Darkroom Diary: Testing Tri-X at EI 3200 Developed in Rodinal

July 20, 2019  •  4 Comments

Darkroom Diary For 7/20/2019 Last week, I shot a roll of the new emulsion Kodak T-Max P3200 film while photographing the Wild Horses of Missouri.

You can watch that video and read the article if you haven't had the opportunity to do that yet. 

I need an EI 3200 black and white film and developer solution that produces the types of images that I envision are possible.

I want a solution that doesn't have excessive grain, has open shadows and retains my highlight values. 

As discussed last week, I was horribly disappointed with the new Kodak P3200 in D76, so I pushed forward and did some additional testing this week using Tri-X rated at EI 3200 developed in Rodinal using two different development methods (stand, and semi-stand). 

Free Analog Photography Journal by Tim LaytonFree Analog Photography Journal by Tim Layton In the end, my judgment is based on the quality of my prints.  In the video below, I show the two prints that I made using the two different development methods using Rodial and compare these prints to the Kodak P3200 print developed in D76 from last week.

Below the video, I provide the technical details of my testing in case you want to try and develop your Tri-X in Rodinal using one of these development methods.

If you do that, send me a note and let me know how it worked out for you. 

VIDEO
Darkroom Diary 7/20/19: Testing Tri-X at EI 3200 in Rodinal

RODINAL DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION

Testing Tri-X in Rodianl Using Stand DevelopmentTesting Tri-X in Rodianl Using Stand DevelopmentReceive my Darkroom Diary updates every Saturday at 9AM CT where I share my insider tips and tutorials with film and darkroom photographers. Get sneak peeks inside my darkroom and studio and early access to to my latest fine art prints. [Hint: I give away free fine art prints to my Darkroom Diary readers, so don't miss out.]

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For the tests this week, I exposed a roll of Tri-X at EI 3200 out in the field with the wild horses.  It was the typical early morning low light scene that I frequently work in and often need EI 1600 and EI 3200. 

I am very happy with my Tri-X in D76 1:1 combination and to date, this is what I have used to make the majority of my wild horse prints.

I have rated Tri-X anywhere between EI 250 and EI 1600 with excellent results. I've tested these EI ratings and different development times extensively to find the right balance of shadow detail and highlight retention.  

I like performing testing this way because it is based on my end goal.  I basically want to find a film and developer combination that will not have excessive grain and doesn't block up the shadows or blow out the highlights at EI 3200. 

It's a lot to ask of any black and white film and developer combination, but I know it's possible.  I have used Delta 3200 and developed in Microphen for some of my elk photographs and I was very happy with this combination, but this film and developer combination is not something I normally use.  I am trying to simplify and minimize the number of films and developers that I use, but I won't simplify unless the quality that I need can be achieved.  

I diluted Rodial to 1:50 and developed at 20C for both the stand and semi-stand tests. I wanted to see if the 2-hour stand development would outperform the 35-minute semi-stand method in terms of grain rendering, shadow detail, and highlight retention.  I would much rather invest 35 minutes versus 2 hours as long as the results are acceptable.  

My develop methods broke down as follows:

Stand Development

Total development time was 120 minutes (2 hours)

  • Jobo 500ml Daylight Tank
  • Dilution: Rodinal 1:50 at 20C (used distilled water)
  • Initial agitation: 1-minute gentle inversions
  • Stand for 30 min intervals for 120 minutes
  • 2 gentle inversions every 30 minutes 
  • Water Stop
  • Neutral Fixer
  • Hypo Wash
  • Wash the film
  • Photo-Flo
  • Hang to dry

Semi-Stand Development Method

Total development time was 35 minutes

  • Jobo 500ml Daylight Tank
  • Dilution: Rodinal 1:50 at 20C (used distilled water)
  • Initial agitation: 1 minute of gentle inversions
  • Stand for 5 min intervals for 35 minutes
  • Gentle swirling every 5 minutes for 10 seconds
  • Water Stop
  • Neutral Fixer
  • Hypo Wash
  • Wash the film
  • Photo-Flo
  • Hang to dry

NEW EI 3200 IN RODINAL PRINT

The prints below are from my test exposures using Tri-X at EI 3200 and developed in Rodinal using the stand development method.  I wasn't concerned with my composition and all of the other details as if they were going to be part of my portfolio at some point.  My focus was creating some test exposures in the type of light that I normally work in and of the subjects that I photograph.  

