View Full Version : Comparing the differeny Pyro formulae...

Michael Graves
7-Feb-2006, 19:46
I've now spent several hours reading through old posts and all it did was confuse me more. I want to give Pyro a try after reading all the raves. But when went to Photographer's Formulary to order some, there were three different ones. So I went back through the posts looking for some info to help decide which one to buy. There is ABC, PMK and Pyrocat. Is there any substantial difference between the versions? I like the PMK and Pyrocat because they come in liquid concentrates and I have a very cramped darkroom. Working with powders sends me into sneezing fits. Any input would be appreciated.

Herb Cunningham
7-Feb-2006, 20:12
went thru the same process. There is a long thread on the apug forum about this as well. I chose pyrocat because we have Sandy King
who developed it and is still a member and active in these forums. Also, a lot of us use it in stand and semi stand developing.

Michael and paula still usce ABC pyro, and have a boost bottle ready in the darkroom to add if they need extra contrast in a
negative they are developing by inspection. They also have a long posting on the AZO forum.

One can become daft with all the formuale out there. try one for months before trying another.

steve simmons
8-Feb-2006, 07:30
My own preference is the PMK formula. It can be obtained in liquid form from either Bostick and Sullivan or Photographer's Formulary. Also get a copy of The Book of Pyro by Gordon Hutchings.

I have used PMK for 20+ yeras and tersted it against everything except Rollo Pyro which is designed to be used in a JOBO which I do not have. I have used PMK for enlarging and contact printing (this on both vc paper and Azo).

My advice to people is don't join the film of the month club. I will exapnd that to do not join the developer of the month club either.

steve simmons

N Dhananjay
8-Feb-2006, 08:36
They are all very fine formulae depending upon the use you put it to, and the amount of effort you put into getting it to work for you. Perhaps one of the most well-informed pieces I have read on pyro formulae is by Sandy King and available at http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/PCat/pcat.html. Its a particularly nice read because it is easy to read and it provides more than opinion - there are facts and empirical testing to back up claims. The trouble with opinion is that it is highly idiosyncratic to individuals and the relative amount of time and effort they have put into mastering the developer. One person may really like developer A but that is because s/he has slogged through the process of figuring out its idiosyncracies and got it to work for his/her purposes. Another person may have the same experience with another formula. When asked to compare the other formula, both persons may conclude that the other formula is inferior because it does not provide the results they are able to get with the brews they habitually use. In other words, there is a path dependence to our preferences. So, Sandy's article is a really nice piece in this context.

That said, here are my opinions...;-)

ABC: A very energetic formula using only pyro. Provides high sharpness and also fairly prominent grain (which some suggest adds to the impression of sharpness because the grain is very sharply edged - in other words, if you like the look of Rodinal in enlargements, you will probably like ABC negatives enlarged also). Probably yields slightly less film speed compared to the other two. Probably at its best when it comes to contact printing.

PMK: Uses pyro and metol. Delivers slightly higher film speed than ABC. In my own experience, gave slightly high base stain (which acts as fog) than ABC and Pyrocat HD. Perhaps better suited for enlarging in the opinion of many (including apparently, its formulator, Gordon Hutchings who is reported to have said ABC is probably better for contact printing).

Pyrocat HD: Perhaps the cleanest working formula - low fog and base stain and probably the only one of these developers that is reasonably workable with techniques such as minimal agitation. Provides very clean negatives and is perhaps the best negative for dual purpose negatives (i.e., for printing on silver papers and alternative processes).

Good luck. Cheers, DJ

Andrew O'Neill
8-Feb-2006, 08:38
I think it really depends on what film you use and what look you like. I have used HP5+ for years now. I never liked it in PMK or Rollo (on VC paper). They turned me off of pryo. Then a few years ago I tried Pyrocat-HD. For me it works much better than PMK...in tubes or tray or stand. You see, it's up to each individual user. Get some PMK or Pyrocat and see for yourself. It's like what Steve said, "do not join the developer of the month club".

steve simmons
8-Feb-2006, 09:37
Gordon Hutchings who is reported to have said ABC is probably better for contact printing).

This was reported by someone else and Gordon does not remember making such a statement.

I have contact printed with PMK on vc paper and on Azo for years and never had a problem. The grain with ABC is greater and the film speed is much less. The B solution is also not stable over time.

Take your pick.

steve simmons

8-Feb-2006, 10:12
You may want to consider Wimberley's formula also : WD2D

Pete Caluori
8-Feb-2006, 11:02
Before selecting a developer, you should consider all pertinent variables and your desired result.

What film are you using?
What are you going to do with the negs: scan, enlarge, contact print, alternative process, etc?
What type of scenes do you typically shoot?
What "look" asthetics are you aiming for?

As DJ said these developers have different characteristics and I have used all 3, plus rollo pyro. To accurately answer your question a bit more information would be needed. IMHO, ther is no such thing as a "silver bullet" nor does one size fit all.

Good luck!

Regards, Pete

Michael Graves
8-Feb-2006, 13:15
I appreciate the comments I've been getting on my query. I also appreciate the fact that nobody jumped on my spelling of "differny". As a writer I are awyas careful of spelling and grammar. Steve, I'm not so much joining the developer of the month club as I am realizing the limitations of the current combination. I had been using Delta 400 in HC-110 at 1:64. That gave me nice repeatable negatives and prints that were never as good as anyone elses. However, I was comfortable with my film speed and development time. Two months ago, I used my last box of Delta. Discovered it no longers exists. One of the things about buying 20 boxes of film at once and freezing it, is that you lose track when it goes away. I'm finding that the Arista Ultra gives a nice negative in the deep shadows and mid-tones, but with HC-110, even in dilute dilutions, REALLY blocks the highlights. Guess that's why they don't recommend HC-110. I figured since I had to change developers anyway, I'd give this mystical elixir a try.

Rick Durbin
8-Feb-2006, 14:15
I agree with DJ all the way! I started out with D76, then HC110 and finally pyrocat HD. Here are some points not yet brought out in the replies: using FP4+, I get a one-stop increase in film speed; negs print easily on grade 2 even with white light; Sandy King is also very helpful if you need to e-mail him; Steve Sherman has two articles in recent issues of View Camera and a long thread, http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?s=6794c25073d9732cd6c48c5bbc35cfe1&t=24023; he also is offering a course on this topic at Photographers Formulary this fall; and you can buy solution A (lasts at least a year stored in the cold) from B & S (currently $28 for 500ml) and make solution B yourself. Rick Durbin

Mark Sampson
9-Feb-2006, 11:29
Whether or not you choose to use PMK, Mr. Hutchings' book is an excellent resource for learning about these developers. (FWIW, I've been using Tri-X and PMK since I first read about it in View Camera magazine over ten years ago, and I've been happy with the results.)

Jay DeFehr
9-Feb-2006, 11:41
510-Pyro and Hypercat are pyrogallol and catechol developers, respectively, and offer benefits over the developers listed above. You can read a brief introduction here:


I am currently doing BTZS testing of both formulae with my favorite films, and comparisons to other staining developers. I'll publish my results on my website for anyone interested.


Ken Lee
9-Feb-2006, 14:14
Jay - I would love to see some photos developed in these developers - even if they amount to nothing more than "anecdotal evidence" :-) Are there any on the web ?