View Full Version : Developer Test: D-76, Rodinal and FD10 Head to Head

10-Mar-2015, 14:55
Here is an informal personal test of 8x10 sheet film processed in 3 different film developers: Kodak D-76, Rodinal and Fotospeed FD10.

I've been using Kodak D-76, the classic powder developer, but to make developing easier I would rather not use powder. So I bought some Rodinal R09 One Shot and some Fotospeed FD10. (Fotospeed FD10 is a fairly inexpensive developer widely available in the UK, and often used in photography schools etc. But I'm not sure it is widely available worldwide. Looking at the recipe, it seems a bit like a more dilute version of Rodinal, but my chemistry knowledge isn't good enough to be sure).

I took 6 shots at the same time and exposure using Fomapan 200 film. I used my Jobo processor to drum-develop two sheets in D-76, two in Rodinal diluted 1:50, and two in FD10 diluted 1:9.

130597 130598

10-Mar-2015, 14:59
They all came out looking surprisingly similar. To do a first quick check of the results, I put them on a LED light box and photographed them.

Here is the D-76 (showing first the negative, and then the same negative flipped into a positive):


10-Mar-2015, 15:01
Here is the Rodinal (showing first the negative, and then the same negative flipped into a positive):


10-Mar-2015, 15:03
Here is the Fotospeed FD10 (showing first the negative, and then the same negative flipped into a positive):


10-Mar-2015, 15:08
Of course it is hard for you to see the detail because I can't post huge photos on the forum. But to attempt to show a little more, here are crops of each:



10-Mar-2015, 15:09


10-Mar-2015, 15:10


Peter De Smidt
10-Mar-2015, 15:14
Nice test. How did you make sure that the films were developed to the same contrast index?

10-Mar-2015, 15:23
So what do I make of these results?

Well, the differences are quite subtle. I would happily use any of these film developers. The tonality, contrast etc seem similar. But in the crops, notice the grain in the background: the Rodinal and FD10 are significantly grainier. The FD10 and Rodinal produce results I cannot tell apart (maybe FD10 is indeed a more dilute version of Rodinal, or something close to it).

I like the Rodinal in terms of ease of use: add a 10ml syringe of Rodinal to 500 ml of water, easy. Plus apparently Rodinal has the best shelf life of any developer. Plus it works out cheapest.

However, D-76 has less grain. Perhaps the Rodinal has subtly better tonality or sharpness, but if so, the difference is too subtle to see in these photos. I'd have to take more photos to form a view on that. (Because I shoot mostly fashion and people, and I'm using large format film, the ultimate sharpness is not that important to me. But tonality is important. However tonality is rather subjective.)

So my overall finding is that the differences between these developers are smaller than I expected. But if D-76 came as a liquid, perhaps I would keep using that. For now, I'll happily use up the Rodinal and FD10.

Does anyone have any other developer suggestions that would be significantly different/better than these, that would be worth me trying?

10-Mar-2015, 15:29
Good point Peter. Clearly this is only a rough personal test. I simply did the best I could to develop to a standard degree of contrast. But I should probably experiment more with development times. I'm not sure it would change the graininess or tonality that much though.

10-Mar-2015, 15:42
Perhaps I should point out that I'm no great expert at film development. I only have a modest setup, I process my film in my kitchen using an old Jobo CPE-2 processor. I just want something that gets the job done in a convenient way and produces nice results. I'd rather spend my time photographing models than developing, if I'm really honest!

I should also say thanks to Scarlet, a lovely model with the patience for large format film tests!

By the way, the camera was a Wisner Expedition 8x10 with a 360mm Schneider f6.8 lens, shot at at F11, 1/60th sec using studio flash.

Will Frostmill
10-Mar-2015, 15:43
If you want a liquid, you could try HC-110. Lenny Eiger reccomends Xtol if you intend on drum scanning - he says it produces less grain aliasing. Search for posts by him, I'm sure you'll find some good threads.

