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View Full Version : Much Bad Luck with Pyrocat HD - May Need Another Developer



Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 10:36
Is it just me? I love printing negatives developed in Pyrocat HD - the ones that come out that is.

However, I do have a high failure rate when using it.

I switched to using the glycol form. And that has helped some. Still. From one batch of film I process to the next, I can never be sure the negs will turn out. This morning, I ruined a whole Jobo 3010 drum of 4x5 negatives by one of the following possible reasons. (The negatives were ultra-thin and high contrasty).:

Developped at 69 or 68 F vs. 70F?
Fixed in TF4 fixer for 5 mins, vs 3min?
Inadequately mixed the A solution into my distilled water before adding B solution (I dumped A stock, then B stock into 500ml distilled water, THEN mixed)?
I aerated my 500ml distlled water too much in the process of bringing to temeperature (done before adding either pyrocat component)?

My stock Pyrocat is Brand new from PF, version mixed in glycol. It is not contaminated because a batch I ran after the 10 failed sheets came out perfectly.

The major changes I made with the second batch, which did turn out well - unlike my first batch - was to:

1 Insure I dissolved part A completely into my working developer before adding part B.
2 Insure I was working at or slightly above 70F, and not at 69 as my first batch.
3 Insure I fixed in TF4 for 3.5 mins, not 5 min as my first batch.
4 Be cognizant not to aerate my distilled water before adding the stock deveoper components.

Which of these do you feel did the trick, or was it possibly none of the above?

Ken Lee
20-Sep-2009, 10:49
"The negatives were ultra-thin and high contrasty"

Could you show us some examples ?

Do you mean under-exposed and over-developed ?

In a given batch, are some OK, while others are wrong ? Or are all negatives equally spoiled in the same batch ?

Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 10:54
Yes, they appear similar to negs underexposed and overdeveloped. Make no mistake, however, these negs were propperly exposed.

Ron Marshall
20-Sep-2009, 10:56
When you say you "dissolved part A", is it in solid form; I have only used Pyrocat as liquid concentrates?

I have two small measuring syringes, labelled A and B to avoid cross-contamination, that I always use with Pyrocat to assure correct volumes are used. Otherwise I wouldn't trust myself to be accurate enough with the small volumes.

I have never had a failure with Pyrocat. Before using it the first time I tested several sheets to determine my personal EI and dev times.

What film are you using?

Good luck.

Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 11:22
Meaning... on the failure run, I dump part A stock, then part B stock into 500ml distilled water, THEN mixed. In doing so, perhaps some concentrated part B came in contact with concentrated Part A and "deactivated" or "oxidized" the active part of the developer, which is the part A portion?

BTW, I have everything labelled A and B to avoid cross contamination.

I need to find out what I'm doing wrong.

I am using Ilford FP4+, rated ASA 32. Pyrocat HD 1:1:100 for 6 mins at 70F

Ken Lee
20-Sep-2009, 11:42
At this point, the formula has been around long enough to be well understood. Photographer's Formulary does things right, or we would have heard a lot of stories. But we haven't.

So if there is a chance that you inadvertently contaminated the solutions (and you wouldn't be the first well-meaning individual to have done so), then it's best to get some fresh stock, shoot some throwaway test negatives, and start from the beginning.

(One reason why it's nice to use an InfraRed viewing device, and perform development by inspection, is that when something like this happens, you just mix up something else if you can, or you leave it in the developer until it's done. I freely confess: it has happened to me before. One disaster averted, is sufficient compensation for the purchase price. And while you can perform Development By Inspection with a Jobo, it's easier if you develop your negatives in food containers (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/devtray.html). ;) )

phil sweeney
20-Sep-2009, 11:49
I do not use a JOBO and tray develop. Like Ron I have always had good results. I'd try developing one negative in a tray. I think that can tell you if the developer is OK. Then go from there.

Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 12:06
The stock developer is fine.

First run = bad.
Second run = good.

