Film Developer Comparison: Follow-up
Photo Credit: Bill Laidley
Each film developer effected the grain of film differently.
One of our members, Bill Laidley, gave an interesting presentation on his exploration of comparing the effects of three developers on Tri-X film. He developed the film in Kodak’s D-76, Rodinal and Diafine. He then made two prints of each negative using different kinds of enlargers. One was the a condenser enlarger (the Omega C67) and the other a diffusing enlarger (the Omega D6 with a Multigrade 500 head). A uniform contrast setting of 3 was used for all prints. Finally he made an enlargement of each negative to better show the effects each developer had on the grain, .
The results showed that Rodinal produced the grainiest prints and that D76 produced the finest. The prints made from the Diafine show a somewhat reduced contrast range as well enhanced shadow detail. Developing with Diafine requires two separate chemical baths. The process holds back the areas of the negative that will produce highlights in the print, while giving the shadow areas more development. This has the effect of reducing the contrast range somewhat and improving shadow detail. In the test prints this allowed the detail in the trees and log booms to come through stronger.
The results were also impacted by the type of enlarger used to make the print. Photos made with the condensing enlarger had more contrast then those made with the diffusing enlarger.
It was interesting to see the differences between the photographs. While the consensus of the group was that the Diafine produced results best suited for this particular subject, other subjects would be be better rendered in a grainier, higher contrast image.
Tim Layton has an interesting blog about the Diafine. This two part developer that is forgiving about temperature and can process different kinds of films in the same baths.
Martin Zimelka has written a review of Rodinal. He makes positive comments about this developer and explains situations that make this developer a good choice for processing film.
For a summary of the characteristics of the Kodak’s D76 developer check out their information sheet
I have usually used whatever developer is supplied by the darkroom I am working in. It is clear to me now that if I want produce a print of a particular quality, I need to be mindful of the developer I use. Factors to consider when making this choice include more than the desired final outcome. The characteristics of the film, the lighting conditions at the time the film is exposed and whether the film needs to be pushed or pulled are all factors that impact the selection of the developer.
Thanks to Bill for his systematic work and interesting presentation.