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Thread: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

  1. #1

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    Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    First off, hello to everyone. I'm new to this forum and fairly new to large format in general. I found this forum through the excellent Large Format Friday series by Matt Marrash on Youtube.

    I've shot film on-and-off since I was shown how to with my mum's Nikon FE2 in the early 2000s and printed with what I hear is the traditional beginner way with an enlarger propped up over the bath in my parents tiny bathroom.

    Having got into large format via a friend who is (or rather was) a vet student he managed to get from the various places he interned a load of x-ray film and developer that was being thrown out as they were converting to digital. Naturally being a not very wealthy graduate student I couldn't say no, but I've run into some problems trying to use it.

    The film came to me in three boxes of half used 18x24, 30x40 and 35x42cm sizes. The 30x40cm stuff just fits in my largest paper trays. The film is double sided green (and also blue?) sensitive film and extremely scratch prone. It's made or at least resold by a company called photon imaging systems who calls it 'HDC-G' high contrast x-ray film. I've been rating it somewhat arbitrarily at 100 ISO and have got some images out of it but also a lot of disappointment.

    The developer that came with it (all ten litres of the stuff) is RG Universal brand X-ray developer, with instructions not to dilute but is presumably for large tanks in an automatic processor. The hazmat warnings tell me it's a hydroquinone based developer. I've used it fairly successfully as a very cheap paper developer, when fairly heavily diluted but not really had that much luck using it with the film.

    My biggest problem so far has been getting reasonable images out of the stuff. I can get something but the contrast surprisingly is fairly low most of the time and areas that should be black are ending up hazy and as though they were fogged. My ultimate goal with the stuff is to use it in my home made pinhole camera and to do really big contact prints, though everything I've done there has come out basically unusable

    Trying to do my best to be scientific and eliminate variables I did a run today with some of the sheets cut down to 5x4 inches and learnt a few things but I'm still scratching my head over a few others. I shot six sheets of three identical shots and did two different developing runs to test some things out. I realise I should have done four runs and had a tank / tray development for each developer and I may well do that next time.

    1) The scratching. Both tray and tank runs had scratching, though the tray was far worse. My mod54 holder had scarring where it touched the holder but the tray developed sheets had massive scars all over them. Not so much a problem shooting cut down but given my idea is to use these sheets in a pinhole that can take the biggest one I have uncut it seems like a problem.

    2) Development. I did one run with rodinal at 1+50 and one run with the x-ray developer at about the same dilution at 20C for 7 minutes and had similar although somewhat annoying results with both. I came up with the 7 minute time by using a strip from my cut down sheets in the developer first and pushing it further in every minute until I had what looked like a convincing black. Thinking about it now I should have carried on until I had two blacks that I couldn't tell apart but that's for my next run.

    Both came up with usable images though the rodinal seemed to be rather better in most regards, aside from a rather strange mottled pattern to the negative, almost like tiny bubbles on the film. I've never had this happen with any regular film and developed it identically to how I would do fp4+. The x-ray developer is rather darker overall and one of the shots is extremely dark, almost as if it was fogged. I can only attribute this to insufficient agitation in the development bath, given its twin came out fine.

    Here are some example images from each run from a flatbed scanner using Epson scan with no adjustments other than making sure the output didn't clip. The first image is in Rodinal, the second in x-ray dev:

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    *turns out I can only have four images per post, more to follow*

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I might have done wrong? I am by no means sure I should be rating this stuff at 100 ISO, I can't find any information on it on the manufacturer's website. The bubbles/dots from rodinal just perplex me, could this be bubbles forming on the film I am not dislodging when using a tank?

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    What would be a good dilution to use the x-ray developer at, should I stick it out at 1+50 or would something stronger or weaker be more likely to give results. Do you have any good test regimes that I could follow to work something like this out without shooting tens of sheets and processing them each individually?

    Presumably I should just be more careful and possibly do one sheet at a time to avoid scratches in trays? Would something flat in the bottom also help here?

    Hope this hasn't been too much and isn't something that's already out there and that I have missed.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails scratched.jpg  

  2. #2

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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Quick addition of the other shot to compliment the last one, this is the rodinal version:


    Attachment 206615

  3. #3
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Too many variables

    If 35 mm film processes fine in one developer, then the X-ray Film should too, IF good film

    Process one 4X5 in a tray a time and don't agitate too much, gentle does it
    sin eater

  4. #4
    David Schaller
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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Also try to use smooth bottomed trays. And as Randy said, very gentle agitation.

  5. #5

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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Okay, if too many variables I've tried to reduce them.

    Sticking to the one x-ray developer I did some tests with off cut strips of various dilutions. I dipped the strips in further every minute until I couldn't tell the difference between the last two and took that time.
    1+5 was really fast, less than two minutes. 1+10 was better but still pretty quick at 3-4 minutes for a full black. I went with 1+20 at 7 minutes in the end just to give me some time to see what was happening. Which means I must have misremembered/labelled my last dilution as 1+50 would take ages apparently. Might have a future go with that stand developing though.

    Don't have any flat bottomed trays so can't do anything there but had another go with less agitation. Fewer scratches but clearly the developer didn't make it everywhere evenly so I've had some lines and uneven development. I think I can do something about those next time though with just a touch more tray wiggling or even just holding it with a gloved hand.

    As a control I did the exact same development in my paterson tank and got a much more even result than the tray.

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  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Took me a long time to get X-Ray done without scratches

    I was way too agitated

    One member here suggested developing in Ziploc

    Which does work, you do all 3 baths in one bag, but then you need another bag, I did that 3 times, now trays or Gas Burst

    Put a piece of glass or smooth plastic in the bottom of your tray, which should be one size bigger for more even sloshing
    sin eater

  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Quote Originally Posted by David Schaller View Post
    Also try to use smooth bottomed trays. And as Randy said, very gentle agitation.
    Or lay a piece of glass at the bottom of the tray.

    If you have time for some reading, check out this thread:

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...example-images
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  8. #8

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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    FWIW, I shoot Fuji HRU at IE 64. Plexiglass is safer than glass in the tray bottom, I have found it eliminates scratches from tray processing but I only do one sheet at a time in D-23 1+1 for 7 min 30 sec at 68 deg F. Reciprocity requires more exposure for me than others have reported on the very long thread referenced above, still testing for that, but it looks like double the added time for me, more on a par with Arista EDU/Foma. It took me quite a few sheets to get the hang of it for reasons I still don't fully understand. I figured out that just doing a bunch of it was the only way to sort out all the bugs in my process, so take heart, if I can do it, anyone can

  9. #9
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Gotta agree Bob

    X-Ray is cheap and very cheap if cut down to 4X5 and below

    Just keep shooting and processing as fast as possible

    I sometimes have trays ready to use as I shoot inside, so feedback is almost as fast as Polaroid

    At one time I had my entire studio/apt as darkroom under Red Led Safelight, I use only this one from this store, buy a box
    sin eater

  10. #10

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    Re: Neophyte x-ray film development problems

    Okay, just had a go with some plastic film in the bottom of my tray. Scratches reduced but not eliminated. Slightly confused at the differences in contrast I'm getting in tray vs tank development. I'd really like to try and up the contrast a bit but more development seems to just end up fogging the film.

    Tank / Tray.

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