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DK-50 developer??

  1. I have an 88 year old uncle who was a photographer back in the '40's and '50's. A few months ago, he gave me a large box from his old darkroom. In it was a number of canisters marked DK-50, negative developer. Each canister is divided, top and bottom, (two part mix). The canisters are like soup cans. still powder inside, (can shake). Anyone have any knowledge about how to use it? Have plenty of Plus-x pan and Tri-x to try it out with..
  2. hi bart

    dk-50 was a staple for portrait photographers back in the day.
    often times people who don't know exactly how it was used, suggest
    that it is VERY contrasty, well ... it is at first :wink:
    find / make dk-50r which is the replenisher for it.

    when i used it, it was in DEEP tanks, and i processed armloads of 5x7 sheet film in hangers with it.
    it was never straight, but mixed with a partial tank of mellowed developer ( dk-50 ) to tame the contrast.
    if you don't use it in deep tanks, mix it, and don't dump it after you use it, but mix it back into the batch.
    after a bunch of film you will notice that it works "better" ... and then start to replenish with the dk50r ...

    it was in the 1980s so i don't remember what the times were that i used to processed tri-x .
    if you have a dark green safe light filter, you can develop by inspection ...

    have fun, its great-stuff!
  3. DK50 is the Metaborate version of an earlier formula which itself was Kodak's version of the Wellington & Ward Buffered Borax developer. It was tweaked further and eventually led to D76.

  4. I'm willing to admit that I've never heard of it. How does it differ from D-76 in use?
  5. **********
    We used that back when I was in college as a tank developer. It's best used as a sheet film developer.
  6. Not as fine grained as D76, but with modern films the difference would be less apparent. It's very similar to D76b but with Kodalk/Sodium Metaborate instead of Borax and only 30% of the Sodium Sulphite.

    It's been recommended by Geoffrey Crawley used as a dilute developer giving quite high definition.

    Just looking at the datasheet in one of 3 pack I have it's stated to be for "Sheet film" and used when shorter dev times than D76 are required. Kodak did not recommend it for 35mm or 120 films.

  7. you can say that again !

    whatever it was based on, or turned into ... it was some good stuff ...

    tri x 5x7 + split 5x7 and dk 50 hand retouched enlarged to 16x20 / 20x24 ...
    there was nothing like it ...
  8. Great info guys,
    Thanks a lot. I will try some experimenting and repost at a later date.
  9. DK50 and DK50-R Replenisher

    For those interested; from the Amphoto B&W Processing Databook. . .

    Popular tank developer for commercial and portrait photography.

    Water (52C or 125F)
    500.0 cc
    Kodak Elon Dev Agent (Metol)
    2.5 grams
    Sodium Slfite, dessicated
    30.0 grams
    2.5 grams
    Kodalk (Sodium Metaborate)
    10.0 grams
    Potassium Bromide
    0.5 grams
    Add cold water to make 1 litre

    Dissolve chemicals in the order given.
    Do not dilute for tank development. Develop for 5-10 minutes at 20C (68F). (Note: time scale indicates 5'00" at 75F/ 6'15" at 70F/ 7'00" at 68F/ 8'00" at 65F/ 10'00" at 60F) Decrease time by 1/5th for tray development.

    DK50-R Replenisher

    Water (52C or 125F)
    750.0 cc
    Kodak Elon Dev Agent (Metol)
    5.0 grams
    Sodium Sulfite
    30.0 grams
    10.0 grams
    Kodalk (Sodium Metaborate)
    40.0 grams
    Add cold water to make 1.0 litre.

    Dissolve chemicals in the order given.
    The replenisher should be diluted to the same ratio as the developer it replenishes. Add to developer as needed to maintain the level of the developer. If the density of the negative is not maintained, discard some of the developer from the tank at intervals and replace with replenisher.

    I will add this to the recipe section if it is not already there.
  10. DK-50 was quite commonly used by sheet film photographers through the 60s. It is a rather nice developer. I found it to have only moderate contrast, somewhat more than D-76 but decidedly less than DK-60a, which was often used for press work. It is not a fine-grain formulation, but is a quite good general purpose developer. It does not give the speed increase seen with D-76, so you need to give full exposure. DK-50 was used undiluted for the older sheet films, but dilution 1+1 was recommended for the more modern types, like Plus-X Pan. (This is similar to the recommendations for D-76, but I've noticed that some of the latest films recommend using D-76 undiluted.) Some recommended developing times from 1969:

    TXP 5 minutes (1+1)
    Tri-X Pan 4.5 (1+1)
    Super-XX 5
    Super-XX 8 (1+1)
    Plus-X Pan 4.5 (1+1) (sheet)
    Plus-X Pan 4 (1+1) (roll)

    The packaging you mention was used for M-Q type developers through the late 40s or early 50s. One part holds the metol and the other everything else. Mixing order is important, so follow the instructions on the can. The stuff may very well still be good.

