View Full Version : First Acros Develop w/ Rodinal - Shadow Grain

Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 06:59
I just entered into the world of B&W developing with the help of the members of this great forum. After many days of reading and research I decided my first trials of Acros 100 4x5 film would be with Rodinal 1:50 (I know of the wide ranging opinions on this developer with respect to grain). Two sheets were exposed at ISO 100 and ISO 64.

Chemical Mixing Ratios (JOBO 2500 Series tank needs 560ml):

Rodinal 1:50 - 12 ml Rodinal + 600 ml water = 612 ml
Kodak Indicator Stop Bath - 10ml solution + 625 ml water = 635 ml
Ilford Rapid Fix - 120 ml fixer + 480 ml water = 600 ml
Photo-Flo - 3 ml solution + 600 ml water = 603ml

I performed the following process at 20 degrees C and timings were done with an Omega Darkroom timer:

1) Allow tank and chem bottles to sit in water jacket for 10 minutes
2) 5 minute water presoak while on Beseler roller
3) Develop 7.25 minutes and flip Jobo 2500 tank on roller every 30 seconds
4) 1 minute Kodak Stop Bath
5) 30 second wash
6) 5 minute Ilford Rapid Fixer
7) 2 minute wash with 1 liter water (Repeat 5 times)
8) 1 minute wash with distilled water and Kodak Photo-Flo 1:200 dilution


1) Subject was an X-Rite Digital ColorChecker SG card shot in daylight and almost full frame
2) As far as exposure and tonality the both negs look good with the expected differences of the ISO settings and the film used
3) I was expecting a bit of acceptable grain from the Rodinal and it looks fine in the dense area and midtones, but it is very, very ugly in the less dense areas of both negatives.


Before developing new sheets, I am trying to isolate the reason for the grain issue in the shadows.

It's possible I did not mix the stop bath and fixer quite thoroughly and since I ran the fixer for the long end of Ilfords recommended time (2-5 minutes) I think it may be related to the weakly mixed and too long time of the fixer, rather than any developer issue, but since I am a newbie I don't have a clue. Of course it may be over agitation, but I doubt it with so many using the Unicolor or Beseler powered rollers.

Could anyone shed a little light on this grain in the shadows issue?


Edit: I added a cropped section of the scanned and inverted image.

Bruce Watson
5-May-2008, 08:10
The proof of graininess is in the printing. That is, it's difficult to nearly impossible to properly evaluate graininess by looking at the film itself. Print it, or at least a small section of it, at your maximum print size, and evaluate the resulting print. The printing process itself, whatever that might be, stamps it's own character on the graininess of the final print.

5-May-2008, 08:30
Hi John,

I develop FP4+ in Rodinal 1+50 and fix it in Ilford RapidFix and I couldn't be happier with the results. Here are the differences, aside from the film itself:

1. Intermittent agitation in an HP Combi tank rather than constant agitation on a roller. I do one inversion every five seconds for the first minute, then one inversion every minute.

2. Two successive 30-second water baths instead of the Stop bath.

3. Regular water with PhotoFlo, approximate dilution.

12ml of Rodinal should be enough for 4 sheets of 4x5, so you have enough developer and even if you didn't, the issue wouldn't be in the shadows but in the highlights.

Your developing time sounds about right for rolling base - mine is about 12 minutes for intermittent agitation.

I don't believe fixer is causing your problems either, because it would manifest itself differently. I mix mine right before usage in the same proportion as you do and never had a problem.

So, here's a few questions:

1. Did you test your ISO?

2. What is the temperature of your wash (you mentioned that you keep your developer, stop bath, fixer at 20 degrees)?

3. Did you try exposing two sheets identically and developing them using the same developer but different agitation methods, with times adjusted?

Rodinal is sensitive to agitation and I suspect that that might be the most likely cause of your problem. It is also the easiest to check, especially with individual sheets. I know that many people use it for rotary development, but IMO, I get more control and more tolerance with manual inversion because the developing time is longer and also because I can easily adjust the agitation routine (make it slower or faster, make it more or less frequent). Too much agitation also reduces the adjacency effects, which is one of Rodinal's main features.

I hope this helps at least some.


5-May-2008, 08:35
The proof of graininess is in the printing. That is, it's difficult to nearly impossible to properly evaluate graininess by looking at the film itself. Print it, or at least a small section of it, at your maximum print size, and evaluate the resulting print. The printing process itself, whatever that might be, stamps it's own character on the graininess of the final print.