I liked the stand development method the best and so I scanned one of the test exposures and processed it in Photoshop using my normal workflow.  You can also see the actual print in the video update above. 

Wild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim LaytonWild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim Layton

PRINT COMPARISON WITH TRI-X At EI 1600 in D76 1:1

Below are some of my latest wild horse images and all were shot at sunrise in very low light at EI 1600 and developed using my standard process with D-76 1:1 in my Jobo CPP-3 processor.

The images below are scans of the negatives and edited in Photoshop.  I scanned the films with the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizer and the Epson V-850 Pro scanner.  I made some prints from these scans with my Epson P800 in the advanced B&W mode on Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta paper. Those prints look very similar to the digital images below and I am very happy with them.  I haven't had time to make some split-grade silver gelatin prints of these images yet, but I plan to do that soon. 

Wild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim LaytonWild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim Layton

Early Morning Centuries

Wild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim LaytonWild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim Layton

Get Back & Give Me Some Space

Wild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim LaytonWild Horses of Shannon County Missouri by Tim Layton

New Foal With Mom at Sunrise

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Comments

Steve Rosenblum(non-registered)
Hi Tim
Very interesting results. I would suggest that you try shooting HP5+ at 3200 and developing it in Xtol/Eco Pro. The results are quite remarkable-it lifts the mid-tones without crushing the shadows. I like it better than pushed Tri-X. In fact, I don't really like HP5 at or near box speed but it really comes into its own at 1600, 3200, or even 6400.
Chris Rusbridge(non-registered)
Thanks for this Tim, which I found very interesting indeed. I've not used any of the 3 developers you mention (only Ilfosol 3 and HC-110), and I've not pushed film either, so I'm perhaps extremely unqualified to comment. However, as an experiment, you've effectively changed 2 variables each time: Delta 3200 and Microphen, P3200 and D76, and [email protected] and stand. (The exception was [email protected] semi-stand, but you didn't discuss the differences there, presumably because they were insignificant.)

Now I've no idea why you chose the combinations in each case, but it's be a touch more "scientific" if you kept the developer constant across all 3 films. Given that both D76 and Rodinal gave unsatisfactory results, but Microphen gave "spectacular" results with Delta 3200, why not try Microphen with P3200 and with [email protected]? (MDC even gives times for both of them.)

At least in that case there'd only be one variable changing: the film itself!

PS Just a side comment... I'm having trouble viewing your videos recently. They go so far and then stick, despite my excellent internet connection. This one I had to reload 3 times, and then leave for half an hour, to see it right through!
Gilbert Mayer(non-registered)
Thank you so much for your effort in testing and comparing these film stocks. If I can dare to give advice, I think for stand development rodinal should be diluted by 1:100 at least. In any case rodinal is no way to go for nice grain being a edge sharpening developer. Also it is not well suited for pushing beyond one stop. I would go for Xtol in a 1:2 dilution. The second problem is scanning. Most disappointed comments about visible or ugly grain come from photographers scanning their negatives. Printing analog in the darkroom very often leads to better results. Scanners are very busy working to scan every grain, not knowing that they deal with an image. Enlargers work with light and collect it to the paper below. Seems to be the appropriate process to bring oldfashioned negatives to shine. This is just my oppinion based on my experience. I m not the person who wants to teach you anything. Please don t mistake me as this. Best regards and thank you again for your work and inspiration. Gilbert
Terry Breedlove(non-registered)
I remember visiting Art Wolf’s gallery in Seattle years ago. He shot 35mm Fuji Velvia 50 iso but rated it at 40 I believe. He had huge prints hanging on the Walls and they looked fantastic. Of course he was always on a tripod.
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