View Full Version : Best film for Pyro developing?

28-Dec-2008, 02:31
I'm interested to hear opinions....
What is your favorite combination- film, flavor of pyro developer & processing method?
David Silva

John Bowen
28-Dec-2008, 05:53
Tmax 400, Pyrocat HD, tray shuffle method.

Not that I have done extensive investigations, but when I find something that works, I stick with it.

28-Dec-2008, 06:02
That's an interesting (and perhaps unique) concept -- picking a film to match your developer, not the usual vice versa.

28-Dec-2008, 06:32
TXP with ABC Pyro for platinum contact printing. Nothing else…

28-Dec-2008, 10:39
I've been using Tri-X 120 and HP5 4x5 in 510 Pyro with success.


Gem Singer
28-Dec-2008, 10:47
According to Gordon Hutchings, Bergger BPF 200 film and his PMK developer is a "marriage made in heaven".

From what i can conclude, Pyro developers work best with slower conventional-grained films.

I have found that Pyrocat HC and Ilford FP-4+ is also a great combination.

Ken Lee
28-Dec-2008, 12:45
1) Find some books and articles which discuss the underlying chemistry and sensitometry. We could call that "theoretical" evidence. You don't have to become a chemist, but just become familiar with the basic vocabulary.

2) Find some photos you admire, made with Pyro developer, and find out the film/developer combinations which were used. We could call that "emprical" evidence. If there is some photographer from past or present, whose work you really admire, then emulate that, more or less.

3) Try for yourself. See how things work for you. Compare the same image made with a variety of film/developers, with your equipment and methodology.

Keep in mind that film/developer combinations don't exist in a vacuum. The final image is influenced by many other factors.

Drew Wiley
28-Dec-2008, 14:56
The only sheet film I've ever used that DOESN'T work well with Pyro is Tech Pan.
And I've tried a lot of them. But my favorites in 8X10 are HP5-plus (wonderful edge
effect) and Bergger 200 (although now that it's discontinued, I'm experimenting with Arista 200). If neither of these were available, I'd probably use 400 TMax. In 4x5, where I like a little finer grain and can tolerate a bit slower speed, I highly recommend FP4-plus and Neopan Acros (I rate both of these at ASA 50 for PMK).
So much for landscape films. For portraiture, however, I might choose something
entirely different, with less hard acutance, like 100 TMax, rated at full speed to keep
it from going too high on the shoulder of the film curve. I use several pyro tweaks,
but tend to standardize on PMK; it's remarkably versatile stuff, and even with films
that don't stain heavily, there's enough of a stain to make a real difference.

Scott Davis
29-Dec-2008, 08:22
Pyrocat HD is a great developer for FP4+ and Arista.EDU Ultra (Fomapan) 200. I use them both for platinum/palladium printing.

Andrew O'Neill
29-Dec-2008, 11:42
HP5+, FP4, Efke 25, all in Pyrocat-HD. I've done a little TMY 400 in Pyrocat, and it looks great, probably even nicer than I've seen with my three main films.

CP Goerz
29-Dec-2008, 23:40
Second the PMK is good for everything(Except the Tech pan!), I tend to use 125 speed films as standard but did notice the Bergger 200 bump. With the slower emulsions in the 25 speed range it may be the only developer that can really tame the highlights that can get out of control pretty quickly...to get that low end separation you have to pay at the other end of the scale ;-)

30-Dec-2008, 01:29
Thanks for sharing all the great info!!
Heres where I am now, I've been using 4x5 & 5x7 since 1982. Mostly TX & PX in Microdol, D76, or Hc110.
This year I've expanded to 8x10 cameras & a Durst enlarger. I want to start mixing Pyro film dev....Since 8x10 film costs alot, I started with Freestyle 100 film. My next test will be either HP-5, or TMY, I'll be processing it in a Jobo 3005.
After that I should know what combo I want to stick with.
I'm really enjoying the 8x10 life!
David Silva

30-Dec-2008, 04:16
while we are posting on this why not add your times and temps to the mix?

pyro hd and foma100 (A.E.U) have been working great for me for years. i print on silver and VDB.

