View Full Version : Motor Honey? Miracle Development Additives

Ed K.
26-Mar-2006, 20:21
Browsing the local store, I picked up a bottle of Formulary Excel, mostly because the label seemed to promise everything a B&W photographer might want in a film at times - more shadow detail, no blocked highlights, true film speed increase and finer grain too. And no matter what developer or process for that B&W - just add 30ml per liter of your favorite juice and presto! - a liquid alternative to everything from adding more exposure, stand development, water baths and that nasty zone system!

I'm tempted to actually try the stuff, and probably will ( if it works, I can post it as a bonafide magic bullet! ), however I am a bit hesitant to spoil the fun of such a bottle and its miraculous pitch. Ah, just think, I could be Edsel Adams for just $9.95, and wow - 4 ounces of the stuff!

I'm certainly not knocking Formulary - they're great and so appreciated. Perhaps the bottle was left over from a set of jokes gifts for the photographer in the family...

Seriously now, has anyone tried Formulary Excel, or any other sort of universal patent medicine for black and white developing? How did it work out?

26-Mar-2006, 21:46
i thought the instructions said to add 3o ml per liter to the fruit punch at your big opening. you might see improved grain and shadow detail in your work, but the real improvements involve all the vibrant, swirling, constantly changing colors.

Donald Qualls
27-Mar-2006, 14:30
According to Anchell and Troop, additives of that sort are nothing more or less than additional developing agent (frequently phenidone, because of its speed gain). Adding them, without changing development time, will increase contrast and grain and strengthen shadow detail, but if you cut development time to keep the same contrast you may find slightly less grain, similar or better shadow detail, and (if you have in fact controlled the contrast) no blocked highlights -- because those come from overdevelopment.

The other thing you will certainly find is that you've spent money on yet another magic bullet that turns out not to be magical. I get improved shadow detail, about the same grain, and no blocked highlights -- with HC-110 and water, nothing added. I just dilute a lot, agitate very little, and increase time to get back to normal contrast, and voila, my negatives look better. Of course, since I started doing that will *all* my negatives, none of them look "better" than any other, unless I did a better job focusing, composing, and exposing. There are no miracles, just understanding and controlling your tools.

27-Mar-2006, 18:58
"I get improved shadow detail, about the same grain, and no blocked highlights -- with HC-110 and water, nothing added."

so, WATER is the magic ingredient? who knew?? ;-)

Ed K.
27-Mar-2006, 20:20
Indeed, there is nothing to replace having things right in the first place - having the right lighting conditions whether made or found at the time of the shot beats all provided everything is done at least correctly. Sometimes, the day doesn't cooperate yet the show must go on, or sometimes a bit of miracle might help make something that is just okay look better. I find that other developers than HC110 also have capabilities to help control the negative values too, as I'm sure everyone knows. There are plenty of sources for documentation about that, however I've seen little discussion of Excel or other miracle cures.

Alas, the curiousity overcame me and I tried the stuff. For me, no miracle as Donald predicted. I would add that cutting the time in half when using the stuff is probalby not the best place to start. I'd cut the time by 1/3 or 1/4 at most. Grain? About the same. Tonality? Not much different. Film? Efke 100. Developer? Rodinal. Remember, the instructions did say "any developer/your favorite developer". Who knows? It might work fine with D76. For me, it's "myth busted", however I'm still curious if there are any other myths not so busted, or if anyone has actually proven success with Excel or similar products.

Now I've spoiled the wonderful joke of an unopened bottle of the stuff. Paulr, maybe if you use it as you described, you might get the colors, however then again, you might be a donor for some great LF lenses that we've all been wanting!

27-Mar-2006, 21:29
i'll gladly donate my meager lens collection.

my organs, too ... but i doubt anyone would want them if i perish from the Formulary spiked punch.

William Mortensen
27-Mar-2006, 21:44

I think you're confusing the Photographer's Formulary with the Photographer's Mortuary...