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.