comparison of Pyro and Pyro type developers : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'd like to here peoples experience and views on these developers ABC Pyro, PMK, Dixactol and any other pyro or pyro type developer.

At the moment my recent use of ABC Pyro looks to be the best dev I've used, film being HP5+ there seems to be some loss of speed but the tonal gradation is marvellous.

-- chris kargoris (, August 21, 2001


Chris, I started out using PMK and swore by it, until I tried DiXactol. This is a real gem of a developer, good degree of staining and lovely crisp negs. The good thing about it is the fact that it is fine with almost every film type imaginable and the instructions that accompany the developer are amongst the best you will find. Excellent keeping qualities and Barry Thornton sells concentrate A and B separately to compensate for using more of type B for varying dilutions and whether you use single or 2 bath set up. Well worth a try, especially as you are in the UK. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, August 21, 2001.

Yes Dixactol is a fine developer I've used it for over a year now. Two problems though, grain if your using roll film format can be an issue and separation of the middle tonal values can be lacking, but overall yes Paul I agree with you. Barry is very helpful.

-- chris kargotis (, August 21, 2001.

Who sells this DiXactol in U.S.? -jeff buckels

-- Jeff Buckels (, August 21, 2001.

Also started out with PMK and since I mix it myself, tried the ABC+ and like it a bit better since I'm going for a looong scale that can get too much stain with the former. I've had very little luck with HP5 film though and mostly use FP4. In fairness I never tried to get the HP5 tuned right and it seems like tonality was very flat and heavy.

-- Jim Galli (, August 21, 2001.

Photographers' Formulary, Inc. / for Dixactol and loads of other stuff in the US

-- chris kargotis (, August 21, 2001.

Like Paul I've used both Pyro and DiXactol. Of the two I find Pyro to be sharper and finer grained especially with Delta 100 both 120 and 4x5. Here in the UK there is a new type of pyro about to go on sale by a company called Creative Monochrome Ltd., e-mail I'm told it does away with the second staining bath. If it passes their tests it should go on sale by the end of September. I've asked for a test sample so I'll let folk know if its up to scratch.

All the best,

-- Trevor Crone (, August 22, 2001.

I used PMK and loved the look of the negatives. I used it in tanks with 120 and 220 film and in trays with 4x5 and 8x10 film (HP5+ in all cases except one disaster with T Max). I continued using it until I decided to run some tests to see just how much better my prints were with PMK negatives as compared to negatives developed in my previous developer. So I made the same photograph twice, developing one in PMK and one in my normal developer (D 76 diluted 1-1). I did this several times. I found that I could make exactly the same print from either negative using my normal paper (Kodak Polymax Fine Art). At first I thought it was because the scene I was photographing was a low contrast scene so I repeated the same test with several high contrast scenes. Same result. Then I tried some in between contrast scenes. Same result. A friend of mine was doing the same thing at the same time and getting the same results (he was using Rollo Pyro and developing in his Jobo system). So we thought that perhaps our pyro negatives weren't being properly developed. To check this, my friend sent some of his negatives to a well known pyro user and writer. He was nice enough to look at them and returned them, saying they looked fine. That seemed to eliminate a bad pyro negative as the cause. Since I found that I could apparently make absolutely identical prints with and without pyro, all that PMK accomplished for me was to greatly increase the exposure time under the enlarger and increase my expenses. So I quit using it. I have come to believe that there's a lot of myth floating around about pyro by people who look at the negatives, get great prints, and think it must be the pyro. Based on my experience, which may be atypical for some reason but if so I don't know why, I suspect the same great print could have been made without pyro and with a lot less time, trouble, and expense.

-- Brian Ellis (, August 23, 2001.

ABC Pyro seems to give more contrast than PMK. Paula and I tried PMK and did not see any advantages over what we had been using for many years. There is less stain with ABC, but it yields beautiful negatives with plenty of contrast if exposed and developed properly.

