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D-76 dilution 1+1 vs 1+3

Albert Smith Brown , Nov 03, 2009; 06:55 a.m.

I would like to know what is the difference betweeb D-76 dilution 1+1 vs 1+3.
Which is sharper, better tones, contrast ect?
I understand that 1+1 developes sharper than stock dilution, was wondering if D-76 gets more diluted, will I get sharper negatives from 1+3?
Thank you!


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H. P. , Nov 03, 2009; 07:39 a.m.

I use ID11, which is pretty much the same thing, and ran a couple of tests earlier this year for my own amusement. I didn't noticed that big a difference in quality between the two dilutions so I've decided to stick with 1:1, as processing time is more important to me than cost, and give 8 minutes at 20C for FP4.

John O'Keefe-Odom , Nov 03, 2009; 08:22 a.m.

It's a stop's worth of difference in strength.

When you expose the film to developer, you are exposing it to chemical energy; just as you exposed it to light energy when you tripped the shutter. If the times (and everything else but dilution) are equal, then think of it like this: working solution, 1+1, and 1+3 will have: 100%, 50% and 25% power.

See how the members of the set of 100%, 50% and 25% each have half the value of the number before it? Just like half of f/4's light will be f/5.6; half of f/5.6's light will be f/8; and half of f/8's light energy let in through the lens will be f/11.

When diluting the solutions, you are cutting the immediate intensity that the developer has as it contacts the film. This is partly why, as you dilute more, you may see an increase in times to make up for the dilution. There's more to this, but that's roughly how this goes.

It's possible to make a solution so dilute that you just don't have enough to get anything done. I find, for example, that when the stock developer volumes drop below 25mL to 500mL, then (unless it's been designed as a concentrated commercially available developer) you will probably see a radical increase in failure regardless of time elapsed. A lot of that depends on what's in that 25mL of developer, and I wouldn't want to bicker over it; but, point is, that no matter what kind of developer you use, there's a point in there where the solution can be so dilute as to be too weak to get anything done.

Sometimes developer dilutions are favorable to working solutions because the developer is so strong that you can overdo it at times above five minutes. [I find times below five minutes usually increase the likelihood of failure; film needs some time to let things sink in and work.] So, the dilute versions can be easier to control.

In my area, it's often warmer than the 20C that's so commonly listed; I'll use 24C water. That temperature increase makes things more active; in some cases, it could cut down processing time below five minutes; so, in such conditions, a 1+1 developer dilution can actually work out much better; that is, imagine the developer time, at working solution, came out to be 4 minutes; but the 1+1 time was above five minutes; and the 1+3 time was somewhere between 7 to 10 minutes. Because film needs a certain minimum time to soak, the 1+3 choice is looking more handsome.

Also, consider now a :30 error for pours; 30 seconds against a total immersion time of 4 minutes is a fatter proportion than 30 seconds against 10 minutes; so, there, too, dilution can help reduce the influence of development errors related to tracking time.

As for "is it sharper" and so on, that's debatable; it's dependent upon a bunch of stuff on that film; which kind of film; which kind of developer; and so on. I think we can imagine situations where somebody could fail or succeed by picking the "wrong" combo; also, too, notice what's better has a subjective component to it. So, sometimes you have to get in there, experiment a little, and figure out what you like to pick.

All in all, I find that the developer dilution ratios are like f/stop on a lens. Picking the right one for what you want is just a part of using your judgement for how you want to expose the film to chemical energy.

Bruce Watson , Nov 03, 2009; 08:35 a.m.

Will you get sharper negatives? Maybe. Will you be able to see the difference? Probably not. Almost certainly not if you are making enlargements less than say 12x. Sharpness is controlled by many things, developer dilution is way down on that list.

The primary reason to dilute developers is to control development times.

Markus Arike , Nov 03, 2009; 10:33 a.m.

I've been wondering this question myself, as I am currently working with D76 and a variety of films. Don't know what films you're using, but both the Ilford Delta 100 and Pan F+ datasheets claim that for maximum sharpness, 1+3 dilution with ID-11 (D-76) should be used.
I've been getting good results with D76 1:1 so the extended development time for 1:3 has kind of kept me from trying D76 1:3. I am curious, so I will most certainly make a test at 1:3.

Kelly Flanigan , Nov 03, 2009; 11:42 a.m.

Beware folks that the best dilution for sharpness is often a differnent one for max resolution!

Don Wallace , Nov 03, 2009; 04:19 p.m.

John, something bothers me about what you said. I use HC-110 regularly at different dilutions in order to keep the development time above 5 minutes in my Jobo. What is important is the amount of developer per unit area of film. I use the same amount of developer per sheet of film, regardless of the dilution. Unless the dilution is extreme (for specific purposes), I get the same results, whether it is 1:31, 1:47, etc.

If the amount of developer per unit area of film was below a minimum, or if the dilution was extreme, I could see the results being different.

Am I missing something in what you said?

Lex Jenkins , Nov 03, 2009; 07:05 p.m.

The solvent action of developers like D-76 and ID-11 at 1+3 is very well documented and clearly explained around the web and in many books.

In actual practice, I see a difference only with faster films that are grainy or underexposed. The grain appears somewhat more obvious with 1+3 dilution. Apparent "sharpness" (a rather vague term - which Kelly alluded to) seems satisfactory at 1+1 so that's what I use.

Dilution appears to have little or no effect on the solvent action of HC-110 and so far I've seen no conclusive evidence or explanations showing that more dilute solutions of HC-110 will increase apparent "sharpness". There are occasional claims of compensating effect with very dilute solutions, especially with intermittent water baths, but that's a different topic.

Albert Smith Brown , Nov 03, 2009; 07:54 p.m.

Thanks for the response guys.
I will be developing Fuji Acros (5x4 sheet film). I used D-76 stock and 1:1 before and I like the results from 1:1 to stock, the negs are sharper.
John, I was enlightened by your 'chemical energy'. Thank you!
I am thinking of developing in D-76 70ml:210 water. Does this solution have enough energy to develope 15 sheets of 5x4?

Michael Axel , Nov 03, 2009; 08:27 p.m.

Albert, if you're using about 2000ml of it, it should. Also, you may find that a more dilute solution with a longer developing time will give you a bit more tonal range, though there are better developers with which to achieve the effect with. D-76 is pretty high energy.

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