

Since you're developing your own C41 film... Is it possible at small volumes? I recently did a bit of research into it and it appears that I need to buy a 1L kit which needs to be used rapidly to process 12-16 rolls of film. I do 4-6 rolls per month, is there an economical way to develop them at home? Thanks.

LinusZ New Member • Posts: 1
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath
1

Ok, I actually just created an account to reply to this.

Ive been shooting film for about a year and recently started developing bw myself. My first choice was ID-11 but after hearing about the cinestill monobath I decided it was a better fit for me. Let me give you some reasons why.

  • Push/pull is entirely based on the temperature, not on the developing time. It’s a self completing process and longer development times just lead to longer fixing. It’s impossible to overcook your film, which i really appreciated, especially during the first few rolls where you’re not familiar with the process yet. Every roll came out perfect so far, even when I made tiny technical mistakes the chemical seemed to be very forgiving.
  • The quality is great, I’ve developed Hp5 at 400, 800 and 1600 and the results are perfect in my opinion (After 5 rolls Now I’ve never had any problems with uneven development btw)
  • may be different for you, but for me the price would have been almost the same if I built a chemical kit around ID-11
  • its reusable  so I don’t have to worry about where to dispose the used chemicals
  • And of course it’s simply faster, which is an added bonus

That being said, I will probably try ID-11 or D76 next as I’m familiar with the process now, but I still don’t regret buying the Cinestill product because it made the first attempts more comfortable for me.

I just don’t like people throwing shade on a product they haven’t even properly read the descriptions of, let alone tried it themselves. I did a lot of researching before buying Df96 and came across so many people that just didn’t trust the convenience of it and assumed it too good to be true without even knowing the characteristics of it.
In the end everyone can decide for himself what he wants to use, but one sided posts like these don’t really help beginners to make a decision IMO.

just my two cents on this topic, I’m looking forward to other replies!

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads