Help newbie with Pushing Tri-X to 1600 with Microphen!

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sterioma

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Hi,

I am experimenting with pushing Tri-X to 1600: I am about to become father shortly, and I am planning to shoot some pictures inside the delivery room (is it the right name? :smile:).

Reading here and there, I have come to know that Microphen is a good choice for this type of application, so I have shot a sample roll inside my house at late evening trying to recreate the low-light conditions which I am going to face, and developed with Microphen (stock) for 16 min, as suggested by the Massive Dev Chart. Since there was no mention of agitation pattern, I "guessed" for 30 seconds initial agitation followed by 3 inversions every two minutes.

The result: the negatives look quite contrasty. I knew that pushing a film will inevitably raise the contrast, but I am wondering: are the results normal (that is, is this as good as it can get?), or can I expect better results maybe cutting the development time a little?

See the attachment for an example (shot inside the house with weak tungsten light): in the background there was a yellowish sofa which cannot be seen. This is not very different from other shots with low window light, just maybe a bit more "extreme".

If it's relevant, I have used my Nikon F100 using Center-Weighted metering (I didn't want to mess with the spot since I anticipate I won't have much time to calculate exposure in that situation...).
 

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NikoSperi

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I don't know Microphen, but to be perfectly honest, I think you can get much better results. I use HC110 with 400TX at up to 3200, and have a longer tonal range than your scan. This appears to me over developed. I don't have any samples scanned to show for 1600 or higher, but can offer 800.

In bocca al lupo for the big day!
 

Paul Howell

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My recommendation is to use DinaFine or Acufine if you can find either one. The other option is to Tmax 3200 at 1600.

Reagrds

Paul
 

jon furer

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I'd suggest Ilford Delta 3200, at ei 2400, DDX 1:4 for 11min at 68F. Good contrast, better grain than your example, IMHO.
 

Bob Carnie

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I don't think there is anything wrong with the combination you mention. Maybe try adjusting your development time or agitation cycle to reduce some of the contrast, as long as you are getting adequete shawdow detail you can bring down the highlights by less dev, or softer agitation.
congradulations by the way
 

kaiyen

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I shoot TXT at 1600 in Microphen quite a bit. I think my results are a bit less contrasty than yours. The only difference I have from your method is that I agitate only 1x every three minutes. That shouldn't account for a huge contrast difference, but here and here are some examples. Those are of my in-laws' dog.

I also have inanimate-subject stuff from ST. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC as well.

One thought is that perhaps the metering technique is pushing the skin tone too bright. You might consider setting it to spot, with a +1-ish exposure compensation, and AE-locking on the skin. I've found this to be a sufficiently fast technique that it works well in concert situations. You're going to lose a lot of shadow detail anyway, so you might as well focus on keeping the skin highlights in the right place.

A random question - is that a scan from print or negative?

allan
 
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sterioma

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Everybody,

thank you for your comments. The fact that better results than the one I showed can be obtained is somehow comforting.

I'm afraid I won't be able to get (and try) other combinations of film/developers in time. Also, neither Acufine nor Diafine are readily available around here, so I have to stick with what I have right now (but I might try that for the next time, who knows :tongue:). So, Niko thank you for your offer to share examples with HC-110, but I don't think I can get that too quickly....

kaiyen said:
I shoot TXT at 1600 in Microphen quite a bit. I think my results are a bit less contrasty than yours. The only difference I have from your method is that I agitate only 1x every three minutes.
Allan, thanks for sharing your examples. They really look closer to what I was expecting from my test. I have a few questions, though: isn't agitating only once every 3 minutes prone to uneven development due to too little agitation? (remember I am just a beginner, so this might be a dumb question :smile:). How much do you agitate at the beginning? Also, are you developing for 16 minutes?

kaiyen said:
One thought is that perhaps the metering technique is pushing the skin tone too bright. You might consider setting it to spot, with a +1-ish exposure compensation, and AE-locking on the skin.
I am not sure whether this is the same thing you are referring to, but I usually use spot metering and put the skin at +1 (or Zone VI if you prefer) when I have the time do so and I got good results (TriX @320 13 min). I was just hoping that center-weighted would have been enough to get acceptable results, but maybe that is not the case....

kaiyen said:
A random question - is that a scan from print or negative?
It's a scan from a negative. I don't do my own printing, I usually send my negatives to a lab (or, when I am less interested in the quality, to a digital printing service). Last night I examined the negatives and there wasn't much more detail there than the scanner has been able to pull out.
 
