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Thread: Vitamin C developer for paper

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2020
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    Vitamin C developer for paper

    I try to keep my photography simple, so I was intrigued by all the fuss over Caffenol developer recipes on the web. Normally I use resin coated enlarging paper not film but I figured it would work for paper too. And it does work, but naturally the coffee stains the negative and it smells really bad. So I started to try to find a substitute for the instant coffee.

    Being a scientist at heart, I thought Iíd start by leaving the coffee out. That means you just have a base solution of water, washing soda and vitamin C. Then Iíd try different things to substitute for the phenols in the coffee and see what works best. To my surprise, the base solution worked really well all by itself.

    Everything I tried that was supposed to have phenols in them didnít make any real difference either. This led to more Googling and to find a guy named Roger Bunting and a post on https://www.shutterbug.com/content/c...istry-darkroom. Also, reading between the lines of some enlarging paper data sheets, Iíve concluded that they put some developing agent right in the emulsion of these papers.

    So after conversing with Bunting and experimenting with different quantities of washing soda and vitamin C, Iíve come up with this basic recipe:

    25g Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
    8g Pure Vitamin C Crystals
    250g Distilled Water

    I thought Iíd side by side compare this to Dektol. Maybe that isnít the most state of the art developer in the world, but it is what I have and I assume represents real store bought chemistry. Here are two photos taken with identical conditions, developed for the exact same length of time, scanned and digitally processed at the same time. The results seem to be identical; Dektol on the left and Vitamin C on the right.


    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Ironage's Avatar
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    Groton, Connecticut
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    238

    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    This is very interesting to me. I use a vitamin C and Phenidone developer. I wonder what the developing agent is that is present in the RC papers.


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  3. #3
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1,448

    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    I figure it like this: Vit C is a substitute for hyrdroquinone and phenidone (or I use Dimezone, dissolves easily) is a sub for metol. For now, I buy Legacy Pro EcoPro Ascorbic Acid Paper Developer. It is good stuff and without the carcinogens.

  4. #4

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    Ottawa, Canada
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    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    That is very interesting. What temperature and how long of a developing time for paper? thanks!

  5. #5

    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Gasperi View Post
    I try to keep my photography simple, so I was intrigued by all the fuss over Caffenol developer recipes on the web. Normally I use resin coated enlarging paper not film but I figured it would work for paper too. And it does work, but naturally the coffee stains the negative and it smells really bad. So I started to try to find a substitute for the instant coffee.

    Being a scientist at heart, I thought I’d start by leaving the coffee out. That means you just have a base solution of water, washing soda and vitamin C. Then I’d try different things to substitute for the phenols in the coffee and see what works best. To my surprise, the base solution worked really well all by itself.

    Everything I tried that was supposed to have phenols in them didn’t make any real difference either. This led to more Googling and to find a guy named Roger Bunting and a post on https://www.shutterbug.com/content/c...istry-darkroom. Also, reading between the lines of some enlarging paper data sheets, I’ve concluded that they put some developing agent right in the emulsion of these papers.

    So after conversing with Bunting and experimenting with different quantities of washing soda and vitamin C, I’ve come up with this basic recipe:

    25g Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
    8g Pure Vitamin C Crystals
    250g Distilled Water

    I thought I’d side by side compare this to Dektol. Maybe that isn’t the most state of the art developer in the world, but it is what I have and I assume represents real store bought chemistry. Here are two photos taken with identical conditions, developed for the exact same length of time, scanned and digitally processed at the same time. The results seem to be identical; Dektol on the left and Vitamin C on the right.


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	img280p.jpg 
Views:	83 
Size:	75.1 KB 
ID:	209007
    so how long does it last in a tray?
    how many prints can you make with one tray
    do you need to mix it up immediately before use or can you mix up a quantity and then use

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2020
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    Racine, WI
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    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    First off, I'm only developing 4x5s so that isn't a lot of surface area. I mix just before using and only one recipe at a time. However, if I've only developed a couple negatives, I'll pour the remainder into a container with a lid and it use it again maybe days later. Overall I'd say I get at least 16 4x5s with a batch.

    The cost is incredibly low. A 3 lb box of Arm and Hammer washing soda is about $4 which is nearly a lifetime supply. A 1 lb (453g) container of vitamin C crystals is $14 or $0.25 per batch.

    Everything is just room temperature and it only takes a couple minutes to mix. I try to keep development time to 60 seconds. If I see the negative is over exposed, I'll pull it early. If it is under exposed, I might push it to two minutes.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Iowa City, Iowa
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    1,173

    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    Interesting experimental work. I use Bromophen, I like it better than Dektol especially with warm tone fiber based paper.

    Looks like you are getting good results.

  8. #8

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    Sep 2020
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    Racine, WI
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    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    I've only tested this with Adorama Variable Contrast paper. Buying a 100 sheet box of 8x10 and cutting it down to 4x5s gets the cost to about $0.10 a shot. The data sheet has this interesting statement about processing; "While the paper does contain developing agent activation/stabilization processing cannot be used."

    I've put all my paper negative experiments on a web page that also explains how using filters greatly improve the contrast of the negatives. https://sites.google.com/view/multigrade-negative/home .

  9. #9
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gasperi View Post
    I've only tested this with Adorama Variable Contrast paper. Buying a 100 sheet box of 8x10 and cutting it down to 4x5s gets the cost to about $0.10 a shot. The data sheet has this interesting statement about processing; "While the paper does contain developing agent activation/stabilization processing cannot be used."

    I've put all my paper negative experiments on a web page that also explains how using filters greatly improve the contrast of the negatives. https://sites.google.com/view/multigrade-negative/home .
    where is the monolith

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Providence, RI, USA
    Posts
    172

    Re: Vitamin C developer for paper

    This is so weird and awesome. I never would have imagined the paper itself would have a developing agent in it. Has anyone tried it with ilford papers? That's what I use, and I'm thinking I may have to do some experimenting!

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