This particular developer is sensitive to something I'm doing wrong. Do you thinks its 1, 2, 3, or #4 above?

Ken Lee
20-Sep-2009, 12:55
According to the literature which accompanies the developer (http://www.photoformulary.com/uploads/Pyrocat-HD-01-5091.pdf), 8:30 minutes is the suggested time for 1:1:100 at 70 degrees F. Your time of 6 minutes is 30% lower. That should give at least an N-1 effect... perhaps even more contraction, if you didn't pre-soak the film. But you say they look over-developed.

1 Insure I dissolved part A completely into my working developer before adding part B.

This shouldn't matter at all. I never worry about it. I doubt an analytical chemist could tell the difference.

2 Insure I was working at or slightly above 70F, and not at 69 as my first batch.

A difference of 1 degree is not very much. I tray develop with my hands in the bath all the time, and the temperature changes due to my hands. Several degrees too high, might result in N+1 development, but you say they also look underexposed. A little extra development would boost the shadows too, all things being equal. It would not give thin negatives.

3 Insure I fixed in TF4 for 3.5 mins, not 5 min as my first batch.

That wouldn't make the negatives look underexposed and overdeveloped. Nor would any of these things. Negatives generally fix in a minute or two, as long as the fixer is fresh. If they weren't fixed enough, they would be opaque, but yours are too... thin.

4 Be cognizant not to aerate my distilled water before adding the stock deveoper components.

If the developer were oxidized too soon, it would become weaker, not stronger. Your negatives would look underdeveloped in that case. But you say they appear over-developed.

Many people shoot FP4 at 1/2 the stated speed. Which is only a difference of 1 f/stop anyway. If you had overexposed, your negatives would be opaque, not too thin.

Perhaps if you could show us what the negatives look like, an obvious pattern might emerge. So far, things appear... inconsistent.

Ron Marshall
20-Sep-2009, 13:01
The stock developer is fine.

First run = bad.
Second run = good.

This particular developer is sensitive to something I'm doing wrong. Do you thinks its 1, 2, 3, or #4 above?

Very strange!

I agree with Ken, the things you mention as being different between the two runs should not have a large impact on image quality. It is a mystery to me. Please post when (and if) you discover the source.

One thought, could there have been a chemical residue present on the equipment, that was washed away by the first run.

Roughly what percentage of your Pyrocat runs are failures? This might help determine if it is something systematic.

sanking
20-Sep-2009, 14:48
I agree with Ken, the things you mention as being different between the two runs should not have a large impact on image quality. It is a mystery to me. Please post when (and if) you discover the source.



I agree with Ron and Ken. None of the things you mentioned should make a big difference in results.

What really confuses me about this is that I would not know how to mix Pyrocat-HD to give the results you mention, i.e. under exposure and over development. You could mix the solution too strong and make it very energetic but that energy would work on all of the curve of the film, from the shadow to the highlights. And you could mix the solution to make it too weak, but in that case the results would be a thin and under developed negative.

In general the shadow density of a negative is determined by exposure. If the shadows are very thin and the highlights are over developed it is almost certain that the reason is under exposure in the camera.

Sandy

Salty
20-Sep-2009, 15:33
Meaning... on the failure run, I dump part A stock, then part B stock into 500ml distilled water, THEN mixed. In doing so, perhaps some concentrated part B came in contact with concentrated Part A and "deactivated" or "oxidized" the active part of the developer, which is the part A portion?

BTW, I have everything labelled A and B to avoid cross contamination.




It should be simple if you're using 500ml of distilled water.

You take 5ml of the "A" solution of Pyrocat HD in glycol and put it in the distilled water.
You refer to it as "Concentrated Part A" in the quoted portion above.

You then take 5ml of the "B" solution, which should be potassium carbonate and put it in the distilled water.
You refer to it as "Concentrated Part B."

Mix it all up, make sure it's the correct temperature and use it on your film.

When the developing is done, you dispose of the developer, it being "One Shot."

