Economically developing film with Seasoned X-tol Film Developer

Well if you came here for a budget camera, you might also be on a budget developing film as well. I recently learned a way of development that is quite economical and has wonderful properties: Seasoned Xtol.

Xtol is a "new" developer, meant to be more ecological than other popular developers. One of its key ingredients is Vitamin C. Used conventionally as a one shot developer, either straight or 1:1 Xtol is also in the middle of the pack price wise.

But when I finally tried the "Seasoned" recipe, I was hooked. Not only does seasoned Xtol turn out to be a good value, it has wonderful tonal properties. I don't hate Rodinal or HC-110. Though both of those developers are economical, they are non-compensating and have more of a straight curve. Xtol, and especially seasoned Xtol seems to bend that curve in the direction a real film photographer wants.

For those wannabes and weenies that shoot film and just scan it, who cares I guess. Press a couple of buttons in Photoshop and voila. But then why bother with film?! 

If you print on photo paper- you know like in a darkroom as one should, then getting the tonality of your negs right is very important. This method pulls out the shadows and in the highlights. All for about $0.18/roll.

Here's how it works:

(disclaimer: follow all the safety regulations on the packages, this process worked for me but I don't promise it will work for you, so don't go shoot a wedding or your dream trip on film and try this without testing first....)

  • Mix five liters of Xtol from package as usual. Separate into five one liter containers when done, fill four containers as close to the top as you can, leaving one container with extra air atop. 
  • Label 4 of the containers Xtol (3 of the full containers, plus the one with the extra air)
  • Label one of the full containers Seasoned Xtol 
  • Use the not yet seasoned Xtol to develop 6 rolls of film (1x35mm x 36, 1x120 roll, 4x4x5 sheets, 2x5x7, 1x 8x10 etc)
  • Starting with the 7th roll add 10% to regular Xtol developing times, when finished developing, dump out 75ml of seasoned developer and add 75ml from the partially full bottle, and just keep going, moving on to the full bottles when done (duh). 
If I did the maths right, you should get 66 rolls out of 5 liters and then just mix again. 

There's a clone made by "Eco Pro" (Freestyle house brand?) that is sometimes less expensive than the Kodak that presumably functions the same. I plan to switch to the Eco Pro version - because I don't feel I can trust Kodak anymore. They've had some serious quality control issues, their prices jump up randomly, and Kodak discontinues products all the time without notice. 

Let me know how this works for you!


Popular Posts