Since VC papers have become the predominate printing paper for most photographers who still print in the darkroom, many of the traditional demands on the photographer have faded into obscurity, or, at the very least, have assumed secondary importance. When graded printing papers dominated darkroom shelves, photographers had to learn to scale their negatives to their printing papers, and to adjust print contrast for between-grades, by the manipulation of exposure and print developers. A practical knowledge of sensitometry and basic chemistry was indispensable to serious photographers, and a wide range of testing and calibration procedures evolved to aid the photographer and darkroom worker. With the advent of VC papers, it was no longer necessary to precisely scale the negative to the printing paper, and processing for a roughly middle grade was more than adequate, since the paper could be very precisely scaled to the negative. I'm often surprised at the testing and calibration gymnastics performed by photographers who use roll film and print on VC paper, and can only assume these photographers are laboring under one or more misconceptions about the level of precision required by their materials, and how best to exploit the advantages they confer.
Hybrid film/digital workflows represent a similar shift in the demands on the processing film to be scanned for either digital printing, or making digital negatives for contact printing, and suggests new criteria for film developers. A film developer for film to be scanned should be optimized for producing the kinds of negatives that scanners are optimized to scan, or in other words, for maximum compatibility.
What kind of negatives do scanners like best?
low contrast/ low-moderate density range
And, while scanners don't care, photographers almost always prefer high film speed, long shelf life, economy, ease of use, and low toxicity, all other things being equal.
While there are developers commercially available that possess some of the characteristics listed above, none are optimized for the entire description, and other desirable characteristics could be added, such as: long tray life, compatibility with rotary processing, commonly available ingredients, etc.
I think we have within our membership the experience and expertise to narrow the many options to a few, high probability approaches to distilling something like an optimized developer for film to be scanned. I have a few ideas of my own, and more questions. I hope there is enough interest to generate some positive discussion and debate on the most likely approaches. I'll try to start the ball rolling by suggesting Pat Gainer's PC TEA, which I think satisfies most of the criteria, with the exception of the "grainless" one. It might be possible to use some variation of PC TEA as a two- part developer by diluting the concentrate with a sulfite solution. An even less toxic version might use glycol in the concentrate, and add a less toxic alkali to the B solution. In any case, I favor a simple, ascorbate/ phenidone concentrate made up in TEA or glycol, but I welcome alternative opinions, and I hope for many.