View Full Version : Into large format start looking at pmk/pyrocaT??

14-Nov-2010, 10:25
It seems this line of staining developers is very popular to lrg format photogs... How toxic really are these agents??? Should I mix my own ( I own A calibrated micro weight scale already) or buy premixed... Why is pmk/pyrocat so popular amongst large format photographers??

14-Nov-2010, 15:05
I just processed with PMK for the third time and I think the negatives look pretty nice (tmy2). That's after 20 years of d76 and more recently 2 years of xtol.

I'll probably stick with Xtol for common needs and use PMK for times when I need to deal with a huge contrast range or tame bright highlights. After I use that up, I'll probably try some pyrocat-HD.

If the output is of a style that pleases the photographer some people use the pyro developers for everything. Also part of the appeal is the low cost and long shelf life.

This is tempered of course by the dire warnings of poison/toxic. I got the photographer's formulary powder kit, where premeasured powder product is mixed by the end user with distilled water. Much has been debated about whether the stuff is actually toxic when dilluted to a working solutions, but I'll either use my leakproof paterson tank or wear gloves with the combiplan tank. Ignorant, yet safe. Lots of armchair chemists here, and none of it will be a government recognized conclusive study on the health effects of the stuff. I suspect a good portion of the warning is CYA for the sellers and creators of the products. I've got cupboards of things that are poisonous or toxic. Even oxygen is poisonous if you breath it compressed, yet completely necessary for our life.

14-Nov-2010, 17:59
Toxic is relative to the amount of care in mixing. But that true of all darkroom processes.
I wouldn’t drink or inhale any of the components nor soak my hands in it. Many of the greats did and they lived relatively long but i have read speculation that they might have lived longer…..who knows but im not going to risk it.

I process my HP5 12x20’s and HP5 4x5’s in the PMK Glycol kit and soon i am going to test the PyroCat HD Glycol kit from the Formulary.
From what i have read, its hard to dissolve some of the components in water but they dissolve easier in Glycol, it also has to be heated for them to fully dissolve.
The formulary has all of the MSD sheets on their site for the kit and components. They are worth the read.
I always wear gloves when mixing pyro not just because of the warnings but because it stains. Same with Amidol, stains badly!
I also like the Glycol mix because i don’t have to weigh the powders out everytime. Mixing from liquid is so much easier especially for 12x20 when you need a lot of developer.

14-Nov-2010, 18:33
Jp498...low cost? Really??

You should just mix it your self. In fact, you might as well mix everything yourself. It's so easy and there are many shared chemicals between Film Developer, Paper Developer, Stop, Fixer, etc.

Brian Ellis
14-Nov-2010, 19:05
Among the 10-15 LF photographers I used to know personally none used a staining developer. Of the handful of well known contemporary photographers I know from taking workshops from them (e.g. John Sexton, Bruce Barnbaum, Ray McSavanney, etc.) the only one who uses a staining developer is Michael Smith. My own fairly extensive comparison testing of a series of duplicate negatives of the same images, one set processed in PMK and one in D76, didn't show any difference that anyone could see in the prints. I mention all this not to knock the use of staining developers, many fine photographers use them and think they make an important difference, but just so you don't think it's something everyone does or that you have to do to make excellent prints.

Jay DeFehr
14-Nov-2010, 20:04
Low cost? Yes, and no. Hypercat (http://hypercatacutancedeveloper.blogspot.com/)/Pyrocat (http://www.pyrocat-hd.com/)-type developers are the most economical developers I know, but some commercial staining developers are among the most expensive developers one can use.

I think staining developers are popular among LF photographers for a number of reasons, that vary with the photographer, but there are specific applications for which staining developers offer unique advantages. For alt processes that require negatives of high density ranges, staining developers are the cat's pajamas.

Generally speaking, I don't think developer choice is terribly important for LF, and just about any developer one can find is likely capable of breathtaking results when handled appropriately. Some developers are more convenient than others, more available, more environmentally sound, better documented, less expensive, have longer shelf lives, or taste better than others, and these considerations might be as important, or more important than the working characteristics of the developers, for any given photographer.

I like developers, staining and non-staining, and I'm always tinkering with one or more, comparing them and pitting them one against another in head to head trials, but this has little to do with photography, directly. That said, when I want to develop my film and I want to be absolutely certain (so far as that's possible) that my film will be developed properly, I use 510-Pyro (http://pyrostains.blogspot.com/), because I know it best, and it's been the most versatile and reliable developer I've ever used.

My advice to you, as a newcomer, is to choose a well supported developer, because you're sure to have a lot of questions. Kodak developers are the best technically supported developers on the planet, but Sandy King's Pyrocat developers are very popular, and you're sure to get a lot of help from other users here, and elsewhere, and probably from Sandy himself, should you need it.

Whatever you use to develop your film, enjoy the process, and share your results! Best of luck to you.

14-Nov-2010, 20:20
Jp498...low cost? Really??

You should just mix it your self. In fact, you might as well mix everything yourself. It's so easy and there are many shared chemicals between Film Developer, Paper Developer, Stop, Fixer, etc.

Well, low cost is a relative term, but here's the numbers I use (without s/h considered)

$17 PMK kit makes 25L of developer ($0.68/Liter)
$6 D76 1gallon kit makes 8L of 1+1 developer ($0.75/Liter)
$10 Xtol 5L kit makes 10L of 1+1 developer ($1/Liter)

I really don't mind spending a dollar for developer for 6 sheet of film or 2 rolls of 120 or 3 rolls of 35mm. (And figuring perhaps another dollar for other chemicals, plastic storage pages, etc...)

If I had a huge volume to do, I'd consider mixing the raw chemicals myself, but what I spend on developer is pretty low compared to gear acquisition syndrome or what I spend on coffee.

Ole Tjugen
14-Nov-2010, 23:32
After trying a bit of this and a bit of that, I found that staining developers are really only useful if you intend to print with low-contrast contact processes - POP or Lodima. OR if the scene is of such an extreme contrast range that you really NEED Windisch' compensating devenloper.

With multigrade paper they are a pain in the neck, since the stain acts as a contrast filter.

So for all "normal" applications, I use Ilfotec HC - I bought a large supply when the previous Norwegian importer closed down. Enough to last me a couple of decades, at least. ;)

Jay DeFehr
15-Nov-2010, 00:19

I respectfully disagree. Staining developers offer many advantages when using any printing paper, but the advantages vary with the type of paper. How many scenes can benefit by lower contrast in the highlights and increased contrast in the shadows? A stained negative printed on VC paper automatically prints with a split grade effect. This effect can be adjusted over a wide range, and opens up many printing possibilities.

Printed on graded papers, tanning and staining combine to make sharper, finer grained prints, and pyro is legendary for the gradation it produces.

510-Pyro is extremely versatile, and I'd put it up against any general purpose developer, staining or not.