10-Mar-2015, 16:08
Thanks, I never thought of Xtol. Despite being a powder, it does sound good - and they claim it dissolves easily. This comparison chart is quite useful, and makes Xtol look impressive:


Peter De Smidt
10-Mar-2015, 16:14
Xtol is a good choice. I've not used it, but DDX is supposed to be similar, and it's a liquid concentrate. Pyrocat HD is a great choice if it's available.

10-Mar-2015, 16:52
When I don't need the convenience of Rodinal, I use xtol.

Lenny Eiger
10-Mar-2015, 18:12
If you want a liquid, you could try HC-110. Lenny Eiger reccomends Xtol if you intend on drum scanning - he says it produces less grain aliasing. Search for posts by him, I'm sure you'll find some good threads.

Two weeks ago I ran the test of Rollo Pyro, Pyrocat HD and Xtol that I've been thinking about for 2 years. My buddy and I were very careful about everything and the results were almost identical. They were all excellent.

We did an image in a garage and another outside with rocks, trees and water. The Rollo, which is based on PMK and Pyrogallol had the largest amount of stain. I put them thru their paces in the scanner, matching them exactly, then pulled into Photoshop and looked at them at 100 and 200%. They were all good, the grain size was comparable in each.

I got a large bottle of Pyrocat HD in Glycol, which is liquid, and will last a long time. I highly recommend it. It's what I will use going forward.


Ken Lee
11-Mar-2015, 05:52
They all came out looking surprisingly similar.


Sorry, I may be wrong, but your photos appear to be fogged. Note the clear film edge, which when scanned as a positive should appear as pure black.


If we apply a curves correction which is just enough to render the clearest part of the film as black (lower left) the upper right corner still appears light.


If we apply an even stronger curves correction so that the lightest part of the film edge is true black, then we find a negative which appears underexposed and either over-developed, or whose contrast has been boosted during scanning or later on in the photo editor.

Presuming that these negatives were developed to the same level of contrast (as already mentioned) - and scanned identically with a scanner good enough to detect fine grain - your test gives some information about grain, but any other conclusions may require more careful testing.

The appearance of grain is affected by changes in developing time. If you have adjusted the contrast during or after scanning (rather than via development) then more careful testing may be required before you can feel confident about your comparison of grain levels.

11-Mar-2015, 09:11
Ah, that's interesting, thanks Ken. I think the light edge is because the pictures are just photographs of the negs lying on a light box. But if it is a light leak that is interesting info.

Here's a scan, what do you think of this one? I'm having trouble scanning them properly, this one has some slight scanning lines. I use an Epsom V550. Perhaps a V850 would work better, or perhaps a professional drum scan is required to properly inspect the fine detail.


Ken Lee
11-Mar-2015, 10:00
That photo also has a gray - rather than black - film edge.

Of course there's no law which determines how we scan and print (and I'm no policeman), but if we are going to the trouble of shooting and developing and scanning film, it's helpful to be able to make a "proof" image which shows us what's on the film before we correct it. Otherwise, we're aiming at a moving target.

For example, we need to know if our exposures and development times are right, before we adjust them in an editing tool. That is, if we want to take advantage of the beauty inherent in film capture. If we simply want to grab a shot and rescue it downstream, then we probably aren't bothering with 8x10 and not trying to determine which developer gives more pleasing results. :)

You might find this article interesting: Scanning Tips with EPSON and VueScan Software (http://www.kennethleegallery.com/html/tech/scanning.php).

If you only ever plan to use your EPSON scanner, then you can rely on your own testing to determine adequate grain size. It will be adequate for you, but not a reliable or objective measure for others.

At 50% contrast the newer EPSON consumer desktops get only around 1500 dpi: they are barely able to resolve film grain. If we want to know how much grain there really is on a sheet of film, we need a finer instrument.

11-Mar-2015, 15:52
Thanks, I read your scanner article, very useful.