My 510-Pyro Adventures Have Begun!

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Andrew O'Neill

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With developing Pyro developers I have always used TF 4 for fixer as I do not like the way TF 5 turns black after using it a few times.

Mine hasn't turned black, even after several sheets went through it... it is sort of greyish, though.
 

Dennis S

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Went through 1 ltr of TF 5 over time and it blackened after fixing Orwo,Fomapan,GP 3 or Kodak 5222. Turned darker and darker but it fixed the film properly. Was just using Vancouver water which is the best I have ever used without filtration so I just returned to TF 4 and it comes out like it should. I only use a water stop so that that is recommended by most people I follow.
 

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I'm curious what starts you folks down the path of "funky" developers. is it cost, shelf life, fun with chemistry, getting the most out of a given film or specific to the final print? Do I need to sit down and actually read my Film Developers Cookbook ? I'm not trying to pick on anyone at all, I'm 100% curious.
 

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For me, it's a combination of things. Plain curiosity what the hubbub is all about, and having fun with chemistry are factors. When it comes to staining developers, it's mostly because they really do work very well for contact printing alt. process UV-sensitive materials; the pyro stain adds significant UV density. And sometimes it's just to get the desirable properties of an existing product in the market without its drawbacks; for instance instant mytol is an xtol clone that I can mix up in the quantity I need, on the spot, without having to buy and mix a quantity that a manufacturer decided would be good for me, only to have the remainder go bad/doubtful. The dry components last for ages, so I've always got perfectly consistent, fresh product. Finally, there's a cost factor as well sometimes, although it's of secondary importance to me.
 

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@koraks Thank you for that. That's a clear and concise answer to my question. I haven't dabbled in alternative processes much; I can see how many of them could be as much about fun with chemistry as imagery.
 

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It was by no means a scientific test, however the fixer went in clear and came out with a brown tint. Proof is in the printing. I haven't been able to get the negatives under the enlarger yet.

If it helps I use Ilford RapidFix and it doesn't colour after using 510 Pyro. The water wash stop bath after developing does need to be a good one though, I use a shortened version of the Ilford wash method using three changes of water with, five, ten, and fifteen inversions respectively. If you don't get rid of all the developer it won't be strong enough to continue developing but it will continue to oxidise.

As for @MTGseattle 's question about 'why', well I hate using any developer for fun, I like to know I'm going to get a reliable and consistent negative and that is what 510 Pyro can do. I've been using it since about 2014 and I have failed, the film has failed, but the developer has never failed. And it's also pretty good, not for absolutely every type of film, but a very broad range, and it gives the classic look that I like, well controlled highlights, rich mid-tones, and detailed shadows, and fine grain of course. I feel it works a bit better with medium format as I don't think 35mm is all about rich tones and fine grain, but with the right fine grained film even 35mm can shine when using it.
 
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MTGseattle

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@250swb Thank you for that as well. I did one semester of film testing. Densitometry and the whole 9, but I only tested 2 films and 2 developers. It was also while in college, so I erred on the side of continual and easy availability with minimal cost increase (compared against the Arista edu stuff of the time). I've known that some of the "odd" formulations can help rescue portions of an image if you think you missed on your exposure. It's funny, now that I've had a couple of answers to my question, I can think of more reasons to stray from off-the-shelf as I type this.
 

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I'm curious what starts you folks down the path of "funky" developers. is it cost, shelf life, fun with chemistry, getting the most out of a given film or specific to the final print? Do I need to sit down and actually read my Film Developers Cookbook ? I'm not trying to pick on anyone at all, I'm 100% curious.
In the eighties I used to change developer types a lot, looking for the magical elixir.
Downside was the amount of film that I shot was nowhere near the amount of different developers I had on the shelf.
Consequently, a lot of expired developers, and money went down the drains.

After returning from a long break in darkroom work, I had all the gear still, but not a lot of spare cash at the time.
After a bit more pouring stale chemicals down the drain I looked into home brew developers, and have not bought any commercially made in years.
At the beginning of the UK Covid lockdowns and siege mentality taking hold, most sane people raided the food shops, not me, it was raw chemicals, paper and ready made fixer.
Some of the fixer did go off, so now I make my own.

Although a lot of chemistry is not available in the UK or difficult to find, it is comforting to know I won't be short of developers, stops and fixers on a long Bank Holiday.

I think a busy professional would not have time for the relaxing process of weighing and mixing.

I have stuck with home brewed 510Pyro for about eighteen months.

I must admit, there is half a bottle of Rodinal at the back of the cupboard, and I think the way things are going with the 510Pyro I may be one of the few people to have Rodinal go stale on me.
 
