Just discovered Barry Thornton's developers. Would Exactol Lux work well with Fomapan 100 in 135 format?

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jodad

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Just discovered Barry Thornton’s developers. Would Exactol Lux work well with Fomapan 100 in 135 format?

I shoot the Fomapan 100 at iso 50 and 100. Hoping this will tame down the grain a little.

I also shoot HP5. Usually at 400 or 320 but occasionally at 1600 and 3200.
 

Paul Howell

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I've used Thornton's developers with Tmax 100, although not as fine grained as Tmax Foma 100 should not show excessive grain. I found that TriX and Foma 400 in 35mm were just too grainy for my taste.
 
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Just discovered Barry Thornton’s developers. Would Exactol Lux work well with Fomapan 100 in 135 format?

I shoot the Fomapan 100 at iso 50 and 100. Hoping this will tame down the grain a little.

I also shoot HP5. Usually at 400 or 320 but occasionally at 1600 and 3200.

Exactol Lux is another variation of the Pyro developer. It's ability to "mask" grain on 35mm format will be very limited. Grain size is baked into the film, and there's only so much a developer can do to change that. Solvent developers (of the D-76 class) will give what appears to be finer grain, but always at a cost (less sharpness).

If you want less grainy results in the 100 speed film class, choose either Tmax or Delta films. Fomapan 100 is very grainy for its speed.
And if you rate HP5 at speeds above 400 ASA, all you are going to do is exaggerate the grain.
 
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jodad

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I don’t understand a couple of these comments. Or perhaps all the related “advertising” and some forum posts are incorrect/lies? Whatever I found on Exactol (not much really) was that it was a developer that gave very fine grained results and managed still to balance grain and acutance, to the point that (other than just because of its ability to give good tonality) that it was perfect for fine art B&W photography.

I’d understand that to mean that the developer gives these results generally (more than another developer for example) rather than just if using a fine grained film specifically.

Is this advertising/these accounts false?
 

koraks

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One problem with how B&W developers are often discussed is that lots of (lofty) qualifications are attached to it, but not much in the way of objective measurement or comparison. It's neither advertising, nor lies, necessarily.

Imagine this: you're a reasonably proficient B&W photographer with an interest in pictures and enough darkroom experience to mix up a developer if the instructions are provided. Not only that - you actually enjoy the aspect of handling chemicals and making something by yourself. It's fun! So in an adventurous mood, you mix up a developer, develop some film in it and...the negatives are glorious! Every scene just seems to glow, the light is golden even though the film is B&W, and the grain...oh, the grain is there, but it's the most beautiful, fine pattern....so you go online and post an enthusiastic 'review' of this developer, because surely, it must have been this magic soup that gave such a convincing result. Trying to put your subjective experience of these gorgeous images into words, you speak of things like "tight and well-controlled grain", "a beautiful rendering of the tonal scale" and some other statements rich in well-chosen adjectives.

But what, actually, does it mean? Maybe you nailed the exposure a little better than you did last time. Maybe the photos were of your freshly-arrived grandchildren and even if you had recorded them on an early model Sony Mavica they would have 'glowed' to you. And maybe the negatives are really fine - but not necessarily much better than if you had developed them in D76 or some other profoundly boring developer.

However, the glowing praise of this developer remains on record, and it turns up in the search results every time someone keys in "Billy Anchovis grainulator developer experience".

Evidently, there are differences between developers. The main problem is, that 98% of what we read about developers online is barely or not at all substantiated by objective testing, or even subjective side-by-side comparisons. And even if it is, there's still the issue that one person's "glowing tonal scale" is another person's "chalk and soot", or that the massive enlargement of a quarter square inch of mid-grey grain (we need to isolate that and study it, after all) says little about how the entire negative looks when printed at a normal enlargement.

