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Don Wallace
26-Jun-2007, 07:42
I am about to give up on HC-110 as a developer for rotary processing (Jobo CPE-2). I liked it because it was economical but I don't seem to be able to achieve consistent results in the long term. When I get highlights under control in testing, they seem to bounce up again occasionally in the field and I am left scratching my head as to why. I have been told that HC-110 is too "high energy" for rotary processing, hence the unpredicability.

I shoot mainly 4x5, but also 5x7 and 8x10, as well as 120. I use mostly FP4 and sometimes HP5. My favourite subjects are people, landscapes/cityscapes, and still life. I am thinking of D-76 because, eventually, I can mix my own "green" version (from "The Darkroom Cookbook"). I have also heard that XTOL is a good developer for rotary processing. Any suggestions?

PViapiano
26-Jun-2007, 09:07
What dilution were you using for the HC110?

Have you tried the very dilute Dil H or others?

Don Wallace
26-Jun-2007, 09:16
What dilution were you using for the HC110?

Have you tried the very dilute Dil H or others?

I have tried D, E, F and higher. It always seems to work in tests- I get the right densities - but not always (although sometimes) in the field. Over a few years now, I have just not got consistent results.

Bruce Watson
26-Jun-2007, 09:31
I have also heard that XTOL is a good developer for rotary processing. Any suggestions?

I switched from HC-110H to XTOL 1:3 for processing 5x4 Tri-X in a 3010 on a Jobo CPP-2. For the same reasons. And I'm much happier now. At around 10-12x enlargement I found the grain was very similar, as was micro-contrast. The XTOL grain is a mite better formed IMO, while the HC-110H gives a mite better micro-contrast. But I stress that these differences are very small and almost impossible to see in a print. And if the photographer can't see it, no one else can!

That, and XTOL is better for the environment, easier to control, and gives me an extra 2/3 stop of real film speed. I've never looked back.

Donald Qualls
26-Jun-2007, 10:08
If it works in tests but not in the field, I'd be inclined to suspect exposure, rather than the HC-110, as the culprit. If you forget to close down the aperture after focusing and composing (likely my number one LF-specific photographic error), you'll surely blow your highlights, and depending on the rest of the scene, might or might not realize you're anywhere up to four stops overexposed...

Don Wallace
26-Jun-2007, 10:28
If it works in tests but not in the field, I'd be inclined to suspect exposure, rather than the HC-110, as the culprit. If you forget to close down the aperture after focusing and composing (likely my number one LF-specific photographic error), you'll surely blow your highlights, and depending on the rest of the scene, might or might not realize you're anywhere up to four stops overexposed...

Here is what happens. I determine the development time for a Zone VIII density and I can get it bang on. My results in the field vary. Sometimes Zone VIII is the density I think it should be; sometimes it is MUCH higher. I don't get it. It is not a question of forgetting to stop down. Everything except the highlights are just where they should be. Sometimes. It is very frustrating to think that a neg is going to be relatively easy to print to then find out it takes major screwing around in the darkroom. Testing is supposed to allow one predictable results but I don't seem to be able to nail it down and I am beginning to wonder if HC-110 in a rotary processor is the culprit.

Don Wallace
26-Jun-2007, 10:32
I switched from HC-110H to XTOL 1:3 for processing 5x4 Tri-X in a 3010 on a Jobo CPP-2. For the same reasons.

Bruce, are you saying that the problem you had was unpredictability, or just that it was a struggle to get the highlights down? I had the latter problem even when I developed in trays. All of the suggested development times for HC-110 were way too long and I had to go to higher dilutions. I thought I had the problem licked after a lot of testing with the Jobo, but now that I am really getting down to serious printing, I am finding that my negs have been very inconsistent over the last year or so.

Just for the record, I mix directly from syrup and I did so for reasons of economy. Now that I have more time for photography, this is no longer necessary.

Has anyone else had this problem with HC-110?

Bruce Watson
26-Jun-2007, 10:38
Bruce, are you saying that the problem you had was unpredictability, or just that it was a struggle to get the highlights down?

Just in getting the highlights down. I was also getting some inconsistencies, but I imagine those were due to my climbing other learning curves at the same time.

Mark Sampson
26-Jun-2007, 10:45
I think that mixing HC-110 directly from the syrup increases the probability of improper dilution. Kodak does too; that's why they instruct you to make a stock solution and dilute from there. I realize that many HC-110 mavens mix from syrup, and there are all kinds of reasons why, but I've used that developer "by the book", for a variety of purposes, for many years and never seen the variability mentioned in the original post.

Bob Jones
26-Jun-2007, 12:53
Here is what happens. I determine the development time for a Zone VIII density and I can get it bang on. My results in the field vary. Sometimes Zone VIII is the density I think it should be; sometimes it is MUCH higher. I don't get it.