Peter De Smidt
30-Dec-2008, 16:37
You might have some oxidation issues with pyro in a Jobo. Steve Anchell recommended adding 30% more A solution if using PMK in a Jobo. That worked pretty well for me. Others solutions are to drain the devloper halfway through and add new or putting some argon, nitrogen...in the tank before pouring in the developer. Personally, I"ve switched to Pyrocat HD.

CP Goerz
30-Dec-2008, 19:50
Yeah, for jobo use I really advise on the nitrogen. Its not too costly and you don't use that much, I filled the tank with water which also acts as a pre-soak (with the film already loaded on the reels or in the sheet film compartments) then turned the drum upside down and fed a plastic tube with the nitrogen flowing at about 6lbs...if you push too much nitro too fast you run the danger of popping the lid of the drum and exposing your film. Once the drum was on the jobo and rotating with the developer in it I stuffed an old cloth in the 'pour' inlet to stop air getting in.

I tried the splitting of the developer into two sessions but found that I still ended up with developer that looked like Guinness...except you can't drink it ;-) The nitrogen negs were crystal clear at the film base with beautiful green/brown stain only where it was needed.

Mmmm, makes me wanna develop some film now! Delicious!!!

Jim Graves
30-Dec-2008, 22:50
Might also want to read the current issue of View Camera Magazine ... Gordon Hutchings, the developer of PMK, has created a new Pyro developer ... one of the specific reasons was to allow for easy Jobo use (i.e. no need to pump Nitrogen.) It's called Max Pyro and is available through Bostick & Sullivan. Haven't tried it yet, but am about to.

31-Dec-2008, 01:57
Yes, thanks for mentioning the oxidation.... Since I'm new to pyro, I was wondering if the dev. should be that dark!! also the negs were rather thin.
I just thought the dev. was old, and/or I somehow underexposed the film...
I never thought of inert gas in the Jobo drum...
I used to use nitrogen burst agitation in 3 1/2 gal dip/dunk tanks.
that would be a lotta pyro...
Or I could try using some nitrous oxide from my sand dragster, could make film processing really fun!!
David Silva

31-Dec-2008, 04:25
Aside from other issues involved in its use without prescription, nitrous oxide does support oxidation, though not to as great an extent as pure oxygen, but certainly more than room air or nitrogen. Wouldn't have much use in your funny car otherwise. Might have other mighty interesting effects (though perhaps not for public display) on your developing and its processes, opening up new vistas for film; perhaps even reversing the trend towards digital back to one of home developing in dark poorly ventilated areas of the home. A little scary to contemplate coming from my side of the ether screen (but just goofing now).

31-Dec-2008, 06:35
Kidding about the Nox, But the argon/co2 inert gas mix from the mig welder would work. But maybe more $ than nitrogen.
I just read about MaxPyro in VC, it sounds perfect!!
Too bad I just ordered a bunch of bulk pyro...

David Silva

Ed Richards
31-Dec-2008, 14:20

You do not mention trying Xtol. If you have not done so, try some at 1:3. Works perfectly in a Jobo and if you like it, you save the hassle of Pyro oxidation, plus it is a lot safer to handle.

Andre Noble
11-Sep-2009, 12:43
Good Question. From my experience with Pyrocat, I found it produces absolutely beautiful results with Kodak Plus-X and Kodak Tri-X. The Ilforrd conventional films produce good results, but not as "meaty" in the midtones as the Kodak conventional films.

If Kodak still made Plus X in sheet film, this film developed in Pyrocat HD would be THE standard.