    Of note is a derivative that was published in the BJP many years ago. It was supposed to give high sharpness with miniature films, and it had quite a following for a while.

    BJ Dilute DK-50 high sharpness developer

    Solution A
    Metol 2.5 g
    Hydroquinone 2.5 g
    Sodium sulfite, anh. 30 g
    Potassium bromide 0.5 g
    WTM 1 l

    Solution B
    Sodium metaborate 50 g
    WTM 1 l

    Use as one-shot.
    Dilute 1:1:3 (A:B:water) for use (1:1:6 for tabular grain films)

    Replace potassium bromide with 100 mg of potassium iodide.
    Replace sodium metaborate with carbonate - bicarbonate buffer (40 g sodium carbonate, 10 g sodium bicarbonate)
  11. Chris, Is the formula you've given...How to make DK-50? I guess I don't understand :-( I've got the powder, 2 part stuff. I'm looking for time temp stats.
  12. Thanks, NWORTH. I will give it a shot.
  13. DK-50 diluted 1:1 and used as a one-shot tray developer (start with about 5.5 minutes @ 20C) produces nice negatives on Efke 50 sheet film. As mentioned above it is an old formula that still works well for general pictorial work on sheet films giving slightly higher contrast than D-76. Press photographers favored DK-50 because it produced "punchy" negatives that reproduced well in newsprint.

    In the thread titled "I want to blow up the Moon" I posted an example of Arista 100/DK-50 with an enlarged scan that shows lunar maria. For general pictorial work there is nothing wrong at all with DK-50, in my opinion. You will likely find the old cans still good. I am slowly using up my own stock of a similar vintage with no problems. The Kodak double-can packaging was some of the best ever made.
  14. My recipe is to batch it from scratch. And the times are good starting points when you cannot find documrntation on the films you wish to use with DK50 film developer.
  15. Looking at an old thread, I know...

    I was given six gallon kits by a fellow photographer, and found out via a darkroom guru that DK-50 at 1+1 dilution is basically the same as HC-110 Dilution B. I also found the times are very similar. Tri-X 400 shot at EI 320 or so is great at 5 minutes with both developers, for normal contrast lighting.

    Attached shot proves that it's just as fine with roll film as it is with sheet film... The negative is nicely sharp and with tight grain. Plus-X in 645 format.

    - Thomas
  16. When I got my first job in a studio in 1964, it was my job to mix all the chemistry each morning for the film room and the print room and all we ever used in the film tanks, was DK50. All weddings were shot in 4x5 and most studio portraits were 5x7 or 8x0 and the film was mostly Tri X Pro 320 or Super Hypan 500 in 120 which was only used for available light candids at weddings when the situation required. I remember DK50 as a pretty reliable developer but a bit contrasty when fresh. When I had important roll film negatives to develop, I would take them home and develop them in Mic X, trying to tame the grain of Super Hypan and it did help but I never told my boss.
    Denise Libby
  17. DK-50 is an excellent pictorial developer for large format, especially so for older films that tend to have lower gamma and longer range. It is a good choice for Efke films. It's by no means bad but not the best choice for 35mm or medium format films.

    Use if for low to medium contrast lighting, because it tends to give higher gamma than you will like for brightly lit outdoor scenes. It is excellent for portraiture done in open shade. This was a favorite for news photography for which higher contrast "snappy" negatives were favored for newspaper reproduction. I often used DK-50 in 1:1 dilution which tends to soften the contrast just a bit. As stated above, D-76 largely replaced it for general use, and also favored by many people in 1:1 dilution.
  18. i have processed everything from 35mm to 5x7 sheets in it ..
    i used a deep tank and coathangers with a replenished system ...
    the less than 5x7 was my stuff the sheet film was at the portrait studio i worked for.
    like a lot of these developers you need to run a bunch of film through it
    to get it a bit used and it will be perfect after that ...
    we used to mix a new batch after a certain amount of films went through it ( 1000 sheets ? )
    and cut the new developer with 1/4 tank of the seasoned developer ...

  19. Late to this party, but Kodak actually did suggest use with Tri-X @ 1:1. I've not looked at a current film datasheet, but they were suggesting it until not too many years ago, for sure.
  20. If you do a search you can find a lot of info on DK50. I played around with it a few years back and found it to be a very good and robust developer. I never made it to its replenishment style, but did use it a various dilutions. I really liked it diluted. It gave very clean, low grained negatives with nearly full speed. I do know that if all other developers were to soon disappear I could very happily get by with DK50, but since I use Xtol replenished I have no reason to switch to DK50. If I were shooting only 4X5 I might only be using DK50 along side Pyrocat-HDC.
  21. I can't find much of anything in terms of film and suggested development times. Lost to the black hole of history, I guess.

    But if you look at the TX data sheet, the time for DK-50 1:1 is 62% that of D-76 1:1. I used that for my first try with PX, and it was stunning.