The problem is, the HC-110 has no clue where the neg came from, so why would there be problems from "field" negatives vs "test" negatives unless there was something intrinsically different about the negs themselves? If the development conditions are the same but produce different results, I suspect the problem is on the camera side.

This is just speculation, but could you be seeing something related to a difference in color between light sources? B&W films are approximately panchromatic, but not perfectly so. Could you be seeing differences between say, blue light from midday sun or sky-illuminated shadow and red light from morning/evening sun? For that matter, even your light meter is not consistent in the way it responds to color. If your meter color response isn't the same as the film color response, might that be enough to cause the problem you are seeing?

Kevin Crisp
26-Jun-2007, 13:50
The second time today I agree with Donald. Something else is going on here, particularly if the deviation from field to test is anything more than slight. Shutter error? Meter inconsistency? Testing under florescent light and shooting under natural light? It could be lots of things. I use HC110 in trays, have for 15 years, and find it utterly consistent. And the Jobo is supposed to be even more consistent. I think if you switch developers, you're going to have the same problem with a different developer until you figure out what the problem is.

Eric Biggerstaff
26-Jun-2007, 14:11
How are you metering your scene?

Are you placing your shadows correctly then reading the highlight to determine your correct development time (N, N+, N-). Of course assuming you use the Zone system?

How do you test?

This information might help people pin down a problem.

Ron Marshall
26-Jun-2007, 14:23
Are you sure you are accurately measuring the "syrup" when mixing the working strength dev, each time? I am not implying that you have sloppy technique, but when mixing small volumes, small errors may be enough to account for the effects you are seeing.

When I use HC-110 I mix about 1/4 of the syrup 1:3, to form a stock, which I then dilute when needed.

Don Wallace
27-Jun-2007, 07:35
Hey folks, I am finding this very helpful. Let me respond to the conversation thus far.

Mixing from Syrup
Although Kodak used to give dilutions only from stock, they now have a table for mixing directly from concentrate: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/j24/j24.jhtml#003

I use a very thin graduate and I can assure you that I am meticulous in my measurements.

Testing
I use a grey card for testing and I focus at infinity. It doesn't cover the entire frame, but I don't think that matters. I don't think the problem is in testing because, as I said, I seem to be able to nail down the right Zone VIII density.

Light Meter - colour vs b&w
I am starting to wonder if this is the problem. I have read that some folks get their light meter calibrated a particular way so that it is "colour blind" and I wonder if I should start to look into this. Does it make that much of a difference? Any suggestions as to where to start?

Just to give you a bit more information, the negative that really had me scratching my head was a shot of Lake Ontario with rocks in the foreground and LOTS of sky, filled with clouds, from very bright to very dark. I metered everything meticulously but upon development, found the sky and cloud values much, much higher than I had anticipated. This was true of a number of negatives that day, not just that one, but that was the one that got me thinking.

Marko
27-Jun-2007, 08:04
Don,

Just a long shot, but this last post got me thinking - did you check your meter's sensitivity to IR? If your meter sees more IR than your film does, that could explain some of the discrepancies... Again, just a wild guess, but easy to check.

Brian Ellis
27-Jun-2007, 09:15
I wonder if the problem isn't your developing technique rather than the developer itself. Zone VIII bouncing around sounds like you perhaps are not appropriately adjusting development time (i.e. plus or minus developing) to properly place the brightest highlight in which you want detail on Zone VIII. It's relatively rare, in my experience at least, to make a whole bunch of negatives outdoors, especially over a period of time as it sounds like you're doing, in which the brightest important highlight will always end up on Zone VIII with normal development time. If I'm in relatively dim light I usually have to use plus development if I want the brightest important highlight to end up on Zone VIII, if I'm in bright light I usually have to use minus development. And of course I've done the necessary testing to determine the appropriate plus and minus developing times.

I don't mean to sound patronizing but you never mention anything about plus and minus development in your question so I wonder whether you're varying your development time based on the meter readings for each photograph or whether you perhaps are just using your normal (N) development time for all your negatives. If it's the latter you're almost guaranteed to get widely varying highlight densities in your negatives except under the controlled lighting conditions of a studio.

And of course you do have to recognize that, as someone whose name I don't remember says, it is the "zone" system, not the "target" system - density does vary a fair amount even within a single zone though it sounds like your variations are greater than normal zone system practice would produce.

Kevin Crisp
27-Jun-2007, 09:49
Don: What is the testing procedure you use? How did you determine film speed? When you say you are nailing Zone 8 in testing how are you determining that? What is the density you are getting in testing that is Zone 8?

Eric Biggerstaff
27-Jun-2007, 10:40
Don,

This goes back to my first post, as Brian and Kevin mention it may not be you developer or the use of the Jobo but they testing method you use and the way you meter a scene.

