View Full Version : Diluting Xtol with HP5

26-Jun-2010, 10:55
Just started processing my own negs last weekend. After much reading I made some BTZS-like tubes out of ABS, and used Xtol 1:1, 100 ml concentrate, 100 ml water w/ 8x10 HP5. I processed for 6'30" rolling tube 10 turns in one direction and then 10 turns in the other direction. Negs came out pretty good.

Now I've got more to process, but this time they need a N-1 and N-2 contraction. From what I've read, 15% less time/stop is a place to start when contracting dev. I don't want to be in the danger zone of 4 min. with the n-2 sheet, so I've been reading about changing dilutions w/ the Xtol as a means of keeping consistent times. What would you recommend as far as times go for HP5 souped in Xtol 1:2 or 1:3, at 68*F, with continuous agitation? Thanks!


Andrew O'Neill
26-Jun-2010, 11:57
What EI are you exposing HP5 at? What are you printing on? Silver papers? What exposure system do you have on your enlarger? Cold light/ diffuse or condenser?

26-Jun-2010, 12:54
I'm exposing HP5 at EI 320 and have been getting good results. My workflow does'nt include any other darkroom work, except for the development. I'm scanning on an epson 4990 and outputting on an 3880. I know for scanning that a thinner neg is more ideal than one that is more dense, so perhaps that's something to consider, but there is a fine line to walk with a thin neg that still retains full shadow detail.
I do have some 4x5 HP5 that i need to expose and do some testing on, as it is cheaper than the 8x10. I'm just looking for some times and dilutions as a place to start working from. I'm sure I'm not the only on who's shooting HP5, developing in Xtol and then scanning.

Andrew O'Neill
26-Jun-2010, 14:54
I'm afraid I cannot help you as I do not work digitally. You may want to consider using an EI of 250. A dilution of 1+2 or even 1+3 may be the way to go, but you must make sure that you have enough stock developer before you dilute it otherwise it will exhaust during development. I use 100ml stock for 8x10, 50ml for 4x5 (which is probably more than enough).

26-Jun-2010, 16:57
Since you are now scanning and printing digitally, you only really need to find development times for Normal and N-1 contrast. I also shoot sheet film and print digitally, after many years of using the Zone System and printing optically on silver paper. I find that I no longer have any need to use N-plus development times because it is so easy to increase contrast in Photoshop (or even in the scanning process). N-plus development times will increase the graininess of the negative, which scanning will then capture very vividly. John Sexton, who still prints on silver, recently said that he no longer uses N+ times when shooting TMY 400 film, because he does not like the increased grain that the extended development produces. He likes the end result better when he simply increases contrast by using multigrade printing filters.

I also feel that it is not necessary to use N-2 or N-3 development times, because scanning can capture the highlight detail so well, even in a very dense negative. Just shoot your N-3 scene as you would normally, exposing for the shadows, then give N-1 development. You could actually get away without even using N-1 development because scanners have such an incredible ability to capture highlight detail. But I still use N-1 on all subjects that call for N-1, N-2, or N-3. Later I will post an example of an N-3 image shot and processed this way (however, I am not in the studio now).

26-Jun-2010, 19:17
That's good advice in regards to n+ development. When approaching a low contrast scene, I will typically place all my values ( say 2-3 stop spread) further down the scale, if intending to expand development, so as to get the least amount of grain and the most separation of tones once developed. This is all an influence of AA's "The Negative". Perhaps, from now on I'll still place a low contrast scene low on the scale but give normal development.

Assuming that any negative needing contracted development, whether n-1, n-2, or n-3, gets n-1 development, what would be the preferred method to get there considering the constant agitation of tube development? I could give 1 min. less time (approx. 15% less time) at 1:1 dilution, OR step up to a 1:2 dilution and develop for my original time? Would the 1:2 dilution garner even more time than my normal time of 6'30"?

27-Jun-2010, 08:50
I don't know the times, but I have used Xtol at 1:2, (1:1 is my standard with this dev) with good results, and this wil allow you extend your development, about 25%, I think, but don't quote me, please. When Kodak introduced this dev in the ninties, they did publish times for 1:2 and 1:3, but they dropped them from their published data some years later. Have you tried the online resource "The Massive Dev Chart" It has useful starting points for most combinations.
You do have to make sure that there is enough developing agent present to properly process the volume of film you have.

Henry Ambrose
27-Jun-2010, 13:39
Xtol at 1:3 is where its at as far as I'm concerned - a perfect combination in any format.

HP5 at 320 or 250 and about 16 minutes in Xtol 1:3 at 70 degrees. (tune for your particular water and conditions)

If the negative would print well in a wet darkroom, it will scan well. If its a little flat it will scan well.

27-Jun-2010, 18:45
Thanks everyone for their responses! Last night I went for it. Considering that the cap for my ABS tube holds just over 200 ml, I went ahead and used Xtol 1:1 and developed for 5'15" while rolling my tubes in a tempered bath, 10 rolls one direction/10 rolls the other direction, flipping end for end every minute. The negs turned out great with all the shadow detail and a none-too-dense sky. Scanned today without a hitch.
I'm going to have to get a coupling and glue it to the cap in order to run any greater dilution with the Xtol, as I am using 100ml stock solution per 8x10 sheet. I am happy with the preliminary results that I'm getting with a 1:1 solution, as it seems to work with the tubes i have built and I'm not stuck rolling tubes back and fourth forever. Mabee in the near future I'll rig up an "extended" cap and compare the two dilutions. In your opinion, is there much to be gained with a 1:3 dilution over a 1:1 dilution, mabee some edge effects, or a difference in contrast. I'm assuming with constant agitation, where the developer is constantly being refreshed, that you wouldn't get the same results as if you were to use a semi-stand method, or tray development?

27-Jun-2010, 21:41
Assuming that any negative needing contracted development, whether n-1, n-2, or n-3, gets n-1 development, what would be the preferred method to get there considering the constant agitation of tube development? I could give 1 min. less time (approx. 15% less time) at 1:1 dilution, OR step up to a 1:2 dilution and develop for my original time? Would the 1:2 dilution garner even more time than my normal time of 6'30"?

Yes, diluting 1:3 is a good way to achieve N- contrast. For example my normal development for TMY 5x7 is 6 minutes at 24 degrees C in Xtol 1:1. My N-1 is the same except with the dilution at 1:2

My N+1, back when I still used it, was also the same, except with Xtol stock solution undiluted. So I could achieve three different contrast grades simply by changing the dilution of Xtol. All of these times were tested rigorously about 15 years ago, using Zone System methodology.

28-Jun-2010, 17:03
Here is the N-3 photo I promised to post. The meter called for N-3. The film was exposed for the shadows and developed N-1. Finally the negative was drum-scanned for N-3 contrast. There is no manipulation other than spotting and maybe an edge gradient.

29-Jun-2010, 23:11
That's a nice example of what can be done with a high contrast scene.
With my current development setup I can really only go to N-1.5 or so
do to the capacity of the tubes I'm using, and the length of time I must
develop for as to not risk uneveness.

I just shot some 4x5 HP5 tonight that called for N-2, so I'll conduct some more
tests this weekend. I'm thinking of mabee trying a 1:3 dution and completly filling my tube, garnering me the ability to alter my aggitation as well. Hmm something to noodle on...