Monday, September 18, 2006


Agfa Rodinal has been in production for over 100 years, and despite rumours to the contrary, it is still produced and available today.
Rodinal is a unique product in quite a few ways, it has excellent keeping properties (many years in a stoppered bottle) and can be diluted for both economy and its 'compensating' effect.
I use it to tame excessive contrast in subjects, especially on very bright sunny days, where the range of tones in the subject exceeds the tones the film can handle.
I have found certain films such as Ilford Pan F Kodak Plus-X and Fuji Acros in particular to have far too much contrast at recommended developing times.
One often quoted property of Rodinal is that it increases the grain of the film, that isn't true. At the 1:25 dilution the developer will give you very similar results to any general purpose developer in both apparent grain and acutance, higher dilutions will show progessively more grain along with increased accutance.
That doesn't mean (as I've heared people suggest) that Rodinal gives 'huge grain' but defined rather than smooth.
It must be said that some will feel that films need downrating to a lower EI and for some films that may be true I personally rate Kodak TMX at EI64 and HP5+ at EI320 to give the shadow detail I require.
Here is a shot taken on my Rollei TLR using HP5+ which was then developed in Rodinal at 1:100 dilution (5ml developer in 495ml water)
click on the image to see a larger view.

The image is typical of what a photographer can expect from highly diluted Rodinal; smooth tonal range, high acutance (aparent sharpness of fine detail) and slight compensating effect helping compress specular highlights with a small loss of photographic speed.
But what about grain? where is the grainy mess promised to us by internet experts?I know, this is medium format, where grain doesn't show as much but looking at prints from Rodinal negatives grain is rarely the problem most would lead you to believe.
Here is a 100 percent crop.

I'm not suggesting Rodinal is a panacea or wonder developer just that it is a valuable tool in my darkroom
All images and text © Mark Antony Smith


joshua said...

do you have any experience with Diafine? I'm going to start developing with that as soon as it arrives.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you get good results with HP5+ at 1:100. The datasheet only recommends 1:25 and says higher dilutions are "not recommended". It's the results that count, but I've heard this combo can be temperamental from other photographers. Any comment?

And yeah I'm dying to try Diafine.