Formulary

Introducing a non-toxic developer for pinhole camera images that you can make from common kitchen and laundry ingredients. Suitable for science fair projects. Click here.


Protect yourself against the day your favorite film developer becomes unavailable, or difficult to acquire, by learning to mix it from raw chemicals. This is particularly an issue when your favorite developer is not widely stocked by camera stores. Never mixed photo chemicals before? It's neither difficult nor dangerous. For a good start, consult The Darkroom Cookbook (click here).

Important: in the development process, the washing step is often not well understood, yet it is extremely important. Click here for information on how, and why, to thoroughly wash your film with a minimum of water consumption.

 

H&W Control
This developer, invented by Harold Holden and Arnold Weichert in the late 1960's, was patented in 1973. The patent has expired, and the formula is now in the public domain.
H&W Control was sold in retail stores for several years, but did not receive widespread distribution. Before being commercialized, it was used extensively by the US military for developing surveillance films, the kinds used by top-secret high-altitude aircraft of the day such as the U2. 
Today's Bluefire HR developer is an updated version of H&W Control, reformulated for multi-year shelf life. 
When mixed fresh, the H&W Control formula disclosed here will give you the same sensitometric results as the commercially packaged Bluefire HR. However its shelf life will be six months or less, depending on storage conditions.
Solution A:  
Water 50 ml 
Sodium sulfite 1 g
Hydroquinone 0.16 g
Sodium carbonate 4.6 g
Phenidone 1.1 g
Solution B  
Water 50 ml 
Sodium sulfite 8 g
Add Solution A to Solution B, then add water to make 132 ml of concentrate.  
Phenidone dissolves with difficulty. Use water heated to 55° (130°F). Mix the chemicals in the order shown, and be sure each is completely dissolved before adding the next.
This is a concentrate. To use, add water to make to 2.1 litres of working solution per 132 ml of concentrate (approximate dilution of 1:16). Process at normal development temperatures with intermittent agitation for 14 to 18 minutes. Use working solution once and then discard.

Use with Bluefire Police, microfilms, and Kodak Technical Pan. Gives unacceptably flat images on ordinary films. 

Shelf life of the concentrate is approximately six months in a full, tightly capped glass or PET bottle, less than one week in a partly full bottle. Refrigeration considerably prolongs shelf life. Normal color is pale yellow. Concentrate that has begun turning pink or red is oxidizing and should be discarded.

 

Superlatitude Developer
This developer was disclosed by Marilyn Levy in "Wide Latitude Photography," Photographic Science and Engineering v. 11 p. 46 (1967). It grew out of her researches into the problem of capturing wide variances in luminance (i.e., a long gray scale) on hard, thin, high-resolution films. This formula was devised for solving problems associated with high-altitude aero reconnaissance and mapping. Levy worked at the US Navy's Photo-Optics Technical Area at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, and her formula has been published elsewhere as "POTA." Gives images similar to Bluefire HR developer but at significantly lower effective film speed.
Water 750 ml
Sodium sulfite 30.g
Phenidone 1.5g
Water to make 1 litre  
Use water heated to 55° (130°F). Mix the chemicals in the order shown, and be sure the sulfite is completely dissolved before adding the phenidone.
This developer begins to oxidize as soon as it is mixed, so mix it just before use. Designed for developing sheet films processed in trays with brush agitation, but works well in small tanks. Experiment with agitation technique as well as time and temperature if your initial results seem streaked or mottled.

 

Ilford ID-68
One of the best all-round home-mixed developers is Kodak's published formula for D-76, which has the unfortunate property of increasing pH over time. This changes its activity (Kodak's commercially packaged D-76 does not have this flaw).

This Ilford formula works like D-76, but does not change pH over time. Use the same time and temperature regime as you would with D-76, and you will get negatives that are indistinguishable from what D-76 would give you, but with more consistency week after week.

Water 750ml
Sodium sulfite 85 g
Hydroquinone 5 g
Borax 7 g
Boric acid 2 g
Phenidone 0.13 g
Potassium bromide 1 g
water to make one litre  
Use water between approximately 25° and 50° (approximately 75°F and 120°F). Phenidone dissolves more easily in hotter water.  Mix the chemicals in the order shown, and be sure each is completely dissolved before adding the next.

Germain Fine-grain Developer
Originally suggested by the writer and photographer Morris Germain in the 1930's, this formula has never been widely used, but it deserves to be. The original is found in Germain's "Darkroom Handbook and Formulary" which was part of the Ziff Davis "Little Technical Library".

