View Full Version : Film/Developer recommendations for BTZS

21-May-2013, 18:18
I have recently decided to take the plunge into large format photography. I've tried various film and developer combinations in 35mm and medium format, but I would really like to standardize my large format experience around one or maybe two film/developer combinations. I've been reading about BTZS, and intend to use this system.

I'm looking for a recommendation for film and developer combinations that work well with BTZS and tube development. I'm primarily interested in landscape and architecture photography. I'd like a slow to medium speed film with minimal grain. I'd rather use liquid developers vs. mixing my own, but that's not a requirement. I also want to be mindful regarding which films and developers will likely be around five or ten years from now.

With 35mm and medium format, my favorite film is probably Fuji Acros with T-Max 100 being a close second. I also really like Pan-F, unfortunately it's not made in large format. I'm certainly not opposed to switching to an Ilford film like Delta 100 or FP4. In fact, given the current uncertainty surrounding the future of Kodak and Fuji film, I may prefer to use exclusively Ilford for large format.

As for developers, I've used Ilford DD-X in the past with mixed results (it was the first developer I ever used, so I probably didn't have my process down very well yet.) I like Kodak T-Max developer. I've used and like XTOL, but didn't enjoy mixing it. I also liked Perceptol with Pan-F, but it's quite expensive. Again, I'm looking for a fine grain developer that will likely be around for a while.

I should also add that I intend to use the film testing service provided by the View Camera Store.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. I appreciate any advice you can provide.

Roger Thoms
21-May-2013, 18:30
I use Pyrocat HD. Here's a link for times until you can do your film testing. http://www.pyrocat-hd.com/html/times.html I would also recommend getting a copy of Beyond The Zone System by Phil Davis, it explains a lot.


21-May-2013, 20:03
While I use XTOL, HC-110 seems a common choice for BTZS, probably because it responds in contrast quite linearly to time and dilution, without secondary effects like changes in grain structure or acutance.

21-May-2013, 20:41
Pyro is the worst choice for starting BTZS because it is the most complex. However, it would be no problem if using the View Camera Store service. BTZS is quite a bit to learn and Pyro is another step up so that is why I say it is the "worst." But try multiple combos.

Xtol is an excellent choice, especially with TMAX. I use that combination.

However, any combination that you want is fine.

The film testing service from the View Camera Store is a very good resource. But be on the lookout for a densitometer. Many are almost free on Ebay considering what they used to sell for. Then you can test as many combinations as you like.

Brian Ellis
22-May-2013, 07:45
I'm unclear whether you mean you're going to use the BTZS system of exposure and development as espoused in the late Phil Davis' book "Beyond The Zone System" or whether you just mean you're going to use the BTZS tubes or both. FWIW I'd forget about the "Beyond The Zone System" system itself if you're just starting out. For one thing it isn't really "beyond" the zone system or anything else as Phil Davis emphasized at his workshops (he said he always regretted the title of the book for that reason). The book is also not easy to understand at first, especially with no prior knowledge of the zone system. I studied the book in depth, attended two of Phil Davis' week-long workshops, and used the system for several years and still wasn't sure I had it all down pat.

As for the BTZS tubes, I used D76 with mine in 4x5 and 8x10 for years, usually with Ilford HP5+ or TMax 100 films. D76 has been around for a century or so and is an excellent general purpose developer. Diluted 1-1 it gives you long enough development times such that being off by a few seconds here and there won't matter.

As for testing, I'd suggest doing it once yourself just as a learning experience, then for future tests use the service mentioned by jeroldharter above. I bought a densitometer, ran one series of tests, and after that it gathered dust as I found the BTZS testing service better and less expensive than doing it myself.

AJ Edmondson
22-May-2013, 08:04
I have to agree with Brian as far as the BTZS approach is concerned... and I don't say that to disparage the method. It is simply different and, after pursuing the methodology for a couple of years, I went back to the zone system. The BTZS tubes are (for me) great because I never develop more than one sheet of film at any given time (and that isn't meant to discourage you if you choose to develop multiple sheets/tubes). Whichever approach you use, stick with it long enough to become comfortable with your materials... then, if you want to try a different approach you have a basis to judge from.


22-May-2013, 10:56
While I use XTOL, HC-110 seems a common choice for BTZS, probably because it responds in contrast quite linearly to time and dilution, without secondary effects like changes in grain structure or acutance.

I used to use BTZS, and used HC-110. In those days I had standardized on a 5 minute developing time, and had done testing to determine HC-110 concentrations to get N, N-1, N+1 development, this meant that I could develop several sheets, all together and at the same time, and individualize the contrast on a sheet by sheet basis.

