xtol, a simple article
Old 07-16-2013   #1
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xtol, a simple article

i wrote this introductory article on using Kodak's XTOL
on our local community website.

The Kodak XTOL developer is my current favorite developer.
It comes in Part-A/Part-B powder packets to be mixed
into a 5 litre solution, it is then commonly mixed at 1+1
dilution during development.



From the diagram above, XTOL gives a good balance
of "Shadow Details" + "Fine Grain" + "Sharpness".
Actually, XTOL's claim to fame is that it is a compensating
developer.

Let me explain, usually, a film has a base ISO which
maximises the shadow details, but this base ISO
sometimes isn't the same ISO as that printed on
the box. For example, Fomapan 400 true ISO is
around 200-250, while Tri-x is sometimes rated
at 320 for optimal ISO. It doesn't mean that the
film can't be rated higher or lower, it is just that
at a different iso (say pushed to iso 800) the images
aren't retaining the necessary shadow details.

So here's where XTOL comes in. As a compensating
developer, you can shoot your Tri-x at iso 800 and
it will still preserve the shadow details like tri-x at
iso 400. In other words, it is a speed gaining developer.

Usually, XTOL preserves the speed up to a stop,
however, when shooting at 2 stops from the
base ISO, the images are still quite rich compared
to other developers like HC-110 or Rodinal which
isn't a compensating developer.

Here's a picture taken with the Leica M3 + 50 Lux,
Neopan 400 pushed to 1600 and developed in XTOL 1+1
for 7mins and 30seconds at 30C.





M3 with 50 Lux. Neopan 400 pushed to 1600.


M4 with Goggled Summaron 35/f2.8
Kentmere 400 pushed to 1600.


I reuse my XTOL working solution. I bought a 2 litre
collapsible container from Ruby Photos (Singapore),
and stored my working solution already diluted 1+1.
I reused it within the same day, i tested the solution,
and found that I could still use the same development
time as before. i reused it once and poured it after use.

1 pack of XTOL in 1+1 dilution + reuse once = 66 rolls of 35mm film.

XTOL has several inconveniences:

1. It comes in powder form to make a concentrate of 5 litre.
Not everyone has a five litre container but can be
easily gotten from the petrol station, or from Ruby Photos.

2. It suffers from sudden death after a few months.
Unlike rodinal or hc110,XTOL when mixed and stored
in a 5 litre solution, the XTOL solution may die suddenly,
most of the comments I have read puts it at 6 months
lifespan, and deterioration happening after two months.

Not a big deal if you are a frequent user, just
remember to make a new batch every 3 - 4 months
and store the solution in an airtight bottle away from sunlight.

XTOL can be gotten from BHPHoto, Freestyle or online
stores selling Kodak Developers.

raytoei
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Old 07-16-2013   #2
yossarian123
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Great article. I'm wedded to HC110 and Rodinal but I might buy a pack just to try it.
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Old 07-16-2013   #3
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My favourite developer. I find that it lasts longer if I separate it into multiple glass bottles, seal them tightly with minimal/no air, and store them in the dark. I have some 1.5 liter bottles and one collapsible for the one I am currently using. I have never hit the six month expiry but also never experienced any degradation this way.
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Old 07-16-2013   #4
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^ Me too exactlyt I usually save up some brown whiskey bottles or big wine bottles and store my Xtol in that when I'm storing it. Then have a bigger 3L collapsable bottle for the "working" concentrate.

Another great tip ive used in the past was to not put in that last litre of water effectively making a 4L super concentrate. Dilutions are different after that but shelf life is supposed to be increased.
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Old 07-16-2013   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
2. It suffers from sudden death after a few months.
Unlike rodinal or hc110,XTOL when mixed and stored
in a 5 litre solution, the XTOL solution may die suddenly,
most of the comments I have read puts it at 6 months
lifespan, and deterioration happening after two months......
I've never had any problem storing Xtol, in a tightly sealed container, for several months. My record for storage is about one year. Right now I'm using stuff I mixed back in February and it works like it's brand new.

Jim B.
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Old 07-16-2013   #6
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I am also an Xtol fan. I managed to get empty "wine boxes", the ones that have a bladder inside and a spigot for pouring. The are perfect as these ones are exactly 5L (they come from the US, in Canada they seem to only be 4L).

It really stores the working solution well, as it never suddenly failed on me and i'm quite sure I used it close to a year from when I mixed it up.

Just snip off a corner from the bladder, wash it out with water (else your negatives will all have a drunken look to them ), fill up with working solution and seal with a piece of tape.

