Friday, January 25, 2013

New Experiments with T-Max film and T-Max RS Developer

When I first started to develop my own film I knew I wanted to shoot TMX, as I really liked the look of that film, so I naturally bought the T-Max RS developer recommended for developing TMX 4x5 sheets. The simplicity of the process drew me in.

However, as I began to work more seriously, I realized that this combo was really unforgiving with my technique, both shooting and developing (time, temperature, agitation, etc.). So I really buckled down and did some extensive film tests and reined in my development. That helped, but I was still not quite happy with the results. I decided to switch to Rodinal as it was giving me great results and I haven't looked back since.

I still have a brand-new bottle of T-Max RS in my cabinet, and I finally decided to try something I thought of a few months ago. I read that RS is technically a compensating developer. I figured that it might react a bit differently if I used some really dilute solutions. Normally, the developer is used at a 1:4 dilution. Many people also half that to a 1:9 dilution. I decided to take it a step further, to a 1:19 dilution and run a film test. I shot a simple product-type shot of some of my cameras and tried different EI's and stand developed the film at that 1:19 dilution for an hour, with a bit of agitation at the 30-minute mark. The negatives were a bit too dense - but here are a couple of the shots:

It was a good start, so next I tried a 1:39 dilution and stand-developed a single sheet of 4x5. I took the same type of photo with one of my microphones, using a Schneider 150mm G-Claron:

Success! Now this shot is slightly edited, but the results were impressive. I shot this at an EI of 100. I think it would've been a bit better at 50. Either way, I had really nice open shadows and smoothly compressed highlights. I think this will work wonders in the harsh southern sun that I often find myself shooting in. The detail and sharpness is also fantastic. The film that I develop with Rodinal always has clumpy grain that is sharp but not great; the T-Max RS is on a whole other level. It is really tight, beautiful grain that gives a really high acuity to the image.

I still need to do more tests in a less controlled environment, but this process is looking very promising.

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