Monday, October 31, 2011


It's been a while since Michael first wrote a piece about phenidone developers here.
He strongly urged me to try this, and a few months back I secured 100 gram of the good stuff.  However unforeseen events on the national level that impackted me / my family took the drive away from doing experiments, we had more than enough with getting back to a normal life after tre tragic bombing & shooting here this summer.
But life goes on and I was also fortunate enough to connect with amnother photographer living here, that has started doing caffenol. We got together, swapped stories & experience (and a couple of cameras, collectors are like stamp collectors, there are always a duplicate in a dark corner....).
I suggested he band together with me in an experiment I've been contemplating, and here goes.

We have decided to share the burden and split the mix between us, so that we test separate films, this way we will be able to build experience quickly.

The plan is to test out 4 or 5 different recipes, developers based on Vitamin C and Phenidone, based on different types of alkali.  Up until now I does the mixing and have control over the recipes, but Trond is the more active testing the stuff quickly and prescisely, making valuable observations and reporting back.

He was the first out of the starting blocks, with a Foma 100 film, and have shown pictures on Flickr, hopefully they will be shown here in a few days.

The recipe so far is based on Patrick Gainers work, adapted and tweaked a little, to adapt to what is available here.

Michael - cowriter on this blog, also have a recipe shared here, it will also be tested by us, so we have cross-references.

The first recipe is very simple :

Washing soda (anhydr.)          5,71 gram
Ascorbic Acid                         2,11 gram
Phenidone                                0, 021 gram

This is broadly what Gainer termed his Standard recipe, what we should call it, I call it
FenoBate 52.002  which gives me a hint on the recipe used, but the name is not important, I'm standing on gainer's shoulders here, he is the inventor.

What is interesting and should be noted is that the whole idea here is very simple :

This is a stock developer to be used many times, developing time increased after every use, like good 'ol D76.  Instead of using Sodium Sulphite to protect the developing agent from oxidizing, one of the developing agents themselves, namely Ascorbic Acid does that, as long as it is present in excess in the solution, phenidone is protected, the rest of it is very simple Ascorbic Acid is hydrolysed into Sodium Ascorbate by the Soda, just like Caffenol, and the soda secured a basic working environment, like caffenol.
Developing time has been the only small problem, it was suggested to use the same time as D76, this has turned out to being a little imprescise. opne problem here might be that Kodak themselves altered D76 times a few years back, creating uncertainity.

First test was Trond with Fomapan 100, exposed at box speed with a some frames exposed 1 step over and one step under.

His exact data and pictures will be incvluded here.............

My first try was  was Kodak Gold 200 which is a C41 color film, my usual test vehicle.

Since Tronds experince from the first film suggest that he should have given the film a little longer time, I adjusrted the base time accordingly.

Base time B&W film (2. test)   9 minutes @ 20 C
Adjusted for C41 film (experience from Caffenol here)  12 minutes @ 20 C

Standard agitation regime, slow inversions for the first minute, with vigorous shaking to expel any air bubbles, then 3 slow inversions per minute at the top of the minute hand.

Stop bath : 2 changes of clean, plain water, NOT acidic stop bath for a soda-based developer!

Standard fix in a rapidfixer, and normal wash.

Make a careful note : this developer has no restraining agent, no anti-foggant and does not need one, so far  (Fomapan, Gold 200, Shanghai 100, Ilford FP4 so far)

The result from my first film, Kodak Gold 200 :

Simple unaltered scan of 3 negatives, from left to right :
Box speed (200 ISO), 1 stop under, 1 stop over
To me it seems Box speed and 1 stop over is best, indicating a slight over-development.

The 3 pictures in detail  :

Straight scan, box speed (200 ISO) 9 min @ 20 C

Same exposure, contrast and saturation enhanched 1 step

Underexposure one step :

Straight scan, 1 step underexposure (400 ISO) 9 min @ 20 C

Same exposure, contrast and saturation enhanched 1 step

Overexposure 1 step

Straight scan, 1 step overexposure (100 ISO) 9 min @ 20 C

Same exposure, contrast and saturation enhanched 1 step

Some more picture triplets :

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Traditional Soda-based recipes

I've been researching a little; how was developers, before developers was sold?

Back in the day people would buy glass plates or contact papers to the same size as their large negatives and make pictures. Since there was no photographers around in sparsely populated areas, people was supposed to do their own, and mix their own. Luckily since photography was invented and since people used a lot of what is now considered strange chemicals to do house chores, it was easy to find the basic chemicals. And there where druggists, or apotecharies who sold medicine, who quickly filled the need and supplied those special chemicals needed for film and paper development.

But where did they get the necessary recipes?  Dead simple, it was meticulously printed on every box for the glass plates or the photo paper.  In connection with a project for the local history chapter I've been scanning some old glass plate negatives. Some of those plates where still in their old boxes, and on the boxes was printed developer recipes.

Those I will share here.

The developers was soda based, because that was a common household chemical I believe, and used Metol, Hydroquinone or staining developers like Pyrogallol.  These was the early, stalwarth stuff they got by with, and frankly they didn't need extremely advanced stuff either, given the negative size they worked with.

Looking at the negatives and the scans I can see that when the old guys guessed exposure right, this worked very well for them, they got good developed negatives with good contrast and long tone scale with ample details in the shadows.

Since this was back in the pre-panchromatic days, this was done by tray development, and hence constant agitation, probably in a matter of minutes only.  These guys lived by the old adage "expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights, and did so by inspecting each and every plate during development. This is probably why so few are hopelessly under-developed.

Fisrst a recipe on an old glass negative box :

Imperial Dry plate Company, Ltd of London

Here is offered two recipes and advice of how to use them for both under and over-exposure.

