Film developing with Kodak D-76

Kodak D-76 is a classic and truly versatile developer. It provides full emulsion speed, long density range and excellent shadow detail with normal contrast and produces fine grain with a variety of continuous-tone black-and-white films.

Kodak D-76 developer to make 3.8 litres (1 gallon)

Dilution

Kodak recommends to use D-76 as a full-strength stock solution. But there is no reason to use it undiluted. For greater sharpness, but with a slightly increase of grain, a 1+1 dilution is typically used, which is also recommended by Kodak. It gives a long density range and allows push processing with relatively low fog.

If it is diluted to 1+3 it becomes a non-solvent high acutance developer. Non-solvent developers produce a coarser grain structure but the image will look sharper. It is because of there is not a lot of solvent with such dilution to dissolve the edge of the grain.

Fresh solution should be prepared just before developing from certain parts of stock and water. However, I personally recommend to dilute it 1+3 for a better compensating effect. Once Kodak included charts for this dilution. But a few years ago they were removed from its official data.

Pull and push processing

For pull processing up to 2EV I recommend a 1+5 dilution that gives a great compensating effect and lowers contrast. It is very good when a film was shot with high contrast scenes. In my own experience I prefer a 1+1 dilution for push processing up to 2EV or for normal processing with lower contrast scenes. To push it even more I use it undiluted, but do it quite rarely.

Stability

The key to stable results is strict compliance with the same rules every time you develop the film. Do not modify temperature and agitation until you get stable results with a certain dilution. If you need more or less film density, first try to increase or decrease developing time. If it doesn’t help, other dilution may be used. But the more diluted the solution gets, the lower the contrast becomes, and vice versa.

By the way, any dilution other than stock can be used only once. This is very convenient. As a result, you always get fresh solution just before developing and you do not need to put the used one back into a separate bottle after the process is over and calculate developing time for the next film, which is absolutely unpredictable. This is another key to stable results.

Development times

The times in this chart are given for the temperature 20°C with no presoaking and the following agitation:

  • 1 inversion of tank or film reel rotation for 2 sec per every 30 sec with dilution 1+1
  • 3 inversions of tank or film reel rotation for 6 sec per every 30 sec with dilution 1+3
  • 5 inversions of tank or film reel rotation for 10 sec per every 30 sec with dilution 1+5

To remove air bubbles from the film I tap the tank a few times immediately after the developer is poured inside. I have been using the sealed Jobo UniTank 1500 tank system for many years.

And, of course, this chart reflects my own experience. Also you may refer to The Massive Dev Chart for other films and times.

ISO/Dilution 1+1 1+3 1+5
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
25 9 15
50 9 15 23
Ilford FP4 Plus 125
64 11 17
125 11 17 23
250 17 23
Kodak TMax 100
50 9 17
100 9 17 23
200 13 23
Fuji Neopan 100 Acros
50 10 17
100 10 17 23
200 17 23
Fomapan 100
50 10 17
100 10 17 23
200 17 23
Kodak TMax 400
400 10 15
800 11 19
1600 19
Kodak Tri-X 400
400 10 19
800 11 27
1600 13
3200 17
Ilford HP5 Plus 400
400 13 20
800 17 25
1600 19

Formula

As is known Kodak has never published an actual formula for D-76. Below is the formula which is believed to be an equivalent of Kodak D-76 film developer.

Water 50°C 750 ml
Metol (Elon) 2 g
Sodium Sulfite (anhydrous) 100 g
Hydroquinone 5 g
Borax (granular) 2 g
Cold water to make 1000 ml
Despite the fact that Kodak D-76 developer is supplied in a single packet in which all ingredients are mixed together it is better to add chemicals in the specified order if you prepare the developer yourself.

// Sasha Krasnov
6x7 and 6x6 formats example on 120 film type by Sasha Krasnov

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12 Comments

  1. David Lyga

    This is rather interesting especially because you are not afraid of stating diminutions up to 1+5 for D-76. ‘Officially’ you are not supposed to do that but, trust me, it does work with consistency. There are many old wives tales with processing. Your data is more real than most.

    I would have preferred that you had stated dilutions as I had) 1+? rather than 1:?. Why? Because in some literature a, for example, 1:3 can mean one part developer MAKES three parts working solution. Ilford’s way, using the ‘+’ instead of the colon, removes any lingering ambiguity.

    • I use the colon as ‘+’. So, the 1:X means — to prepare working solution take one part of stock add X parts of water. But you are right. To avoid misunderstading I will change ‘:’ to ‘+’. Digitaltruth also uses the same symbol too. Thank you, it makes my post better!

  2. Eric James

    Interesting to see someone use D76 other than the ‘stock’ or 1:1 dilution. I have been using D76 at 1:3 almost exclusively on HP5+/Delta 400/TMax 400 over the years, but lately have attempted to develop FP4+ at 200iso, and at a D76 1:1 dilution for 12minutes at 24C. It worked fine, perhaps a little contrasty, but the day’s lighting was high in dynamic ranges too, so I cannot give a definitive comment yet. I look forward to diluting D76 a little further at 1:3, to compress the highlights and shadows together a little more.

    Many years ago, I experimented with 1:4 and 1:5 dilutions, but since have lost my data. As I recall, I think I was developing for about 60 minutes in some cases!? I cannot remember.

    Incidentally, I do not invert the tank during development, but instead rotate the spiral 3-4 times per minute. No spillage to worry about.

    Many thanks for your article, очень интересная статья!

