View Full Version : Re-using Film Developer with Sheet Film

1-Dec-2018, 16:16
I am new to LF but have been developing roll film for a long time. I am now shooting 4x5 sheet film and developing it in a MOD54 Patterson type tank, which of course allows the development of 1 to 6 sheets. The tank requires 1000mL of film developer.

Yesterday, I went out and shot 2 sheets of 4x5. It started pouring rain and will continue the next few days. I am tied up the next 2 weeks so it will be some time before I can go back out.

My question is this, can I develop the 2 sheets in 1000mL and then save the 1000mL of developer and re-use it to develop 4 sheets later? My logic is that the 1000mL of developer is mixed for 6 sheets. If I only develop 2 sheets then it seems to me that I still have “4-sheets worth” of developer left.

Any experiences, thoughts, or comments would be welcome.


(Side Note: In the past when developing 6 sheets, I always discard the developer per the instructions. I use Ilford Perceptol and mix 1000mL of Stock per the box instructions. Also, before developing film, I typically mix my Stock 1+1 or 1+2.)

1-Dec-2018, 16:53
Hi Charlie,

You can generally keep stock solutions in dark bottles.

Working-strength solutions are normally thrown away after a single use, regardless of number of sheets/rolls.

As to capacity... That's usually given as the number of 36-exposure rolls that can be developed.

That number of rolls equates to any film that can be proofed on a single 8x10 sheet of paper.
So one 36-exp 35mm roll = one 120 roll = four 4x5 sheets = one 8x10 sheet.

- Leigh

Drew Wiley
1-Dec-2018, 16:56
Not a good idea in general. You might get away with it; but sheet film isn't cheap, and quite a bit of work goes into the shots, so why gamble? Why not mix
smaller amounts of Perceptol from stock just before use? A whole liter is an awful lot for just a few sheets of 4x5. I realize you are using tanks; but trays need far less.

1-Dec-2018, 16:57
Saving it is not wise as the developer has been exposed to a lot of oxygen and will not sit well. It can be re-used right after the first two sheets. You may wish to add a little development time as you work thru the developer. I am not familar with Perceptol so do not know the capacity of a liter -- the capacity of a liter will change with dilution, of course.

As an example, when I ran a darkroom, we used a quart of straight D-76 to develop 16 sheets of 4x5 (4 at a time). After every four negatives, one increases the development time by 10%.

Drew Wiley
1-Dec-2018, 17:18
I'd typically do six to eight sheets of 4x5 in Perceptol 1:1 (500ml tray). No problem. But now that I'm getting superb results with TMX100 roll film at 1:3 (500ml inversion drum, I need to test sheet film capacity. What seems to happen at the higher dilution is a controlled exhaustion effect, which allows edge effect to noticeably increase at longer dev time, yet also provides a degree of compensation. The negs prints wonderfully. There's a visible sharpness to TMX which I never got at either the lower dilution or in my routine developer, PMK (which works better for TMY400). The 1:3 dilution also works well for Delta 100, Ilford's T-grain cousin, though I prefer TMX because it is capable of a whole extra stop in the shadows, and is a bit sharper this method than Delta.

1-Dec-2018, 18:07
My understanding is that increasing the developer dilution reduces the effect of any silver solvents compared to stronger dilutions. I used Microdol for years at 1:3. Not as fine (or soft) grain as using it 1:1.

Drew Wiley
1-Dec-2018, 18:37
Microdol and Perceptol are allegedly different, though perhaps similar in this respect. Perceptol doesn't really have a solvent effect. It ordinarily creates fne grain, but not mushy by any means, and TMX negs will come out crisp if significantly enlarged. I've been printing some old 4X5's of both TMX and FP4 dev at 1:1 dilution. They don't strike me as resembling D23, which is heavy on sulfite as a silver solvent. Perceptol ingredients are different. But this 1:3 tweak is going to give me a lot of mileage, both on TMX roll film and my substantial stash of TMX 8x10 film. I need to pace my 8X10 TMY400 usage because it's going to be expensive to replace. I use TMX for masking and color separations anyway, so have quite a bit on hand, bought back when it was about a third of the going price.

1-Dec-2018, 19:22
Thanks to everyone for responding but some of the responses are not addressing my question. I am not asking about specific developers or dilutions.

Bottom line question, If I mix 1000mL of film developer for my MOD45 tank (capacity 6 sheets of film) and develop only 1 sheet of 4x5, can I re-use it to develop subsequent sheets of film?

Thanks again.