I now use a Jobo processor and have a somewhat different methodology since with the Jobo, all the sheets get the same developing.

22-May-2013, 12:14
To get a good starting point for film testing you can probably just use the times that people are posting for rotary development.

I'll second the combination TMX and XTOL (1:1) for continuous agitation. You get a little bit more pronounced grain than with normal development, but nothing that should scare you off.

Ken Lee
22-May-2013, 12:14
If you purchase a copy of the BTZS "Plotter" software, you'll see that it comes with a large number of files which describe tests already performed on a variety of films and developers. Your favorite film/developer combination may have already been carefully tested. Comparing and contrasting the different combinations is in itself an illuminating exercise.

If you plan to learn BTZS and perform your own testing, you'll find the Plotter program very helpful. If you don't care to do the testing on your own, you will still find it helpful, for the above-stated reason.

There is much to be learned from the BTZS book: even if you don't plan to make darkroom prints, the section on light meters alone is worth its weight in gold.

22-May-2013, 13:48
When Phil Davis did an article for the D-Max Newsletter testing 9 film & 5 developers, the 2 film developers he liked the best were D-76 (Ilford ID-11) and Ilford DDX (liquid). They give the greatest spread in the family of film curves. For a good article on BTZS film testing, please see the articles by Phil Davis at BTZS.org. Since you prefer liquids, my recommendation would be Ilford DDX. It is now the developer I use. Yes, I too prefer liquids.

Also if you are testing 35mm, 120 & 4x5, you will have to test each format.

Fred Newman

22-May-2013, 15:31
Thanks all!

To be clear, I am definitely planning on using the BTZS tubes for development and I am very interested in BTZS for exposure metering, etc. I have purchased the BTZS book by Phil Davies and am working my way though it in a non-linear way.

The only reason why I mentioned BTZS is the 2 ounce (60 ml) capacity of the BTZS caps which hold the developer. I know that some highly diluted developer solutions such as Rodinal 1:100 might become exhausted because there isn't enough active developer.

Although I liked XTOL, I do prefer the convenience of a liquid developer. I may give DD-X another shot. It's also readily available where I live.

As for film recommendations... As I mentioned, I really like Acros, especially for its reciprocity characteristics, but I question Fuji's commitment to film. I feel slightly more confident in Kodak film, since there recent sell-off. Ultimately I feel like I should support Ilford because they are the most committed to continuing film.

I realize nobody can predict the future. I should probably just shoot the film I enjoy and not worry about it.

22-May-2013, 18:13
The point of high-dilution Rodinal is to get adjacency effects and compensation, which implies (semi-)stand development. BTZS tubes are for continuous agitation only, therefore they're fundamentally incompatible with stand development: both in the agitation pattern they require and their liquid capacity. If you like the semi-stand approach then try a MOD54 tank or similar. More-concentrated Rodinal is fine for rotary; I use 1+50 regularly in my Jobo.

I find XTOL extremely convenient; I mix up the 5L into a spring-water bag-in-box thing and leave it on the shelf under my Jobo; it lasts for a year or more. Developer on-tap, straight into the graduated cylinder and far more convenient than faffing about with syringes and syrup and trying to get the damn HC-110 to go into solution instead of staring up at you insolently from the bottom of the beaker.

I too love Acros in 120 but its pricing in 4x5 (as much as a chrome!) is stupid. TMX is sorta-kinda similar and Delta 100 not far behind. Acros is between those two in terms of grain but has the best reciprocity characteristics by far. Delta is grainier (but this is LF so who cares?) and has better red sensitivity than Acros, so I would suggest that as a starting point if you want to support Ilford. I personally love TMY2 - it's quite fine enough in the larger (6x7, 4x5") sizes and the extra 2 or 3 stops is really handy. Pricy though at nearly 2x as much as Delta or HP5.

23-May-2013, 08:28
If you are thinking of Ilford, you should check out Delta 100. It's a film that Phil Davis really like the film curves.

For reciprocity Phil Davis did an article for the D-Max Newsletter (Volume 9, Issue 4) and the results are really surprising. Reciprocity varies depending upon the developer used. It is the only actual test of reciprocities of different film & developer combinations I have ever seen. The reciprocity data is part of the ExpoDev file that is exported from the Plotter for PC program.

I did a video showing ExpoDev on my youtube channel - using it on my iPad:


Phil David loved photographing at night & every workshop we did we would take the students photographing at night.

I think that is why he did the reciprocity testing.

Fred Newman

23-May-2013, 15:15
The reciprocity data is part of the ExpoDev file that is exported from the Plotter for PC program.

What films does ExpoDev have reciprocity data for?