Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kodak Tri X 120 in Caffenol

Kodak Tri X has been debated elsewhere lately, apparently some people experience trouble with Tri X.  Some claims Tri X and Caffenol doesn't go well together, or that the film does not reach box speed.

I have watched some of these reports and decided to do a test myself. I note that very many of the failure reports center around two issues : Cafenol C-L with long stand development have been used, and very often pre-soad procedures have been used.

Personally I don't like stand development, being a northerner, used to plan for winter and work hard to survive that, I don't *like* lazy work habits.......

Pre-soaking is a procedure that is not advocated neither by Kodak nor Ilford, in fact Kodak have warned aginst it for several decades and hardly mention it in their literature, with a few exceptions, mainly large sheet film which is *different* from roll films.
The literature has warnings against pre-soaking, stating "it may give rise to uneven or less active development".

So much about that, from the reports I have seen some of the trouble with Tri X has been reports of extreme fogging. Combined with obvious confusion of what is true and proper recipes and/or chemicals for Cafenol, this is hardly surprizing.

So I decided to a test all by my lonesome, and dug out an old roll of Tri X from the cool cellar storage.  And old roll, probably bought cheap in the late 1980's or early 1990's when some photo-shop went *modern* and cleaned out their shelves, at the time APS was supposed to take over and rule for the next 2 or 3 decades.....  The roll in question has a light, bright green end on the backing paper, yellow in the middle where film is and exposure numbers are printed.

I loaded the film in my recently refurbished Agfa Isolette III camera a 120 folder with an uncoupled rangefinder (the rangefinder was repaired by myself, it was stuck thight, and the repair was easy, once I figured out how to dis- and re-assemble....).
Exposure was taken care of by my handheld Gossen LunaPro SBC, which is my gold standard as far as exposure meassurement goes.

Development was one tankful (ca 500 ml) of Cafenol C-H, reinhold's recipe weighed out exactly according to formula, with half a pinch of KBr added for fog control (a pinch is a 1 ml volumetric measure and half of that is a little less than half a gram of my KBr).

Development time was 15 minutes at a little more than 20 degrees centigrade, summer is here around these shores too, so sometimes the kitchen gets heated a little.

Everything went as planned, nothing special about the negatives - a little fog was there, and was to be expected IMHO since the film has been stored unexposed for at least 2 decades in less than perfect conditions.  I put the films on the scanner, and got the good, well exposed, fully developed negatives digitized with no problems at all.

Save for personal pictures, and for a few landscape pictures where the focus of the lens was less than spectacular (seems that infinity is not infinity, or maybe my hand was shaking too much, its been a long while since I tried a good old folder....) I got some good pictures in the local marina.  Have a look at a few below here they show the excellent qualities of Tri X in Cafenol well. Virtually no grain (expected, this is 6x6 on a 120 film, grain really was no problem until after Oscar Barnack came up with the Leica, before that negative AREA took care of the grain), fine well exposed negatives with lots and lots of details in both highlights and shadows.

If anything Tri X is BETTER in cafenol than in some of the esoteric miracle developers sold for high-ISO films over the years.  I did get full box speed, but I don't advocate pushing the film - if one needs 3200 ISOor above go digital!

A few samples here  :

Kodak Tri X, Cafenol C-H, normal agitation
developed 15 minutes @ 21 C ISO 400

Kodak Tri X, Cafenol C-H, normal agitation
developed 15 minutes @ 21 C ISO 400

Kodak Tri X, Cafenol C-H, normal agitation
developed 15 minutes @ 21 C ISO 400

1 comment:

  1. These results are much better than what I got with any of Reinhold's recipes. Two major things that are different for me are the film itself (this is old Tri-X and I was using the "new" 400TX) and my instant coffee. The only way I get somewhat usable results with 400TX in Caffenol-C is to use 1/4 the amount of coffee as specified in Reinhold's recipes.

    About the pre-soak, I have tried both with and without, not only with Caffenol, and found no difference so I don't do it.

    About stand development, Caffenol seems to behave differently in that there isn't a huge difference between normal agitation and stand development (at least to my eye). However, I do see a significant difference when using PCM with much improved highlight and contrast control vs normal agitation.