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Thread: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

  1. #1
    Consulting the pineal gland
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    Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    I'm finding myself wanting more speed than I am getting out of HP5+ with Pyrocat HD (slow) or Rodinal (nearly box speed at lower dilutions). Microphen is probably the most obvious choice and is a compensating developer which I like.

    But Microphen is expensive, and for actual speed increase you need full strengh. Ilford's product info indicates it may be reused in deep tanks or spiral tanks. I tray develop by inspection. I wouldn't be able to fit a tank line into my camper's tiny bathroom where I'll be souping film for much of my current project.

    Why does Ilford not recommend reusing Microphen in tray processing?
    Does anyone do it anyway?

  2. #2

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Microphen just doesn't have enough umpphh to do lots of sheet film. I wouldn't suggest reusing any developer. It's the inexpensive part of the equation... and nothing like having consistent results, which you will clearly not have if you reuse it.

    FWIW, I think the speed increase is probably marginal with any developer. Whether or not a photon turns a grain clump into a developable state has a lot to do with surface area or the grain, and very little to do with developers. Sure, there is some, but most folks tend to imagine there is much more and all they are doing is just dropping the shadows to black.

    Just my 2 cents...


    Lenny
    EigerStudios
    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  3. #3
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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    What I am looking at is that it would take a liter(ish) to do 6 4x5's, the equivalent of a roll and a half of 35mm. According to Ilford's lit with deep tanks its fine doing the same volume of sheet film as roll film which would be up to ten rolls per liter. Also according to Ilford's lit I would need to add 10% to the time per roll equivalent to the time, but with dbi I could just add that time to my first peek.

    What I can't figure out is why they don't spec reuse for trays but do for the same films in even open tanks. The literature didn't mention any oxidation problems. I can't justify spending more per film on developer than the film costs or I'd be looking at $24 for three liters to do 4-6 8x10s- ouch.

    I am considering this combo specifically because it is supposed to get a true stop worth of speed with the two together, including in the shadows. There's only a few combos which will and with this its supposed to keep the contrast down too.

    Guess I might need to shoot a film test, but would like to get any info from anyone who has tried to reuse microphen in trays, in case there is some kind of oxidation problem and any hints I should know. Maybe they're worried about precipitate getting on the film and I should filter it between uses? They mention that the film leaves halides(?) in the developer which act as a restrainer upon future batches hence the need to increase time per roll used.

  4. #4

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Hello Thebes,

    If you're willing to mix up a very simple developer, I recommend Hypercat II:

    Part A

    Propylene Glycol 75ml
    Ascorbic acid 1g
    Catechol 10g
    Propylene glycol to 100ml

    Part B

    20% sodium carbonate
    - or -
    75% potassium carbonate (same as Pyrocat HD)
    - or -
    10% sodium hydroxide

    Choose any one of the above. Dilute the 20% sodium carbonate 1:5:100, and either of the other two 1:1:100.

    I agree with Lenny that many claims for over-box-speed are exaggerated, but I would add that the ISO standard developer is not optimized for speed, but for general photography, like D-76/ID-11. Some developers can do a little better, and many can do a lot worse than the ISO standard developer. Acutance developers as a category typically improve on film speed over general purpose developers, and the mechanism most often cited for this is compensation. Acutance developers are typically dilute, single agent developers with a high alkali content and without restrainers like potassium bromide. The active, but dilute developer is quickly exhausted in the high density areas of the image, while the low density areas exhaust their supply of developer more slowly. To make the most of this effect, agitation frequency should be low. Continuous agitation essentially nullifies the effect. A developer that performs well with continuous agitation should be quite robust and resistant to aerial oxidation and rapid exhaustion. A developer that doesn't produce a compensating effect will give about the same film speed regardless of agitation frequency, but a compensating developer will show a marked difference in film speed depending on agitation frequency.

    Hypercat II when used with normal intermittent agitation of 10 seconds/ minute will produce box speed with most films, and very high acutance. Decreasing the agitation frequency and extending development will produce more than box speed with most films, and a startling increase in apparent sharpness due to extreme edge effects. The late, great Pat Gainer called the sharpness produced by Hypercat II with extended development and very low frequency agitation, "grotesque", and I'm inclined to agree. The results can look like too much USM when used carelessly, but the effect is easily and finely controlled by dilution and agitation frequency. Normal dilution, giving normal development times with normal agitation produces very sharp negatives, and no risk of uneven development, or extended developing times.

    The tanning action of Hypercat II keeps development on the surface of the emulsion, which contributes to both sharpness, and very fine grain, and staining contributes to the very fine grain by composing much of the mid-high density image as a dye mask instead of grain, while the compensating effect retains detail in the high values for easy scanning/ printing negatives. And, of particular relevance to this thread, it's the least expensive developer I know of. I costed it out once, and don't remember the exact figure, but something less than a nickel/ liter of working solution, if I remember correctly. About 1/1000th the cost of the film it develops.