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kaiyen

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sterioma said:
Allan, thanks for sharing your examples. They really look close to what I was expecting from my test. I have a few questions, though: isn't agitating only once every 3 minutes prone to uneven development due to too little agitation? (remember I am just a beginner, so this might be a dumb question :smile:). How much do you agitate at the beginning? Also, are you developing for 16 minutes?

Yes, for 16 minutes. Straight Microphen, 30 seconds initial, 1 inversion at 1 minute, then 1 every 3 minutes from there.

I have not had any signs of uneven development with my agitation technique.
I guess I'm agitating just enough to keep that from happening. Then again, somehow folks can do extermely dilute Rodinal for 3 hours and they get even development anyway.

I am not sure whether this is the same thing you are referring to, but I usually use spot metering and put the skin at +1 (or Zone VI if you prefer) when I have the time do so and I got good results (TriX @320 13 min). I was just hoping that center-weighted would have been enough to get acceptable results, but maybe that is not the case....

Your zone placement is kind of what I was suggesting, but just via a faster method. As you say, there isn't enough time to do proper metering and placement. But if you know that you want the skin in zone VI, and that you are going to lose shadow detail anyway (making the usual "meter for the shadows" idea rather moot), I think you can get away by spot-metering on the skin with a +1 compensation. Just lock exposure, recompose, and fire. Just an idea, though. Ive only used that technique a few times.

It's a scan from a negative. I don't do my own printing, I usually send my negatives to a lab (or, when I am less interested in the quality, to a digital printing service). Last night I examined the negatives and there wasn't much more detail there than the scanner has been able to pull out.

did you have these developed at a lab or did you do them?

I don't get particularly thin negatives at all when I do them this way. I would be surprised if my agitation regimen caused that much of a difference by itself - I'm _thinking_ that the metering technique would also help (again, the dog was dark, so I was comfortable leaving it in zone 5-ish, which made my situation much easier).

allan
 
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sterioma

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kaiyen said:
did you have these developed at a lab or did you do them?
I do my own development (but I have done only 20 rolls so far, more or less) . This is the first time I have tried pushing Tri-X and used a developer different than Rodinal (didn't have the need for, before).

kaiyen said:
I don't get particularly thin negatives at all when I do them this way. I would be surprised if my agitation regimen caused that much of a difference by itself - I'm _thinking_ that the metering technique would also help
Yes, I would also be surprised if agitation alone could cause this much of a difference. Probably it's a combination of factors (agitation, metering technique, subject matter,...). I will shoot another test roll this weekend trying to reduce the agitations (and maybe development time a bit), and using both center-weighted and spot metering to see whether I can get better results.


One thing I forgot to ask: do you think that tungsten light can make a difference compared to low window light?
 

kaiyen

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sterioma said:
One thing I forgot to ask: do you think that tungsten light can make a difference compared to low window light?

I know that tungsten light affects EI, but I forget which way. I think film is less sensitive under tungsten (meaning you'd need to expose are a lower EI to get the same shadow detail as the higher EI). Regardless, since you aren't going to get much shadow detail anyway, the fact that you'll get a little less under tungsten than you would under natural light isn't going to be much of an effective difference.

allan
 

Donald Qualls

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kaiyen said:
I know that tungsten light affects EI, but I forget which way. I think film is less sensitive under tungsten (meaning you'd need to expose are a lower EI to get the same shadow detail as the higher EI).