  3. Maybe a bit late for the discussion but not for the topic.
    To some photographers dilution equates to using less chemistry for an area of film to save money. Others, to obtain a shift in resolution, sharpness or maybe grain. Perceived or real is of no importance to this input. The process still requires the energy to get’er done.
    Example: Using Kodak’s data sheet, a gallon of stock D76 will do 16 unit areas of film UNREPLENISHED (single shot). A unit area is a roll of 35mm/36 exposure, 120 rol, four 4×5 negatives, or two 8×10 negatives. That is 8 ounces per roll. (128 ounces divided by 16 rolls)
    If you do it straight (stock) 1:1, or 1:50, …no difference in the energy needed… it is still requires 8 ounces to provide the necessary energy to full and consistent properly exposed negatives. Meaning 8 oz. of D76 stock and 8 oz. for the water (1:1).

    if you were to try 1:50 (ratio is exaggerated for clarification only ) you need 8 oz. of D76 …BUT 400 oz. of water… If you want to develop a single roll of 35mm film. Result… a very BIG, TANK and Long, very long wait.

    Another example… TMAX developer, as I recall is 2.7 oz… 1:4 ration means 2.7 oz of developer and 10.8 oz of water. Then the question, will that even cover the roll? In this case you may actually need to increase the total solution (keeping the ratio the same, just to get the film covered for processing… A little easier for rotation processing for sure.
    Each developer has it’s own capacity and that is where you need to start for consistent developing of your negatives. I am sure you can adjust down if you wish… but you will not get the negative the boys in the lab got when settling on the number that established the capacity they but on the container.

    For me to follow this capacity issue is this: When I get a negative that is too thin or too dense… I no longer have to ask myself if it was the development or the exposure.

    Tim

  4. Mikhail

    Hi Tim, hi Sasha,

    Tim, thanks for bringing this information up! According to what you says it is already impossible to “properly” develop a roll of 120 film in a 500 ml development tank (the one that normally fits only one 120 reel) with 1+1 dilution of D-76. According to Kodak’s recommendations it will require 16oz (473ml) of undiluted stock to process one 120 roll. Hence the only “correct” way to develop a 120 film using a small development tank is to use undiluted stock, right?

    I believe this might be the case, however I also want trust the results determined by practice 🙂

    Sasha, if you could tell how many milliliters of diluted D-76 you use per 1 roll of film for each dilution you listed in the table, this would be perfect. I mean only three values:
    X ml for 1+1 dilution;
    Y ml for 1+3 dilution;
    Z ml for 1+5 dilution.

    Thank you!

    Best,
    Mikhail

    • Hello, Mikhail!

      I use Jobo tank that is required at least 480ml of liquid. For the dillution 1+1 I use 240ml of undilluted stock, for 1+3 — 120ml of stock and for 1+5 — 80ml of stock. It is OK, don’t be afraid. So for the 500ml tank you may use 250ml, 125ml and 83ml. But I prefer to prepare 480ml solution because it is more convinent to measure stock wich I will dillute. And of course you need to be sure that the film reel will completely filled with the solution.

      Kodak recommends such a strange 473ml because it is 16 fluid oz in US measurement system. So, in this case you need 8oz, 4oz or 2.66oz. I prefer metric system.

      • Mikhail

        Sasha, thank you for the detailed answer!
        I am curious to try the highly diluted versions of the developer and see if it brings about some highlights compensation effect and softness, hence my question. Ansel Adams book (already very old) recommends HC-110 for the work and tells to use larger tanks, so the recommended by the manufacturer amount of the chemicals is present in the tank. This is what Tim speaks about…

        I am up for trying to do it your way though, I have no big size tank anyways and I definitely see that it works from your work. In the end it is always a bit schizophrenic: reaching the desired result and at the same time enjoying the uncertainty of the experiment 🙂

        Many greetings and congratulations on your work!

        Best,
        Mikhail

        • You are welcome! Being based on my experience… I rarely use dillution 1+5, only when shooting high contrast scenes and do not recommend higher dillution. The reason – I do not know what I need it for. So, my standard is 1+3 and 1+1 if I need more contrast especially to make prints. But Tim is right. There is a minimum amount of developer that should be used.

          If you are going to develop medium format film you do not need a big tank – 500ml is enough for most dillutions even for Rodinal 1+100 and 1+200. As for Rodinal, Agfa many years ago recommened to use at least 10ml of concentrate. It means you are able to use only 1+25 an 1+50 with 500ml tank. But in real practice I’ve used 1+100 for stand development with great results. Such development requires only 5ml of concentrate. Anyway, any dillution should be tested by you to find your own development workflow.

          Thanks for noticing my works!

  5. thanks for sharing your thoughts on D76 Sasha, I have very similar experience with this developer. I mix my own from raw chemicals and I use it pretty much for all BW films. I mostly use it 1+1 or undiluted though as 1+3 seems to be too grainy for my taste. Do you use diluted developer as one shot developer or do you re-use 1+1 for more films? Keep it up buddy.

    • Thank you for the comment, Noah. Typically I use 1+1 dilution for normal contrast scenes and 1+3 to get slightly lower contrast when shooting high contrast scenes. So, too much grain is not so big problem for me and thus I like to use it 1+3 for studio portraits especially made with the flashlight setup. I never use diluted developer for than once. So, it is only one shot developer for me regardless of dilution.

  6. William Hamblen

    Kodak published the recipe for D-76 on page 236 of the 1943 edition of “How to Make Good Pictures” and in other guidebooks. The proportions in “How to Make Good Pictures” are the same as you quote, except the amounts are for 4 liters instead of one.

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