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Liquid developer similar to XTOL?
Old 12-21-2018   #1
analogpics
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Liquid developer similar to XTOL?

Hey friends, i thought i'd ask in here....i love the look i get out of XTOL, but i hate mixing up that huge batch of it and was curious if there's a liquid developer that has similar characteristics? Low contrast, fine grain/low acutance, good for pushing...someone said maybe DDX? Any help much appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 12-21-2018   #2
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DDX and Kodak Tmax Developer have similar properties to each other. They're not identical in properties to Xtol, but they're my usual recommendation for a great liquid developer. They are the best pushing developers I have tried. Tonality is great with most films. Grain is fine but not as fine as Xtol.

They are fairly expensive when used at their standard 1+4 dilutions, but they perform beautifully diluted 1+7. Multiply the standard developing times by 1.5 to get the times for the 1+7 dilutions.

DDX and Tmax Developer are especially beautiful with Ilford Delta and Kodak Tmax films, but work well with other films like Tri-X and HP5.
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Old 12-21-2018   #3
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I’m in a somewhat similar situation with the original poster, I love the results from Xtol with Tmax films but my current living situation is too cramped for me to continue mixing & storing the stuff. I’ve been using DDX (glad to read about the developing time for 1+7 dilution, will give it a try) but I liked the look I got from Xtol better.

I’ve been looking around for information comparing Tetenal Ultrafin T Plus with Xtol and DDX and it’s hard to find anything very definitive. Any information someone could share about experiences with the Tetenal developer would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-21-2018   #4
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Ilford DD-X the only drawback and a minuscule one at that is a bit more grain and the price.
Never used Ultrafin T but if it is anything like the other Tetenal developers you can expect good results and usually a more than decent shelflife.
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Old 12-22-2018   #5
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DD-X and TMax/RS are nothing like Xtol, chemically or tonally.

This: https://www.moersch-photochemie.de/c...film_developer is almost identical in performance to Xtol. It differs chemically in several ways, but it’s definitely worth trying.

There are a lot of ascorbate liquid developers you can make yourself from formulae online. I only ever saw one, the late John Black’s JB9, however, which used a buffered 'weak' alkali. Xtol gets a lot of its performance from ascorbate, but thinking you can mix anything, or put some vitamin c in Rodinal and have an acceptable Xtol substitute is just dreaming. Strong alkalis will activate the ascorbate, but the developer performance is very different to Xtol.

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Old 12-22-2018   #6
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Fomadon Excel, see this thread
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Old 12-22-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lynnb View Post
Fomadon Excel, see this thread
Fomadon Excel is essentially the same as Xtol, but it is a powder too, although you can get a pack to make 1L.

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Old 12-22-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freakscene View Post
DD-X and TMax/RS are nothing like Xtol, chemically or tonally.

This: https://www.moersch-photochemie.de/c...film_developer is almost identical in performance to Xtol. It differs chemically in several ways, but it’s definitely worth trying.

There are a lot of ascorbate liquid developers you can make yourself from formulae online. I only ever saw one, the late John Black’s JB9, however, which used a buffered weak alkali. Xtol gets a lot of its performance from ascorbate, but thinking you can mix anything, or put some vitamin c in Rodinal and have an acceptable Xtol substitute is just dreaming. Strong alkalis will activate the ascorbate, but the developer performance is very different to Xtol.

Marty
Exactly.
Moersch Eco is as liquid isoascorbate based developer the most similar to XTOL. Main difference in my experience is that XTOL is a bit finer grained, and Moersch Eco is a bit sharper.
What I don't like about XTOL is that mixing it up takes so long. Dissolving it in 20-25°c water (as recommended) is a slow process and needs lots of stirring for a long time. Quite nerve-wracking.
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Old 12-22-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiff View Post
Exactly.
Moersch Eco is as liquid isoascorbate based developer the most similar to XTOL. Main difference in my experience is that XTOL is a bit finer grained, and Moersch Eco is a bit sharper.
This seems to be because the Moersch Eco is slightly more alkaline and isn’t quite as well buffered, but this also means that it has better capacity and enhausts more slowly. Xtol becomes more alkaline with more dilution, but Eco doesn’t do that as markedly. I like both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiff View Post
What I don't like about XTOL is that mixing it up takes so long. Dissolving it in 20-25°c water (as recommended) is a slow process and needs lots of stirring for a long time. Quite nerve-wracking.
I use a magnetic lab stirrer. I start with 30C water, set the magnetic stirrer to the fastest speed that doesn’t vortex, and come back in half an hour. You can buy non-heating versions on various websites cheaply.

