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Xtol is less stable and is liable to fail without giving notice. Other than that, it's got an excellent reputation. Kodak provides this comparison between its developers: The main difference between D-76 and Xtol when you develop at rated speed is the fineness of the grain. The other metrics (shadows detail and sharpness) are very much in line. Of ...
ISO (R) is not a speed number, it is log exposure range required to give the full tone (that is, full density range). The higher is the ISO R number, the softer is the paper. ISO R = 160 means density range = 1.6, or log2(10^1.6) = 5.3 stops. You may see it as "paper dynamic range under standard development". ISO R is used because contrast grade is in fact ...
Looking at http://www.firstcall-photographic.co.uk/userfiles/file/faultsonblackandwhitenegatives.pdf and http://www.olympusmicro.com/primer/photomicrography/bwprocessingerrors.html it could be one of the following things (or even combinations thereof): Underexposure Underdevelopment Inadequate fixing Variations in processing temperature (reticulation) If ...
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