Michael A. Smith

-- Michael A. Smith (, August 23, 2001.

Brian I have used ID11 and D76 the thing that distinguished pyro was the edge sharpness and suble texture to the tonal separation which gave a tactile almost 3D effect especially with clouds. A few years ago I visited a show called "Coming to light" which contained 19c and 20c work, the difference interms of print quality was stark. OK a good part of that is because of LF plates and contact printing but pyro etched out the sharpness.

-- chris kargotis (, August 24, 2001.

Hi Chris - When you say that "tonal gradation" is marvellous, do you mean you've made two identical photographs, developed one negative in pyro and the other in your previous developer, then printed the two and you see much better tonal gradation in the print made with ABC pyro? If that's what you've done then I'd like to know because I don't think you can properly isolate the effect of pyro on the final print until you spend some time making duplicate photographs and then developing one in pyro and the other in your previous developer and then making prints from the two negatives. Of course in order to do that properly you first have to do some testing to come up with a normal developing time for pyro (you presumably already know it for your other developer) and that takes a while because, contrary to what you sometimes read, in my experience a color densitometer with a blue filter just doesn't work very well with pyro. Despite use of the blue filter, the stain and the densitometer just don't get along very well, at least that's how it seemed to me. In any event, once you get a normal development time you then make the best prints you can from each negative and see if you can tell the pyro print from the other. I never could nor could my friend who was doing the same thing I was doing except that he was using Rollo Pyro in a Jobo system and I was using PMK in tanks and trays. The two prints were absolutely, 100% identical every time. I've read about edge effects, I've read about how the stain acts as a yellow filter with VC paper to reduce contrast, etc. etc. but when the print from the pyro negative looks absolutely identical to the print from the other negative, there doesn't seem to be any advantage to pyro and there are some disadvantages (longer exposure times under the enlarger, expense, toxicity). However, neither of us was using ABC pyro (or is that the same as Rollo pyro - I don't think so but I can't remember for sure) so if you've done some testing along the lines I'm talking about and can see marvellous tonal gradations in the prints made from ABC pyro negatives that you don't see in prints made from the other negatives, I'd really like to know so that I can go through this all again with ABC pryo.

-- Brian Ellis (, August 24, 2001.

Brian, No I have not made an exact comparision, perhaps I should explain how I came to experiment with Pyro. I've been an architectural photographer for twenty years, the subject matter is inherently high contrast and the problem for me was always producing sharp negs along with a good tonal range so I have a sky as well as shadow detail, yes ID11 has good tonal range but no sharpness, where as Rodinal has the sharpness but blows out the sky. I needed something that would give me both not at the expense of one or the other. There is a cost with Pyro its grain but if your using 10x8 and contact printing it is not an issue.

If Pyro is not for you, then it's not for you, no point getting warmed up over it.

-- chris kargotis (, August 25, 2001.

chris Kargotis wrote: "yes ID11 has good tonal range but no sharpness, where as Rodinal has the sharpness but blows out the sky. I needed something that would give me both not at the expense of one or the other. There is a cost with Pyro its grain but if your using 10x8 and contact printing it is not an issue."

With 8x10 negs if you can't get sharp negs using ID11 and the Rodinal blows out the skies you most likely don't have your developing down too well. Pyro is not magic and does nothing other developers don't do other than the stain. Try Brians test head to head with another developer... working with it enough to actually get well developed negatives. Then try the contact prints & see what happens. People can and do change developers for many reasons but if Pyro was really as good as so many say no one would change back to a 'normal' developer, yet many do and report little or no change in results. I think this is a simple case of "if you think it works, it does for you."

-- Dan Smith (, August 25, 2001.

Dan my use of ID11, D76 and Rodinal was with 6x7, 5x4 and enlargement printing. But all this gets away from my original question of comparision of Pyro and Pyro type developers. If people want to do specific tests and use densitometers go ahead, I like to use my eyes.

-- chris kargotis (, August 25, 2001.

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