Marty
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Old 12-26-2018   #10
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To me, OP should define the specifics they like about XTOL. I would assume sharpness, and possibly eco-friendly, etc. But frankly, from what I've seen, there is no developer that is so much better than others that is not affected equally by your choice of film and choice of technique as well. You can get seriously impressive results from a whole lot of combinations, but the best use of your time is to improve shooting technique and eliminate variables.

Biggest improvement in technique in my case was picking up a Jobo. While this chooses a particular type of agitation, it also narrows choices in suitable developers. I've made lots of mistakes and even attempted to use Replenished XTOL in a JOBO - which in a word.... increases the likelihood of XTOL-failure from oxidization. XTOL is nice, but my enthusiasm for it waned, and after speaking with the USA Jobo reps (Cat Labs JP), I tried Bergger's Berspeed and have been very pleased with the results using Ilford Delta 400 at box speed.

Your mileage may vary.
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Old 12-27-2018   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoetuff View Post
To me, OP should define the specifics they like about XTOL. I would assume sharpness, and possibly eco-friendly, etc. But frankly, from what I've seen, there is no developer that is so much better than others that is not affected equally by your choice of film and choice of technique as well. You can get seriously impressive results from a whole lot of combinations, but the best use of your time is to improve shooting technique and eliminate variables.

Biggest improvement in technique in my case was picking up a Jobo. While this chooses a particular type of agitation, it also narrows choices in suitable developers. I've made lots of mistakes and even attempted to use Replenished XTOL in a JOBO - which in a word.... increases the likelihood of XTOL-failure from oxidization. XTOL is nice, but my enthusiasm for it waned, and after speaking with the USA Jobo reps (Cat Labs JP), I tried Bergger's Berspeed and have been very pleased with the results using Ilford Delta 400 at box speed.

Your mileage may vary.
I found that Xtol improved all films in pretty much the way Kodak described - better speed with finer grain and better sharpness than HQ or PQ developers, and with tonality very similar to D-76 (desireable to me).

Kodak gave times for rotary processing with replenished Xtol in the Xtol data sheets but if you read Kodak Technical Publication Z-133E on process control, they make it clear there is a lot of work in maintaining a replenishment system. The main thing I found when I worked with a replenishment system was that the only way that replenishment is worthwhile is if you are developing a lot of film (10+ roll/week minimum - i.e. using it all the time) and that the decrease in sharpness with replenishment/seasoning didn’t make up, for me, for the even finer grain it gave compared to dilute Xtol used once. I used a 15L replenished Xtol dip-and-dunk system with nitrogen burst agitation for a long time when working in a commercial lab, but never tried to do it for myself. Even if you make up 5L of Xtol and follow the re-use instructions, you need to use it quickly.

Berspeed is a fine developer. I found it similar to Microphen, but it still has the limits of grain, speed and sharpness that all the other PQ and HQ developers have. It is also a powder.

The OPs asked what liquid developer is most similar to Xtol. The answer is Moersch Eco.

Marty
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Old 12-28-2018   #12
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The reference to Moersch Eco is very helpful. I wrote to Freestyle to see if they could sell me some (currently they aren’t handling it) and they think they can special order it from Germany. If anyone else is also interested in it I’d suggest you email them.

By the way, here’s the response I received from them when I asked about liquid developers similar to Xtol:

“Unfortunately, there aren't really any liquid developers that looks like XTOL. Both XTOL and EcoPro/LegacyPro film developers are ascorbic acid type of developers. Once ascorbic acid comes in contact with water, it deteriorates faster than other film developer ingredient.“

