View Full Version : Film/Developer choices

12-Jan-2019, 14:40
I'm trying to narrow down what I will use when my 4x5 Chamonix arrives. I am using Rodinal 1:50 and have shot Delta 100, TMax 100 and Arista EDU 100. All prints were scanned the same, all processing in LR was the same, and did one standard, one blown up. I find the Arista a bit contrasty and less sharp/more coarse than the others, I'll pass. The TMax is less contrasty but finer grain than the Delta 100. The Delta just looks like what I want. ALL OF THIS IS BEING DONE IN 120 ON A HASSELBLAD FOR NOW. So as I move to 4x5 my 100 ISO film and developer will be Delta with Rodinal 1:50. This can sure change over time.

I need a 400 ISO film however which is what I'm asking. Not sure before I order from Freestyle if I should just stick with Rodinal for HP5+, TriMax and TMax400 (the films I plan on testing). I'm not sure if at ISO 400 I should have a fine grain developer instead of Rodinal. Landscapes and city-scapes will be what I do, fine grain and sharpness are both important. I will do prints up to 20x30 perhaps some larger and given a choice I would rather have less grain than less sharpness (I think). Lots of forest work so tonality is important. I do love the ease of liquid Rodinal. Ideally I have one developer and two film choices that I can learn and really delve into as I get to know my 4x5. I apologize for the length of the post. Perhaps I should have just asked "Will Rodinal be too grainy with a 400 speed film blown up 20x30 or larger?" Duh.

Maris Rusis
12-Jan-2019, 16:04
Large format black and white photography is remarkably easy and forgiving if you will settle for 95% of absolute perfection for most of your work.

Film choice: largely irrelevant. All films will hold stunning detail and tonality.

Film speed: Largely irrelevant. The camera is on a tripod and the subject is usually static. Moving subjects, windy landscapes for example, may need ISO 400 films (the fastest available) to control motion blur. Full aperture shots in pursuit of bokeh may need slow film because there are no really fast LF leaf shutters.

Exposure precision: Largely irrelevant as long as it is enough and not grossly excessive.

Focussing problems: Largely irrelevant. A good loupe on the ground-glass enables focussing better than the unaided eye can see.

Developer choice: Largely irrelevant. Because sheets are developed individually contrast can be cranked up or down by more or less development to suit the end result.

Grain Anxiety: Largely irrelevant. No visible grain for all films at less than "giant" enlargements. Remember, if you cut a 4x5 negative in half and throw one piece away, then cut the remaining bit in half and throw one piece away you still have a negative bigger than what comes out of the back of a Hasselblad.

That last 5% of quality gets harder to achieve as you approach perfection. Your viewing audience is very unlikely to notice that 5% but you might. Wonderful pictures are easy, perfect is as difficult here as anywhere else.

12-Jan-2019, 17:01
That is a wonderful response Maris. I think I could do irrelevant rather well : ) I guess you put it into perspective for me. I do know that I don't obsess over little things. I would bet given a slew of films and developers laid out in a blind testing, most people would be hard pressed to tell any difference that is substantial. I do appreciate your perspective a great deal!

Doremus Scudder
12-Jan-2019, 18:40
For once I'm going to disagree with Maris a bit; not that he's wrong, but maybe I'm after the 5% extra in a couple areas :) .

There are a couple of things on his list that I find important rather than irrelevant and worth consideration if you're moving up from MF to LF.

Keep in mind that if you want the same depth of field in LF as you have been getting with MF, you have to stop down a couple stops more. Most of my shots with 4x5 are in the f/22-f/32 range. That means slower shutter speeds. Unless you're happy with motion blur, you may find that working with a ~400 ISO film necessary. I have a lot of TMax 100 that I don't use just for this reason. The wind blows a lot out in the field, water moves a lot too (I hate cotton-candy waterfalls...), so having a faster shutter speed is helpful. Sometimes I'll intentionally underexpose just to get the shutter speed I need and then see if the negative can be salvaged in printing; I prefer that to motion blur.

Second, I can see grain from expansion negatives (N+ development) in a 16x20-inch print from a 4x5 negative. I don't usually like it. That's why I like fine-grain films and staining developers; the grain masking effect of pyro developers is worth the hassle of using them IM-HO. I shoot TMax 400 and Tri-X 320 mostly. The new version of the Tri-X has really fine grain for a fast conventional film. My current developer of choice is PMK.

That said, there are lots of good developers out there. It's more important that you find one that is designed to deliver the characteristics you want (fine-grain vs. acutance, etc.) and is convenient for you to use (liquid concentrate vs. powders, e.g.). Learn it and only move on if you have a definite need. If I were looking at other developers (personal opinion here), I'd look at Pyrocat and Xtol. I used HC-110 for years; it was a good middle-of-the-road developer for me and convenient, but I think there are better choices out there now.

Learning to focus the view camera is important too, and much different from focusing smaller cameras if you are interested in exact depth of field. Take a look at the LF home page and read the articles about choosing the f-stop and how to focus the view camera. They are both well worth reading.

Hope this helps,


12-Jan-2019, 18:41
Everyone knows there is only one True film and developer combination.

Trouble is, no one has yet found out what it is.

Excellent photographers across the world get excellent results from many combinations. Off the shelf to esoteric hand mixed - if you use it and work with it most any combination works just fine. Pick what works for you now and use it. Only real reason to change is if you can actually see a difference in finished images - the way YOU do them, not how someone else does.

12-Jan-2019, 19:48
Some things I didn't think about Doremus since it's been so long since using a view camera. i forgot about the small apertures and depth of field. And I agree about too much water motion and I hate leaf blur from wind unless it really adds to the image. The shutter speed however is why I inquired about a faster film, I know I'm going to wish I had it if I didn't get it.