    A guy on "that other forum" uses dilute DK-50 a lot, and he says he just uses the time for T-Max developer 1:4. So far, I've found it to be excellent, too.

    I just looked on eBay and there is scads of new developer available if you don't mix your own.
  22. My 1970 and 1980 Kodak Darkroom Dataguides each have times for DK-50 stock and 1:1.
    Of course, the films have changed....
  23. Often used for LF portraits, I think. It's not a developer for contrasty scenes, but for low flare, lower contrast situations it produces a nice mid-tone curve. LIke HC-110 can. It is a published formula, so you don't have to rely on a proprietary provider. A Google impage search on Kodak DK-50 will show you some image produced using it.
  24. Well, dang, you beat me to this by minutes! I just put up some shelves so that I could take many books, including my photo ones, out of bins and boxes from The Big Move and make them visible to encourage use. A Kodak Dataguide was there, I looked up the film/developer combo's and there it was.

    DK-50 1:1 suggested for Tri-X, 35mm and roll, Tri-X Professional, for sheet films, Royal Pan 4141 ????, Double X 4142, Plus X Professional, Tri-X Ortho, and Ektapan 4162. Wow, a trip down memory lane.
  25. I fondly remember my experiences with DK-50 when I was in my teens, doing a LOT of news photography. Usually Tri-X and often pushed a stop or two.

    [​IMG]DSC05898 by Nokton48, on Flickr

    [​IMG]dk-50 replenisher by Nokton48, on Flickr

    Bought all those packets of DK-50 for $2.00 each, when our local small shop closed down. The Replenisher I found on Ebay.

    Flash forward to today, I am now retired and building a dream B&W darkroom in my unfinished basement. I will be setting up 8x10 hard rubber tanks, and I have all the baskets for 8x10, 4x5, and 120. So I will have a 3.5 gal DK-50 basket line.
  26. Why would you want to ignore 50 years of development and try such an old developer when you have access to the newest technology is beyond me.
  27. Just make sure it isn't "clumpy"
  28. Oh, there's something wrong with D-76, 72, and 23? Microphen?

    Maybe because the results speak for themselves?

    What newer developers, really? How does a viscous liquid one improve on the old ones? Ascorbate developers, yes, certainly the wave of some future, but it doesn't negate the old ones any more than HC-110 did 60 years ago. And they bring their own issues.

    And then, there are those of us who mix our own and have a lot of fun. With great results.
  29. I'm all in favour of mixing your own from old recipes.
  30. Is D76 not a lot older?
  31. In finding and looking over old literature than mentions DK-50, there are inconsistencies, if not outright contradictions on its suggested uses. Meaning, different films.

    And what's this "for portraits" that keeps cropping up? What developer isn't good for portraits.......or anything else? Probably talking sheet film back then.

    All the references I've found have been for 1:1 dilution. Was it ever used straight? (No chaser?????)

    I posted my experience with DK-50 and Plus-X in 2015 before I had to suddenly move and drop all things photo until now. https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/dk-50-still-alive-and-well.124365/

    What triggered my interest in DK-50 is that it was so different in composition, yet with the same old friends, and it was a major player for decades. Last suggested for Tri-X before it disappeared. Why Tri-X, of all things, having the heritage of being for sheet films? Equal amounts of Metol and HQ, sodium sulfite just enough to preserve and not bump it into "fine grain developer" category. How much "fine grain developer" do we need with modern emulsions? I suggest, not much, if ever.

    My observations from 2015: https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/dk-50-still-alive-and-well.124365/
  32. Those Kodak Darkroom Dataguides list both stock and 1:1 dilutions for DK-50.
    They don't do that for all developers.
    And as for recommendations for use for p0rtraits, when DK-50 was "current", portrait styles favoured certain types of lighting, and certain types of presentation - think Yousuf Karsh as an example.
    So a developer that leads to a particular type of shadow and highlight rendition, might very well be identified as being appropriate for portraits.
  33. That is where I was first given the opportunity to use it, when processing 1000s of sheets of film for a portrait studio
    so my experience is just that, controlled lighting in a portrait studio... not only bread+butter regular old boring formulaic lighting
    but hard core Karsh/Rembrant lighting.. I can't say what it will do or why people don't mention using it in other situations... I haven't used
    it since ( probably 1989 ) but it always worked well, ( a seasoned tank ) ...
  34. Possibly but DK-50 is a Metaborate rather than Borax buffered version of an older developer.

  35. In my surplus hoarding days, I picked up a bunch of cans of military surplus "MIL-D-4824, Type II", which is the same as DK-50. They're dated 1977 and still good. Made by GAF. Nice results at 1:1 dilution.
  36. That is the way we used it years ago. As I remember, using it 1:1 made a really nice developer. DK-50 was the developer of choice by most of the news photographers and other professionals hereabouts. I have a package around here. I should put it to work, especially on large format. Should work well at 1:1 with some ISO 320 4x5 film that I have........Regards!