So thanks again for suggesting Moersch Eco.
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Old 12-31-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orbiter View Post
The reference to Moersch Eco is very helpful. I wrote to Freestyle to see if they could sell me some (currently they aren’t handling it) and they think they can special order it from Germany. If anyone else is also interested in it I’d suggest you email them.
I think Moersch will also ship it to you. It is not DG classified for shipping. This may not make a difference, however, given that a lot of companies won't ship liquids at all anymore.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orbiter View Post
By the way, here’s the response I received from them when I asked about liquid developers similar to Xtol:
“Unfortunately, there aren't really any liquid developers that looks like XTOL. Both XTOL and EcoPro/LegacyPro film developers are ascorbic acid type of developers. Once ascorbic acid comes in contact with water, it deteriorates faster than other film developer ingredient.“
The answer to the problem is in their reply - don't use water as the solvent for the developer stock. You can use triethanolamine or glycols. With enough heat almost all developing agents will dissolve in these organic solvents. Finding one that has low enough viscosity to facilitate handling can be difficult, and it is almost impossible to make a buffered alkali solution as a component of a single solution. This is why ECO is a two part liquid developer - the alkali is separate.

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Originally Posted by Orbiter View Post
So thanks again for suggesting Moersch Eco.
You are welcome. If you manage to get some, let us know how you go.

Marty



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Old 01-01-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freakscene View Post
The main thing I found when I worked with a replenishment system was that the only way that replenishment is worthwhile is if you are developing a lot of film (10+ roll/week minimum - i.e. using it all the time) and that the decrease in sharpness with replenishment/seasoning didn’t make up, for me, for the even finer grain it gave compared to dilute Xtol used once. I used a 15L replenished Xtol dip-and-dunk system with nitrogen burst agitation for a long time when working in a commercial lab, but never tried to do it for myself. Even if you make up 5L of Xtol and follow the re-use instructions, you need to use it quickly.
I tried replenished Xtol for small-scale development (less than ten films a week) but found a significant speed loss after a while. This is seldom mentioned by the exponents of replenishment and I figured it was probably due to the by-products of the development process. Is this speed loss to be expected or maybe a fault with my technique?
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Old 01-01-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
I tried replenished Xtol for small-scale development (less than ten films a week) but found a significant speed loss after a while. This is seldom mentioned by the exponents of replenishment and I figured it was probably due to the by-products of the development process. Is this speed loss to be expected or maybe a fault with my technique?
That's normal in replenished developing systems. One of the reasons I always recommend one-shot developing for best quality.
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Old 01-01-2019   #16
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Thanks, wish I'd known that the speed loss is 'normal' before I tried using replenishment. Presumably those who run replenishment systems commercially inform their customers of this!
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Old 01-02-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
Thanks, wish I'd known that the speed loss is 'normal' before I tried using replenishment. Presumably those who run replenishment systems commercially inform their customers of this!



You may have experienced worse than normal speed loss because you did so little film. In large volume, the developer has less chance of dying from age because it is being replenished all day long every day. Doing only a few films a week, the developer may be losing strength from aging.

The usual speed loss from replenished systems is 1/3 to 1/2 stop. I've never known a lab to warn customers of it, probably because most people wouldn't notice it unless they were perfectionists like me.
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Old 01-02-2019   #18
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With respect to replenished Xtol, did you follow the times for "seasoned" developer? I found with Xtol that it was affected the least by speed change of any replenished developer I used (HC110, Microdol-X, D-76, TMax RS, Ilfotec DD, Ethol UFG, Sprint) and I checked very carefully. Increasing the time works with replenished Xtol, and without giving excessive contrast.

The low volume you used, to me, suggests your developer was always beginning to fail, rather than that the speed loss was due to replenishment.



Leica M7, 50mm Summicron @ F4 APX 400 @ EI400, replenished Xtol, 10:30 at 20C. Agitation for 1 min, then 10s every 30s by nitrogen gas burst in a dip-and-dunk system. The neg has plenty of detail in the suit, I just couldn't capture it with my -then flatbed scanner. The neg has a CI of 0.585 and a toe density that is spot-on. But the tank had at least 50 rolls a week go through it. The system was 15L and had not been re-started for 3 years when this film was developed in December 2004. I also found that replenished Xtol needed more agitation than I used with manual development.

