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Recently, I came across an experiment stand developing Kodak Tri-X. The photographer shoots the same scene at box speed (ISO 400), 800, 1600, and 3200. The entire roll is developed in Rodinal diluted to 1:100 for an hour—he only agitates for 30 seconds at the beginning and for a second after 30 minutes. I noticed that the images, for the most part, look the same. There are differences in grain and shadow detail, of course, but the exposure looks the same.

So: do you have to change development times when you stand develop at different speeds?

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A great deal here depends on the developer you're using. In this case, there are three key ingredients. First, is the fact that it's Rodinal. Rodinal is a one-use developer, meaning that you use it once, and then throw it away, because the chemicals get "used up' in the course of developing one batch of film. Second is the high dilution, to keep the amount of chemical available in any one part of the film to a minimum. Third is the minimal agitation -- basically, just enough to give a reasonable assurance against air bubble forming on the film.

With a typical developer, you control the amount of development by the time you let the film sit in the developer. The developer is concentrated enough that the longer you let it sit, the more it develops.

With Rodinal at 1:100, you're basically just letting it develop until the developer is used up. If you were to let the film sit in the developer for another hour or two, it wouldn't make much difference either -- the developer is pretty well used up by then, so if you let it sit for (say) another hour or two, it wouldn't change much more. The lack of agitation means that (for the most part) as the developer gets used up, it stays close to the area of the film that used it up. In areas that had different exposure the developer will be used up at a different rate, so you (mostly) want to keep it in place, to assure against less-used developer getting redistributed around to places that it would continue development too long.

A different developer (e.g., D-76) would change the situation entirely though -- most other developers contain enough chemical to develop quite a bit of film. Even if you minimize agitation, if you left film in D-76 for an hour, it would be so over-developed it probably wouldn't be usable.

Summary: in the case of Rodinal, the development time isn't critical because the developer itself is basically self-limiting. With most other developers, however, the amount of development is controlled by the time the film is in the developer, so the time and temperature are critical to control the total development of the film.

  • So even a highly diluted D-76 would be harder to use for stand development? – keyofnight Oct 12 '12 at 14:44
  • @keyofnight: I've never tried it, but given how much film it's rated for processing, I can hardly imagine what you'd have to do produce a similar situation. I'm not sure dilution alone would ever really do it. – Jerry Coffin Oct 12 '12 at 15:26
  • Great informative answer. I'm still a little confused as to how pushing works with stand development. Does you answer simply mean that, regardless of how the film was exposed, the developer some how knows when to stop when it is "done?" This is, of course, an overly simplified question. I'll potentially expand in an actual question later. – dispake Jun 1 '15 at 19:22
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    @dispake When you develop normally, you pour in way more developer than you need and then control how much of it gets used with time. When you do stand dev, you pour in exactly as much developer as is needed for a normal density on the negative, and then how quickly it gets there depends on the exposure. The frames shot at 400 ISO might be finished after just 15 minutes, and then nothing happens because there is no developer left. The 3200 ISO frames take 45 minutes to "use up" all their developer. But tehy can't use more developer than they get so they don't get overdeveloped! – kqr Oct 7 '15 at 20:49
  • @kqr, thanks for that info. That clears things up a lot better in my head. Is there some place like massivedev that gives a ball park amount/time to use for stand dev? – dispake Oct 8 '15 at 8:43
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Answering to add more to Jerry's answer, so start your reading there.

Stand development is a technique of developer exhaustion - you use very little developer chemical and leave it to "do its thing" for about an hour. It's quite possible the development is actually exhausted before, but that 60min is a tried and true amount of time.

So, time matters little and more time won't lead to over development. So what does? Amounts!

It is not enough to say that you'll use Rodinal at 1:100 ratio. If you use 2mL of Rodinal and 200mL of water, you may not have enough actual developer chemical to develop the role to completion before exhaustion occurs. This will lead to underdeveloped negatives.

Adox puts it on the bottle that their recommendation is to use, at minimum, 5mL of Rodinal per roll of 135/120.

If you search online, you'll find stories of people using as little as 3.5mL per roll. Stand Development is more art than science in this regard - many people attempt many different things and you'll need to experiment to find what you like.

Now, how does this affect pushing the film in development? Pushing in dev is the process of overdeveloping a negative to compensate for underexposure. But, how can you overdevelop if you are developing to exhaustion? The only way is to include more actual developer.

I've played around with it some and have settled up on using an extra 1mL per stop pushed. So, if I shot Ilford FP4 (stock ISO 125) at ISO 250, then I'd develop in 6mL of Rodinal at 1:100. Shot at 500: 7mL Rodinal at 1:100.

Conceptually, I hope this makes sense. In practice, it's very, very experimental. What you find working for one film may produce garbage in another. But, the first step is to find a baseline amount of Rodinal to use in stand developing film shot at or below box speed, and then experiment with a single film and that same amount of Rodinal and additional amounts...keep it up until you find something you like and don't forget to write it down!

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D-76 works fine for stand-development at a dilution ratio of about 1+7. I found this info quite a while ago in Emulsive and been using it ever since. I use the same ammount of total solution for 35mm and MF, which in my Patterson is 528ml. My measurement equipment is not that precise, but around 65-70 of those 528ml are D-76 while the rest is water. Got here trying to find info about pushing and D-76 (I only push when using SFX200 for darker skies in near infrared, and just one stop; now I need to push HP5 to 3200, might settle with regular development at 1600 if I don't find any info). Didn't find it, but since I found an open question to which I have an answer, I thought I'd share what I know.

  • Could you add more information about dilutions and timing for normal development vs what you use for pushing? – xiota Aug 8 '18 at 1:12

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