Friday, April 29, 2011


Anyone out there that has any bright ideas on how to develop C41 color-film with homebrew developers?

This time I won't stipulate chemicals that can be found in the supermarket....


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phenidone/Vitamin-C Developers - One-Shot vs Re-use?

I've been using PCB reusable developer (Phenidone/Vitamin-C/Borax) for a while now and it works very well.  When I started with PC developers I used one-shot versions because that's all the data that was available to me at the time.  I liked the consistency of one-shot use but did not like the amount of chemicals that was being wasted which lead me to reusable versions such as PCB.  I found that using "normal" film is fine with PCB but lately I've been playing with Shanghai GP3 in 120 format (it's cheap and looks good to me) and what's interesting about this film is that it makes everything blue.  I'm not talking slight blue tinge here, this is like blue ink.  I doubt it makes a difference photographically but PCB is normally clear and just doesn't seem right with this strong colour.  This made me take another look at PC developers for one-shot use with the goal of minimizing waste.  After much reading of articles and forums, particularly those tidbits from Patrick Gainer, I learned that I could develop much more film with fewer chemicals and in the process I picked up some interesting information as well.  Here are a few points I put together about this:
  1. The lower limit for an effective alkali in a PC developer is 0.05M/L (e.g. 5g/L sodium carbonate).  Less than that and activity drops substantially.  My own testing confirms this.
  2. The ideal ratio of Ascorbic Acid to Phenidone is 40:1.  Going above this does increase activity but not by much and going below sees significant activity loss.  This is the ratio for PC-Glycol solution which we'll get to in a bit.  My testing confirms this as well.
  3. Phenidone at 0.02g/L is about the lower limit for normal activity levels.  You can go as low as 0.01g/L but the developer is much slower and lower than that is very, very slow.  My testing confirmed this.
  4. Phenidone can produce base fog ... it's little, but it's there.  Using 0.2g/L potassium bromide practically eliminates fog without affecting activity.  This has the added benefit of improving stand development.  My early experiments with stand development sometimes showed uneven development that was corrected with more agitation (it's no longer stand development).  Using potassium bromide gives very even development with full stand development.  Again, confirmed by my own testing.
Borrowing heavily from the work of Patrick Gainer, I propose a very economical and effective one-shot PC developer we'll call PCM (Phenidone / Vitamin-C / Metaborate) as follows:

Part A (a.k.a. PC-Glycol):
  Ascorbic Acid - 10g
  Phenidone - 0.25g
  Propylene Glycol - 100mL (warm/heat to fully dissolve ingredients)

The propylene glycol serves no photographic purpose but is a convenient way to store the ascorbic acid and phenidone in correct proportions without worry of it oxidizing.  This will last indefinitely until you add water.

Part B:
  Potassium Bromide - 0.2g (make a 10% solution as it's easier to measure)
  Sodium Metaborate 1% - 1L (6.92g borax + 1.45g sodium hydroxide in 1L water works as well)

Use 8mL part A for every 1L part B.  You can use borax (19g/L, add more time) or sodium carbonate (5g/L, less time, grain is more pronounced) but I chose metaborate as it's the middle ground giving good activity with nice grain.  Using the formula as above is an 8 minute normal developer giving box speed.  Full stand development (60 sec initial inversions only) for 90 mins gives a +2 push with highlight and contrast control.

When you break it down, developing a roll of 135 film in an 8oz/250mL tank uses the following:

  Ascorbic Acid - 0.2g
  Phenidone - 0.005g
  Potassium Bromide - 0.05g
  Borax - 1.73g
  Sodium Hydroxide - 0.36g
  Water - 250mL

It's very economical, one-shot, flexible, and consistent.  Results are virtually identical to PCB.


Friday, April 15, 2011

"Go To" Developers

Experimenting with various developers is great but sometimes I don't want to experiment and just want to shoot some film and process it in a fail-safe manner.  When in my lazy non-experimental mode, my "go to" developers are PCB and RCB (see the recipes section).  PCB is my standard developer and RCB is used when I want highlight compensation.

EDIT: As of right now I've pretty much abandoned PCB and RCB developers for everyday work.  There's nothing wrong with them, they work fine and I have no issues, but I found that I can achieve the same results of both PCB and RCB with PCM.  Just trying to simplify things for myself.

What are your "go to" developers?


My go-to developers are an old bottle of Agfa Rodinal that seems to last forever and just a quick mix of Kafenol 327  which is nothing more than Reinhold's CC-M, I use a teaspoon measure and measures out 3 - 2 and 7 measures in quick succession, for one tank of 35mm film. The developer seems to tackle most films, and I use it for all types of films (even KOdachrome) if necessary.

In earlier times D76, and Accufine was my go-to developers, these days I have to travel to find that....


Sunday, April 3, 2011

A short Note about washing.......

I did my last film in the SALS 13 mix today, and took the opportunity to measure pH in the mix. It was still at pH 11,7 before being used for the 5th and final film in the mix. More on that later.

What was interesting was what I did AFTER pouring out the developer.

A good while back I stopped using an acid stop bath after Soda-based developers. The reason for that is that acids (like diluted acetic acid stop baths) reacts with the soda and releases CO2 gas. This can easily be observed if one uses an acid stop bath, bubbles and froth will be clearly evident in the tank.

Now this is not so important, except if you think it over, what about the soda sucked up INSIDE the film emulsion layers?  Of course the acids will release CO2 there also, giving rise to small bubbles locked inside the emulsion, these will later show up as small black pinpoints in the pictures....

