Rodinal and 100TMX stand development

With my Jobo still out for repair* I haven’t processed any film at home in over two months. I also haven’t shot much black and white lately, and with today’s lovely crisp bright cloudless weather, I got a hankering to do both of those things. So I loaded up with T-Max 100 and headed out to try something new (for me.)

While 100TMX is a terrific film, I’ve always found it tough to control its contrast processing it in the continuous-agitation Jobo. And with the bright contrasty light prevailing today, this problem likely would have been even worse. I’ve tried it with a bunch of developers; so far I’ve had the most consistently good results with the much-maligned T-MAX developer at 1+4 dilution in the Jobo. But no Jobo, and I hate doing intermittent-agitation conventional development in manual tanks (the tedium is unbearable). So I decided  to try stand development in Rodinal instead. I’ve had a bottle of that stuff on hand for a while but haven’t yet had a chance to use it. Today the stars aligned, so out it came.

I haven’t done much “stand”, or minimal-agitation, development, but a quick recon revealed that 100TMX is a good candidate for the technique. The idea behind stand development is that—with very little agitation to bring fresh developer washing over the film to move exhausted developer aside—developer tends to exhaust quickly in the dense (highlight) areas of the negative, halting further density build-up there; while in the thin (shadow) areas, development continues along, bringing up more and more shadow detail. In theory, this method should be ideal for controlling contrast and preventing blown highlights. Worth a try.

There are a number of recipes but I decided upon one that seemed fairly common: 1+100 dilution, 68ºF/20ºC, one hour development time, with brief agitation at the start and at the halfway mark. I loaded my only stainless hand tank with the exposed film and poured the tempered developer into it as it rested in a water bath at about 68-70º. I agitated slowly (twisting inversions) for about the first 30 seconds, and then for 5-10 sec halfway through development. Rinse, fix, photo-flo, and drying were the same as usual.

Result:

100TMX, EI 100, Rodinal 1+100 stand, 60 min. Mamiya 7, 80mm
100TMX, EI 100, Rodinal 1+100 stand, 60 min. Mamiya 7, 80mm

Overall, I was not displeased with the resulting images, as a first effort with a new developing technique. I had some physical problems, stemming from my inexperience loading steel reels—such as crimping, and a small patch or two where the film stuck to itself on the reel, preventing development. The grain is considerably more prominent than I’m used to with this film in Xtol, TMAX, or D76, but that’s to be expected with an acutance developer like Rodinal. The negatives overall are quite dense, indicating overdevelopment, though shadow detail is pretty decent, demonstrating that I was shooting close to my “correct” EI for this film/developer combination. Sharpness was very good, almost biting—again, as expected.

What would I do differently next time? A better job of temp control, for one. I was about 2ºF/1ºC too hot, which could certainly factor into the overdevelopment I got. I would shorten development time also, to maybe 45 or 50 minutes. I think my agitation was about right and I wouldn’t change that variable while also changing the others, to keep things simple.

I don’t see this technique supplanting my usual continuous-agitation development method in the Jobo. But if I have to use manual tanks, I’d far rather do stand development where possible than sit there flopping a developing tank back and forth for 30 minutes.

*My Jobo has been fixed, and I should have it back in about a week. Thanks, Dave.

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