Stand Development Tutorial Ilfotec DD-X & Kodak TX400
After a first successful experience with stand development, I couldn’t resist the urge to try this technique with another film. The lucky guy today is the reliable Kodak Tri-X 400!
In case you are not familiar with Tri-X yet, let me introduce it. It has been around for more than 60 years now and is probably the best selling black and white film of all times. Before the introduction of color film, it was the “go to” film for many photojournalists. They liked it for its flexibility to be pulled and pushed very very far away. From 400 ISO, you can shoot it at up to 6400 ISO if you don’t mind a bit more grain in exchange for its docility.
It’s relatively easy to spot an image shot on Tri-X thanks to its distinctive contrasty look. If you like punchy black and white, then that’s the right film for you. If you want more information about this film, I can recommend this article from Stephen Dowling.
Back to our business! We are here to see how it handled stand development. The recipe is exactly the same than before:
- Developer: Ilfotec DD-X
- Dilution: 1+9
- Time: 45 minutes
- Temperature: 20 degrees Celsius
- Agitation: 1 minute at the beginning
One thing changed, though : the camera I used. No fancy Hasselblad Xpan or Leica M6 today, instead I shot this roll with a cheap camera called Smena 8M (Смена in Russian). This is basically a box made of plastic but with a very respectable glass in comparison to its lousy body. It comes with a 40mm f/4 lens that can produce razor sharp images if all conditions are met: full moon, galaxies aligned and every 29 of February. There are so many things that can wrong with this camera, that you will experience an immense sense of pride when you manage to get a shot.
I was looking for the purest experience when shooting with film and the least I can say, is that I had what I was looking for! No light meter, film needs to winded manually with a wheel and shutter rearmed separately. The good thing with this camera is that you can experience double exposures very easily. It was my first (pathetic) attempt with this technique so please bear with me here!
To create the images above, I made a splitter using a roll cap that I cut in half and placed it in front of the lens. Then I would turn the camera upside down and cover the other half of the lens with the splitter. If you are not a DIY kind of guy and want a more conventional one, Lomography is selling their own Diana Splitzer + which seems easier to use!
It was fun for a while but then I took more conventional pictures to have a clear idea of how Tri-X would handle the stand development.
If you are familiar with Kodak Tri-X, you may have noticed that we don’t have the noticeable contrast we would normally expect from this film. The stand development clearly altered its properties but in my opinion, it is not such a bad thing. I love contrasty images but I prefer to control it myself in post production as it is easier to add contrast rather than removing it.
Another point worth to mention is how it kept details in the highlights. The dynamic range of black and white films is known to be more limited than color film and it is easier to loose information in the brighter parts of the image. Here that’s not the case at all. We have a decent amount of details in both highlights and shadows. The end result is certainly less punchy than it would normally look but I believe that’s a good way of ensuring an optimal development over the full range of tonalities. This also impacts the acutance which is very well controlled here. In my first test using Fomapan 400, the acutance was a bit too high in my opinion and made the images look too sharp for my taste. Here I think we have the right balance.
The last thing that I have noticed is the grain. It is much thinner than I remembered when shooting Kodak Tri-X for the first. Thinner grain means that you can enlarge your image a bit more and minimize the degradation, which can be a plus, especially with 35mm. The lack of agitation must have a direct impact on how the grain is produced but I am just guessing here.
For some of you that want to typical Tri-X look, I can imagine that it may not be a suitable solution for you, especially because we are clearly losing some contrast compared to what you are in right to expect from this film. My personal feeling is that I kind of like this more subtle feeling on my images and don’t mind a bit less of contrast in exchange for more details.
Now, a few words about this Smena 8M camera. I am sure you will agree that it did a decent job considering that I paid only 1€ for it! In my humble opinion, the lens is excellent. The build quality is completely awful but the glass itself deserves some credits. It has a special coating that makes the color rendition very good ( we will see that in another review ). As mentioned above, the lens is made of glass which contrasts with the full plastic body. But you shouldn’t get fooled by its appearance! It sure feels like a toy but you must have some basic understanding to work around the 100% manual controls. The focus can also be challenging because you have very limited information to determine whether or not your image will be sharp.
Even with all its limitation it is a fun camera to shoot with and brings back to the essence of what really matters in the end: composition. You are forced to stimulate your creativity to get the most out of it and I personally liked the 40mm angle as I tend to find 35mm a bit too wide sometimes. I will shoot a bit more with it in the coming weeks and probably make a review about this camera because it merits to be known and used.
By the way, if you haven’t tried it yet, don’t forget to check out the Film Dating tool that I’ve developed. Who knows maybe you’ll find your soulmate 😉