I will second Bruce's comment about the printing process. Not only is is difficult to evaluate graininess by looking at a negative, the look of grain is also highly output specific. That is, you may get an entirely different look if you print the negative on silver paper, and the look may be different on VC and graded papers, especially if you develop with a staining developer.

Also, if you scan to print digitally the type of scanner you use, how you scan, and whether or not you use grain noise reduction software, are all capable of a dramatic impact on the final look of grain.


Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 08:49
Bruce and Sandy,

Thanks for your input. I appreciate the help.

I agree that printing will be the ultimate test, however I scanned the neg on my Epson 4990 @ 2400 dpi (No NR or sharpening) with SilverFast Ai in grayscale using only the green channel after confirming the excellent quality of scanning this way on 4x5 negs developed in Xtol at the local lab.

I attached a small crop of the inverted scan to my original message. It is very obvious in the scan. I know grain is more obvious in thin areas, but this seems excessive.


Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 09:05

Thanks for your help here. To answer your questions:

1) I did not test my ISO, as I was starting with suggested values for this film from forum members. Hence, my first two sheets were shot at ISO 64 and ISO 100. I know I need to run these tests, but I wanted to just test my proceedure and get comfortable and consistant with that before running standard tests. I am also waiting for my densitometer to arrive.

2) Wash and all chemicals were within 1/2 degree of 20 C

3) I cannot at this time try different agitation methods as I have only the Jobo 2553 tank (holds 2 4x5 reels) and I assume I must keep the tank rolling for even development which means constant agitation. I cannot find the non cog lid for this tank so I could try inversion agitation, although that would be impractical with the amount of developer needed. I do not have a darkroom to try tray developing, but I suppose I could get the smaller single reel Jobo tank for testing hand agitation.

I know a lot of people are successful with rolling agitation with this film/developer combination so I was suprised at the results (good and bad) even though this was my first attempt.

I added a crop of the inverted scan to my original post if you are interested.

You suggestion does help, and I may need to invest in the smaller tank.

Thanks agian,

Bruce Watson
5-May-2008, 09:15
...I know grain is more obvious in thin areas, but this seems excessive.

I don't agree. In my experience graininess is least obvious in thin parts of the negative. Why would this be true? Because density is created by the development of metallic silver -- where there is less density there must also be less silver. Just the laws of physics. It follows then that where there is more density there is more silver. And more silver means bigger grain clumps (which are overlapping grains) which we see as an increase in graininess.

Tim Vitale wrote a very interesting paper on film grain (http://aic.stanford.edu/sg/emg/library/pdf/vitale/2006-03-vitale-filmgrain_resolution.pdf) which he updates as he learns more (currently at version 9, March 2006). This paper will tell you more about what grain actually is, how it's formed, where there's more of it and less of it, etc. than I could ever squeeze into a tiny posting to a thread like this. I especially like the five photomicrograms on page 17 which illustrate exactly what I'm talking about here.

5-May-2008, 09:16

Perhaps you should just avoid the Rodinal. Rodinal has a long reputation as a developer that gives golf ball size grain, though many people like it for its acutance. I am frankly surprised that the grain is so apparent with Acros, which is one of the finest grain B&W pictorial films around. However, for sure Rodinal will produce more grain than Xtol, with any film.

Sandy King

5-May-2008, 09:37
Agree with Sandy on trying a dev other than Rodinal...

Also, the frame part of the color-checker card looks like it is textured rather than grain, because the "grain" stops right at the frame and doesn't continue onto any of the color chips...even the numbers appear to be free of grain...

Also, I know this is a crop, but how enlarged is this sample?

Ron Marshall
5-May-2008, 09:47
If you don't intend to make large prints, then the larger grain will probably not be objectionable.

If you do want large prints, then XTOL works very well with Acros.

Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 09:51

You are absolutely correct as to how it should be and I will tackle the paper you referenced. I made an error in my statement and I don't really know why I said that. Even with all my experience shooting transparency film the same is true. I know I am making mental mistakes of flipping highlight and shadow areas when looking at negatives

My question remains then as to why my test samples show, at least to my newbie B&W eye, such exagerated grain in the thin areas? It seems counter intuitive. Sorry I cannot post a larger sample image here as it's hard to see on the posted sample.

Thanks again for your valuable input,

Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 10:14
Sandy, PViapiano and Ron,

I was really anxious to use Rodinal because so many people seem to love it and I was looking for the highest accutance for scanning and making prints up to 20x25 on my Z3100 printer. I want to see if I can actually figure out what happened here, or if this is just normal Rodinal behavior. I don't want to give up on this just yet. I am also going to try HC-110 and then possibly Xtol given that the results from the local lab were good.

