Easy Film Developers

Here are some easy-to-mix developers that use phenidone and ascorbic acid as developing agents. As with all my articles, I assume you know how to safely mix developers. Do not mix these formulas if you cannot deal with chemicals properly.
I edited this article in June 2007 to eliminate outdated / unclear information.


Patrick Gainer’s developers: PC-TEA and PC-Glycol

These are versatile developers that give high acutance and moderate grain. They are also exceedingly simple to mix, and the stock solution will last for a long time (at least 2.5 years, in my experience). The formulas below are the standard recipes Pat Gainer is currently recommending (older versions used slightly different chemcial proportions but work almost identically).

PC-TEA
Stock solution

Start with 75 ml of hot triethanolamine
9 g ascorbic acid
0.25 g phenidone
Stir until completely dissolved, then top up to 100 ml with triethanolamine

Working solution: Dilute the stock solution 1+50 (20 ml per litre) with water before use. Developing times for 400-speed B&W films are around 9 min at 22C.

PC-Glycol
Stock solution

Start with 75 ml of hot propylene glycol
10 g ascorbic acid
0.25 g phenidone
Stir until completely dissolved, then top up to 100 ml with propylene glycol

Working solution: Dilute the stock solution 1+50 (20 ml per litre) into water containing 5 g/L sodium carbonate before use. (You can also use sodium metaborate or borax, but you will need to adjust the quantities and your dev times will be longer.) Developing times for 400-speed B&W films are around 7 min at 21C.

Notes: The working solutions of both PC-TEA and PC-Glycol are dilute in terms of developing agents (comparable to Xtol 1+3), but have relatively high alkalinity. In general, I find that PC-TEA gives finer grain than PC-Glycol. This may be due to a combination of gentler action (PC-TEA is much less alkaline than PC-Glycol with carbonate) and the mild silver solvent effect of triethanolamine.


XTOL replacements: MYTOL and Instant MYTOL


MYTOL
This formula was developed by Paul Lewis. Use it as you would use Xtol. I have taken the formula from APUG.org.

Start with 750 ml water
60 g sodium sulfite (anhydrous)
4 g sodium metaborate 4H2O
13 g sodium ascorbate
0.15 g phenidone
3 g sodium metabisulfite
Water to 1000 ml

Sodium ascorbate can be generated from ascorbic acid as follows: 13 g of sodium ascorbate is replaced by 130 ml of a solution made by dissolving 88.9 g sodium bicarbonate and 42.5 g ascorbic acid in 1000 ml water (careful of fizzing — allow it to complete). This solution goes off quickly. Take your 130 ml and dump the rest, or scale down accordingly.

 

Instant MYTOL
As described in this blog post, I’ve devised a method to mix MYTOL that does not require sodium metabisulfite, uses commonly available ascorbic acid instead of sodium ascorbate, and optionally replaces sodium metaborate with triethanolamine (a better buffering agent at the target pH).

Stock solution in water:

Start with 750 ml water
60 g sodium sulfite (anhydrous)
11.5 g ascorbic acid
0.15 g phenidone (pre-dissolved in alcohol to aid dissolution)
13.4 ml triethanolamine or 7 g sodium metaborate
Water to 1 L

Working solution: Use as you would use XTOL (diluted 1+1, usually).

Stock solution in propylene glycol / triethanolamine:

Start with 13.4 ml hot triethanolamine
25 ml hot propylene glycol
11.5 g ascorbic acid
0.15 g phenidone

Stir until all solids have dissolved (it will take quite a while, and may require the addition of 1-2 ml of water). Dilute with hot propylene glycol to a final volume of 50 ml.

Working solution: The stock solution should keep indefinitely. For use, dilute 1+19 with water containing 60 g/L sodium sulfite — the resulting solution matches the activity of stock XTOL. To create something like XTOL 1+1, dilute 1+39 with water containing 30 g/L sodium sulfite.

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