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Old 01-02-2019   #19
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Thanks to both of you for your comments, which clarify what could have gone wrong. I did follow the adjusted times for seasoned developer, the density of the highlights was OK but with a definite loss of shadow detail. Clearly replenishment is not for everyone and perhaps unnecessary outside a processing lab environment.
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Old 01-02-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
Thanks to both of you for your comments, which clarify what could have gone wrong. I did follow the adjusted times for seasoned developer, the density of the highlights was OK but with a definite loss of shadow detail. Clearly replenishment is not for everyone and perhaps unnecessary outside a processing lab environment.



I don't see any point to replenishment in a home darkroom. The labs do it to save money, but developer is so cheap in the volumes that a hobbyist would use that it really makes no sense to bother with replenishing.

I don't shoot film as much as I used to because of my health issues, but back when I was shooting BW film heavily, I bet I still spent less per year on developer than I spend each week on fuel for my car.

One shot developing means you have fresh developer for every roll you develop. No speed loss, quality is consistent roll-to-roll, and no hassles with having to add the right amount of replenisher per roll developed.
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Old 01-02-2019   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I don't see any point to replenishment in a home darkroom. The labs do it to save money, but developer is so cheap in the volumes that a hobbyist would use that it really makes no sense to bother with replenishing.

I don't shoot film as much as I used to because of my health issues, but back when I was shooting BW film heavily, I bet I still spent less per year on developer than I spend each week on fuel for my car.

One shot developing means you have fresh developer for every roll you develop. No speed loss, quality is consistent roll-to-roll, and no hassles with having to add the right amount of replenisher per roll developed.

Very good point. Replenishment is completely unnecessary in the home dark room. The cost savings is minimal. Ilford DD-X is a great developer and was my go to chemical for when I wanted XTOL like results.
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Old 01-02-2019   #22
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I regularly order liquid chemistry direct from Moersch. Contact Wolfgang through his web shop.
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Old 01-29-2019   #23
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A new player: https://ntphotoworks.com/shop/produc...tock-solution/

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Old 01-30-2019   #24
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Handy, but almost doubles the price compared to Xtol.
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Old 01-30-2019   #25
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If the huge batch is the main problem, what about Fomadon Excel? It is Xtol, in packs for 1L. Works great for me.
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Old 01-30-2019   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kai-san View Post
Handy, but almost doubles the price compared to Xtol.



Liquid developers are usually a lot more expensive than powders due to the more expensive packaging required and the higher costs of transporting them (due to their greater weight and volume) from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer.
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Old 01-30-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kai-san View Post
Handy, but almost doubles the price compared to Xtol.
Sure, but if you have a problem with storage or capacity to mix it might be better for you. It depends on your priorities.

At 1+3 that litre of stock will develop 16 films. That's about US$0.6 a roll in developer per film. If you can afford film, you can probably afford that. It probably indicates that Xtol, if you use all 5L from a batch, is extremely economical, rather than that this is expensive.

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Old 01-31-2019   #28
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I have no problem seeing that storage space or infrequent use can be an issue. I have never had any developer going bad, but I always make sure that there is no or very little air present in storage bottles. The exception is Rodinal which seems to last forever however bad you treat it. I'm in the lucky situation that I can buy Xtol locally for 24 USD at the current exchange rate. I expect that many of you pay less, but I can well afford both that and a fridge full of film. Others are not so lucky.
Regarding dilution I read an interesting article about Xtol in the German PhotoKlassik magazine some years ago. To get the best results you should not dilute Xtol more than 1+1 for T-grain films, but film with traditional grain will benefit from higher dilutions. I've followed that regime since and it seems to work very well.
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Old 01-31-2019   #29
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Quote:
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Regarding dilution I read an interesting article about Xtol in the German PhotoKlassik magazine some years ago. To get the best results you should not dilute Xtol more than 1+1 for T-grain films, but film with traditional grain will benefit from higher dilutions. I've followed that regime since and it seems to work very well.
That is what I do too. T-grain and epitaxial films seem to need more developer. I did the development work for at least one article that was published in that magazine.

Marty
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Old 02-01-2019   #30
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Quote:
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That is what I do too. T-grain and epitaxial films seem to need more developer. I did the development work for at least one article that was published in that magazine.

Marty
I tested Tmax films as described in Ansel Adam's book, "The Negative". Checked densities with a densitometer and found that my Normal Development, diluted 1:2, is 12.5 min at 68 deg for EI 320. Very happy with my negatives thus far.
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