Film developing with Kodak D-76

Kodak D-76 is a classic and truly versatile developer which first entered the market in 1927. 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 using D-76 as a full-strength stock solution. But there is no reason to use it undiluted. For greater sharpness, but with a slight 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 there are not many solvents 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 diluting 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. For normal processing of low contrast scenes I usually use it diluted 1+1.

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 for processing high contrast scenes. For pull processing only to -1EV I usually use a 1+3 dilution and sometimes 1+5.

For push processing up to +2EV I prefer a 1+1 dilution. To push it even more I use it undiluted, but do it quite rarely. Also, for push processing only to +1EV I use either a 1+3 dilution or 1+1 one and never 1+5.

For push processing I prefer a 1+1 dilution up to +2EV. To push it even more I use it undiluted, but do it quite rarely. Also, for push processing only to +1EV I use dilution 1+3 or 1+1 and never 1+5.

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 of 20°C with no presoaking and the following agitation: 2 inversions of tank or film reel rotation for 4 sec per every 30 sec. 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
Kodak T-Max 100
50 9 17
100 9 17 25
200 13 25
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
Ilford FP4 Plus 125
64 11 17
125 11 17 23
250 17 23
Arista EDU Ultra 400
400 13 23
800 17
1600 23
Kodak T-Max 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 16 25
1600 19

Formula

Kodak published the formula of D-76 developer in some of its photographic handbooks, for example on page 15 in “Kodak Chemicals and Formulae“. Below is the original formula of Kodak D-76 film developer for preparing 1 liter of stock solution.

Water 50°C 750 ml
Metol or Elon 2 g
Sodium Sulfite anhydrous 100 g
Hydroquinone 5 g
Borax 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.

Stand development

Kodak D-76 is not a typical developer to be used for stand development, with Rodinal developer being most often used for this purpose. I personally do not practice this development process with D-76 because, in my opinion, it does not have any advantages compared to the usual development in a 1+3 dilution, unlike, for example, stand development using Rodinal. Anyway, the key reason for stand development process is developing shadows while preserving highlights.

However, using Kodak D-76 for stand development is possible and I personally tried it. For stand development, I used a 1+7 dilution, which is a highly dilute developing solution: just 60ml of the stock is used to prepare 480ml of working solution for my Jobo UniTank 1500. Probably, it is possible to use an even weaker solution, however, it must be noted that there is a limit as regards the minimum amount, which practically depends on the film emulsion. I guess if the dilution ratio is more than 1+7 a real film speed will be hard to achieve.

The initial temperature of the solution should also be kept at 20°C, although in this development method it won’t be decisive. But, I prefer the initial conditions for the development to always be the same. The average development time is 1 hour. It can also vary depending on the background temperature but one hour usually should be enough. I always use my standard agitation: 2 inversions of tank (or film reel rotation for 4 sec) per every 30 sec, but only for the first two minutes. Further agitation is not carried out.

It is important to note that in the stand development method I always develop only one film at a time, despite the fact that my Jobo Unitank 1520 allows me to develop two 120 or 135 films simultaneously.

The stand development creates many opportunities for one’s own experiments, and one could write a separate article about it. For example, if negative images have insufficient density, you can try semi-stand development or agitation for every 15th or even 10th minute. It’s up to you.

I prefer to get a stable result. So, I use stand development mainly as an experiment. Unfortunately, my experience also showed that not all films are suitable for stand development with D-76. In particular, when it comes to Foma films, probably gas bubbles appear on the emulsion surface during the development, which leads to insufficient development in these areas. When scanning, this effect appears as a myriad of small black dots throughout the film. I did not observe this phenomenon on Kodak T-Max 100 films though.

Ilford ID-11

Ilford ID-11 to make 5 litres

Ilford ID-11 film developer is equivalent to Kodak D-76. It is clear from the Ilford ID-11 formula, which was published on page 14 in “Ilford Formulae & Packed chemicals” photographic book. Unlike Kodak D-76, which is sold as a single package, Ilford ID-11 involves two separate packages that need to be added and mixed one after the other. Probably this is exactly what gives rise to questions whether modern Kodak D-76 and Ilford ID-11 are really identical. There is an assumption that the difference was in the chemical that maintains pH, and perhaps their modern formulas are somewhat different. But, it’s not so important to me as I use both these developers and have not noticed any difference. Even if it exists, it will be offset with a 1+1 dilution, and even more so with 1+3 and 1+5.

Storage

Kodak says that the storage life of D-76 stock solution in a tightly sealed full bottle is 6 months and 2 months for half-filled. I pour the freshly prepared stock solution into several black Jobo 1-liter bottles, which increases its shelf life, and use the bottles one after another.

In practice, the stock solution can be stored in a black tightly closed full bottle for much longer than Kodak claims. For instance, I once forgot about the last full bottle of the Kodak developer because I switched to developing in Rodinal. And I had it in this state, without access of oxygen, standing for about two years! The developer itself turned yellowish, but its properties almost did not change. Unlike Kodak XTOL, which does not change color during its storage but can completely lose its properties. I can with a certain degree of confidence speak about its preservation based on the color of D-76 solution — it is better not to use it if it turned brown or very yellow.

Another good way to always have some fresh developer is to prepare it yourself in the amount that can be used within 2-3 months. which depends on the number of films you shoot. But I rarely mix it myself, but I usually use the prepacked D-76 developer to prepare 3.8 liters of stock solution, which I use up within a year, while simultaneously using Rodinal. During this period the properties of D-76 don’t usually change for worse.

Other resources

A good development database listing recommended developing times is the famous The Massive Dev Chart. You may use it as a starting point in your own experiments with film developing.

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

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18 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 the stock and add X parts of water. But you are right. To avoid misunderstanding I’ve changed ‘:’ 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.

  7. Mariano

    Hello, hope you read this. I’ve pushed a kodak T-Max 400 film 3 stops (@3200ASA). Is there any chance to develop it with D-76? I’can find information about the develop times anywhere!! Hope you can help me.

    Sory about my English, I’m from Argentina. Thanks!!

    • Hello, Mariano

      Yes, I think it is possible to develop T-Max 400 @ 3200 ISO. But you will need to use a stock solution instead of a diluted developer. Using D-76 1+1 dilution for +3EV push processing sill seriously increase development time.

      As for the development times, I would try to develop T-Max 400 for 12-13 minutes in a stock solution for 3200 ISO. Anyway, you must remember that is better to overdevelop the film while push processing. So, I consider to develop it rather for 13 min. If you decide to use 1+1 dilution, the development time should probably be increased to 33-35 minutes.

      Please, let me know about the result.

  8. Thasin Jeelani

    Hello Sasha…
    How many no. of 35mm and 120 mm films can be processed with 1+3 dilution using Paterson Super system 4 tank…

    • Hello Thasin,

      It does not depend on a dilution of the developer, at least 1+1, 1+3 or even 1+5. But, considering your question:

      1) type 135 — as many as you may put film reels in this tank.
      2) type 120 — depends on the feature of a film reel to hold two 120 films in the same spiral. I’ve nothing to say about this feature on Paterson reel but for instance, Jobo 1520 reel does it well — it has a special stopper which is allowed to insert two 120 films one by one into the same spiral. If Paterson reel does it too, you may also expect to develop the same number of 120 films as 135 films in this tank.

  9. Sasha, great post, thanks for all the great info. I enjoyed reading your work in this area. Makes me want to try D76 again.

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