Ilford FP4Plus in HC-110: mostly grey!

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jrong

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I processed my first ever film the other week - a roll of Ilford FP4 plus, rated at 125, in Kodak-HC110 developer, at the recommended time of 9mins, and inversions every 30 secs. Firstly, I had some problems with air bubbles despite thumping the tank after every inversion - large bubbles were visible on two frames, effectively ruining them. And the resultant negatives were somewhat unsharp after I scanned them in my film scanner, and mostly greys - not a very good tonal range at all. Some photos worked out better than others though. So my first developing experience turned out to be a bit of a dud and I am a bit apprehensive about trying it again on an important film. Is the greyness a characteristic of FP4 and should I be using something else, or is it the film+developer combination or something I did, or all of the above?

puzzled newbie,
Jin
<See some of the grey Ilford FP4 images here>
 

Sean

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I can't offer much advice, but hang in there! I had a similar problem in the early days but mine was fogging, and another time poorly mixed developer...
 
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jrong

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I should perhaps add that I used a friend's pre-mixed developer (who is an old hand at developing his own film) and he said HC110 could be reused a number of times. The lack of critical sharpness bothers me because I know its not down to focussing problems.
 

ann

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We have been using hc110 for over 30 years, ONLY AS A ONE SHOT DEVELOPER. the Fact that it was premixed and being re-used whould be a factor for me that to not use that batch. Everyone has their own "methods" but i would never suggest that combination of premix and reuse.

That combination of film and developer has been used quite often in our situtation with no problems.

Why not try it again using as a one shot developer and then decided for yourself?
 

ann

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oops forgot to mention , if you are going to re-use the developer you must start increasing the development times.

You could also try rating the film at 50 -64 rather than 125.

Also based on the times you are using solution "B"? They at the lower EI use 6 minutes for development.
 

Doug Bennett

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Amen to using HC-110 as a one-shot developer. I'd do this: go buy a fresh bottle of HC-110. Even though it lasts very well, your friend's concentrate could have gone bad. FP4 and HP5 are typically quite happy in this developer.

As to your photos: could it be that the light was not the best? It looks to be heavily overcast in the shots, which could cause the shots to lack any punch (i.e. "gray"). It's a delicate balance: a little overcast is great, but too much is too much. Try shooting during the "magic hours" on a sunny day and see what you get. In my experience, HC-110 is excellent for handling highlights. I like dilution H (see http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/hc110/index.html). Rate it at ISO 60 and develop for about 9 to 9.5 minutes.
 
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jrong

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Thanks for the responses so far. :smile: Yes, the HC100 was in dilution "B". I didn't think it was a problem because he'd been developing his film with the same developer and getting good and contrasty results. I will try again with a fresh batch and see.

The light certainly wasn't the best, it was overcast, as most wintry days in London are... I'm still searching for a BW film that can handle that sort of low-contrast, flat lighting reasonably well. It was the first time I tried Ilford FP4+ and I've heard mixed reviews about it. I'd used Delta 100 before in similar lighting and got better results there. Since it was the first time I'd processed film, I thought it might be premature for me to dismiss the film entirely and instead, question my development methods.

regards,
Jin
 

skahde

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Lots of good comments so far. I would just add that as a beginner it is hard to judge if a neg is to flat or to contrasty. If you want to get an impression if your development is in the right ballpark, get your camera and point it onto uniformly white or grey wall, piece of cardboard etc. *De*focus the lens. Make one exposure with the value your meter tells you when measuring that target (eg. 1/125, f 8 ), one with the lens closed down four stops (e.g 1/500 at f 16 ) and one with the lens opened three stops (e.g. 1/60 at f 4 ). Contact print this strip. Adjust the exposure in the darkroom that the overexposed frame is just discernible from unexposed white and adjust the gradation that the underexposed frame is just discernible from the clear film-base.

