FX-55 Crawley’s Ascorbic Developer
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It’s not everyday that Geoffrey Crawley releases one of his formulas but today was one such day.
Today Mr Crawley, together with the Amateur Photographer magazine in UK, released a formula which is probably very close to that of the old FX-50 and called it FX-55. What makes this developer very interesting is the way it is made. Part A of the developer is the usual liquid stock solution but contains no developing agents. Basically it is just the accelerator and preservative. Therefore, this part A should last pretty well indefinitely, at least for a few years.
Part B is the unusual bit. It is made of just the two dry ingredients, the developing agents Sodium L-ascorbate and Phenidone. Yes, this is quite unusual. But it does seem a touch of genius if you have agents with shelf life problems when in solution. Of course, these dry chemicals should also last a long time.
Once the working solution has been made, Crawley says it keeps for about 36 hours.
Here it is:
Pot. Carbonate 20g (for Anhyd. use 15.4g)
Sod. Bicarbonate 1.5g
Sod. Sulfite 25g
Sod. Metabisulfite 12g
Water to 1Ltr.
This is a stock solution and will keep indefinitely.
Before use, dilute some the above stock 1+9 with water to make 1 Ltr. of working solution.
Then add and dissolve the dry chemicals of part B below to the 1 ltr of working solution. If 1 ltr is too much for your film, you must still make the litre but just decant enough for your tank and discard or save the rest (it will keep for around 36 hours in a sealed container).
Sod. L-ascorbate 1.3g
This weekend I started testing the developer. I’m using Fuji Acros for my tests because it’s capable of very fine grain and smooth gradation.
I mixed 100ml of the stock with distilled water up to 500ml. I then added part B. Finally, I made it up to 1 ltr with more water.
After a few tests with Acros in FX-55 I settled on 5:30 minutes at 24C as around the correct development time (80 ISO). Grain is extremely fine and gradation very smooth indeed.
The following day I developed another roll of landscapes and they are very sharp! I used my Rollei SL66 for the test as I knew the Zeiss lenses on this camera are my very best. But still, this is a nicely sharp combination. For this second session I used the working dilution from the day before; so I know that this will last at least 24 hours. I noticed a yellowing of the solution before I used it so this is the sign that it is going off.
Acros at 80ISO developed in FX-55 6 mins 24degC - very slightly over developed. Use 5:30 as below. Nevertheless, the clouds have been rendered very faithfully showing an element of developer compensation.
The grain from the picture above. This is a tiny section just above the tall tree. You can see the stunning detail that this combination has captured, the micro-contrast is excellent.
FX-55 with Ilford IR film SFX