The sample I posted is from an original 2400 dpi scan which yielded an image of 29x37 at 300 dpi. The image was rescaled to an 8x10 and then cropped, rescaled to 650 pixels and saved as a jpeg to fit the upload requirements. Too many alterations me thinks.

I have posted here another smaller crop (a 2 1/2 inch strip including a black, a 50% gray and a white chip) from the original full sized file which was reduced to 650 pixels and then saved as a jpeg. Much easier to see.

The frame on the color checker card is actually smooth and with the new attachment, you can see the grain clearly in the black chip and what I would call my expected grain levels on the gray and white chips. I'm just having a hard time getting my head around just what happened.

Thanks to all,

Edit: Also added an image from scanned negative before it was inverted.

5-May-2008, 10:54

Higher dilutions of Rodinal at 1:70 and 1:100 dilution with Fuji Acros may be worthwhile considering. A baseline around 20C for 10.5 minutes if you prefer the high acutance approach, or pushing for a standing development approach for even higher acutance. By the time you reach standing development in Rodinal at 1:200 - 1:300 dilutions, the acutance is superior than anything which can be discerned at 1:50 dilution, that is, if Rodinal is the only developer which you wish to use.

Switching to a metol developer like Xtol creates a completely different aesthetic and appearance of the printed negative, coupled with dissolution of the grain (and acutance/adjacency effects) which may not be comparable to the acutance effects of Rodinal which you seem to wish for.

Again, choosing an energetic developer like HC110 may only achieve a slight resonance of effect comparable to the acutance of Rodinal at dilution H or greater without the pure metol subtlety of X-tol or Perceptol.

Alternatively, if it is the acutance and high definition appearance which pleases you most, then Paterson FX39 may be the one of the highest definition proprietary developers currently left on the market; neither does it possess the grain-enhancing acutance features of Rodinal and its definition is at least as high as Rodinal.

Kind regards,


Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 11:07

Thanks for the contribution.

I think I will try the 1:100 dilution of Rodinal and see how that works. Is your reference of 10.5 minutes at 20C for the 1:100 dilution with constant agitation on the roller?

I had been planning to start with HC-100 tests at dilution H. Thanks for the confirmation on that one. I'll make a note on the Paterson FX39 which I have read absolutely nothing about yet but will very soon.

Also, not being familiar with the term "standing development" I would guess that it means simply imersion with no agitation?


5-May-2008, 12:02
Sandy, PViapiano and Ron,

I was really anxious to use Rodinal because so many people seem to love it and I was looking for the highest accutance for scanning and making prints up to 20x25 on my Z3100 printer.


For your purpose Rodinal is, IMO, one of the worst choices. The sharpness of Rodinal is to a considerable degree extent based more on the grain itself than on acutance. Rodinal is considered an acutance developer, but not a high acutance developer. And in any event, acutance is based on adjacency effects, or border lines between areas of high and low density, and your scanner probably does not have enough resolution to discriminate these lines.

I am sure tht someone will write and say that they have had excellent results developing in Rodinal and scanning, and I am sure they have. But I am equally sure that you can get much better results (finer grain and equivalent sharpness) with other developers, and I would include in the category Xtol, one of the staining developers like PMK or Pyrocat, FX-2, or even D76 for that matter.

Sandy King

5-May-2008, 13:31
I think I will try the 1:100 dilution of Rodinal and see how that works. Is your reference of 10.5 minutes at 20C for the 1:100 dilution with constant agitation on the roller?

Hi Jim,

Perhaps I'm confusing you. The suggestion to start at 10 1/2 minutes is a mere suggestion for a starting point for your EI of 64 with a view to building up densities through personal experience to your own desired negative for printing media.

It's been a long time since I used the Fuji Acros (rated ISO 80) with Rodinal 1:70. Perhaps the kind of image aesthetic which you are searching for, is best characterised by APX100 and rodinal combinations? Rodinal purists express its utility over a range of slow to medium ISO speed film which no other developer can offer: in this respect, getting to know Rodinal and using it in varying dilutions is one kind of film developing practice, rather than switching to Perceptol/Xtol for fine grain; FX39 or Tetenal Blue for high definition; HC110 or Microphen for speed enhancement or pyrocatechols for extended tonal range and home-made formulae for even finer tuning. Thinking about Fuji Acros, Fuji Artdol (and now Prodol) offer better complementary choices for Fuji Acros, being made by Fuji and a competing Microdol against Perceptol and Xtol seem to expand these options even further.

