Film Photography

Experimenting with LegacyPro L110 developer

I thought I’d use Rodinal for some time before trying other developers, but I’ve just tried an HC-110 clone, LegacyPro L110. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but all was not lost.

Hosed

I was looking for a developer to use with a roll of Adox HR-50 that the kind folks at Analogue Wonderland sent me to try. It’s a specialty film modified for use in regular photography. The roll is in my Olympus OM-1 now.

The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 with only a few developers, and my go-to, Rodinal, isn’t one of them. Adox mades a developer especially for this film, HR-DEV, and it’s allegedly great for all black-and-white films. I probably should have just bought it. I might yet.

But my first thought was to use HC-110. The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 in Ilfotec HC, which is said to be an HC-110 clone. HC-110 is less expensive than Ilfotec HC. But L110 is less expensive still than HC-110, and I could get it in a smaller quantity than HC-110. So that’s what I bought.

I put a roll of Arista EDU 200 into my Pentax ME with the 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens attached. I shot the roll over a couple days around the house and neighborhood and then developed it in L110 Dilution E, which is 1:47.

The popular dilutions appear to be B at 1:31 and H at 1:63. But Dilution B gives a development time of just 3:30 at 20° C, which gives no margin for timing error. Dilution H gives some margin at 7 minutes of development time at 20°. But you need at least 6 ml of L110 or the developer will exhaust before the film is developed. At Dilution H, that would mean a far greater volume of diluted developer than would fit into my 290 ml tank. I didn’t want to use my 500 ml tank, so I compromised on Dilution E. I always round up to 300 ml in my 290 ml tank, which led to 6.2 ml L110 and 293.8 ml water. HC-110/L110 development times scale linearly with dilution, so I calculated 5:15 at 20°. The diluted developer was 21.2° thanks to room temperature, which would have reduced development time to less than 5 minutes. So I chilled it in tap water until it reached 20° and plunged in.

I gave all that detail to show how careful I was. Yet I got thinnish, slightly underdeveloped negatives. When I scanned them on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II using the bundled ScanGear software, only a few images looked truly good. Most needed heavy rescuing in Photoshop and even then many of those turned out marginal. A few images could not be salvaged.

I’ve had growing thoughts for a while now that ScanGear isn’t giving me the best from my negatives. So I bought VueScan (thanks to your Buy Me a Coffee donations!) and rescanned the whole roll. VueScan gave me far better scans from these negatives, though it did take far longer to scan the roll than with ScanGear. Quality takes time. Still, VueScan couldn’t overcome all of the underdevelopment. Shadows are blocked up in several shots.

Planked
Callery pear

I think next time I’ll just use Dilution H and my larger tank, to give myself more development time and therefore more margin for error.

I shot a series of things on my coffee table with the camera on a tripod, and many of those turned out well.

Rosenthal china
Crocked
Belleek

Most of my outdoors photos turned out well.

Shed window
Villager at Lowe's
Stop

These two photos led me to try VueScan. Using ScanGear, the first was muddy and dark beyond saving, and the second had blocked-up shadows everywhere. VueScan let me make them usable.

El Rodeo
Chrysler snout

One last photo from the roll. I shot this one at noon, sunlight streaming in through a nearby window. It looks like I shot it at night.

Potted

I’ve popped another roll of Arista EDU 200 into the Pentax ME. I love using that camera anyway, and I want to have another go with L110. This time I’ll just use Dilution H in my larger tank.

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30 thoughts on “Experimenting with LegacyPro L110 developer

  1. P says:

    Uh oh, Jim. It sounds like you’re at risk of catching GAS for developers. DAS? Developer Acquisition Syndrome… Ha! :)

    The frames you were able to recover here don’t look too bad at all, so all was not lost, thankfully. I’m sure things will go better next time.

    I know I’ve mentioned it before, but you may also want to give your next roll a bit more exposure. Fomapan 200 isn’t truly ASA 200 in most developers. I’d consider shooting it at 160 or even 125 if you’re developing it in L110. And I’d shoot it at 125 or maybe even 100 for development in Rodinal.

    What did your edge markings look like on this roll? Were they also thin and soft, or did they have good density and definition? It’s not a perfect test, but they can be helpful in determining whether normal development was achieved. If they’re dark and well-defined, but your images are thin, it’s likely you probably need more exposure, and perhaps not more development.

    Good luck!

    • The whole point of Arista EDU 200 for me is that it’s listed as ISO 200. I like ISO 200 film for everyday shooting. If I have to shoot it at 160 or 125 or 100 to get best results from it then to heck with this stuff!

      The pro lab I normally use got great results from this film. That’s why I keep buying it. As I develop my own, I’m having to get to know all of my films all over again. I wasn’t expecting that!

      I do have one more roll of this stuff and will overexpose it next time.

      • P says:

        The fact is, virtually every film will have variance in its “true” speed based on what developer is used. This is just a characteristic of B&W film, and why testing is important. Even if the rated speed on the box is based on ISO standards, this can’t account for every developer possibility there is. The “issue” is not exclusive to Fomapan stocks, although in standard developers they probably are farther off the mark than most.