I don't understand the "BTW, I have everything labelled A and B to avoid cross contamination."

Ron Marshall
20-Sep-2009, 17:07
I'm sure you thought of this, but just to cover all of the bases:

In both runs did you develop the same number of sheets; use the same rotation speed; use the same amount of stock and the same dilution?

eddie
20-Sep-2009, 17:16
shoot again with different shutters. sounds like a shutter/aperture problem to me.

i mix my own pyro hd. never had any problems. i use water.

Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 17:28
I just ran two more runs. One run came out perfect, the other failed.

I quit this developer.

Back to Wimberley WD2D+. I may even try the Wimberly in my jobo at slowest rotation, otherwise I will use a conventional developer.

I have had many pyrocat failures with both hand inversion and in the Jobo.

sanking
20-Sep-2009, 19:23
I just ran two more runs. One run came out perfect, the other failed.

I quit this developer.

Back to Wimberley WD2D+. I may even try the Wimberly in my jobo at slowest rotation, otherwise I will use a conventional developer.

I have had many pyrocat failures with both hand inversion and in the Jobo.


Andre,

I looked at some of your old posts and see that you were having problems with Pyrocat-HD as far back as 2004. Now, when you tell me that one run came out pefect, the other failed, I think there is only one conclusion. There imust be a god of pyrocatechol and you have doine something to seriously anger this god.

Best of luck in finding a developer that works for you every time.

Sandy King

Michael Kadillak
20-Sep-2009, 20:04
Good Gawd.

I have used pyrocat in a number of variations for a number of years now in large quantities and have NEVER had a single failure - ever.

You need to go back to packaged D76 and excise the demons once and for all.

Andre Noble
20-Sep-2009, 22:11
I hear ya, Michael.

pkphotog
20-Sep-2009, 23:19
I've developed nearly 800 sheets of 4x5 in the last two years and every single one turned out perfectly. It's one of the easiest developers to use and by far the most economical.

Jim Galli
20-Sep-2009, 23:20
Good Gawd.

I have used pyrocat in a number of variations for a number of years now in large quantities and have NEVER had a single failure - ever.

Sheesh, me too. I'm so sloppy with this stuff I'm embarrassed to admit it. I've got one of those little cough syrup cups to measure the A and B into the tap water with. 800ml tap water, 8 or 16 ml with the little cup of both A and B and voila. This batch I'm using some 1940's Catechol that Brad S sent to me in it's original amber glass jar. Stir it in?? I just dump it in with the cough syrup cup and pour it in the jobo 30 - 45 seconds later. This stuff is as near to fool proof as any developer could ever be, and I'm the proof.

Andre Noble
21-Sep-2009, 06:06
This morning I sleeved about 50 sheets of 4x5 shots from a trip to Saskatoon Canada and New England. Almost half ruined by this developer (and from two different lot numbers from PF). I am not happy.

And as Sandy noted, this developer has caused me problems since I switched over to it from Wimberly in 2004.

I honestly find it hard to believe that I'm the only one to have serious problems with Pyrocat. But I do believe those above who say they never had problems.

Can you imagine pulling 10 4x5 sheets out of a Jobo drum that are utterly ruined?

The beautiful highlights do not make up for the uneaccepptably high failure rate. This is a product that a corporation would never release out to the market for fear of damaging it's name.

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 06:52
The beautiful highlights do not make up for the uneaccepptably high failure rate. This is a product that a corporation would never release out to the market for fear of damaging it's name.

Pyrocat-HD is supplied in both water and glycol kits, consisting of a Stock Solution A and a Stock Solution B. Both kits have good shelf life, the water kit up to a year in partially full bottles, the glycol kit for several years. There is a good history of use of the product as Pyrocat-HD has been available as a pre-mixed kit for more than a decade, and is now available from multiple sources.