    If you want to see some beautiful work done with this developer, have a look at Raota Itoh's Flickr Photostream:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/focuslight/

    And if you want to see what it can do with a lens far more humble than Mr. Itoh's Biogon, you can have a look at the results from my Kodak 2A folder:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jay_def...7626053535191/

    or my Ansco Shur Shot box camera:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jay_def...in/photostream

    Sorry for the extended post, and I hope you find something useful in it.

  5. #5
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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Thanks for that Jay.
    I understand what you and Lenny are saying about going over box speed. I've seen plenty of flickr shots where someone pushed Trix to 3200 in Microphen and really they got maybe 800 in the shadows and a two stop expansion going into the highlights. If I could get 640-800 with something affordable I'd be happy... and I can afford up to about a third of the costs of my film after that it starts to become an issue. A thousandth of the cost of my film sounds great.

    I don't have any propylene glyocl on hand, I presume HyperCat II solution A is mixed in propylene glycol so that it keeps well, and that I would get the same results by mixing a bit of Sol. A with water instead for testing?

  6. #6

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Quote Originally Posted by Thebes View Post
    Thanks for that Jay.
    I understand what you and Lenny are saying about going over box speed. I've seen plenty of flickr shots where someone pushed Trix to 3200 in Microphen and really they got maybe 800 in the shadows and a two stop expansion going into the highlights. If I could get 640-800 with something affordable I'd be happy... and I can afford up to about a third of the costs of my film after that it starts to become an issue. A thousandth of the cost of my film sounds great.

    I don't have any propylene glyocl on hand, I presume HyperCat II solution A is mixed in propylene glycol so that it keeps well, and that I would get the same results by mixing a bit of Sol. A with water instead for testing?
    The glycol allows for the tiny amount of ascorbic acid to preserve the working solution, and none is needed for the stock solution. If you want to make a working solution for testing, you can do it in water, but you can't make a stock solution in water, unless you substitute sodium metabilsulfite for the ascorbic acid, and I'm not sure how different the results would be. My hunch is that results would be similar, but I haven't tested it. To make a liter of working solution of Hypercat II in water:

    Water 750ml
    Sodium carbonate 10g
    ascorbic acid 0.1g
    catechol 1g
    water to 1 liter

    Mix in the order given, making sure that each chemical is completely dissolved before adding the next, and use immediately after mixing.

    Measuring out 0.1g of ascorbic acid is the challenge here, and that measurement is critical; too much and you kill the stain, too little and you get general stain. If you have a scale that's fairly accurate to 0.1g, there's no problem. If your scale is only accurate to 1g, you can work around with a little more hassle/waste. You can dissolve 1g ascorbic acid in 9ml of water, and measure out 1ml with a measuring syringe, and throw the rest away, or use it all within a few hours. It's more wasteful, but 1g of ascorbic acid only costs a few cents, and it will allow you to test the developer even if you don't have a very accurate scale. Incidentally, if you decided to be very frugal and save this ascorbic acid solution for another day, even if it goes bad, the developer will still work, though some general stain will appear. At worst you'll get imperfect yet printable negs, but you won't get blank ones.

    If you want to try a stock solution in water, you can try the following:

    Part A
    Distilled water 75ml
    Sodium metabisulfite 1g
    catechol 10g
    Distilled water to 100ml

    The solution should keep well, but I can't say with any certainty how the substitution of sodium metabisulfite for ascorbic acid will affect the performance of the developer. My guess is that any differences would be insignificant, and might require testing to an accuracy beyond my capacity, to quantify. This stock solution should be the color of light tea. If it goes very dark, it's probably bad.

    If you decide to try this, I hope you'll keep notes and let me know how it works for you. BTW, the developer made in water is even less expensive!

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay DeFehr View Post
    The late, great Pat Gainer called the sharpness produced by Hypercat II with extended development and very low frequency agitation, "grotesque", and I'm inclined to agree.
    I wasn't aware that Patrick Gainer had died, that is very sad news.

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Tapscott. View Post
    I wasn't aware that Patrick Gainer had died, that is very sad news.
    Keith,

    I'm happy to say I seem to be mistaken. I can find no news of Pat's passing, and so I assume he's alive and well, and making mischief of one kind or another, or so I hope. If you're reading, Pat, please excuse me.

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    Re: Reusing Microphen in tray developing of sheet film

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay DeFehr View Post
    Keith,

    I'm happy to say I seem to be mistaken. I can find no news of Pat's passing, and so I assume he's alive and well, and making mischief of one kind or another, or so I hope. If you're reading, Pat, please excuse me.
    Thank heaven's for that Jay. I wondered why there was no mention of his death over on apug.

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