It has also been posted on the Internet, along with some initial speculation, later abandoned, that it may be the original formula for Harvey's 777 Panthermic, which was introduced commercially in 1938. The speculation was based on this formula's use of 7 grams each of three ingredients. The Internet article is fascinating, and can be seen here: unblinking eye 777 article.

It is not possible for us to know the formulation of Harvey's 777 Panthermic, as originally sold by Defender, later by Dupont, and currently by BPI. That original formula was never made public, and it has been modified and updated several times since 1938. The powder mixture of today's 777 Panthermic has a very different appearance from the powders that make up the Germain developer and the 777 definitely contains carbonate, which Germain's developer does not. This does not detract from the usefulness of Germain's developer. It has a very long shelf life, and gives outstanding images on most black and white films. 

Water, plus a pinch of sodium sulfite 665 ml
Metol
(Metol causes dermatitis in some individuals.)
7 g
Sodium sulfite 70 g
Paraphenylindiamine (base)
(Poisonous. Handle paraphenylindiamine with caution. Causes dermatitis in some individuals. 
Pronounced staining properties.)
7 g
Glycin* 7 g
Water to make 1000 ml
Mix in the order shown, but before adding the metol to the water, mix in a pinch of the sulfite. This prevents the metol from oxidizing immediately. Be sure each chemical is completely dissolved before adding the next.

Developing times vary according to the film you use, and you should experiment with times between about 9 and 18 minutes. Agitate 30 seconds initially, then 10 seconds each minute thereafter.

*Buy hard-to-find chemicals from Photographers Formulary. Pro-oriented camera stores often sell Metol and sulfite.


Hübl Paste

Baron Arthur von Hübl, the Austrian military officer who devised this formula, was an accomplished photographic engineer. He pioneered the use of photography, particularly stereo photography, in mapmaking. With his colleague Captain Giuseppe Pizzighelli, he co-wrote the most useful of all of the 19th-century treatises on platinum printing. His 1897 book on three-color photography and printing was very influential and remains an excellent, if dated, introduction to the subject. von Hübl experimented with Glycin extensively.

Arthur Freiherr von Hübl
March 20, 1853 ­ April 7, 1932


This Glycin formula, adapted from Anchell and Troop, is said to be the most concentrated developer known. Like all glycin developers, it shows good resistance to aerial oxidation.
 
Hot water (50-55 C), 500ml
Sodium sulfite (anhydrous), 165g
Glycin, 135g
mix well and add gradually
Potassium or sodium carbonate, either crystals, 625 g or anhydrous, 560 g
Water to make 1 litre

Another version of this formula, from Wall's Photographic Facts and Formulas (American Photographic Publishing, Boston, 1924):
Warm water, 400 ml
Sodium sulfite (anhydrous), 125g
Glycin, 100g
mix well and add, gradually
Potassium carbonate, 500g
water to make 750 ml

This developer is not an actual paste, but it is quite thick. So thick, in fact, that you will probably never be able to get it completely dissolved. It forms a suspension that should be thoroughly stirred before being diluted to make a working solution.
I find sodium carbonate works as well as the more expensive potassium carbonate. Even though their markedly different molecular weights would suggest you should use them in different quantities, the potassium ion is more photographically active, and the difference in activity pretty much compensates, so you can substitute weight for weight.
Anchell and Troop state that Potassium Carbonate crystals (the "sesquihydrate" form) are required because they contain a buffer. I find that anhydrous form works just fine. The crystal form's molecular weight is 165 and the anhydrous is 148, so a fastidious worker will substitute 560 grams of the anhydrous for 625 of the crystals. 
I had success using it as a 3-hour stand developer with microfilms, but sorry to say I didn't make notes of the dilution I used. I think it was 1:50. The image was striking but contrast was not reduced as much as I wanted.
Gordon Cooper has tested Hübl Paste with conventional films, and reports: "My dilution for stand development is 1:70 for 90 minutes. The negative has a fair amount of color to it which hasn't affected contact prints for me. I think that the film loses about one stop of speed with this developer."
Glycin is manufactured by Photographer's Formulary in Condon, Montana. I believe they are the only manufacturer of Glycin remaining in the world.


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During the "Golden Age" of amateur darkroom work, the F-R company supplied an extensive range of good quality products and their Little Man logo, with his fedora and now-unacceptable cigarette, became an icon of the period. This advertisement appeared in the magazine Minicam, Vol. 1 No. 7, March, 1938. I have never been able to discover anything about their GDX developer.