This is not to disqualify Thornton's or anyone else's work. Neither is it intended to discourage you from trying different developers. It's just a gentle reminder of the sometimes prosaic realities of how people talk about their hobbies. We get carried away, sometimes. Q.E.D.!
 

pentaxuser

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jodad, it might be worthwhile for you to look at the video below The presenter John Finch develops and then prints from the negative using Barry Thornton's 2 bath developer. What he has to say about the advantages of 2 bath,why the amount of sodium sulphite is what it is and the times to use may be instructive for you. Some of the comments on the video may be worth reading as well

If the advantages of 2 bath for your film do not prove to be enough to tame the grain as you want it to be tamed then D23 may be the way to go

Here it is:

pentaxuser
 
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jodad

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jodad, it might be worthwhile for you to look at the video below The presenter John Finch develops and then prints from the negative using Barry Thornton's 2 bath developer. What he has to say about the advantages of 2 bath,why the amount of sodium sulphite is what it is and the times to use may be instructive for you. Some of the comments on the video may be worth reading as well

If the advantages of 2 bath for your film do not prove to be enough to tame the grain as you want it to be tamed then D23 may be the way to go

Here it is:

pentaxuser


Thanks for the video link. I came across it but wasn’t sure that it was suitable for my investigation because is Thornton’s “2 bath developer” the same thing/another name for his Exactol lux? I read that the 2 bath formula was a precursor to Diexactol while Exactol lux is his newest formula, newer than Diexactol.

Or am I really confused?
 
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jodad

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One problem with how B&W developers are often discussed is that lots of (lofty) qualifications are attached to it, but not much in the way of objective measurement or comparison. It's neither advertising, nor lies, necessarily.

Imagine this: you're a reasonably proficient B&W photographer with an interest in pictures and enough darkroom experience to mix up a developer if the instructions are provided. Not only that - you actually enjoy the aspect of handling chemicals and making something by yourself. It's fun! So in an adventurous mood, you mix up a developer, develop some film in it and...the negatives are glorious! Every scene just seems to glow, the light is golden even though the film is B&W, and the grain...oh, the grain is there, but it's the most beautiful, fine pattern....so you go online and post an enthusiastic 'review' of this developer, because surely, it must have been this magic soup that gave such a convincing result. Trying to put your subjective experience of these gorgeous images into words, you speak of things like "tight and well-controlled grain", "a beautiful rendering of the tonal scale" and some other statements rich in well-chosen adjectives.

But what, actually, does it mean? Maybe you nailed the exposure a little better than you did last time. Maybe the photos were of your freshly-arrived grandchildren and even if you had recorded them on an early model Sony Mavica they would have 'glowed' to you. And maybe the negatives are really fine - but not necessarily much better than if you had developed them in D76 or some other profoundly boring developer.

However, the glowing praise of this developer remains on record, and it turns up in the search results every time someone keys in "Billy Anchovis grainulator developer experience".

Evidently, there are differences between developers. The main problem is, that 98% of what we read about developers online is barely or not at all substantiated by objective testing, or even subjective side-by-side comparisons. And even if it is, there's still the issue that one person's "glowing tonal scale" is another person's "chalk and soot", or that the massive enlargement of a quarter square inch of mid-grey grain (we need to isolate that and study it, after all) says little about how the entire negative looks when printed at a normal enlargement.

This is not to disqualify Thornton's or anyone else's work. Neither is it intended to discourage you from trying different developers. It's just a gentle reminder of the sometimes prosaic realities of how people talk about their hobbies. We get carried away, sometimes. Q.E.D.!

Thanks Koraks. I have considered this. Actually I had hoped that someone had done some side by side testing and in fact, I had assumed that such claims (at least the official claims made by BT and his resellers/reformulators) would have been based on some substantial testing.

I’ll post another comment further below.
 
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jodad

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I had actually originally considered Xtol for its widely touted smooth grain but was put off by the fact that it was a powder and didn’t have a particular long life. When I discovered that Exactol lux was fine grained (allegedly) and was a syrup and easy to make a working solution from, I was quite pleased and excited.

Little disappointed at this point I must say.

I suppose replenished Xtol it’s going to have to be…
 
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I had actually originally considered Xtol for its widely touted smooth grain but was put off by the fact that it was a powder and didn’t have a particular long life. When I discovered that Exactol lux was fine grained (allegedly) and was a syrup and easy to make a working solution from, I was quite pleased and excited.

Little disappointed at this point I must say.