1-Dec-2018, 19:41
That is why you need to figure out the capacity of the developer -- not just the developing tank. That will depend on your concentration.

I have already answered your 'bottom line'.

Based on D-76...and I doubt Perceptol is significantly different...Kodak wants one to add 10% development time every time one uses 25% of the developer's capacity. Use another 25% of its capacity, add another 10% to your development time. If you have not reached 25% capacity, then on your second round of developing with the original chemicals, use the normal time.

But I would not wait longer than a day before re-using the developer as it is oxidizing.

Looked up the data. One liter of Perceptol mixed from stock at 1:1 will develop 10 4x5 negatives (thus five negatives at 1:2).


Edited to add: Take a look at the link above -- sections 6 and 7 of the PDF. Section 6.3 gives the amounts to increase development for reusing the various Ilford Developers. Perceptol is only recommended for re-use at full-strength, not diluted, which surprised me. Perceptol (Section 7) is not recommended for storage at working strength.

So it looks like if you use Perceptol at 1:1 or 1:2, you would be taking a chance re-using it, but if you do, do it right away. If the times are not too short, you could use it straight and store in a full bottle -- perhaps in the fridge as Jim suggests -- until the next developing session. Good Luck!

Jim Graves
1-Dec-2018, 21:12
Always loved Perceptol ... but haven't used it much since moving into alternative process printing.

Here's a link to their spec sheet ... pages 7-9 cover reusing without replenishment and solution life ... https://www.freestylephoto.biz/pdf/product_pdfs/ilford/Ilford_PowderDev.pdf

NOTE: Kodak notes on their developers indicate solution life decreases with temperature increase ... so cooling your developer between developing cycles might help. Image below is from the Kodak Black & White Darkroom DATAGUIDE (1996)


2-Dec-2018, 03:20
What you could do is setting up a replenishment system with XTOL. Basically you make a working solution, often 2.5 L or 2 L is used of undiluted stock solution. This working solution you use to develop your film. Every time you develop a couple of sheets you add 75 ml or 80 ml of stock solution per 4 sheets of 4x5 film to the working solution and discard what is left over of the developer you have just used to develop your sheets. Developing times can be found on the Kodak data sheet on XTOL. It takes about 8 films to get from 2.5 L of stock solution to 2.5 L of working solution, extending your development time with 30 sec with every new round.

There is plenty of information on how to set up a replenishment system on this forum. It allows you to use large volumes of developer without producing too much waste. As a bonus it produces excellent negatives in my opinion.

2-Dec-2018, 05:58
Thank you!!! These last few posts are exactly what I was looking for.

Pere Casals
2-Dec-2018, 08:52
My question is this, can I develop the 2 sheets in 1000mL and then save the 1000mL of developer and re-use it to develop 4 sheets later?

Yes, you can, of course...

... but the second batch is processed with the developer having slightly less strength than in the first batch case, so development time for the second batch may have to be slightly extended to compensate that lower strength, if you want the same result.

Imagine that the 2 first sheets have a low exposition (say most the scene was black) or not exposed at all... in that case the developer is not used at all and it remains fresh.

If the two first sheets were fully exposed (a very white scene) then developer experiments some degree of exhaustion.

I'd recommend you practice the "drop" test:

Lights open throw a drop of developer on a film end each 30s, separated by 1cm aprox, after 20 drops (say 10min, or max development time you consider) then fix it. Make a test with fresh developer, with semi-used and with a well used developer, or with old developer mixed time ago...

Then compare what densities were achieved in each case...

Bill Burk
2-Dec-2018, 10:08
Ive run three batches of seven through a single mix of D-76 1:1 all the same day and had 35% drop in contrast index (I included sensitometry sheets in each run).

So if you were developing two runs of sheets in one day, a full load and a few stragglers... Then I think you would be OK if you gave the second run something like 10-15% more time than the first run.

But oxidation would be a big deal if you left the mix two weeks.

Id either wait and develop later... Or develop now and toss the developer.

Drew Wiley
2-Dec-2018, 19:50
I consider any degree of change in performance unacceptable. There's no need for it. D76 can be replenished, but why bother? It's infamous for shifting anyway. I once used it, but learned you either had to use it fresh, or let it plateau after about a week before use. There are better developers to choose from.

3-Dec-2018, 10:40
D76 can be replenished, but why bother?
There are better developers to choose from.
That's exactly why I use Rodinal, almost always at 1:50. The dilute developer is a one-shot.
It has worked exactly the same for me for over 50 years.

- Leigh