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Andrew O'Neill

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My long standing film/dev combination has been HP5 and Pyrocat-HD (for conventional film). But, I'm always willing to try HP5 with a staining developer that is new to me. As a teacher, I feel obligated to share my results. I do dabble with other films and developers to see if its characteristics are to my liking. In this day and age, I think it's wise to have more than one film/developers these days, as you never know if they will be available tomorrow.
 

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For many years, my go-to developer of choice was Pyrocat-HD with almost all the films that I used. But over the years, I experienced unexpected "sudden death" of the developer which ruined my film. Had the same thing happen with Xtol many, many years ago. Of all the staining developers, I find 510-Pyro to be the simplest to use and I've had it turn nearly black and still produce fine negatives. It's not the easiest formula to mix from scratch, but my recent purchase of a heated magnetic stirrer sure helps!
 
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For many years, my go-to developer of choice was Pyrocat-HD with almost all the films that I used. But over the years, I experienced unexpected "sudden death" of the developer which ruined my film. Had the same thing happen with Xtol many, many years ago. Of all the staining developers, I find 510-Pyro to be the simplest to use and I've had it turn nearly black and still produce fine negatives. It's not the easiest formula to mix from scratch, but my recent purchase of a heated magnetic stirrer sure helps!

I've never encountered sudden death for Pyrocat-HD or Xtol. Were you mixing Pyrocat-HD from scratch? I've heard of sudden death from purchased version, though. As far as mixing up from scratch goes, I would say they take about the same time.
 

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I've never encountered sudden death for Pyrocat-HD or Xtol. Were you mixing Pyrocat-HD from scratch? I've heard of sudden death from purchased version, though. As far as mixing up from scratch goes, I would say they take about the same time.

Both purchased and mixed from scratch. Yeah, most Pyrocat users never experience sudden death, but I know a few have because I've seen it reported on various forums. I always suspected it was the B component that was causing the problem so, in later years, I mixed B fresh for each use. Seemed to work out, but then I moved on to other formulas.
 

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I find 510-Pyro to be the simplest to use and I've had it turn nearly black and still produce fine negatives.

Well, when I initially tried 510 pyro I had a batch sit out for a couple of months and found its activity dropping slowly but surely over time. No sudden death, but in a way, this is worse, as it just makes it unpredictable.
Water in my TEA? Probably; water-free TEA isn't liquid at room temperature, so what do you do?
Oxidizing developer? Sure thing; otherwise it wouldn't be going black.

In my hands at least, Pyrocat made with glycol is a more reliable tool than 510 pyro.
 

Ian Grant

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Both purchased and mixed from scratch. Yeah, most Pyrocat users never experience sudden death, but I know a few have because I've seen it reported on various forums. I always suspected it was the B component that was causing the problem so, in later years, I mixed B fresh for each use. Seemed to work out, but then I moved on to other formulas.

Some years ago I visited a member of this Forum in Southern Turkey. He was using Peter Hogan's Prescysol which was in fact Pyrocat HD. he said Part A only lasted around 3 months. In his case it was because Hogan was using low density plastic bottle. I'd made that mistake myself with an early batch of Pyrocat HD.

Because I was living abroad my Pyrocat HD in the UK would sit unused in partially full bottles, only getting used on 2 or 3 short trips home each year it lasted over 4 years, that's Part A mixed in water not Glycol. When we moved back to the UK the reverse was true and my stock of Pyrocat HD in Turkey lasted well.

Well, when I initially tried 510 pyro I had a batch sit out for a couple of months and found its activity dropping slowly but surely over time. No sudden death, but in a way, this is worse, as it just makes it unpredictable.
Water in my TEA? Probably; water-free TEA isn't liquid at room temperature, so what do you do?
Oxidizing developer? Sure thing; otherwise it wouldn't be going black.

In my hands at least, Pyrocat made with glycol is a more reliable tool than 510 pyro.

You raise two points, one directly which is "TEA isn't liquid at room temperature, so what do you do?". This is an issue, while it doesn't solidify it becomes almost like a thick gelatinous mass, and it takes quite a while to re-liquify, so it needs storing somewhere where the temperature is stable and doesn't drop to the point where this happens.

The second point which is critical to the shelf life of developers like Pyrocat and 510 Pyro is the freshness of the Sodium Metabisulphite in Pyrocat and Ascorbic Acid in 510 Pyro. Both are chemicals that don't have an indefinite shelf life, and do slowly decompose in solution. In the case of Pyrocat HD you see a very slow change as a little of the Pyrocatchin oxidises towards the end of its storage life, then as the last of the Metabisulphite collapses sudden death of the developer, which turns black, almost overnight. I should add I deliberately left some Pyrocat HD to see what would happen.