For use, a working solution is mixed using a small amount of Solution A and a small amount of Solution B, adding both to a larger quantity of water. Solution A is added first, stirred, and then Solution B is added. Typical dilutions are 1 Part A + 1 Part B + 100 Parts water, or 2 Parts A + 2 Parts B + 100 parts water. Most people find the mixing step to be fairly uncomplicated and are not unduly challenged by the task. But really, that is all there is to the successful mixing of a Pyrocat-HD working solution. The solution should be used to develop film right away, certainly within an hour or two, as it begins to oxidize right after mixing, and will eventually turn dark brown. The solution is safe to use so long as it is clear or light amber in color. The developer is used one-shot and the used solution is discarded.

I would estimate that the number of users of Pyrocat-HD (and Pyrocat-MC) is currently in the thousands, and includes people all over the world. I have personally answered private messages from many countries in Europe, Australia, South America, Japan and China.

There is no question but that the use of a two part developer is more complicated than a single solution developer like D76. One must make sure the two stock solutions are never contaminated with each other, and that the correct amounts of Solution A and Solution B are added to the proper amount of water to form the working solution.

I regret that you have not been able to successfully use Pyrocat-HD in your own work, for whatever reason. However, given the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of other people are using it with success I am fairly certain at this point that the problem lies in your methodology and procedures, not in the developer.

That said, if you promise to never use Pyrocat-HD again I will personally pay the Formulary to send you a kit of any other pyro staining developer you would like.

Sandy King

Michael Kadillak
21-Sep-2009, 07:31
Heck of an offer.

Simply put deductive reasoning points out that there is something fundamentally flawed in your procedures that is the causation of your angst.

We want you to continue to consume sheet film and enjoy analog photography so please just go with a one shot developer and get back to a 100% success rate and move on down the road.

IanG
21-Sep-2009, 07:50
I guess I switched to Pyrocat HD around the same time, and it's now my only developer for all formats.

My initial thoughts are that your dev time seems rather short. I process FP4/HP5. Delta 100 & 400, Tmax100/400 and Acros & EFKE Pl 25 all for 15 minutes (Normal development) @ 20C (68F) at 1+1+100 in a Jobo inversion tank. Even allowing for a slight difference in temperature & type of processor somethings not right. 6 minutes seems way to short.

I wonder how accurately your measure for the concentrates of Part A & B is, because with that short dev time any variation is going to be exacerbated.

Pyrocat HD is such a good consistent developer it's hard to go wrong, and your the only person I've ever heard of having problems with it.

My gut feeling is there's something very wrong with your technique, I've never heard of anyone using FP4 at 32 EI for normal use and Pyrocat gives better film speed than many other developers.

Ian

Andre Noble
21-Sep-2009, 08:38
Ian, I am going to re-examine all my previously assumed/tested ASA's.

Sandy: In terms of final results - convenience and reliability considerations aside - in your opinion which developer produces negatives which result in the best tonal separation in the highlights during conventional enlargement with VC paper and are easier to print - those developed in Pyrocat HD or Wimberely WD2D+?

See, I believe everything happens for a reason. Are the pyro Gods blessing me by steering me towards the superior developer?

OK, Sandy, I will take you up on your offer. Please send me some WD2D+, any kit - liquid or solid version will do. In return, I hereby promise not to use Pyrocat HD ever again. In fact, I have dumped all remaining stock down the drain as of last night.

My shipping address is:

Andre Noble
9461 Charleville Blvd. #115
Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (No, I am not rich - yet)

Thanks in advance for your generous gesture.

Eric Biggerstaff
21-Sep-2009, 09:20
Like Andre I had failures with Pyrocat HD. I had failures with FP4+ in in a Jobo 3010. At first everything was fine for a few runs then all of a sudden I got very thin negs. I normally expose 2 sheets for each image so I developed one run with Pyrocat HD and the other with Rodinal. The Rodinal images were fine and the Pyrocat HD were thin, almost clear.

I sent the product back to PF and they said that perhaps one of the solutions had gone bad so they sent me new product. I used it with the same results so went back to my old way. Of the negs that turned out, they were great. I figured it was my bad luck and perhaps my processing technique didn't agree with the developer.