One way to find out is to go ahead and switch developers to Xtol or D76 and then re-test using the same method you had used before. Then go out and photograph a bunch of scenes and develop them with the new developer/film speed/development time combination.

If the problem went away then you solved it, if not then you might need to look at using a different testing method or metering method.

I am sure it will work out but I think you will be doing more testing for sure (which is just boring!).

Donald Qualls
27-Jun-2007, 12:04
Here is what happens. I determine the development time for a Zone VIII density and I can get it bang on. My results in the field vary. Sometimes Zone VIII is the density I think it should be; sometimes it is MUCH higher. I don't get it. It is not a question of forgetting to stop down. Everything except the highlights are just where they should be. Sometimes. It is very frustrating to think that a neg is going to be relatively easy to print to then find out it takes major screwing around in the darkroom. Testing is supposed to allow one predictable results but I don't seem to be able to nail it down and I am beginning to wonder if HC-110 in a rotary processor is the culprit.

Okay, I misunderstood that only the high zones are wandering.

That sounds like what happens when you get into reciprocity failure -- you add enough exposure to bring in the low zones at the reduced effective film speed, but the high zones, which are receiving higher intensity light, don't lose as much speed and so contrast increases.

As others have suggested, it could also occur from mixing errors, but I'd then expect it to affect studio test exposures too, on a random basis.

Don Wallace
27-Jun-2007, 12:25
I don't mean to sound patronizing but you never mention anything about plus and minus development in your question ...

Good question. I did not mention plus and minus, but yes, I underdeveloped by a tested amount in order to place the bright clouds on Zone VIII.

This has been very helpful and I think rather than change developers right away, I am going to focus on getting this and only this right. I have some vacation coming up so here is the plan.
- test for EI
- test for Zone VIII development
- after Zone VIII development time is established, I will repeat it to make sure I am not getting variations from one test to the next
- if I am getting variations, I am going to have to take a look at what it is I am doing wrong

Here is my basic testing procedure, btw.
- I photograph an 18% grey card, focusing on infinity
- the card partially fills the frame
- I expose for Zone I at the box speed, one over and two under
- I develop to see which gives Zone I at 0.10 above fbf

- I use the same procedure to expose several sheets for Zone VIII and develop one at a time until I get the density I want

In my notes, I notice that I changed dilution to get N+1 and N-1. Would this have any effect on the results? Should I use only one dilution?

Turner Reich
27-Jun-2007, 12:58
Can we know what meter you are using? I have a Zone IV calibrated meter, supposedly color blind, a Fred Picker original meter. Also if there was something wrong with HC110 and Jobo wouldn't you think that it would be well know by now since they both have been around for quite a long time?

Where is the meniscus on the line in the glass? What are the longest times you are using in the tests and how what stops are you using? Are you using the same lens in the tests and when shooting?

Brian Ellis
27-Jun-2007, 15:32
"Here is my basic testing procedure, btw.
- I photograph an 18% grey card, focusing on infinity
- the card partially fills the frame
- I expose for Zone I at the box speed, one over and two under
- I develop to see which gives Zone I at 0.10 above fbf . . .

In my notes, I notice that I changed dilution to get N+1 and N-1. Would this have any effect on the results? Should I use only one dilution?"

These are probably minor points but the card should fill the frame. If it doesn't then you're including whatever surrounds the card in the test exposures. Of course you don't have to use an 18% gray card for the tests, you can use any smooth, single-toned surface but whatever you use it should fill the frame. It's also helpful to choose an aperture and shutter speed for the first exposure such that the shutter speed stays the same for each subsequent exposure and only the aperture changes. As for changing the dilution to get plus and minus development, I've never used HC110. I guess in theory that should work but changing times is the traditional way. It also seems more convenient to simply mix a single batch of developer and use it for each run rather than having to mix two or three separate batches, get the temperature of each right, etc. But good luck with tracing the problem, I know how vexing this kind of thing can be.

gary892
27-Jun-2007, 18:03
This may seem like a weird question, but how are you focusing your camera at infinity?
Please explain the steps.

Here is why I ask. A long time ago in the early 1980ís I attended a workshop where a student was having the same issue as you are now. The instructor asked him to describe the steps he was using to focus at infinity. As the student explained the instructor stopped him at the point where the student was racking out the camera and then backing off to focus on the grey card. Bingo, this is not infinity and hence his testing was off. Once the student tested at infinity his processing began to stabilize.

Just thought I would pass this along in case it had some bearing.

Gary

Don Wallace
29-Jun-2007, 06:19
This may seem like a weird question, but how are you focusing your camera at infinity?
Please explain the steps.
Gary

Gary, I may not be focused exactly on infinity, but the point is, I think, that I am not close to the subject and thus don't need to account for bellows extension.