Cheers
Steven
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Old 07-16-2013   #7
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I have found that my criteria for good tonality is rarely met with Xtol. that is to say, I was unimpressed with the acros and tri-x I souped in it. HOWEVER, I found tmax in it to be very, very nice under the right circumstances (ie diffuse light).

if I were disposed to shooting TMax 100, or to pushing, it would be my default developer:


Untitled by redisburning, on Flickr

but I still prefer the results I get from Fuji b&w films in rodinal 1:50. YMMV
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Old 07-16-2013   #8
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I mixed 5 litres of Xtol in feb this year & have been using it since. It seems to be very good. There is still just over 1 litre left after 5 months. I'll be on the lookout for the dreaded sudden death syndrome. No sign of any deterioration yet.
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Old 07-16-2013   #9
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...agree on the virtues of xtol, but why 30C ? Is it just the temp at the tap?
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Old 07-16-2013   #10
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hi Chathaway, i develop at 30C, as it is the temp on the tap it produces grains larger than at 20C but at half the development time.
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Old 07-17-2013   #11
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Just a couple of notes: Compensating necessarily isn't the same as obtaining full speed.

You can make developers compensating by increasing dilution, Rodinal, HC110 and D76 (normally not at full speed) all those can all be made to compensate to a large degree by dilution as can Xtol at 1:1

Some developers increase speed and have compensating effects, some do it by split development like Diafine, others like Microphen/DDX and Xtol do it by adding accelerators that work at the intersitial (internal) image that is they are more efficient at converting the latent image of (especially cubic) crystals to metallic silver.
Speed increasing developers normally do exactly that, they raise the ISO (effectively so now called EI) HP5 for instance in DDX has an EI of 640, that is the 0.1 fb+f is reached with less light than needed with D76 (EI 400) or Rodinal (EI 320) for that film.

Xtol will give roughly a third of a stop over D76 and slightly less grain and because it has no hydroquinone so has lower toxicity.
The only downside if you can call it that, is a slightly more 'S' shaped curve and a slight compression of mid tones.

The lack of hydroquinone will result in less negative density in the highlight regions (your compensating) as the developing agents (ascorbic acid & Phenidone) are less vigourous, the inclusion of solvents mean that grain reduction takes place rapidly but in the absence of hydroquinone (the speedy Gonzales of reduction agents) the Phenidone and sulphite combo tends to skew toward the shadow (giving highlight compensation).
This can further be enhanced by slight dilution say 1:1 some like 1:3 but at that dilution the smooth fine grain mid tones will begin to show a slight grittiness at large magnifications.
It does this because sodium sulphite as a solvent (aiding reduction) works proportionately; that is it aids reduction in the less exposed grains and has minimal effect on saturated ones (also helps appearance of granularity).

Lower toxicity, more speed, with less grain–those are the 'magic' properties of Xtol
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Old 07-17-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdriffill View Post
I mixed 5 litres of Xtol in feb this year & have been using it since. It seems to be very good. There is still just over 1 litre left after 5 months. I'll be on the lookout for the dreaded sudden death syndrome. No sign of any deterioration yet.
I've been using XTOL for years, off and on. I've never had a case of "dreaded XTOL failure," even when it was sold in 1 liter packages that were supposed to be the reason for the failures.

Has anyone else here?
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Old 07-17-2013   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slm View Post
I am also an Xtol fan. I managed to get empty "wine boxes", the ones that have a bladder inside and a spigot for pouring. The are perfect as these ones are exactly 5L (they come from the US, in Canada they seem to only be 4L).

It really stores the working solution well, as it never suddenly failed on me and i'm quite sure I used it close to a year from when I mixed it up.

Just snip off a corner from the bladder, wash it out with water (else your negatives will all have a drunken look to them ), fill up with working solution and seal with a piece of tape.

Cheers
Steven
Yep, this is the way to store Xtol, IMO. Convenient, safe (unlike glass bottles, a bladder can't brake when you drop it), light tight and 99.9% air tight. I have kept Xtol for up to 8 months that way and it will probably keep even longer, it is just that I normally use it all up much earlier.
Here is my way of filling the bladder: I use a 5l European wine bladder and the valve on it is a snug fit for a 8mm (?) OD PCV (or similar) hose. I run the hose from the mixing container (insert and press down the end of the hose to open the valve) and it takes only a couple of minutes to fill the container (gravity feed).

One more recommendation to improve life expectancy of the solution: When mixing (dissolving) Xtol, make sure you do not introduce air into the solution from the beginning by shaking the container or stirring to vigorously with improper tools.
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Old 07-17-2013   #14
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Photo_Smith: Thanks much for your post. I am bookmarking it.
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Old 07-17-2013   #15
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I never had an issue with XTOL going dead, even after one year. My storage strategy is 1 x 2l bottle, 2 x 1l bottles and 2 x 0.5l bottles and protection gas (Tetenal). Bottles are stored in the fridge.
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