I suppose replenished Xtol it’s going to have to be…

No need to be disappointed - at least not yet.
If you want to explore alternative developer recipes to fund one that gives a result you like, that’s great. But I highly recommend that you approach it systematically and with rigorous method. I often try a new (to me) developer to compare and evaluate how it interacts with the films I use, but it’s important to employ the compare part of the process! Here’s what I suggest:

Take a roll of your chosen film (Fomapan 100, if that’s what you generally prefer) and expose an entire roll of the same scene (choose a scene that remains consistently lit for the duration of the roll, to eliminate variation in exposure as much as possible).

Next, select two or more developers that you want to compare, cut a section of film off that exposed roll (at least 8-10” of film) and develop it in the first developer. Do the same for every other developer you want to evaluate. Scan (or print, if you’re doing this test for darkroom purposes) each sample and evaluate the results. This is the only meaningful way to determine if a developer has properties that will give you the results you seek. I do this whenever I adopt a new film; most recently I bought some 120 rolls of Adox CHS 100 II and I needed to find a way to expose and develop it to suit my needs. I exposed two rolls and processed the sample pieces in several different developers, including Mytol, Thornton 2-bath, FX-15, PMK, and BER49. I got a chance to see how this film behaves in a range of developers, and choose what works for me. (None of these gave poor results, but grain characteristics, contrast, and film speed varied some)

I’ll see if I can post a comparison image of two developers, side by side so you can see what I observed.

So I suggest you go ahead and try Exactol Lux, but do a comparison test with at least one other developer, and see for yourself what the film performs like in different recipes.

And I have to concur with what Kodak’s said - developers cannot perform magic, the differences - grain size, acutance, tonal scale, speed etc. are all baked into the film type, and your choice of developer is only going to modify these properties with modest affect.
 

Dali

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Just discovered Barry Thornton’s developers. Would Exactol Lux work well with Fomapan 100 in 135 format?

Why don't you try to get the answer?
 
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jodad

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Why don't you try to get the answer?

Because purchasing the dev and having it delivered to me won’t be a cheap endeavour. I’d rather seek others experience, if it’s available, in an attempt to mitigate the chances that i waste my money on an experiment that yields unsatisfactory results.

Still fair point. At this point, and taking into account Retina Restoration’s suggestion and method above, it looks like I will have to suck it and see.
 
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jodad

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No need to be disappointed - at least not yet.
If you want to explore alternative developer recipes to fund one that gives a result you like, that’s great. But I highly recommend that you approach it systematically and with rigorous method. I often try a new (to me) developer to compare and evaluate how it interacts with the films I use, but it’s important to employ the compare part of the process! Here’s what I suggest:

Take a roll of your chosen film (Fomapan 100, if that’s what you generally prefer) and expose an entire roll of the same scene (choose a scene that remains consistently lit for the duration of the roll, to eliminate variation in exposure as much as possible).

Next, select two or more developers that you want to compare, cut a section of film off that exposed roll (at least 8-10” of film) and develop it in the first developer. Do the same for every other developer you want to evaluate. Scan (or print, if you’re doing this test for darkroom purposes) each sample and evaluate the results. This is the only meaningful way to determine if a developer has properties that will give you the results you seek. I do this whenever I adopt a new film; most recently I bought some 120 rolls of Adox CHS 100 II and I needed to find a way to expose and develop it to suit my needs. I exposed two rolls and processed the sample pieces in several different developers, including Mytol, Thornton 2-bath, FX-15, PMK, and BER49. I got a chance to see how this film behaves in a range of developers, and choose what works for me. (None of these gave poor results, but grain characteristics, contrast, and film speed varied some)

I’ll see if I can post a comparison image of two developers, side by side so you can see what I observed.

So I suggest you go ahead and try Exactol Lux, but do a comparison test with at least one other developer, and see for yourself what the film performs like in different recipes.

And I have to concur with what Kodak’s said - developers cannot perform magic, the differences - grain size, acutance, tonal scale, speed etc. are all baked into the film type, and your choice of developer is only going to modify these properties with modest affect.

Thanks Retina Restoration, it seems this is simply what I am going to have to do.
 
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jodad

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Since I am going to have to run some tests and experiments, may I ask: what would you suggest I test alongside Exactol Lux if seeking a good balance between fine grain and acutance on what is a relatively grainy film stock.

I suppose I should try get a single dose of Xtol from someone in my town to test alongside.

Anything else?
 

Paul Howell

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Thanks.
Specifically with BT’s developers or do you mean generally as film stock?