If the underexposed frame is not easily discernible from the film-base (on film), decrease you ASA-setting and start again. If you have to use a soft gradation to keep that frame discernible from the film-base (on paper) decrease development by 20% an start gain. If you need a hard gradation to get near-black increase development by 20%. If you get there with grad 2 or 3, you're fine.

Sounds more complicated than it is and can be done along the usual process of contacting printing for your record. It is *very* informative to have these three frames on every other film if you're not yet set with optimizing your exposure and development. Switching films and developers before you really get your feet wet with one combo is a slippery slope which distracts more from the creative parts of photography than some carefull crosschecks.

Wish I knew that when I started to work in the darkroom! Ooops, I start to sound like an old men here! Maybe it's time to face the truth :smile:

best

Stefan
 

Dimitri

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Can I ask what tank did you use and how much chemistry did you put in it.

Bubbles can be common if you use a two reel tank with only one reel in it and not the full amount of chemistry (as if you were developing two rolls).

Vigorous inversion can produce a lot of bubbles.
 

photomc

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Jin, one thing I have learned is there are LOTS of folks here that can help. May be post an image in one of the galleries (you can remove it later if you feel the need). Also, FP4+ is a very good 'old tech.' film, like Kodak Plus-X. Stick to the combo you are having a problem with and resolve it, you will be glad you did and will LEARN a great deal in the process. Read, re-read all the steps you will go through, make certain that the process area is light tight for film loading, and that the tank is light tight - lid is snug, not removed at wrong time etc. If the tank is plastic make sure there are no cracks in it.d

Last, developer is cheap - maybe not in price, but in terms of problems, just use it one-shot. I think most here do that and it removes the issue of the developer.

Again, check temp of the chemicals, check dilution of developer, check the tank for light leaks, and run some more film through.

Keep us posted, we have all been through these kinds of problems.

Good Luck,
 
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jrong

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Good points, Dmitri. I did use a two-reel tank with only one reel loaded. It was a plastic Paterson universal tank. Would it be better if I loaded it with both reels and the full amount of chemistry for 2 rolls, even though I am only developing one roll?

I'll also try not to re-use developer next time. I was using a friend's developer so I had no choice. I have a bottle of fresh Ilford DD-X. There is a link to some of the grey photos in my original post. Here is also a link to some photos with terrible contrast i.e "Pink Bouquet"
<<< Flora >>>

If you compare the FP4+ photos with the Agfa Scala ones, they are really bland, particularly Pink Bouquet, and the lighting conditions for each were not THAT different.

regards
Jin
 

Dimitri

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Jin, I always think that it is a good idea to follow the recommended way in using these tanks.

I use a Jobo and always use both reels, even if one is empty and the full amount of chemistry.

The reasoning is that all development times and liquid flow are calculated with the tank filled to the recommended level and with all the movable parts (reel, film) in. Otherwise the airgap is too much and there is less restriction to the flow when one reel is missing. The increased air space results in bubbles and the missing reel in faster fluid flow (and the chance of streaking).

Recently I moved from hand inversion to a Jobo CPE2+ and still I go for the recommended chem quantity even if only one reel is in the tank (fluid speed/turbulence being here the most important thing)

As for the difference between the FP4 and the Scala pictures, it could very well be problems with the dev gone bad. Why not give it another try with fresh dev and see how it goes.

As for re-using, I do it most of the time, but not up to the manufacturers recommended limit. Only up to the limit that no time increase is required (so maybe 2 or 3 times).
 

photomc

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Ann, you are correct - while it may be B&W it is still a slide film..does give some nice results, but I would hesitate to compare to a B&W print or neg.
 

glbeas

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ann said:
We have been using hc110 for over 30 years, ONLY AS A ONE SHOT DEVELOPER. the Fact that it was premixed and being re-used whould be a factor for me that to not use that batch. Everyone has their own "methods" but i would never suggest that combination of premix and reuse.

That combination of film and developer has been used quite often in our situtation with no problems.

Why not try it again using as a one shot developer and then decided for yourself?

