Dektol as film developer on Arista 400 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

In the last few weeks there was a post on using Dektol as a fim developier (with a 1 to 10 mixture for 5-6 minutes). Somone else responded that Kodak used to list Dektol as a high energy developer. what is the difference between using Dektol and say D76 (other than mixture ratios)? Would grain become a problem on enlarged 4x5 negs? Is there any info in someone's old Kodak manuals on how many sheets of 8x10 film a gallon of Dektol will develope?

I will be using hanger rack and tank for processing. Using the same chemicals for both film and prints would seem to save time, space, and confusion.

-- Beau Schwarz (, March 13, 2001


Yes, it also saves on quality as well.

-- Pete Andrews (, March 13, 2001.

Yes, you can use Dektol for film development. Dektol uses the same developing agents as D76, metol and hydroquinone, but the accelerator used by Dektol (Sodium Carbonate) is much stronger that the one used by D76 (Sodium Sulfite). The Sodium Sulfite not only acts as an accelerator in D76, but also acts as a mild solvent to produce softer grain. Therefore, Dektol will produce grainier results than D76. Since Dektol is much stronger than D76, it needs to be diluted quite a bit if it is to be used as a film developer.

Many years ago, some newspaper photographers would use Dektol full strength to push their film speeds skyhigh. The popular high speed film back then was Kodak's 2475 Recording Film which was pretty grainy to start with. The final results were very grainy and the images would have a very graphic journalistic look to them. Of course, since you aren't talking about pushing, the grain won't be that bad. But it definitely will not be as fine as you will get from D76. That's probably one of the reasons today's film developers don't have Sodium Carbonate in the formulas.

If you want to try it, the dilution and times you mention are a good place to start. I used to develop TriX for 5 mins @ 68F with pretty good results. There was always quite noticable grain, but that was with 35mm film.

I'm not too sure that you would get very good print densities at this high of a dilution though. I have found that, at least for me, 1:4 is about the highest dilution that will still turn out good blacks. That is with very long print developing times using papers that do not have develper incorporated into the emulsion. Also, it is said that one should not use the same fixer for prints and negatives. Supposedly, the iodides used in today's film emulsions can cause print stains if the same fixer is used for prints and films.

-- Ken Burns (, March 13, 2001.

Beau, Out here where I work at the Tonopah Test Range we do focus runs on our high speed 35mm movie camera's. We still use good old Kodak 2476 B/W for that. I'll generally unload about 45 feet of film, mash it into a 1.5 gallon container pour in some tap water for a presoak, and look around for some dektol left over from doing prints that's a little lighter than Coca Cola. The stuff has got so much developer in it it could sit around for a year and still develop film. So then I pour my water out and pour in some Dektol and slosh it around for 3 1/2 minutes, sometimes five if it's really old, give a quick rinse with more tap water, then pour in some fixer that's left over from Xray film, clear it, rinse again, maybe even let it wash for a couple of minutes if I've got a phone call or something, throw it in the sink, find an end, and start walking until it's stretched out. Then I wipe most of the dirt from the floor off with a paper towel left over from when I washed my hands, and WALLA!

You may be gasping, but what I'm doing meets the needs of the situation. All I need to see is a frame or two every foot or so, and then once I have my information, it goes in the trash. Would I develop my 8X10 fine art film that way? No. Whole new set of rules. I want every nuance that the film is capable of delineating intact. I carefully develop one sheet at a time in a tray, (in Pyro, but that's just because I'm weird). Dektol is made for paper. Paper needs high voltage. Good developers for film are low voltage so that every tiny tone is developed delicately, seperately.

But you're absolutely right, Dektol will work every time. Best regards. Jim Galli

-- Jim Galli (, March 13, 2001.

I have used Dektol exactly as you have described, 1:10 dilution, normal development times of around 5.5 minutes, 68 degrees. It works very well and saves a bunch of money. I also use hangers and tanks and mix fresh developer for each session. Usually I'm only doing 6- 20 sheets at a session. The grain is not objectionable in 11x14 prints. Try it, you may be surpised.

-- Bill Moore (, March 13, 2001.

For what its worth, I understand that Walker Evans used Dektol to develop 8x10 film in the '30's. Don't have any information on dilution or time.

-- Erik Gould (, March 13, 2001.

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