Based on the results from many people I would say that it was my bad luck and not the product. Maybe Andre and I just got some old stock or a bad batch from PF. My issue was over a year ago so I doubt they were from the same batch.

Don Hutton
21-Sep-2009, 09:34
I'm one of the 000s of happy users. The only time I ever had an issue (I pulled out very thin negs), I went back and found that the partially filled bottle I had mixed up of Part A solution - mixed in distilled water - was 3 years old! It's fantastic stuff - but like most good things, it's not idiot proof.... I've seen people pouring cola into Glenmorangie.

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 09:42
Like Andre I had failures with Pyrocat HD. I had failures with FP4+ in in a Jobo 3010. At first everything was fine for a few runs then all of a sudden I got very thin negs. I normally expose 2 sheets for each image so I developed one run with Pyrocat HD and the other with Rodinal. The Rodinal images were fine and the Pyrocat HD were thin, almost clear.

I sent the product back to PF and they said that perhaps one of the solutions had gone bad so they sent me new product. I used it with the same results so went back to my old way. Of the negs that turned out, they were great. I figured it was my bad luck and perhaps my processing technique didn't agree with the developer.

Based on the results from many people I would say that it was my bad luck and not the product. Maybe Andre and I just got some old stock or a bad batch from PF. My issue was over a year ago so I doubt they were from the same batch.


I would suggest that the most likely reason for the problem was not that one of the solutions was bad but that the developer was contaminated with residue left in the Jobo. Pyrocat-HD is a very dilute developer and would be easily weakened by small amounts of stop bath or fixer that were not cleaned out of the Jobo after use. The same would be true if you accidentally mixed a working Pyrocat-HD solution in a container that previously contained fixer or stop bath without thoroughly washing the container. The working solution of Pyrocat-HD depends on a PH of about 11.0, and the solution itself is so dilute that even minute quantities of an acid from residue from an acid stop bath or fixer could easily weaken the developer action.

Let's face it, if one gets good results with one run, bad results with a second run, good results with a third run, the problem must be due to either improper mixing or some sort of contamination.

Sandy King

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 09:47
Sandy: In terms of final results - convenience and reliability considerations aside - in your opinion which developer produces negatives which result in the best tonal separation in the highlights during conventional enlargement with VC paper and are easier to print - those developed in Pyrocat HD or Wimberely WD2D+?



Andre,

I have an article on pyro staining questions where these questions, and many other are addressed.

See http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/PCat/pcat.html

Sandy King

Eric Biggerstaff
21-Sep-2009, 09:59
Good point Sandy, that may be the same thing going on with Andre.

I might try it again and just scrub the heck out of the drum between runs.

Thanks

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 10:13
Good point Sandy, that may be the same thing going on with Andre.

I might try it again and just scrub the heck out of the drum between runs.

Thanks

One final thought on this. I was taught to always mix developers with distilled water if there was any question about the quality of the tap water source. All pyro developers are especially susceptible to problems with the water supply. One issue in particular that crosses my mind is that if you mix the working solution with tap water, and the tap water is very acidic, this would easily render the developer useless. As I noted, the working solution of Pyrocat-HD needs to be on the order of PH 11.0 to activate the pyrocatechol.

One of the reasons Pyrocat-HD is both very economical to use, and produces such good acutance, is that there is a relatively small amount of chemistry in the working solution. This is a good thing in many ways, but in the face of a water supply of unknown characteristics it might be a bad thing.

So before making any more assumptions I would suggest purchasing a packet of test PH strips and before developing any film to test the working solution. It should be at least PH 10.8 - 11.0.

It does seem to me, however, that if the water supply is acidic, and you always mix the working solution with tap water, all of the runs should be bad, not just some of them.