Drew Wiley
11-Sep-2009, 18:43
Andre - films like Plus X can indeed get wonderfully expanded midtones, but at the
expense of the shadows. This was an "all toe" film, useful indeed for some subjects
but horrible for others. In an extreme contrast outdoor scene, for example, you won't be able to separate the shadow values well. Only a straight-line film will let
you have your cake and eat it too. With Ilford films (FP4 and HP5) you can expand
the midtones through plus development, but it's easy to blow out the highlights (or
conversely lose the shadows if your underexpose). In such cases, masking can
resolve the film curve, or for digital printers, correcting the curve in photoshop.
There is simply no single film which works best for everything, though our individual
styles might give us reason to standardize on limited options. Delta 100 has a long
toe, making it a partial substitute for Plus-X; but it doesn't stain well in pyro.

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Sep-2009, 18:59
I've used Efke 25,100 Bergger 200, Fp-4, and x-ray film in Pyrocat -HD in tanks with great success. The only developer I use.


7-Dec-2010, 15:41
I have lots of Kodak Plus-X 120 roll films and want to develope them in Pyrocat-HD.

Any suggestion about recommended developing time and temperature for this pair?

I was only told to use minimal agitation with 50% dev.time incrising.

Jay DeFehr
7-Dec-2010, 17:27
I disagree with the notion that some films are better than others for use with staining developers. I've tested many, many films with many, many staining developers, and they all work about the same. Any given developer will work about the same with any film, thought there are differences between developers. My personal favorite staining developers are 510-Pyro and Hypercat, and my favorite films are TMY-2 and Acros. 510-Pyro, by the way, is the best developer I've ever used with TP.

7-Dec-2010, 19:59
I agree with Jay that nearly all films stain about equally well in most staining developers. At one time or another I have tested all of the common films out there with several different pyro developers, and what I found, with good sensitometry using both Blue and UV readings, was that the T-grain emulsion films like Delta 100, 400, Tmax-100, Tmax-400, etc. stain as well as the traditional emulsions like TRI-X, HP5+.

There may be reasons why some films do not give good results for some people in staining developers, but lack of stain is not one of them.


Doremus Scudder
8-Dec-2010, 04:11
I've been using PMK for most everything lately; Tri-X (both new and old), TMY, TMX, and Bergger 200 (which I'm out of now, and not unhappy to see gone... IMHO it was not the easiest film to deal with; grainy, fragile and with a really pronounced shoulder that often pushed the highlights way down and did not respond well to extended development, plus much of the pyro stain was overall fog...)

My experience is that the T-Max films respond well to staining, even though the stain is perhaps not as visibly pronounced as on the conventional films (perhaps due to lower overall staining). They still print well and edge effects are apparent through the grain magnifier.

I've considered using Pyrocat and other catechol staining developers, but from what I've read (from one of your articles Sandy, if I'm not mistaken), the catechol stain is a bit different color than the pyrogallol stain and acts differently on graded papers, which I use almost exclusively. Since I've got the PMK routine pretty well dialed in, I'm hesitant to take the time to figure out a new regimen that may need a lot of calibration; I'd rather use the time shooting.

I'm sure that any number of film/developer combinations will yield excellent results; the combinations that won't are bound to be rare. More important is learning your materials and being able to get the results from exposure and development that makes the print you want. I've got tons of negatives developed in other developers that made really fine prints. My switch to PMK was less for the touted highlight rendering and more for the grain masking and edge effects.


Doremus Scudder

Jim Noel
8-Dec-2010, 09:37
I'm interested to hear opinions....
What is your favorite combination- film, flavor of pyro developer & processing method?
David Silva

How do you intend to print these negatives? Some films are better for alt processes than others, and some subject matter is better with particular films.

I think this question is unanswerable until some of these questions are answered.

Jay DeFehr
8-Dec-2010, 14:59

The differences in stain colors between pyro and catechol developers are practically insignificant for silver printers, whether printing on graded or VC papers. I mention this in case you're interested, though it seems you're happy with the developer you're using.