Getting Back Into the Dark Room: Part 5 - Deliberations On Using XTOL

After some weeks with work and travel I am back on track on my way to the darkroom. One of the things I had to take a decision on, is on how to properly organize myself in the darkroom. Especially my choice for the Kodak XTOL developer raised some doubts. The issue is that XTOL is very sensitive to oxidation and is currently only sold in quantities to create 5 liter stock solution (sufficient for 20 development runs with 4 4x5 sheets of film). Once out of the package and dissolved, its storage life is limited. It is absolutely essential to minimize contact with air. This is a relevant issue, depending on the quantities of film that need to be developed. In cases of infrequent use, like what will be valid for me, one really has to wonder if all the advantages from using XTOL outweigh the issues with ensuring the quality of the developer.

As can be witnessed from previous blogs on on this topic, I have bought my TMAX 400 sheet film and my XTOL developer. From a technical perspective, this is quite a good combination while the XTOL provides the desired S-curve to the rather linear TMAX 400. On top of that XTOL is less toxic than other developers in the market, and it delivers fine grain, good sharpness and shadow detail.

Considering all these aspects I have decided to go ahead with my original plan of using XTOL. However, I have changed my plan for storing the XTOL stock solution. Instead of using large collapsible bottles for storage I will use 250ml bottles that I can fill to the top. This will absolutely minimize that the stock solution comes into contact with fresh oxygen. Further I will need to be rather strict on maintaining expiration dates for the stock solution.

The considerations on the usage of XTOL have been made possible by:

XTOL Features as copied from the XTOL Technical sheet by Kodak

XTOL Features as copied from the XTOL Technical sheet by Kodak