Sandy

Andre Noble
21-Sep-2009, 10:15
I'm nearly broke right now, Sandy. Are you really going to send me some Wimberley? If so, that will be great!:)

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 10:56
I'm nearly broke right now, Sandy. Are you really going to send me some Wimberley? If so, that will be great!:)


Sorry, but I meant to write that I would send you any non-staining developer. You could easily make the same kind of mistakes with PMK, Wimberley, Rollo Pyro, Pyro-Max, etc. and I don't want to have Hutchings, Leban and Wimberley made at me for enouraging your use of their product.

I do have a new Diaxctol kit that think that would be fine to send you since the formulator is dead. And I will throw in a kit of divided D76 for two-bath processing, which is about the ultimate in fool proof processing.

Sandy

Andre Noble
21-Sep-2009, 12:18
That said, if you promise to never use Pyrocat-HD again I will personally pay the Formulary to send you a kit of any other pyro staining developer you would like.

Sandy King

I would like some of John Wimberley's WD2D+


An experienced user chimed in in this thread http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=18006 and mentioned that he had also heard of other people having stability problems with Pyrocat as compared to the other pyro developers.

I don't mean to badmouth your product, in fact I used to sing it's praises.

I don't mind taking responsibility for a failure. That means that there is hope that I can change my behavior and the outcome will improve. However, a photographer cannot run a development process to picoliter purity, nor should any reasonable developer require that in order for the negatives to come out printable.

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 12:46
I would like some of John Wimberley's WD2D+

And as I already noted,

"Sorry, but I meant to write that I would send you any non-staining developer. You could easily make the same kind of mistakes with PMK, Wimberley, Rollo Pyro, Pyro-Max, etc. and I don't want to have Hutchings, Leban and Wimberley made at me for enouraging your use of their product."

If you want the other developers I mentioned I will be happy to send them to you. If you don't want them, that is fine.

Sandy

sanking
21-Sep-2009, 13:20
I
An experienced user chimed in in this thread http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=18006 and mentioned that he had also heard of other people having stability problems with Pyrocat as compared to the other pyro developers.



Odd that you would cite as some kind of proof a thread that you started, and that was then enjoined by a person who was banned from another forum for attacking me with multiple identities.

I am finding this exchange quite fishy. If Pyrocat-HD does not work for you, move on to whatever does work. One would think you might have learned something in five years.

I am out of this exchange.

Sandy King

domaz
21-Sep-2009, 13:32
The only time I messed up pyrocat is when I mixed A+B solution and left it out overnight. This is something you can never do with Pyrocat, although you can get away with it with quite a few other developers. Maybe this is what you did as you did not mention how much time elapsed between using the developer and mixing it.

Andre Noble
21-Sep-2009, 15:15
I will post examples of the negatives tonight.

One final thought, I did not use a chemical stop bath, but rather a distilled water stop bath. I fixed in TF-4 fixer.

domaz
21-Sep-2009, 16:21
I will post examples of the negatives tonight.

One final thought, I did not use a chemical stop bath, but rather a distilled water stop bath. I fixed in TF-4 fixer.

Did you or didn't you leave the Pyrocat mixed solution sitting out for more than a couple minutes? If you did that's probably the problem.

Andre Noble
22-Sep-2009, 09:09
I have posted the images here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?p=510437#post510437

Bob McCarthy
22-Sep-2009, 18:33
I think I've reached my end,

Andre, I've developed film since the late 60's. You name it, water bath, stand, 2 bath, rodinal, mechanical, roll film, sheet film, tank, tray, whatever.

Without a shred of uncertainty, every screw up that happened, I take ownership for.

Blaming the chemistry is bull%#it.

Figure out what YOU did to screw up the film and learn and go on....

Enough is enough,

bob

Philippe Grunchec
23-Sep-2009, 01:08
Sandy, your Pyrocat is great stuff: don't waste your time!

IanG
23-Sep-2009, 01:52
In fairness to Andre he has apologised to Sandy King here in his other post (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=53840&page=2), and Sandy has accepted & replied. Post #18

Ian