Why I Hesitate To Try Another Developer Other Than Kodak D-76 (For Now…)

Kodak D-76 developer has been around forever. It is pretty much “bullet-proof”, and if anything, continues to get better. For about $5.00 US, you can mix up a packet into a litre of distilled water that will do about 4 rolls of film. About $1.25 per roll. Yes, of course there are “sharper”, more exotic developers out there. I am just starting out with home developing. A classic must-read book still in print, and a must read for all home developer enthusiasts out there is by the great Ansel Adams, “The Negative”. Adams was maybe the world’s 1st “pixel peeper”, years before digital insanity. But, of course, his images were perfect, and beautiful. And rather than to get into pissing contests with other photographers, and split hairs, rather, he presented what worked for him. And was giving of his time and vast knowledge. he didn’t “keep secrets”, unlike today’s Photoshop junkies, who mistake PS for photography. In it, and I am paraphrasing here, Adams states that one should really use a developer for a while, pushing it to its limits, before venturing off to try another developer. In other words, the grass is not always greener. Everything in photography is a “trade-off”. There is no free lunch, every action results in a reaction. Every tweak or adjustment results in a compromise.

That said, it is the developer for me, for a while. Yes, it is pretty much the Rodney Dangerfield of developers- not really getting the respect it deserves. To my eyes, the contrast and sharpness, and shadow detail, continue to amaze. These, and other reasons, are why I am staying with it. Here are a few more photographs from the July 4th parade, this past week, in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Developed in D-76, at 65  degrees F, for 8 minutes-

Conductor- Slightly Cropped After Straightening In Photoshop

Conductor- Slightly Cropped After Straightening In Photoshop



Marching Orders

Marching Orders


3 thoughts on “Why I Hesitate To Try Another Developer Other Than Kodak D-76 (For Now…)

  1. You sound defensive; has someone criticized you for using D-76? I’ve joked about how it’s too “mainstream” for me, but it really is a fantastic general-purpose developer, and I can’t imagine why someone would attack you for using it.

    What surprises me, though, is that you’re paying $5 per liter of stock solution (!?!) At that rate, I would definitely dilute it at least 1:1 (always right before development, of course) so you can cut costs. Now, just for a comparison of economy:

    – a bottle of HC-110 concentrate will develop about 50 rolls of 35m at dilution B for $15 (30 cents/roll)
    – a bottle of Rodinal (now Adox Adonal) will develop 85 rolls of 35mm (if you use a 1+50 dilution) for $14 (16 cents/roll)
    – XTOL (pack of powder to make 5L) costs $9.19 and will develop up to 62 rolls if you use it as its own replenisher and not as a one-shot. (This works out to be 14.8 cents/roll.)
    (Note: all prices from Freestyle Photographic)

    I like that you’re sticking to one developer, but just keep in mind some alternatives if you find that things start to get too pricey by using D-76. 😉

    • Dan- not from you, but from bashers online. Maybe I am a “rookie” to this-ok, I am. But I go with what I know pretty much works. I have thought about dilution, but dont want to change the look of the grain. at 5 bucks a packet, for me, it’s affordable. I could buy larger packs at my camera shop, I suppose. But am trying to make mixing as simple as possible, and bristle at the idea of mixing a gallon of the stuff at a time. A litre seems just right.


  2. Don’t be afraid to use or try other developers. There is less difference between them than you would think unless you go with a staining developer like Pyro.

    I don’t follow the school of “one film, one developer, one lens, one camera, one year”. Supposedly this will really let you get a consistent technique down which sounds commendable, I suppose if you can really get your metering perfect too then you can end up with negatives of such consistency that you’ll be able to print things mechanically like a lab but I don’t really see the value in this. To me, trying out different equipment, films, developers, papers, all that is part of the fun and in the end it lets me develop or print ANYTHING rather than just perfectly exposed and developed pictures.

    Don’t worry about D-76 being considered too standard, not cool. Unless you’re submitting pictures that require Hassy cuts in the negatives you don’t need to worry about someone saying, “that picture would have been great if it had been developed in X-tol, too bad…” D-76 is a fine developer and if you’re happy with it, by all means use it. If you find yourself shooting more often then buy a larger pack for economy but otherwise it is nice if you can mix up 1L and shoot 4 rolls of film and be done with it rather than worrying about your stock solution going back like the 5L of Bromophen I mixed up in February which the time is ticking on now to use up while it is still good.

    I normally use HC-110 these days but I had a couple of rolls of Delta 3200 to develop the other day so I mixed up a nice old packet of 600mL Microphen speed enhancing developer. It is so old that it has development times for HP4 film (not HP5+) but it still mixed up perfectly and worked great. Just mix it, use it and dump it. I clip tested it first of course which is the key to mixing up either old powder or keeping large quantities of stock solution around: you MUST clip test before you use it or it may be bad and you’ll ruin your pictures. For those starting out, mixing up 600mL or 1000mL at a time is safer, if you use it up quick there is no need to clip test unless you are worried about contamination or something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s