That depends on the film. Most B&W films are Type B panchromatic, very slightly less sensitive to red than to blue and green, and as such most lose about 1/3 stop under tungsten light (negligible in most situations). My experience suggests T-Max films may have very slightly extended red sensitivity and as such lose little or no speed under normal tungsten light (though they might still lose up to 1/3 stop from low wattage or dimmed lights with reduced color temperature). Type A films (typified by Efke 25, a so-called "orthopanchromatic" emulsion) have significantly reduced red sensitivity and will lose more speed under tungsten, and more still with lower color temperature; Efke 25, IIRC, loses a full stop in ordinary room lighting (as opposed to higher temperature studio lighting). Type C films have extended red sensitivity -- Tech Pan and aerographic films such as the Plus-X Aero often to be found on eBay are in this class -- and some, such as Tech Pan, actually show higher speed in tungsten light than in daylight. IR films can show this, too, since tungsten light is typically rich in infrared compared to daylight or fluorescent lighting.

And of course the true orthochromatic films (Maco makes one, I think, ORT25) exhibit extreme speed loss in the relatively yellow light of incandescent filaments.
 
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sterioma

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Allan, Donald,

thanks for your explanations. It's good to know that tungsten lights will make very little difference with Tri-X (I am planning to shoot also some colour shots with Kodak Portra 800NC, but I understand that that is a completely different story...)
 

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sterioma said:
....I would also be surprised if agitation alone could cause this much of a difference. Probably it's a combination of factors (agitation, metering technique, subject matter,...)...

Part of the improvement in one's negatives with experience is in things like agitation. There are many debates about this, but for what it's worth, I chose my agitation technique according to the old instructions for Acufine (which is somewhat like Microphen) which specified that the agitation should be quite gentle. I rotate the tank twice end-over-end so that the liquid circulates, but not more. I move the tank around something like 60 degrees between each revolution so that next time the direction is randomized. In a development period as long as yours I would definitely not agitate once a minute. More like every 2 minutes. Less agitation can enhance shadow detail a little.

Don't forget that you can do some test rolls after the baby is born but before you do the precious roll of the birth.

Good luck.
 
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sterioma

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john_s said:
I rotate the tank twice end-over-end so that the liquid circulates, but not more. I move the tank around something like 60 degrees between each revolution so that next time the direction is randomized.
If I understood correctly, you don't do any inversion (meaning the tank is always vertical): you just rotate the tank around it's vertical axis, is it?

john_s said:
In a development period as long as yours I would definitely not agitate once a minute. More like every 2 minutes.
Actually, in my first attempt (which the attachment refers to) I guessed to agitate every 2 minutes (3 times). But maybe my agitation has been too harsh.

john_s said:
Don't forget that you can do some test rolls after the baby is born but before you do the precious roll of the birth.
Yes, that's something to take into consideration: in fact, yesterday I have bought another package of Microphen (the last one on the shelf!), planning to do some more test than I had first anticipated.
 

kaiyen

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Well, in my comments about agitation, I do a very, very gentle inversion with a slight rotation. Basically, I rotate on a horizontal axis slowly, while also rotating my wrist. It's kind of hard to describe, but I think if you actually take your hand and rotate it so that your thumb moves both left to right and forward and backward, you get the idea. It's not like it's rocket science or anything.

And it should take about 3 seconds to do one inversion. So it's pretty gentle. Then one solid but not overly violent rap on the table top to dislodge bubbles.

I have managed to hoard quite a bit of the 2.5 L packs of microphen. There are still a lot in the local store, and I bought 5 packs at Gasser's in SF the other day (leaving them only 2...). Is it really becoming that rare?

allan
 

john_s

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sterioma said:
If I understood correctly, you don't do any inversion (meaning the tank is always vertical): you just rotate the tank around it's vertical axis, is it?

I didn't explain it well. Each agitation is 2 inversions. They are complete roll overs. Since the liquid tends to remain stationary, I look at it as if the film is being rotated through the somewhat sationary liquid. By rolling over, rather than tippping upside down and then back again, I think I'm moving the liquid around in the tank to equalize developer waste products (or whatever they are). I don't suppose it's too critical with a strong developer like Microphen, but one thing I'm sure of is that differences in agitation make a big difference to developing time for the same contrast. For example, Sandy King in his instructions for Pyrocat-HD suggests as a starting time for minimal agitation a 50% increase in developing time over normal agitation.
 
