View Full Version : Developer shelf life

Neal Shields
21-Jul-2004, 14:32
The other night I went in to do some printing. I had a half pint bottle of Illford paper developer concentrate that was about 90 days old and used once. I also have a gallon of paper/film developer concentrate that is about 5 years old that has about 2Ē left in the bottom.

I used the new stuff but noticed when I mixed it up 1:9 that it was very dark. I made a test print and nothing. I might as well have dipped the print in tap water. I turned the light on and still nothing. Finally I mixed up some developer from the 5 year old gallon and it worked perfectly.

I guess I have several questions:

Is there some reason paper/film developer lasts longer than straight paper developer?

Should I just use film developer to develop paper?

What is the best developer for someone that might spend a month or two between work sessions?

Note: I donít think Illford has the film/paper developer any more.

21-Jul-2004, 14:56
It depends on the formula. Some are more likely to die quickly. Others seem impossible to kill. The "best" is a personal choice. You can go with a developer you make up just prior to use. Use it one shot then toss it. I do that for film. Or you could choose something like Agfa Multi-contrast developer. I use that for paper. It is a very long life developer. Just replace the developer that gets carried out by the paper and it seems to go and go and go. But are either of these the best for you? Depends what you like.

Buy some basic dry chemicals and you can make up most developers just prior to use. Find a formula you like.

ronald moravec
21-Jul-2004, 15:01
Use powder developers except xtol and you know how old they are. Mix cool and put into small one time use bottles full to the top. Every print session , use a new bottle and dilute just befor use.

If you insist and buy the premixed stuff, decant to smaller bottles upon first opening it.

Gem Singer
21-Jul-2004, 15:20
Hi Neal,

Most liquid stock developer concentrates have a relatively short shelf life. Exceptions are PMK, Rodinal, and (to a certain extent) HC110. Developer stock concentrates last longer in well sealed glass containers that are either filled completely to the top, or any air in the top space can be replaced with an inert gas. This holds true whether the developer is formulated for film, or for paper. It makes no difference, all developers oxidize. Some faster than others. Once a liquid concentrate developer is mixed with water, oxidation begins to take place rapidly.

Use a developer for paper that is formulated for paper and one that is formulated for film, with film. They do not contain the exact same amounts and types of ingredients. You can solve the short shelf life problem by using powdered developers. They last for years in their sealed packages and don't begin to oxidize until they are mixed with water.

Ilford makes a powdered developer for paper, Bromophen. It comes in a 1 liter package. They also make a powdered developer for film, Microphen, in a 1 liter package. Both are excellent developers. Very cost efficient.

Kodak makes Dektol paper developer and D-76 film developer in 1 quart packages.

These small packages of powdered developers work best when dissolved in distilled water. Plan on using the entire liter of stock solution at each session in the darkroom, and you'll never need to worry about your developer going dead again.

Ed Eubanks
21-Jul-2004, 15:37
I've been using LPD by Ethol-- LPD stands for something like "Lasting Paper Developer". I mix it from powder, although it can be bought in liquid concentrations, too. I mixed my last bottle almost a year ago. Since then, I've done AT LEAST 400 RC 8x10s and 50 FB 8x10s, plus some smaller RC and FB prints; it's still going strong. It gets to be a very dark (read: somewhere between tea and coke) color, but still works. I suppose I'll probably make a new batch once a year, just to keep things "fresh", but I don't get the idea that I must do so. By the way, I work in spurts-- several days at a time, then off for a month or more (sometimes several months), and the stuff works fine no matter what. When I'm working for several days, it stays in the tray with Saran wrap floating over it, so it is even more abused by this.LPD is a Hydroquinone developer, so it tends to produce warmer prints-- you can vary this, according to the directions, by altering the dilution. It recommends 1.5 to 3 minutes, which is a bit longer than my former developers were, but I've found that I reach (visual) DMax at 1.5, so its not too much longer. I really like it for a good shelf-life developer.

Neal Shields
21-Jul-2004, 15:44
I guess down deep I knew I was going to have to go to powder. Thanks.

21-Jul-2004, 16:24
The print developer I'm using [Agfa Multi-contrast] is liquid.

Neal Shields
21-Jul-2004, 18:09
I'll try that. I am not too keen on mixing up powders. Most of my darkroom time is snatched moments and I need to simplify as much as possiable

Ralph Barker
21-Jul-2004, 18:38
Neal - I also use the Agfa MC liquid concentrate paper developer. My local shop carries it in handy half-liter bottles ($2.09). At the 1:6 mix, each bottle will mix two batches for 11x14 trays. I often have a month or two (sometimes longer) between darkroom sessions before I use the second half of the bottle, and have had no problems.

21-Jul-2004, 19:09
I mix it up 1:4. At the end of a session I pour it into a glass storage bottle. I'm not 100% sure how old my working solution is but it must be 2+ years old. Every so often I measure how much is actually in the bottle and make up enough 1:4 solution to fill the bottle back up.

Henry Ambrose
21-Jul-2004, 19:11
Neil, Ansco 130 is a very long lasting developer and it makes excellent prints on all the Ilford, Bergger and Agfa papers I've tried in it. It is my favorite paper developer. I use a "semi-replenishment" method where I replace what carries out of the developer tray each session. I've used the same batch for months at a time. I keep two quarts and then each time I start a new session I add a bit of fresh working solution, perhaps half a pint. When I'm done it goes back in the bottles until next time. It is available as a powder from Photographers Formulary in varous size kits.

neil poulsen
22-Jul-2004, 09:43
Using a powder developer doesn't have to be that onerous. One of the neatest pieces of equipment in my darkroom is an automatic stirrer.

It comes with about a 2" magnetic rod that's covered in plastic that can be dropped in the mixing vessel (plastic container with top purchased at department store) along with the water and chemistry. I place this on the stirrer and come back in an hour. Everythings completely dissolved.

I purchased mine used for $150. For me, it's worth every dollar!

The most important aspect of using powder is the health hazard of breathing it in. I hold my breath as I pour it in the water. I leave, and come back when the dust has settled. Or, one can immerse the bag in the water when pouring.