        To put it into perspective, while TRI-X may pretty much dead on at 400 in D-76, in Rodinal its speed is probably closer to 200, and in HC-110 it may be closer to 320. Furthermore, T-MAX 400 is actually probably closer to being ASA 500-640 in many developers. Again, this is just how it is. There isn’t a single B&W film out there that has a true speed of what’s printed on its box when developed in every possible developer. Sometimes it may be faster than “box speed,” sometimes it may be slower, and if you’re lucky with your film/developer combo maybe it’ll be dead on.

        All that said, if you want a 200 speed film for everyday use, with the developers you’re using, Fomapan 400 would actually be a better choice than Fomapan 200 is, assuming you don’t find its grain obtrusive. Or, if price is of no concern, just shoot TRI-X at 200.

        Hopefully that helps.

        • Well that’s kind of frustrating. I just want to shoot and get good images! I’m sure I’ll figure out which films I like at which speeds, in time.

        • P says:

          I’m sure you will too.

          If you go back in time and read a lot of the now archived photography forums from the 1990’s (when film was all there was) you’ll find a lot of people discussing this very topic, and entire threads devoted to specific film/developer combinations and the testing forum members had performed to arrive at the best speed to rate the film at for whatever developer was being discussed. More often than not it wasn’t box speed. It may be a frustrating reality, but it’s nothing new. It just is what it is.

          Of course, if you’re set on shooting at 200 and want to stick with Fomapan 200 (which is a beautiful film), you can always rate it at 200, higher than its true speed as established, and then push-process it slightly to get reasonable negative density at the cost of sacrificing some shadow detail and being higher contrast. Or, if you want to limit the number of film stocks you’re using, you can always shoot your preferred higher speed stock (T-MAX 400, I’m guessing) and then pull-process it, resulting in lower contrast negatives but that fully retain your shadow detail (flat negs are arguably better for scanning anyways). Or, as already mentioned previously, you can just choose a film that already has a true film speed closer to 200 in your developers and end up with negatives of normal density and contrast when normally developed. Regardless, testing each film/dev combo and refining your process until you’ve dialed everything in is always going to be necessary.

          Good luck.

        • I’m sure that I’ll get over being crabby about this soon enough and get on with figuring out the speeds of my films in the developers I use! I will ultimately want to narrow down to 2-3 stocks I use all the time, so I can get consistent results with little fuss.

        • P says:

          Sounds good, Jim! I know you’ll figure out how to consistently achieve results to your liking.

          If money was of no concern (which sure would be nice!), and I was sticking to three primary film stocks, I’d probably choose FP4 PLUS, Fomapan 400, and T-MAX 400. Sadly, T-MAX 400 and FP4 PLUS have just gotten way too expensive for me. But these, combined with various developers, would easily cover my needs shooting at any speed from 64-1600. I’d use FP4 PLUS at 64-250, Fomapan 400 at 100-320, and T-MAX 400 at 400-1600.

  2. Nigel Kell says:

    Oh dear. The trials and tribulations of black and white processing!
    In this case I think the film is as much of a problem. None of the Fomapan (Arista) films are really the speed that it says on the box. I’ve never used HC-110 or it’s clones; but I’ve always found the films need to be de-rated when I use them. 200 is nearest right; I tend to use it around 160 ISO, and then develop in Microphen (which boosts the film speed by 1/3-2/3 of a stop) which comes somewhere near right. Even then it can look a bit thin……..
    I would get the Adox developer; Their Silvermax is the only film I buy the special developer for as it works much better in it than in Microphen, which is my go to otherwise. Although I have started playing with Perceptol, but that’s a different story!

    • I wish all films’ rated ISO were accurate! I like shooting ISO 200 film — I find ISO 100 too slow for some of the work I do, and ISO 400 too fast. ISO 200 is “just right.”

      Thanks for the advice about getting the Adox developer. Probably the best course.

      • Nigel Kell says:

        Sadly, 200 ISO monochrome films are quite thin on the ground. Rollei Superpan 200 is the only other one that springs to mind (I like it a lot; and shoot it at box speed; but develop it in Microphen!).
        But as P says, the actual speed of a film in use depends on the film, developer and even camera and subject lighting. This is why film era books bang on about finding a personal ISO for each film. What developer does the lab use?
        Densitometry, anyone?

        • Perhaps the best thing for me to do is to lean in to Tri-X and T-Max 400 and move on. I like them both a lot.

        • P says:

          Hi, Nigel. It’s funny you should mention Rollei Superpan 200. My understanding based on what I’ve read from other people doing tests is that Superpan 200, Rollei Retro 400S, Rollei Infrared 400, and JCH StreetPan are all the exact same emulsion. And that they are all in fact just re-branded Agfa Aviphot Pan 200 aerial film. That may or may not be true, but I’ve seen enough compelling evidence from people who know what they’re doing to convince me it probably is. That said, if I cared about shooting this stock, I too would purchase Superpan 200 since it’s the cheapest of the bunch. But given what it is I still feel it’s wildly overpriced. Plus, I really don’t enjoy messing with loading polyester-base films on stainless reels. It’s a pain.