Ian
 

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This is an issue, while it doesn't solidify it becomes almost like a thick gelatinous mass

TEA as far as I know has a melting point of 21.6C. If the substance is gelatinous at room temperature, it means it is not pure TEA. The question then becomes what the contaminant(s) is/are and if they absorb aerial oxygen. I believe the most likely contaminant is water, meaning the mixture is capable of absorbing oxygen, which will in turn degrade the pyrogallol.
Note that the TEA I use is a thick syrup at room temperature, despite it being sold to me as 'pure' TEA. I think I've only once come across mention of room-temperature solid TEA being bought by a photographer - and I'm not even sure about that single instance.

As to the freshness of metabisulfite: if you mix it as a dry powder directly into glycol, it's not really an issue, is it? Of course, the same argument about water-free (or not) glycol would apply here. To circumvent this issue, I mix only small-ish batches of these concentrates. With pyrocat in glycol I haven't had any issues so far, but I haven't kept it around for more than a year or so. I did move from pyrocat in water to glycol because the water-based concentrate was less stable for obvious reasons.
 

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I saw somebody on the web rinse out their syringe in water just before filling it with 510 Pyro.
They didn't dry the syringe before use, and in the close up shot you could see the pyro turning brown in the bottle where the wet syringe had been.
A few of these events and the developer would rapidly oxidise.

If the plunger in the syringe that I am using is very stiff, I remove the plunger and dip the rubber tip into the pyro enough to lubricate the slide action.
 

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TEA as far as I know has a melting point of 21.6C. If the substance is gelatinous at room temperature, it means it is not pure TEA. The question then becomes what the contaminant(s) is/are and if they absorb aerial oxygen. I believe the most likely contaminant is water, meaning the mixture is capable of absorbing oxygen, which will in turn degrade the pyrogallol.
Note that the TEA I use is a thick syrup at room temperature, despite it being sold to me as 'pure' TEA. I think I've only once come across mention of room-temperature solid TEA being bought by a photographer - and I'm not even sure about that single instance.

As to the freshness of metabisulfite: if you mix it as a dry powder directly into glycol, it's not really an issue, is it? Of course, the same argument about water-free (or not) glycol would apply here. To circumvent this issue, I mix only small-ish batches of these concentrates. With pyrocat in glycol I haven't had any issues so far, but I haven't kept it around for more than a year or so. I did move from pyrocat in water to glycol because the water-based concentrate was less stable for obvious reasons.

You're right about TEA's melting point being 21.6ºC, my heating was set to 20ºC in the house and my TEA was not completely liquid, however it's now stored on a top shelf in a wall cupboard which will be warmer. I know from living in Turkey how large the temperature differential between floor and ceiling can be quite significant, I stored my films at floor level in a drawer alongside thermometers and even when it was over 35ºC in the room it never rose over 22ºC at floor level.

I mixed some Pyrocat HD Part A at double strength in Glycol I'd guess around 14 years ago, and split it into two 500ml Rodinal bottle, the reason was to cut weight when flying. I still have one bottle, and it's fine no oxidation, it works as well as when mixed. There was a very small amount of water needed to dissolve the Sodium Metabisulphite.

Personally I've never had any issues with the shelf life of Pyrocat HD Part A mixed in de-ionised water, aside from my own error trying LDP small bottles, so haven't used Glycol again.

Ian
 

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In the case of Pyrocat HD you see a very slow change as a little of the Pyrocatchin oxidises towards the end of its storage life, then as the last of the Metabisulphite collapses sudden death of the developer, which turns black, almost overnight. I should add I deliberately left some Pyrocat HD to see what would happen.

Ian

As far as I know my Metabisulhite was fresh, and I store both parts in amber glass bottles. I use a squirt of Protectan with all my developers being stored. I've mixed part A in both glycol and distilled water to see if it changed the storage life. When I've experienced sudden death, the developer looked normal, slightly browner than the straw color of fresh mixed but no visual clue of concern
 

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As far as I know my Metabisulhite was fresh, and I store both parts in amber glass bottles. I use a squirt of Protectan with all my developers being stored. I've mixed part A in both glycol and distilled water to see if it changed the storage life. When I've experienced sudden death, the developer looked normal, slightly browner than the straw color of fresh mixed but no visual clue of concern

That's an odd one. I use an Ilford Toner IT-8 which uses a simple Pyrocatchin Carbonate re-developer which oxidises quite quickly, so I tend to use Pyrocat HD instead. What's odd is if the Pyrocatechin hasn't oxidised it shouldn't collapse, so I doubt it's a Metabisulphite issue you'd see severe oxidation of the Pyrocatechin. There may be something else going on. The 3 components of Protectan, (now discontinued), Propane, Butane, and isoButane are slightly soluble in water, probably soluble in Glycol, whether they can affect the Pyrocatechin, is a question for an organic chemist.

Ian
 

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I use a little more metabisulphite when mixing up Pyrocat-HD in water, just to be on the safe side.
 
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