Developing | Pictorial Planet Blog

The Best Negatives are Suprisingly Easy


Snowy Chairs

If you want a guaranteed method of making great negatives just reach for Barry Thornton’s two bath metol developer. The man was a master of simple formulations providing this and his pyrocatechin 2-bath for our pleasure. This metol 2-bath is like an updated Stoekler, sharper, and with great contrast. His pyrocatechin 2-bath is maybe the sharpest pictoral developer I’ve ever used - bar none. Just look at the photograph above. The detail in the snow is beautiful, something many developers cannot easily attain and this developer did it automatically.

Bath A Metol 6.5g Sodium sulphite 80g Water to 1 liter
Bath B Sodium metaborate 12g Water to 1 liter (To make the metaborate use 8.4g borax and 1.8g sodium hydroxide)

Develop FP4+ for 4.5 mins in A agitating for the first 30 seconds then 5 seconds each 30 seconds. Pour back and pour in bath B and agitate for the first 5 seconds, then 10 seconds every minute for 4.5 minutes.

Stop and fix.
Gorgeous negatives every time!

  • HP5+ needs 5 minutes A and the same for B
  • PAN F+ needs ~4 minutes.
  • Unknown film? Give it 4.5 mins A and B.
  • Don’t rinse between A and B.
  • Don’t pre-wet
  • Don’t throw away the developer but pour back A into its bottle for reuse, same for B.
  • Develops 15 films

Beutler's High Acutance Divided Developer

One of my favourite developers is D-23. It’s soft working nature is perfect for my more contrasty photographs, as well as the occasional portrait. Used replenished, its properties are enhanced and this is my preference. But sometimes I need more compensation that D-23 gives and more sharpness. For that I turn to a two bath like Thornton’s metol 2-bath (based on D-23, Stoekler and Ansco 17) or, for ultimate sharpness, a developer like Thornton's pyrocatechin or Beutler's divided developers.

Beutler's, the topic of this post, is another metol based developer, like D-23, but uses a quite different strategy to develop the film. It’s a high acutance surface developer, similar to Crawley’s FX-1, using very low levels of Metol and the high alkalinity of sodium carbonate. This produces well compensated, very sharp negatives, especially when used in its divided mode. Willi Beutler formulated this developer in the 1930s for the then new 35mm films. It’s not particularly fine grained, compared to say 510-Pyro or D-23 and maybe a little larger than D-76 1+1 but, due to the high resolution, the apparent grain is minimised.

This is one of the only true divided developers. Let me explain. Divided development, that is true divided development, is where the developer has been split between two baths. The first bath contains the developing agent and some preservative and the second bath the accelerator that kicks the developing agent into action. Don’t confuse this with two-bath development! Two-bath is where you use a “normal” developer in bath A and a further accelerator in bath B - there’s the subtle difference. You see, in a two-bath the negatives are actually developing in bath A and, in fact, will develop to completion if left long enough. Bath B is being used for contrast control only, to bring down excessive highlights into a more printable range.

So, in divided development we have no development in Bath A (the alkalinity is too low). Bath A is only used to swell the gelatine emulsion and soak up the developing agent. When this is complete we pour out the first solution and pour in the accelerator. This starts the development reaction with the shadows slowly developing and the highlights quickly developing. The developing agent quickly runs out in the highlights but not in the shadows. What does this mean? Well, the shadows continue developing to completion but the highlights have stopped in a controlled manner.
Concentrate A Water 400ml Metol 5g Sodium Sulfite 25g Water to make 500ml
  • To make working solution A mix 1+2. For example 200ml of Concentrate A with 400ml water to make 600ml total. Discard after use.

Concentrate B
Water 400ml Sodium Carbonate (anhyd)* 25g Water to make 500ml
  • To make working solution B mix 1+10. For example 60ml Concentrate B with 600ml water. Discard after use.

To use Beutler 105 as a divided developer:

  • Pour in working solution A
  • Soak the film for 8 minutes with initial agitation of 30 seconds and then 10 seconds per minute
  • Empty the tank
  • Do not rinse the film
  • Do not stop the film
  • Pour in the working solution B
  • Agitate for 10 seconds and then each minute for 4 minutes
  • Empty the tank, stop with two fresh water baths of 30 seconds and fix the film as normal
  • All at 20C

Beutler divided development
gives full film speed and produces thinner than normal negatives (the top negatives in the picture below) which are very sharp and should print at grade 3. It’s one of my most compensating developers.


Beutler negatives (top) have a thinner look

Using Beutler 105 as a single developer 

You can also use this developer as a single bath. The formula remains the same and to make up your working solution mix it 1+1+8. For example 50ml A with 50ml B to 400ml water making a total working solution of 500ml. Agitation should be no more than 10 seconds each minute. Negatives will be thin but print at grade 2-3 nicely. If you find your negatives to be too contrasty (if you use a condenser enlarger for instance) then you can increase the dilution to 1+1+10.
Development times are around:
  • ISO 25-50 5-10 minutes
  • ISO 64-125 7-10 minutes
  • ISO 400 9-12 minutes
This is a compensating acutance developer with a nice tonal response and excellent sharpness. For ultimate pictorial qualities in a divided developer and equal sharpness look at Thornton's pyrocatechin divided developer in my book. When I first used that developer my mind was blown!