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sterioma

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Guys,

I have developed a new roll last night with an agitation pattern very close to what John has described (one gentle 360° inversion every two minutes and 60° "shift" between agitations to randomize). I have slightly cut the development time to 15'30'' and used spot metering on the skin with +1 compensation.
The negatives still look a bit contrasty, but maybe a hair less than the previous attempt. It seems that those shot inside with artificial light (tungsten) are the most contrasty, while those shot in available light are more "controlled".

As soon as I will have some scan I will post them.
 
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sterioma

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And here's a scan from the second roll: as you can see, the improvement hasn't been substantial from my previous attempt.

What is funny is that I seem to have a lot detail where I need it the least, that is in the shadows, while the textures of the skin are almost completely blocked.

I guess I am going to give it one my try, putting the skin in Zone V and cutting the development time to 13' max.

After that, if I won't be satisfied, I think it's time to explore other options (like Delta 3200 at 1600).
 

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NikoSperi

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Too many cooks will spoil the soup... but I'm gonna throw in the last opinion. Change nothing in terms of exposure. Reduced development time by 25% - dilute more if times get too short.
 

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If you MUST go with a TRI-X roll in the delivery room (it is the right name), then develop it with XTOL (dil. 1:1). However you can also use Fuji Neopan 1600 as 1600 or even as 3200, develop it with XTOL/Microphen/HC 110 with amazing results

Here's a sample of Neopan 1600 (+1 stop), developed with XTOL 1:1 and scaned with a Minolta Elite 5400

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)
 

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sterioma

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Here I am again :smile:

I have made another test roll; everything else being the same, I have cut the development time to 12 minutes.

You can see one result in the attachment (spot-metered on the skin with +1/2 stop compensation). Far from being perfect, this look much better to me. The details in the shadows have been severely reduced, but the skin is more natural and that's the part I am more concerned of.
 

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Donald Qualls

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Well, if you have the contrast you want, you can increase the shadow detail by exposing more (which is at the root of many photographers rating films significantly below the ISO speed on the box); that may require a small further reduction in development to prevent the shadows blocking at the higher exposure.

Congratulations -- you've rediscovered the controversy that has swirled around the re-rating of films (upward, about one stop) when ASA changed their testing methods around 1960. Forty-five years later, the ferment still hasn't really stopped -- some, like me, can shoot at box speed and get the level of detail they want in the shadows; others (for one reason or another) find they need to derate the film anywhere from 1/3 to 1 stop (very rarely more with a few speed-losing developers).
 
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sterioma

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Donald Qualls said:
Well, if you have the contrast you want...
Donald,
actually I think something could still be improved in the local contrast in the mid-tones. If you look at the pic, you can see that there seems to be an abrupt variation of tones on the skin (look how the knuckles stand out from the rest of the fingers for example, or the lateral side of the face compared with the central one).

You can increase the shadow detail by exposing more (which is at the root of many photographers rating films significantly below the ISO speed on the box); that may require a small further reduction in development to prevent the shadows blocking at the higher exposure.
Can you clarify this point a bit more? It's not clear to me how reducing the development might improve the shadow detail. I would have expected the contrary. Am I missing something here? :confused:
 

Bob Carnie

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Hi There
This attachment looks good to me, you have nice skin detail and the shawdows are falling where I would imagine a 2 stop push with triX would be. I imagine there is more detail in the actual print. I think you are very close to your balance.
How long before the big event?
 

kaiyen

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sterioma said:
Can you clarify this point a bit more? It's not clear to me how reducing the development might improve the shadow detail. I would have expected the contrary. Am I missing something here? :confused:

Donald isn't saying that reducing development time will increase shadows. You expose more to get more shadows, but then you have to reduce dev time to compensate for the increased exposure in the highlights (or you'll blow them out).

allan
 
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