Xtol and HP4+ or FP5+

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Hello there! I am gearing up my darkroom for 4x5 film development in a JOBO expert drum with CPP2 processor. I have chosen Xtol for my developer (health and environmental concerns). I want to pick my first film and wish to choose between Ilford HP4+ and FP5+.

Questions are as follows: 1) being an old 35mm user, I am used to being worried about grain. Thus I am nervous about HP5+. I want non-grainy enlargements up to 16x20. With LF do I need to worry about grain between these films? 2)Does the 1:1 dilution for one shot development really increase grain as Kodak suggests? Obviously this would be the most economical way for me to use this developer with my processor as well as putting my developing times well above 5 minutes so they can be manipulated for N+1, N-1 etc. 3) Does anyone have any personal experience with Xtol used with HP4+ and/or FP5+ ?

Thanks for any help!!


-- Scott Jones (scottsdesk@home.com), January 30, 2001


I have found Xtol at 1:3 with FP4plus to be an excellent combination, when Xtol worked. When used with HP5plus, I find I am uncomfortable with the higher base density I get. Mid and lower tone separation with FP4 look great & the negs print very well. HP5 prints well also. Grain isn't much of a concern with this film size, but get a box of each & run a test or two & see how it looks to you from each film. Be aware of "The Dreaded Xtol Failure", where for no explainable reason Xtol just fails to develop an image. It happens. Not to everyone, but to enough careful workers to push some of us to Ilford ID11 or another developer. Or to process a test sheet in the developer first before committing important negatives to it. Too bad, as Xtol is otherwise one of the finest products to come out in a long time.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), January 31, 2001.

Scott: One of the nice things about 4x5 photography is that you can forget about grain. That is a 35mm thing. I use both Tri-X and HP-5 for prints up to 16x20 and grain is not a concern. I can't handle larger prints in my darkroom. Remember, 16x20 is only a four times linear enlargement from 4x5, or the equivelent of a 4x5 print from 35mm. As for developer, the small amount you will be using will not have much if any of an effect on the environment. I use either ID-11 or HC-110 for my negs and am quite happy with the results. The reason I use the faster films for 4x5 is that I always rate the film at a lower ASA because of shadow detail, and combined with filters and small aperatues you can run out of shutter speed in a hurry. I find that many of my negatives are made at 1/15 to 1/30 of a second and lower even outdoors shooting scenics. I think it is important that you pick a dependable developer-film combination that gives you repeatable results if you are going to do serious LF work.


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), January 31, 2001.

yup, Dan said it... I tried xtol early on and loved it... especially the shelf life part but I had some fail me as Dan describes. I thought it was a bit early to be changing and blamed myself and kodak for jumping the gun and went back to my tmaxRS and perceptol but I keep hearing about this happening. Here's my explanation for the phenomenon... when kodak runs out of xtol crystals they substitute sugar instead.... hehehee... ahem. Seriously tho' Scott, you may want to begin with ID as Dan rec'd or Microphen, Mic-x, you know... or other older, wiser developer for all the testing that's surely ahead of you. Pick one and stick with it. You'll like the 16x20's from nearly any developer once you've had the opportunity to tweak. Tweak with sodium sulfites, dilutions, paper... yeah... you know.

A database search of photonet's archive for any developer can give you a good starting place for your times temps, dilutions for constant agit. good luck....

-- Trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), January 31, 2001.

I've used Xtol fairly frequently with FP4+ and haven't had any of the image underdevelopment problems that I've had with other films. FP4 and Xtol 1+3 is a very nice combination. I wouldn't use the lower dilutions on many other films though as Xtol just won't have enough energy to produce much of an image. Kodak has changed their technical papers to reflect this. When buying Xtol make sure that the chemicals are powdered not caked. If they're caked it won't work. Hope this helps some.

-- Kevin (kkemner@tatesnyderkimsey.com), January 31, 2001.

"Remember, 16x20 is only a four times linear enlargement from 4x5, or the equivelent of a 4x5 print from 35mm."

I'm a little confused. I always thought an 8X10" print from a 4X5" negative was a 4X enlargement, and an 8X10" print from 35mm was a 36 X enlargement. Using the theory that a square yard has 9 times the area of a square foot, doesn't the same rule apply to making prints? I'm not familiar with the term linear enlargement.

-- William Levitt (Light-Zone@web.de), January 31, 2001.

In Response to William Levitt,

Enlargement is normally expressed as a linear enlargement, therefore a 16x20 from 4x5 is a 4x enlargement.

The medium format camera manufacturers especially like to talk about film _area_: i.e. "Big 6x4.5cm image ... almost 3 times larger than 35mm" (from a Mamiya ad). The image however requires 1/1.77 the magnification of 35mm when making equal size prints, not 1/3.

-- mike rosenlof (mike_rosenlof@yahoo.com), January 31, 2001.

I'll weigh in with provisional support for FP4 and XTOL. I'm just now experimenting with it. (4 development tests to date all at EI 50). I'm mostly developing in homemade individual negative tubes with 60- 70ml dev per tube (for one 4x5 negative). I have had lovely success with 1:1 dilution, but I would take Kodak's warnings seriously and not dilute further unless you have a lot of volume per negative. The developer "tires" rather dramatically. Actually, the expense is trivial with 65ml per negative, so I'm happy to now be experimenting with undiluted XTOL --for such small quantities of developer this may be necessary for me to have full control of TMX and TMY. So far, these films seem to required a very low EI (roughly 32-40 and 120-160 respectively) when I used 1:1 XTOL with only 65ml in the tube. I haven't experimented with long (10+) dev times or high (24C) temperatures as I would rather not work that way anyway.

I will also add that my first experience with XTOL was with a package which was caked inside. I didn't know better and used this (diluted) and had zero development. The helpful Kodak representative was very interested in my batch number (about 2 months back) and they seem to be working on tracking down the problem. My impression talking with that rep was that they are fairly confident of no dev failure if you don't dilute past 1:1 and the crystals are not caked prior to mixing. It would be interesting to hear of any direct experience to the contrary...


-- Eric Pederson (epederso@darkwing.uoregon.edu), February 02, 2001.

I don't worry about grain, but I do worry that moving vegetation will spoil my shots. So I use HP-5+. I have made prints to 11x14 and I cannot see the grain under my 4x loupe.

I would stay away from XTOL. I tried hard to make this developer work, but I got very inconsistent results. One time 5 mins was right; the next time 12mins. It was that bad. I used distilled water and a Jobo, but my results were all over the place.

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), February 04, 2001.

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