Developing B&W at home......advise needed! : LUSENET : Leica Photography : One Thread


I'm still fairly new to Leicas having just made the move from Contax and I love some of the B&W images I have been getting back. I have shot some Ilford BW and some TMax but would like to start processing the films at home instead of waiting 3 days at my closest pro lab. Once I have the negs I can scan those until I invest in an enlarger.

My question is, are there certain chemicals favored by you seasoned Leica users and any other advise for someone who hasn't developed their own film since 1985!



-- Mark Griffin (, April 17, 2001


Mark, during your dry spell Kodak introduced XTOL, which does a nice job with TMAX and also with Ilford Delta Pro 100 and 400. The only thing is that XTOL is susceptible to "sudden catastrophic XTOL failure." You might develop a couple of rolls with good results, and then a week later the developer has suddenly died and you get thin negatives. Keeping it in a tightly stoppered airless bottle could help, as oxidation may be the problem. Using it 1:1 as a one-shot could be a good policy. And buying it in the larger 5-liter size is supposed to circumvent the problem, if you can use up that much!

Aside from the aforementioned problem, XTOL is a great developer, worth trying. You get very fine grain and sharp images, with nice contrast. It's a good developer for TMAX100 users who haven't been happy with other developers.

Absenting XTOL, for my pictorial shots, I think D76 is still king.

Welcome back to B&W!

-- Bob Fleischman (, April 17, 2001.

Mark: I used D-76 25 years ago, and with a new package it still works the same. I like to use it 1:1 or 1:2, but not straight. If you want to know the timing for other than 1:1, ask. I like Tri-X. Look at the other threads in this forum for comments on film types. There are quite a few out there. Cheers.

Mark J.

-- Mark A. Johnson (, April 18, 2001.

I develop all my b&w stuff in Xtol diluted 1:2. Works great. I haven't had any problems with it quitting early. I mix up a 5-liter batch and store it in several 1-liter bottles filled to the very top. I usually go through a liter in less than a month, so longevity of a partially-full bottle is much of a concern.

At 1:2 dilution, vigorous agitation is essential. Make sure there's room for the soln to move around in the developing tank.

-- Mike Dixon (, April 18, 2001.

I'm very happy with the Ilford Delta 400 Pro emulsion (the "old" one, as long as I can still get hold on it) developed in Ilford ID-11 @ 1:1. I used to shoot Ilford's XP-1 and later XP-2 for an extended period @ ASA 400 and still think that they are hard to beat as far as latitude of exposure and resolution are concerned - and you can have them developed at any 1 hour lab in a standard E 41 process that will give you standardized results at any time and any place in the world! If you want to concentrate the time @ your disposal on photographing and scanning rather than wetting your hands, check out that combo first.

-- Lutz Konermann (, April 18, 2001.

I shoot Delta 400 in my Leica almost exclusively. In fact, I just ordered an Alden bulk film loader and some 100' spools if Delta 400. Great standard film for hand-held shooting with an M, IMHO.

I use XTOL diluted 1:1 exclusively for Delta 400. Aside from being an excellent developer, it works well at room temperature (whatever that might be). I use if from about 68 degrees to 80 degrees. I keep all my chemicals, and a jug of tap water, at room temperature. That way, I don't need a temperature bath or any temperature control. I just measure the developer temperatture, pick my development time and go. Works GREAT every time!

I prefer the 1 liter packs of XTOL, while it cost a little more, I know my XTOL is always fresh. Use the developer as a one shot, dump it down the drain after use.

Good luck, and welcome back to the world of B&X, its great.

BTW, when you get to the enlarging time, come back here and I'll tell you how I run 8x10 proofs at no more than 3 minutes each (I put the kids to be last niught, ran 20 8x10s and still watched the 10:00 news with my wife). Faster than a digital camera and ink-jet printer! And the results are GREAT, 8x10 glossy's from Delta 400 (shot with a Leica) can't be beat.

-- Dan Brown (, April 18, 2001.

I'd second using the c41 B&W films. I heard last night that Kodak is coming out with a new c41 B&W film and a paper to match it. My experience with xp2 and CN 400 has been pretty good. My only complaint about CN400 is that it is a bit flat. However, if you plan to scan, either should be fine. My one hour place can Develop Only in 1/2 hour and if I take in a negative sheet to put the negatives in, they only charge $2.49.

If you want to DIYS, I'd look at Ethol TEC. It is advertised as the developer used at the Leica Institute, which has something to say for it. It is compensating and easy to use in the liquid form. Diafine also works well and saves the hassel of temperatures and times.

-- Gene Crumpler (, April 18, 2001.

I forgot to mention that I used TEC for about 6 years and got good results.

-- Gene Crumpler (, April 18, 2001.

Just a quick followup on the X-tol problem mentioned above. Last year Kodak had a manufacturing problem with X-tol, to the effect that it was leaving the factory, in effect, pre-oxidized. Sometimes you could tell because the grains of developer were clumped together in the package, but sometimes not. The problem was rectified (according to Kodak) in January of this year (2001), so there should be no further problems of this kind.

-- Bob Todrick (, April 18, 2001.

Since Kodak claimed to fix Xtol in January of this year, if there have been no more reports of "dreaded Xtol Failure" by Christmas, 2002, it will probably be safe to use. Otherwise there are plenty of other good developers on the market. For wonderful B&W prints it's still very difficult to beat Plus-X in 1:3 Microdol-X (EI=80), same as it was 25 years ago.

-- Bill Mitchell (, April 18, 2001.

I would back the choice of Delta 400 and Xtol 1:1, or 1:2. Great for Tmax 100 and 400 as well. Really makes those 8x10 glossy prints glow. The advantage of the Xtol is it's sharpness and the tonal range is pretty good too.

-- matt veld (, April 18, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