The Pyro-Soda developer is stated to be used for correct and full exposures, I think that translates to box ISO and plus one stop today.
The Standard developer i stated suitable to general snapshots and under-exposures, I think that translates to box speed and minus one stop today.

Or simply stated the Standard developer here is the more active, while the Pyro-Soda developer could possibly be a softer working, more fine grained recipe.

Measures is given in English and French measures which would be british and metric measures today and are equivalent.

Recipe,    Imperial Pyro-Soda
Dissolve chemicals in the order given

Stock solution
Potassium metabisulphite  10  gram
Pyrogallic Acid                  83  gram
Potassium bromide            13  gram
Water to    1000 ml
From this stock solution one mixes

Part 1
Stock Solution                            150 ml
Water (boiled or distilled)    to   1000 ml 

Part 2
Sodium Sulphite                         100 gram
Sodium carbonate                       100 gram
Water (boiled or distilled)  to    1000 ml

In use  mix one part 1 with one part 2. For underexposure increase part 2, for overexposure increase part 1.

Metric measures translates to these british measures :

Stock solution
Potassium metabisulphite 50 grain
Pyrogallic Acid 1 oz
Potassium bromide 60 grain
Water to 22 oz
From this stock solution one mixes

Part 1
Stock Solution 3 oz
Water (boiled or distilled) to 20 oz

Part 2
Sodium Sulphite 2 oz
Sodium carbonate 2 oz
Water (boiled or distilled) to 20 oz

In use mix one part 1 with one part 2. For underexposure increase part 2, for overexposure increase part 1.


Personally I think this could be translated to caffenol, if one replaces the Pyrogallic acid with Instant Coffe and tries that, but at this point this is pure speculation.


Recipe  Imperial Standard
Dissolve chemicals in the order given

Part 1
Metol                                      5 gram
Potassium Metabisulphite       14 gram
Pyrogallic Acid                        6 gram
Potassium bromide                  2 gram
Water (boiled or distilled) to   1000 ml
Part 2
Sodium Carbonate                  200 gram
Water (boiled or distilled) to   1000 ml
In use mix one part 1 with one part 2

Metric measures translates to these british measures :

Part 1

Metol                                  45 grain
Potassium Metabisulphite   120 grain
Pyrogallic Acid                    55 grain
Potassium bromide              20 grain
Water (boiled or distilled) to  20 oz

Part 2
Sodium Carbonate                    4 oz
Water (boiled or distilled) to     20 oz

In use mix one part 1 with one part 2


Personally I think this could be translated to caffenol, if one replaces the Pyrogallic acid with Instant Coffe  and replaces Metol with ascorbic acid, and tries that, but at this point this is pure speculation.

If one chooses to try this, make a note that the standard recipe when translated to Caffeine, stores better than the pyro-soda recipe, because the ascorbic acid in part 1 protects the instant coffe from oxydation. But also note that instant coffe as always is the weak link in all the Caffeine recipes, coffe is no chemical, it is a wildly variating mixtore of substances that we have no control over, that contains degradable foodstuffs and those will quickly go sour as all coffe drinkers know.

However this trip back a century in time or so is a valuable insight into how they did things back in the days, soda based developer is nothing new, on the contrary they once was the base and foundation that photography was built upon. These developers also was what guys like Patric Gainer was looking at, no doubt, when the alternative developers first surfaced some 20 years ago.

In closing a quick look at the fixer mentioned here :

Acid Fixer solution :

Sodium Hyposulphite            500 gram

Potassium metabisulphite         60 gram
Water (boiled or distilled)  to 2500 ml

Metric measures translates to these british measures :

Sodium Hyposulphite     1 lb
Potassium metabisulphite  2 oz
Water (boiled or distilled)  50 oz,

Since a soda based developer combined with an acid fixer can give rise to spots in the emulsion, at least the soda from the developer needs to be watered out by 3 changes of plain water as a stop bath, instead of a traditional stop bath.

Note a plain, non-acidic fixer can be made simply by not adding metrabisulphite, this might be preferred

More will follow

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Phenidone-C Developers - I've Learned A Few Things

I've been tweaking my phenidone/c developers recently and learned a few interesting things so I thought I would share.  Here are some quick points:
  1. The amount of phenidone is directly proportional to developer activity.  Using PCB (19g borax + 6g ascorbic acid + 0.15g phenidone + water to 1L) as an example, reducing the phenidone from 0.15g/L to 0.1g/L makes a huge difference in developer activity.
  2. The more phendone/c you have, the lower pH you need for active development.  I discovered that with enough phenidone/c you can have very active development at a pH of 7.2.  On the other extreme, you can use ridiculously small quantities of phenidone/c (e.g. PCM uses 0.8g/L ascorbic acid +  0.02g/L phenidone) but increase pH for similar activity.  This means you can adjust the activity of phenidone/c developers either by varying the pH or the amount of ingredients.
  3. More vit-c doesn't make much difference in activity but does extend shelf life.  For example, using ascorbic acid at 4g/L vs 8g/L shows no discernable difference in activity but makes a re-usable developer last longer.
  4. pH does not affect grain very much.  Grain from developers at pH 8.4 and 9.6 look very similar.  This is based on observations with a scanner and RC prints.
  5. Stand development doesn't work the way we think.  Testing showed no significant difference between full stand development (60s initial continuous only) vs minimal agitation (60s initial continuous, 10s every 5 mins) except for time when using a very dilute developer (PCM).  Agitation more frequent than 5 mins showed more highlight development and increased contrast.
  6. You really don't need much potassium bromide.  Even without potassium bromide, fog is minimal (most won't notice it), but adding 0.04g/L clears it up with no effect on developer activity.
If you like to concoct developers as I do I hope you find this useful.