  3. Clare Hennessey says:

    Thanks for the post Jim. I really like your images, the first and last ones are beautiful.

  4. Wow, this all sounds so complicated! Just makes me want to pick up a digital point and shoot! : )

    Are there not b/w films with greater exposure latitude?

    I realised once I shot more digital (espcially with DLSRs) how forgiving the colour negative films I used were in terms of expsoure. Most are -1/+3 stops, so I typically over exposed by a stop to land somewhere in the middle, and rarely had any complaints (I just had supermarket develop and scan to CD).

    I guess b/w film is far less tolerant?

    All of this aside, you’ve achieved some lovely results here, to my eyes! My favourite is the curling plank of wood.

    • I’m learning that b/w film is a jungle, each film and developer combination requiring some dialing in to get the desired look. Another way to look at it is that every b/w film can be shot at a range of ISOs and developed in a bunch of different developers to unlock a whole bunch of possible looks. It’s a little more complex than I anticipated!

      • Ha, I’m getting a bit old for “more complex than I anticipated”, the rest of life is like that, why make photography like it too!

  5. Those pottery still life shots are outstanding. That shows the potential for excellence when all the variables fall into line. If you stick to your methodical approach I have no doubt you will achieve consistent success. I also think your choice to get better scanning software was crucial. There is a lot more detail and tonal range available in most negatives than can be revealed by overly-simple automated scanning processes. Taking advantage of the image manipulation tools available in a superior scanning program enables access to the full range of possibilities.
    Traditional darkroom practitioners faced the same challenges in getting the most from their negatives; the tools they used included dodging, burning and variable contrast papers. The contrast and tonality controls in good scanning and editing programs are the modern equivalents of those classic tools.

    • Thank you! I’m clearly heading down the learning path to getting the results I want when I shoot and develop b/w film. I now have a much greater appreciation for why other film photographers often shoot the same films all the time! They have their processes all dialed in.

      I’m sure that in time I’ll have my favorite film/developer combos all sorted.

  6. Jim, while you are experimenting with emulsions, I would recommend Ultrafine Xtreme. I’ve shot with ISO 100 and 400, and I like them both as much as Tri-X and HP5+. They scan well and they are less expensive than either. I bought them to test cameras, but will likely use them instead of Tri-X and HP5+ going forward.

    (I didn’t want to be presumptuous and include a link to my Df96 blog post)

  7. tbm3fan says:

    What, shooting film is not so simple? Since when?

    Since I have mostly shot Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X since 1972, and learned on D-76, I have stuck with D-76 through the years and it has never let me down. Now last year I did one roll of Tri-X in HC-110,because it is easy to mix, but I wasn’t happy with what I saw. So back to D-76 for Kodak. I have also done the original Acros 100 in D-76 and that worked well.

    Now today I will try out some NOS Rodinal on some Tura P150 film with an ISO of 100. Almost nothing on this film as to whose it is in the background or development times. I have 24 rolls so it would be nice to see what I can expect. No D-76 times so Rodinal at 6.3 oz in 300ml at 10 1/2 minutes I could find. Should be interesting.

    • I’ve got to try D-76. The labs I use most use it (or a clone) and I like the look. FPP has a D76 clone in envelopes that make 1L, a manageable volume.

  8. My darkroom experience has been limited to Ilford developers, which I used with both Tri-X and HP5+. Since, I started developing at home, I’ve used Df96 monobath at 70Fn(pushing and pulling are done by changing dev temp). Here are some results using df96 with ultrafine and HP5.

    This is reusable; you add 15 secs of dev time per roll until you reach 8 minutes.

    https://earthsunfilm.com/df96-monobath-yeah-baby/

    These shots are from the 8th roll. developed at 8 minutes. Scanned with Epson V600.

  9. Edwin Peter Paar says:

    I started developing my own films in 1949 and for awhile experimented with different films and developers (ah – the follies of youth). I eventually discovered two truths:
    1) Film developed in the manufacturer’s recommended developer tend to give the best results at box speed.
    2) If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. When I found films that met my needs, I stuck with them. For many years I used Kodak products, now I prefer Ilford.
    The price for trying new film and developer combinations is that you will have to experiment to get the best results. It can be very rewarding if you are willing to put in the effort. Being constitutionally lazy, I stay with I know works for me.

    • Your Point 1 seems so obvious … why didn’t I think of it myself?

      I’m sort of lazy too, as relates to developing my own film. I don’t have a lot of desire to play with it, I just want results. I’ll figure out 2-3 films I will always use and probably a single developer for them, and figure out effective ISO for that developer for each film and then that will be that.

  10. tbm3fan says:

    Just to let you know the Rodinal worked well with the film I had. Had to put the mix in an ice bath since it is 100 outside and 81 inside so the mix was at 80 degrees. Used at 68 for 11 minutes with two inversions every 30 seconds. Ilford fixer for 41/2 minutes, wash, photoflo, hang to dry in 1 hour. Shot only 8 views on a 36 roll as I was playing with the zone system. Camera a Balda Super Baldina. Will show some on Facebook Vintage Camera Users as to which exposure one prefers.

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