So I decided to go with plain neutral pH 7 water, relying on the fact that ascorbate developers will stop being active as soon as the pH drops below 9-ish....
Since ordinary caffenol contains large amounts of coffe that quickly makes the fix bath go black, my standard stop bath proceduure has been 3 changes of plain water in the tank.

This should stop both the developing action quite promptly, since the buffer capacity of washing soda is limited, and leave me with just a slight yellowish fixing bath.

Now with SALS 13 - this requirement the blackening effect - just wasn't there, SALS 13 has no coffe in it. So I went with just two changes of stop water....

But hey!  SALS 13 contains NaOH, Lye, and THAT is a far more effective buffer than soda. So I decided to measure just HOW effective my plain water stop was.

I have a very accurate, calibrated pH-meter.  I decided to measure the pH in my stop baths, since that will easily tell me how effective this is.

Pre development, pH in the developer  :  pH 11,7
Post development pH in the second water stop bath change : pH 9,8

Look at that! This means that the concentration of lye in the tank diminished with 1 pH unit per change!

Now this correlated very well with a debate I was in over at APUG about wshing film, and the merits of the Ilford washing procedure.

I calculated this quite precisely at that time and hinted that every water change would reduce fixer level by a factor of 1/10 or thereabouts.
In practice that means that 3 changes of water will give a remaining concentration of 1/1000th, while 6 changes will give 1/ 1000 000th....

Here is the proof! 

One change of water reduces the NaOH concentration with a factor of 1/10th (or 1 pH unit), two changes with a factor of 1/100th (or 2 pH units...)

For the stop bath this means that a Ascorbate/Lye, pH 13 based developer remains somewhat active even after two changes of plain water, pH 9,8 is too high to be a reliable stop.......

For washing the film, rest assured that 6 changes of water will be a wash better than what is possible with running water, running water reduces concentration with 1/10 until the tank is full, after that its a matter of dilution alone, and to reach a concentration of 1/ 1000 000, one would have to use 25 000 litres of water or some insane amount of water like that......

For my own sanity I of course uses 10 changes of water, that is a theorethical concentration of 1/ 10 000 000 000th - not far from washing the film in the entire ocean!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just a few pictures....

A string of pictures from my last film, camera "new" Pentax LS10,
lens Tamron Aspherical 28 - 80 AF, Film Kodak Max 400
development SALS13, 11 min @ 20C normal agitation.

Decorations traditional woodwork at a local mansion....

Yeah baby, this is (still) Viking country!

Beutler-C adapted Beutler formula

This is an idea home made recipe for Beutler

Solution A:
1g Metol
5g Sodium sulphite (sicc)*
Fill up in 100ml demi-water

Solution B:
13,49 g Soda
Fill up in 100ml demi-water
* means water free
In use 1A + 1B + 8 - 10 parts of water
Dev time from ca 8 min @ 20C, varies with film type.


This looks interesting and from pictures I have seen, the results are certainly impressive.

I'd like to try an ascorbate variant.
Since I have great confidence and experience with stock bottles and ascorbic acid, and since ascorbic acid together with sodium sulphite should make it last almost indefinitely, this will be my chosen path.

Solution A:
5g Ascorbic acid
5g Sodium sulphite (sicc)*
Fill up in 100ml demi-water

Solution B:
15.9 g Soda
Fill up in 100ml demi-water

* means water free.

Mix 1A with 1B  let it rest until microbubbling has subsided (half an hour), in order for soda to react with ascorbic acid, creating sodium ascorbate.

Add 8 or 10 parts of water and try developing for 15 minutes @ 20C

the concentration of soda is such that this will not store in a cold place!  If you do you will end up with very large crystals on the bottom that needs to be re-dissolved, and that takes a lot of heat - and time!

Water will hold 220 gram Soda @ 20C but only 70 gram soda @ 0C, but this will not freeze @ 0C, due to the soda in the water.....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sals 13 - my "triX developer"?

I have been developing a lot of C41 film in my experimental SALS developer
(see another post for recipe and details)
This is film #7 developed in the same bottle of 1 litre mix.

Nice dense grain gives me that old TriX feeling, also sharpness is there, and this is a Kodak MAX 400, ISO 400 C41 film. Picture taken with my "new" Pentax SF10, lens Tamron Aspherical AF 28-80mm

Picture data as above.

This was film #/ in the same 1 litre brew, recipe SALS13, pH13 initially.
Kodak MAX 400, developed 11 min @ 20C, normal agitation 4 inversions/minute.

Since these negatives came out with a noticeable fogging, I think KBr should have been higher, this recipe needs more work, probably a mix with sodium ascorbate and tylenol, with double KBr is in order.

PCC - Phenidone/Vitamin-C/Carbonate (No Borax)

Here is a variant we'll call PCC based on work from Patrick Gainer that uses sodium carbonate in place of borax:

Sodium Carbonate - 7g
Ascorbic Acid - 6g
Phenidone - 0.15g
Water to make 1L

This is quite active so I thought it might be good for C-41 films that generally need a little extra "kick" when processed as black-and-white.  Here is a frame from long expired Fuji Superia 400 @ EI400 developed for 8mins with normal agitation:

Processed as normal for me with no adjustments except re-size and JPEG conversion.

This should work for at least 12 rolls.  My concern is buffer capacity of the sodium carbonate (this is another reason I like borax ... it's a really good buffer) so I'm thinking a bicarbonate/carbonate buffer may work better than straight carbonate and can be adjusted to bring the pH down to that of borax.  I should be able to make this work with acetaminophen as well which uses tylenol + sodium hydroxide to make p-aminophenol instead of phenidone.