If you use HC 110 and develop film every day or so the there is a real advantage to reuse and replenishment of the developer. As the soup ages and come to balance with the replenisher you will usually notice the grain is a bit finer and less harsh looking. For 35mm this is a plus. I used to soup film at the newspaper office every day with the stuff and can say there is quite a noticeable difference between the aged working developer and the fresh mix. Since I only do film every few weeks now I do a one shot with Rodinal. My efforts to use HC-110 one shot were very unsatisfactory, the stuff seemed to go bad on me pretty quick after opening the bottle. Do you do anything special to keep the syrup fresh Ann?
 

lee

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I never use HC110 as Kodak says. I pour out of the Kodak bottle and mix it 1 to 31. That seems to be the 1 to 4 then 1to7 ratio. IN the Kodak bottle, HC110 will seemingly last for ever. With a 1 to 31 mix it guarantees a fresh mix. Use this as one shot and you will be ok.
 

ann

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No we are not doing anything special. I have never done any real testing for re-use. Your experience sounds interesting.

On another note about HC 110. I was going to post this question.
Has anyone else noticed the color is paler and i don't think it is as thick as it use to be. I thought it was just me, but one of my advanced students made the same comment the other night.
 

Jim Chinn

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One extra comment on the air bubbles. You must bang the tank HARD on the counter or table top a couple of times to dislodge any bubbles.
 
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jrong

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Thanks for the links. I will definitely have a look.

My friend uses the HC110 developer regularly, and I think it was quite a "fresh" mix. I think he reuses it 4-5 times before dumping it, and anyway he developed another roll after I did mine, with much better results. It is making me neurotic. :wink: I do bang the tank hard, but I guess possibly not hard enough.

It's true, I shouldn't have made the comparison between Scala and FP4. It was just convenient because the photos were on the same page - but there are also glaring differences between the FP4 pictures and Delta 100. It is also possible that developing issues aside, I just don't like the characteristics of FP4, and that's a subjective thing. I tend to favour the tonal range of films like Neopan Acros, Agfa APX and Scala etc anyway.

Thanks for the thoughtful responses.
Jin
 

ann

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Use what you love and love what you use.

Have fun and enjoy your work.

And you are right on about the subjectivity of the differences. We can all go on and on and on with suggestions, etc. but the real test is what you want and are you getting the results you like.
 

ann

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Well, maybe, maybe not. As I am sure you are already aware there is no "magic bullet". However, that does not mean that we all don't try to find one (myself included).

i am also sure you have already been given the advice to stick with one combination until you really understand the results and how to control your materials. This includes the printing processes as well. However, you will probably (maybe or maybe not) reach a point were you are ready to try different options to create a different vision. When you reach that point just remember there are at least 10 different answers to one question answered by 5 "experts". Take it slow and test for yourself as the variables are huge and others can only share their experiences, altho valued they are not your experience.
 

Konical

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Ann,

In regard to HC-110: I don't know what time frame you have in mind, but the concentrate we have today is definitely less viscous than the HC-110 of twenty or twenty-five years ago. Incidentally, it has also lost the strong odor of the earlier stuff. Does anyone else remember the incredibly putrid smell it had back in the seventies or early eighties?

Lee,

You're absolutely correct about diluting directly from the concentrate. I don't know if it really makes any difference, but I shake and swirl the concentrate a little just before pouring out the small quantitiy for mixing. Stuck to a darkroom cabinet, I also have a small laminated card listing the various dilutions.

I much prefer T-Max developer for T-100 and T-400, but if you were forced to limit yourself to only one developer for almost any kind of film, the HC-110 would serve well.

Konical
 

lee

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Jin,
One other thing that may be important to reducing air bells is to load an empty reel in first on the bottom and then place the reel with the film on top. Then you have to have a full tank. I use metal reels and tanks and have used this method for many years. No air bells at all.

lee\c

Oh, with regards to mixing 1:31 use a pipette or some sort of measuring device that is more accurate than just "eye-balling" it. 1:31 is much more frugal in the long run than the way Kodak wants you to mix it.

l\c
 
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