12-Jan-2019, 20:07
hi laminarman

most developers are the same
about the film if you like tab grain ( like delta ) then use delta or tmy400
if you like traditional grain then use hp5 or the freestyle housebrand or
foma or tri x ... if you like liquid developers give sprint a try
its like d76 but your highlights won't blow out mixes easy 1:9 and you
can get it right off of the sprint website. they also have data on every film made
and a chart for different situations you might encounter to give you a heads up
about over and under development. when i don't use caffenol or ansco130 to process my film
i use sprint, been using it since the 80s and their speed fixer too ...
i wouldn't get too hung up on films and developers just get used to developing sheets,
its a little different than rolls.
good luck !

12-Jan-2019, 20:22
Thank you jnantz. Now I need to decide what tank- thinking of the 445. I would like one tab grain and the 400 in traditional emulsion. I do want to keep it simple.

13-Jan-2019, 04:32
i can't help you there,
the only tank i have is a FR tank
for stand developing, and it is a PITA to load.
i don't recommend it unless it comes with a jin who
preloads it for you :) ( i've rubbed mine no jin in mine at least )
i shuffle process in a tray.
good luck

Pere Casals
13-Jan-2019, 04:58
Film vs developer is "à chacun son goût"

Here you may find hundreds of film+development+processing combinations with examples, to see what will like you, scanned film not always tells all information, but it gives a good clue:


If fine grain and sharpness are important then best overall is Xtol, normally fine grain development decreases some sharpness, because based on solvent effect. Xtol is a rare exception that combines sharpness with smooth grain, at least it's what kodak says.




You should keep in mind the solvent effect of fine grain developers, how dilution adjusts that, and the relative grain size depending on format, this is HP5 grain is seen in 35mm, only seen when very enlarged in 4x5, and not detected in 8x10.

13-Jan-2019, 06:11
Thank you Pere, very helpful. What I find interesting is the Ilford equivalent of Xtol is the Ilfosol 3 in liquid, one shot form, which is appealing. I may get a small bottle of that to compare side by side with Rodinal. I would rather not mix powders and keep track of shelf life. Due to my crazy life with kids and a business, there may be times when weeks to months pass before I process so a liquid, one shot is very appealing.

13-Jan-2019, 06:34
All developers are fine gran in LF. You use a developer / film combo now. Why not stick with what you know and (I assume) are good with? Being good with something is more important than switching and not being good with it. Shots are more expensive in LF.

Randy Moe
13-Jan-2019, 06:37
Years ago when I joined this forum I got good advice to simply pick one developer and use it until I knew it very well.

I tried many chems listed here, but choose Rodinol and have used it for 7 years. I like how it lasts and works to the last drop even if stored for years. A Pro gave me a case of it 3 years ago that WAS old, it works the same as fresh.

I just ordered 5 more 500ml bottles from Freestyle, the cheapest one.

I use it most of time at 1/100 but for slow glass dry plates 1/25 seems good.

I have mixed dry chem developers from scratch and have many bottles of dry poison, I like how Rodinol is very mild at 1/100.

I also have chemist friends that love mixing custom developer.

My advice is try 3 developers and pick one to use for some time.

Pere Casals
13-Jan-2019, 06:50
there may be times when weeks to months pass before I process so a liquid

If you use Kodak Xtol then better mix it with deionized/distilled water, Xtol stock keeps very well, even 1 year, but if mixed with some tap waters preservetion is not as good. Read and follow well mixing instructions https://www.digitaltruth.com/products/kodak_tech/j109_Xtol.pdf

You will have to make 5L, you can keep it inside 2L soda bottles (mark it well, with skull and bones !!!) Xtol is one of the less toxic developers because it's Vitamin C based, but safety is frst. Soda bottles are a very good barrier for oxygen in the outside. Just pointing that inconvenience of having to mix 5L can be solved in that way...

ilfosol is close but not exactly the same, xtol (IMHO) has an slightly higher real speed, and accutance, but if you wnat a liquid then ilfosol is also pretty good IMHO.

Randy Moe
13-Jan-2019, 07:10
But then I need to buy poison Soda Pop!

No way, pop is battery acid. Yuck!

However USA 2L soda bottles are very strong. I once pressure tested one with a rig I had that was safe to 5000 PSI. I installed a special N2 fitting in the cap, put the bottle in a room with blast doors and tried to find the psi limit. I quit at 500 psi N2 as I didn't want a big boom.

I was working in a test lab and daily used many 2.2K N2 size 300 bottles.

13-Jan-2019, 07:15
Here's the plan: I ordered a bottle of Ilfosol 3. I'll shoot some 400 tab film and traditional and compare Rodinal to Ilfosol both 8x10 and highly enlarged. I'll pick what I like. I am a sort of audiophile too, and a tip I got from a guy at McIntosh Labs (five minutes from my house) who is an engineer, said "All the data points and charts and graphs are great, but just listen and if you get tired of listening quickly there's something wrong. When you don't leave the room, and keep listening, the system is good for you, cost notwithstanding." So I lay my photos out after mixing them up (marked on the back) and stand back and simply pick which ones look most pleasing. I did this with the 100 speed and always picked the Delta 100 in 1:50 Rodinal so that's my starting 100 combo. Many many thanks to everyone!

13-Jan-2019, 09:08
I'd largely agree with Maris' comments - and the extent grain will be visible depends not just on film choice, but exposure, development time relative to enlarger light source, & contrast grade of paper used for printing on etc. Also worth noting that Kodak recommends two of its most solvent developers as the sharpest - and there are good reasons for this - though it doesn't matter as much in smaller enlargements from sheet film as it does in bigger enlargements from 35mm.