XTOL down the drain

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Have others had the same problems with Xtol that I am having. I have gone through 4 five liter batches and 50 sheets of film, but I have still not found a consitant normal development time (Zone VIII at 1.3). At first, I got Zone VIII at 1.3 when I developed for 8 min. at 70. When a mixed a new batch of Xtol, however, all my negatives were underdeveloped, and I could not reach D-Max even with completely fogged film! I poured this batch down the drain and mixed a new batch. With this batch, I got a normal development time (Zone VIII at 1.3) at 12 min. at 70. I am using 8x10 HP-5+ in a Jobo processor and Xtol 1:1. I have been using 200ml of stock solution per sheet (400ml of diluted solution). Have I been doing something wrong or is Xtol like this sometimes?

Today I tried Microphen and will stick with that if it is consistent.

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), January 08, 2000


Microphen is consistent. So is ID11 & it has the advantage of being close to the D76 that most of the testing of TMax films was done with.

Check your water quality with the Xtol before giving up on it. This developer is more sensitive to iron, chlorine and hard water than most realize. I had the same problems you are having until I spent a lot of time with the Kodak tech guys & we changed to Culligan bottled water. The water quality doesn't vary & now my development doesn't either. It really was that simple for me.

Even with Xtol being consistant you still have to make sure temp, agitation rotation and dilution are the same each time as TMax films go nuts with smaller changes than anything else you might see. They aren't temperamental, just a pro film that needs processing the same way each time. Vary temp by a degree, change agitation speeds & timing, etc., and your results will be all over the map.

Your use of 200ml stock for and 8x10 unit is probably overkill but certainly own't hurt. Xtol is an excellent product & since nailing down what was causing my problems, they haven't re-surfaced & the stull is very good.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), January 09, 2000.


you are experiencing exactly what I have, and it has driven me crazy (crazier). I love TMax 100, and it is my favourite film. my trials during this last week, yielded great results with ID-11, HC-110, and Rodinal. the Xtol trials were marred by this behaviour you have shared. I thought it might have been an artifact of the part A caking I had experienced, or contamination. I was getting good results with fresh solution, and then finding my next trial totally inconsistent a few days later. I use fresh, Oregon mountain spring water, that has always tested remarkably pure. there is a possibility that it isn't as predictable as I might think, so I will take Dan's suggestion and go to a pure water source.

Tmax 100 is too good to give up on. Rodinal yielded more grain, ID-11 and HC110 worked well, but I want the environmental and mixing benefits of Xtol. I want it to work, for these reasons and the fact that I have a ton of Xtol packets on the shelf.

I use 4x5 in a Jobo Expert drum, with excellent temperature control. hand agitation is slightly erratic, as might be expected, but doubtful that this is the cause of my woes.

let's keep in touch. sounds like a solution is imminent.

-- Daniel Taylor (aviator@agalis.net), January 09, 2000.

I noticed in other posts the same thing I see here. Some have great results with Xtol and other report inconsistency. I use distilled water for all my mixing, so water cannot be the problem, and my temperature control (with the Jobo) should be right on, and I am careful to do everything the same each time. My results with Microphen, which I am currently testing, makes me more confident that Xtol (at least the batches I used) is inconsistent. I am now on my second batch of Microphen with HP-5+ and am getting very consistent results. I am using Microphen 1:1 at 75 degrees with HP-5+. I have found the speed to be EI 640 (the same I found with Xtol) and am getting consistent Zone VIII densities. I am through with Xtol. I wanted it to work, but it did not, and I wasted $100 on two boxes of film trying to make Xtol work. Now, with Microphen, all is well.

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), January 09, 2000.

I have never expected to have a consistent 'N'. I was taught early on to take two shots of every thing and by the second one you will have the correct development. So my opinon would be don't worry about it, I don't and neither do any of the teachers I have ever had. Some purests may take odds with this but remember this is art not science

Marc Fleischman New England school of photography

-- marc fleischman (marcfleischman@msn.com), January 10, 2000.

I've heard of some of these inconsistancies, but have never experienced these problems first hand. I've been using XTOL for about two years now and find it to be excellent both in grain characteristics as well as shelf life. Has anyone talked to Kodak?

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), January 11, 2000.

Yeah, I called Kodak numerous times with no results. They think that something is wrong with my technique, so they asked me many questions to which I had all the right answers. "It could be your water." I use distilled. "Your temperature is off." I have a Jobo. "Your agitation is inconsistent." Again, I have a Jobo. "Your Xtol is old." I mixed it yesterday. "Your HP-5 is inconsistent." Not with other developers.

This is the help I got. I don't care about Xtol anymore. Microphen is working fine for me, and I am getting the same speed increase: HP-5+ at EI 500. I am sure the Xtol was the problem, since HC-110 and Microphen both work fine.

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), January 11, 2000.

I had another thought on this subject. Is anyone mixing the powder with warm water? I seem to remember that heat can have an adverse affect on Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid). I've been mixing all my batches with 70 F water. In fact, that is one of the attractive things about XTOL. You don't have to wait for it to cool down to processing temp.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), January 12, 2000.

I've been using Xtol as my only developer for the last year and have had excellent results. I shoot 120 and 4x5 Tri-x, Delta 100, and T- max 100. I process the 4x5 in an old Unicolor drum using Xtol 1:1 at 68 degrees. My darkroom stays about 65 degrees and after mixing I warm the chemicals up to 68 degrees before processing. Very consistant negatives.

-- Don Sparks (Harleyman7@aol.com), January 12, 2000.

I used cold water to mix the chemical, and plenty of developer (400ml of Xtol 1:1: per sheet).

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), January 12, 2000.

I recently had some time on my hands, after finishing a software consulting project, and ran a series of exposure tests on TMax 100, Delta 100, and Agfa's APX-100. all films are great, and I used Ilfosol-S, TMax RS, Ilfotec-DDX, HC-110, ID-11, Rodinal, and Xtol. I experienced identical problems with Xtol that I did using 35mm films months ago, that there are inconsistencies mimicking developer exhaustion. I have not tried Xtol using a controlled water source, a processed consistent water source that is, and I have never experience any problems with the other developers.

when Xtol works for me, I love it. but the unpredictable nature of the product has forced me to keep it on the shelf. all indications are that the ascorbic acid is reactive to something in my water. I'll try one more time, removing the water uncertainty, and report back.

-- Daniel Taylor (aviator@agalis.net), January 12, 2000.

Geez, Daniel, publish your results for us. That's a lot of testing.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), January 13, 2000.

Is it possible that some of the inconsistency might have to do with how long the opened concentrate has been on the shelf? I know that I experienced similar problems with TMax concentrate. It has a published shelf life of 2 years, which is double that of Xtol. Yet, after leaving a gallon in fairly cool conditions for 3-4 months, it went bad. When I purchased new developer, the problem went away. I suppose the published shelf-life assumes that the container hasn't been opened. Just a thought.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@worldnet.att.net), January 14, 2000.

Late answer/question. Did you ever do a litmus test on the water? Don't know if it would make a difference. BTW, bottled water varies considerably and can have lots of chemicals in it such a flourine which is hard to filter out. Even distilled water should be questioned.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), April 11, 2000.

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