Developing TMax 100 in 1+3 Fomapan Excel

THE only film developers I have managed to get so far are Fomadon P and Fomadon Excel. These are both powders intended for use in a stock solution. However, I prefer to dilute stock down to get a solution I can use on a small batch of films and then throw away. There are several reasons for this: I am not too good at keeping track of how many films or sheets of film I have developed, I suspect rapid development runs the risk of slightly uneven results if the agitation is not right, and I prefer not to have part-used bottles of developer hanging around.


Unfortunately, I have not seen any information on the Net about using Fomadon Excel as a diluted developer with Kodak TMax100 film (nor, I think, with other films), though it is said to be a clone of Xtol, which is cited for using in dilutions of 1+1, 1+2 and 1+3. So I decided to treat Excel exactly as if it were Xtol.

The 1+3 dilution suits me, as I have four small chemical bottles in which to store 250ml of stock, so I can make up a one litre solution from the standard packet and split it four ways. The recommended developing limit for a litre is 36 sheets of 4×5 film (presumably they mean Foma film and others may differ slightly) so a quarter litre should be able to handle nine sheets before exhaustion – which is a reasonable number to accumulate before a developing session.

The Excel was made up with deionised water, as iron salts could interfere with its performance. Three titres of 250ml were poured off and the remaining 250 were diluted down to 1 litre, which is what my tank takes for sheet film.

One sheet of TMax 100 film was pre-soaked with water at 20C for a few minutes to aid even development and wash off the blue anti-halation layer. It was then developed at 20c for 13min 30sec, in line with the recommended development time for Xtol, with 30 seconds initial agitation and then four inversions per minute. The resulting negative was thin, perhaps one stop under-developed.

I increased the developing time to 30 minutes, with agitation for the first 30 seconds and then every 30 seconds thereafter. The result was excellent. After developing six 4×5 negatives, I extended the developing time to 40 minutes for the last four, completing the development of 10 sheets before discarding the developer.

Here is one of the films developed for 30mins:


And this is what was visible in an 80MP scan (it is from the cluster of towers on the right of the picture above):


And this shot is from the 40 minute development:


Apparently, diluting Xtol type developers leads to a slight increase in grain but also an increase in image sharpness. There is no doubt that the results I’ve got are razor sharp, in fact, far sharper than I imagined the old Rodenstock Ysarex lens could manage.


About ambientimages

Paul Cowan is a former journalist turned full-time photographer.
This entry was posted in Black and White film, Film, film camera, Graflex Crown Graphic, Large Format, Photography, Processing, Rodenstock Ysarex 150, TMax 100 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Developing TMax 100 in 1+3 Fomapan Excel

  1. Alejandro Mansilla says:

    hi, i came to this post looking for experienced users in Fomadon Excel. First of all, you wrote a great post plenty of useful information Thanks!!!
    I’ll take the opportunity to ask you about something that i worries me. I just bought Fomadon Excel W27 and after prepare the dilution i notice that there are small particles precipitated at the bottom of the bottle. I used distilled water to make the dilution following the instruction as good as i can. Did you know if this precipitation is normal? Will have any consequence in the development process?
    Here are some pictures of the bottom of the bottle with this particles:
    i appreciate any comment. Thanks!

    • It is difficult to get Excel to dissolve properly when you make it up. It takes a lot of stirring to get the first packet to dissolve fully. There have been times when I’ve gone ahead and added the second packet while there are still traces of the crystals from the first one left, but not as much as you seem to have there. I got away with it. Hopefully, if you shake up the bottle a bit you will get rid of the remaining crystals now that you have topped it up to one litre. You don’t want undissolved reactants sticking to the emulsion when you are developing. As long as you finally dissolve the leftover crystals I think you will find it works OK (but that’s just my guess).

      My problem with Foma products is that I just don’t seem able to make them work properly at the given development times/exposures, especially with sheet film. I’m finding that to get Fomapan 200 to produce a decent negative from Fomadon-P I am having to develop for at least nine minutes with constant agitation (the packet says five or six minutes, presumably with intermittent agitation). I don’t see other people complaining about this, so I suppose it is something I am doing wrong – or maybe everyone is just shy to say they have trouble with it. Either way, what matters is getting a good result at the end, even if it isn’t produced the right way.

      I think the Excel worked OK at the normal concentration for the given development times, but you may need to experiment to get the best result. Good luck. – Paul

  2. Thanks for your answer. I really appreciate that you share your experiences with me.
    Reading your thoughts i was thinking in try to separate the precipitated crystal among with a couple of ml of the solution and try to dissolve the crystals using some element may be a spoon and if a get it, mix it back with the rest.
    I’ve spent some time agitating the bottle trying to dissolve the crystals and nothing happens!. In the other hand i made a minimal develop/fixing test using the tip of a undeveloped film and seems to work just normal.
    What if i just separate the crystal of the dilution using a strainer and move on?! 🙂

    • Well, you can try it. Why not? A minor variation in the mix shouldn’t be critical.
      One other thought I had was that there might be something in the plastic of the bottle you are mixing it in that could have reacted in some way. I use chemistry lab equipment from a scientific supplies place but your bottle looked as if it was once a soft drinks container. I still think the most likely problem is just that the first packet never dissolved properly, maybe the water was a little cooler than it should have been, but I always have to stir it for quite a long time.

      • c0r0nel says:

        Now you mention i saw the crystals when i dilute the first packet.
        This is funny, from yesterday to today the crystals are significantly decreased and are about to disappear. In several times today i was strong shaking the bottle for some minutes and let it there in repose. It’s seems to be working and also seems that you theory about bad mixing is correct too!.
        Thanks again for all your help!

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