Perhaps Sandy is trying to tell you gently that Fuji Acros' modern grain emulsion does not lend itself as beautifully to Rodinal dilutions as APX100, Adox 25, Bergger NP15 and other classical silver halide formulations.

Cross-checking with the www.digitaltruth.com forum, you'll notice a huge variation in the recommendation with their given times. I'm not sure how to account for this, other than user variation and perhaps, using a compulsory presoaking stage and a minimum agitation cycle (less than 1 inversion per 5 minutes after a full minute of agitation).

Jim - you could ask Sandy to impart his wealth of knowledge on semi- +/- standing development. For the kind of output which you wish for, FX39 seems to hold more advantages than Rodinal, even at standing development dilutions.

Kind regards,


Jim Cole
5-May-2008, 14:49

Thanks for the additional education on Rodinal. Like you said, there seem to be plenty of people who will argue that on films such as Acros, it is an exceptional developer. I guess this pretty much sums up the the old saying - "do your own homework".

Also, as RJ suggested after your response, since I have a lot of exploration to do, perhaps if you have time you can point me in the direction of proper techniques on standing development.


Thanks for the clarification. There really was no confusion except that I didn't know which dilution or agitation technique the suggested 10 1/2 minute starting point was aimed at. As with all suggested dev times, as you pointed out, there seems to be an incredible amount of variation which only adds to the mystery. I also appreciate the additional film recommendations. I seem to be stuck on Acros for now because I really like to use Quickloads.


So I've gained a quite a bit of knowledge as I always do on this forum and I have a lot of testing to do, but I still am not clear whether the grain I see in my initial test negs is typical of the Acros/Rodinal combination or whether there was a failure in my methodology. Seems like a lot of folks have suggested shooting Acros at ISO 64 and then doing a N-1 development. I'll put any more of these kinds of questions on hold until I finish my film speed and normal development tests.

I have just shot 8 sheets of film to run my Acros film speed test and will do so as soon as my densitometer arrives. I am assuming that my developing methodology is good enough to get the clean results needed on these test sheets.

Thanks again to everyone and if anyone else has anything to contribute I would be most welcomed.


5-May-2008, 15:19

Also, as RJ suggested after your response, since I have a lot of exploration to do, perhaps if you have time you can point me in the direction of proper techniques on standing development.



The most thorough discussion I have ever seen of stand and other minimal agitation procedures took place on Michael Smith's AZO forum back in the late summer of 2004. You can learn a lot by reading through the several threads on the topic. Check out the Developoing Film threads from that period.

A year or two later Steve Sherman published a couple of articles in View Camera magazine on his semi-stand technique. Try to get a copy of the two issues and read what he has to say.

I use Fuji Acros only with medium format, and develop it in Pyrocat-HD, which is a staining developer, with minimal agitation.

Sandy King

Ron Marshall
5-May-2008, 15:24
Jim, a while ago, getting back into photography after a 25 year absence, not knowing most of the current emulsions or developers I did some tests.

I tested a traditional emulsion, FP4, and a T-grain emulsion, TMX, with D76, XTOL, HC-110, Pyrocat-HD and Rodinal.

I was mainly interested in tonality, the appearance of grain, and sharpness. What I found was all of the above combinations worked well. There were visible differences in the negs, but when scanned and preped in Photoshop, the differences were minor or not detectable. The exception was Rodinal, where the larger grain was apparent, but not objectionable, except perhaps if someone intended to make eight or ten times linear enlargements.

My favourite combinations were TMX with XTOL or Pyrocat or D76. HC-110 was formerly my favourite with intermitent agitation, with rotary processing I didn't like it as much as the others.

I ended up choosing XTOL for ease of use etc.; but I could be just as happy with Pyrocat or D76.

Jim Cole
6-May-2008, 06:39

Thanks for the references on standing development. I'll check out the AZO forum, and I just started a subscribtion to View Camera a few weeks ago, so I'll see if I can reference the articles on their website, or buy the back issues.


Thanks for your suggestions. I'm taking all of this in and I find it interesting that in your experience, the film/dev combo didn't seem as important when scanning and adjusting in Photoshop with the exception of Rodinal. Looks like I may have to give up on Rodinal (I'll make a few more tests first) and use one of the other developers suggested on this thread.