With BH developers, I shoot a lot of Foma 400 as my walk around film. On the other hand 6X9 Foma 400 is quite nice, gain of course is not a problem. For many years I used Edwal 12 and MCM 100, replenished, only reason I switched was cost, MCM is up to $48 (U.S) a gallon. Might buy another batch of BT developer for MF.
 
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jodad

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With BH developers, I shoot a lot of Foma 400 as my walk around film. On the other hand 6X9 Foma 400 is quite nice, gain of course is not a problem. For many years I used Edwal 12 and MCM 100, replenished, only reason I switched was cost, MCM is up to $48 (U.S) a gallon. Might buy another batch of BT developer for MF.

Thanks Paul. May I ask, which of the Barry Thornton developers did you use with the foma 400?
 
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Thanks Retina Restoration, it seems this is simply what I am going to have to do.
If you want meaningful, personalized data about the films you work with and how you use them, this is the least painful, most direct route to it. You could flounder for months (or years), playing around with developer formulas others have suggested, only to find that little of what you learned was of any value to you.

Personalized experience is priceless. Investing in solid testing now will save you a lot of pain (and money) in the future. I suggest you embrace the chance to get it right at the start, rather than waste resources chasing "maybes".

Since I am going to have to run some tests and experiments, may I ask: what would you suggest I test alongside Exactol Lux if seeking a good balance between fine grain and acutance on what is a relatively grainy film stock.

I suppose I should try get a single dose of Xtol from someone in my town to test alongside.

Anything else?

As I said earlier, Exactol Lux is one of many Pyro recipes. I seriously doubt - in spite of the reverence for it evident in the datasheet - that it is significantly better than any other Pyro formula. But hey, try it and find out for yourself. No developer is going to significantly affect the size/structure of a film's grain - it's baked in to the film.

Xtol (or home-made Mytol) is an excellent developer: it delivers one the best ratios of speed, grain and acutance compared to many other "standard" developers. But it is also known for giving negatives with relatively "soft contrast", which some photographers find unsatisfying. Again, it depends on what you want your images to look like.

There are basically two types of developers: acutance developers, and solvent developers. The former give sharp results, but often at the expense of the appearance of the grain. IE: grain appears more coarse. Rodinal is a classic acutance developer. Solvent developers, such as D-76 have a lot of sulfite in them, which dissolves the edges of the silver grains as the development proceeds and redeposits the silver on the grain, making it appear finer-grained, but at the expense of sharpness.

Very few developers strike an ideal balance between these traits. The Pyro "staining" developers have an advantage, in that part of the image density on the negative is from pyrogallol stain, not the silver grain itself. This has the effect of masking the grain somewhat, making it appear finer - more discreet. (Because Pyro developers harden the emulsion as development proceeds, it also enhances edge effects, making images appear sharper: a bonus effect!) The Exactol Lux is (apparently, according to the MSDS data) a recipe that uses Catechol, one of the Pyro agents (which is what is used in Pyrocat HD as well), so you can expect Exactol Lux to share many of the same traits as other Pyro recipes: some potential loss of film speed (up to 1/2 stop), masking of the grain by staining action, and improved sharpness. If that sounds good to you, then get some and experiment with it. You won't know until you've tried it and (preferably) compared it with at least one other developer.

That said, let me show you a two developer comparison test I did recently, working with Adox's new CHS 100 II in 120 format (this is a classic grain type 100 speed film), exposed at 50 ASA with a bit of half stop bracketing. I developed half of a roll in Bergger BER49, and half in PMK (pyro). Here's a screen shot A/B comparison of the raw scan of the two frames I chose to compare (selected for equivalent average density):


CHS 100 II, full scan

And here are two detail A/B comparisons of the same scans at 100%:

full size #1

Full size #2

These are two very different developers, with very different recipes and characteristics. And yet you can see that they have minimal effect on how the resulting negatives look. There are subtle differences in the size/structure of the grain and sharpness, and slight contrast differences. But in the grand scheme of things, you could easily choose either negative to work with and get good results.

Truth is, there are no "bad choices" when it comes to developers. But knowing how a specific developer behaves with a specific film is valuable, and only you can make choices that will get you to the results you want, and that is achieved by testing.
 
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