Monday, December 18, 2006

Introduction

The secret to Hypercat’s effectiveness is in its simplicity. Hypercat is a tanning/staining developer, making it rare among film developers, but it is also a single-agent developer, and the only single-agent, tanning/staining developer formulated for modern, thin emulsion films, which makes it unique. Hypercat contains no sulfites or bromides, and no secondary developing agent to regenerate the developer and reduce sharpness, or prevent adjacency effects and compensation. The result is a developer that delivers the maximum acutance potential of any film. This type of simple developer is not new, its benefits are well established, and have been prized by photographers who demand the ultimate in sharpness since early in the last century. The problems with this type of developer have historically been of preservation and convenience, and these problems have kept this kind of simple developer out of the mainstream market. Few have been willing to stock the constituent chemicals, weigh out and compound a developer for each use, but these problems have been entirely eliminated in the formulation of Hypercat, which takes the form of two highly concentrated stock solutions of indefinite shelf life, that are combined and diluted with water to make a working solution.
Hypercat exhibits some interesting properties due to its simplicity. Since Hypercat contains no sulfites or secondary developing agents to regenerate the developer in solution, it exhibits all of the characteristics of a true acutance developer. The tanning of the emulsion and local exhaustion of the developer in areas of high density combine to produce adjacency effects, and compensation effects, for increased apparent sharpness, and a boost in film speed, with controlled highlight rendition. Hypercat produces adjacency effects and compensation with normal, intermittent agitation for 10 seconds/minute, but these effects can be increased to any desired degree by further reduction of agitation. The effects can become extreme, and streaking can occur with inadequate agitation, so some experimentation is required to find the level of effect that best suits one’s taste. I consider 10 seconds agitation every third minute a practical minimum.
Hypercat is ideally suited to slow and medium speed, fine grain films that build contrast quickly. The tanning action and local exhaustion of developer in the highlight regions tames contrast, and improves film speed and sharpness without increasing the appearance of grain. In fact, since development takes place almost entirely at the surface, and the image stain makes up a large part of the highlight printing density, where grain is most apparent, grain is effectively minimized.

16 comments:

Eric Rose said...

Sounds very interesting Jay. What are the main things that make the printed neg results different from PyroCat-HD? That is the only pyro developer I have first had experience with.

Thanks,

Eric

jdef said...

Hi Eric.

Hypercat is very different from Pyrocat HD in formulation and in use. Pyrocat HD contains phenidone in a superadditive pair with catechol. Phenidone is a 18X more powerful than metol, and fast working, but only builds very low contrast. Catechol is slow working, but is capable of high contrast when used with carbonate alkali. Phenidone is so efficiently regenerated by the catechol in solution that it doesn't exhaust in the highlights, even with reduced agitation, and produces very linear film curves. The fast-working phenidone builds the toe density quickly, making Pyrocat HD compatible with rotary processing. There are downsides to the phenidone as well. The efficient regeneration of the superadditive pair effectively discourages the formation of adjacency and compensation effects. Further,phenidone is prone to fogging when used with carbonate alkali, so a restrainer must be used to control fog, but the restrainer also reduces contrast/lengthens development time, and reduces film speed. Hypercat is a very simple developer, containing only the barest of essentials; a developing agent, an antioxidant, and an alkali. As a result, there is no regeneration of the developing agent in solution, so the developer exhausts locally with reduced agitation and encourages the formation of compensation and adjacency effects. These development effects enhance film speed and apparent sharpness. Hypercat is not compatible with rotary processing, which would negate the development effects that make Hypercat so effective. Catechol is a surface-acting developing agent,a tanning agent, and a staining agent. These attributes combine to produce very high acutance. The surface development is enhanced by the tanning action which hardens the emulsion, preventing development to the depths of the emulsion, and since a large part of the highlight density is composed of stain, there is only a very thin layer of silver density, significantly reducing the appearance of grain. For the user this means better film speed, and sharper, less grainy prints at a given enlargement factor. The compensating effect also helps to control the runaway highlight density of slow, contrasty films. I hope that answers some of your questions, but if you have others, or comments, I hope you'll post again.

Eric Rose said...

Thanks Jeff. I just did a bunch of Utah and AZ stuff in Pyroc-Cat HD and am having problems getting the prints I want using VC paper. Extremely low contrast, yet the negs look good and meaty. I guess it's just part of the learning curve using staining developers. I was thinking maybe I should go to graded papers.

jdef said...

Hi Eric.

Printing stained negatives on VC papers presents special problems, and special opportunities. I'm working on an article that describes these issues, and practical strategies for their exploitation. I'll give you the Reader's Digest version here.

First, check out Ilford's website and their pdf on VC papers and contrast control, if you haven't already. That will give you a good overview of how VC papers work with filtration to control contrast. There will be a lot of references to contrast, so let's define some terms up front. Negative Contrast (NC)is controlled by film development, Paper Contrast (PC) is controlled by filtration, and Print Contrast (PrC)is the combination of negative contrast and paper contrast. A Yellow filter (minus-blue) reduces Paper Contrast (PC), and a magenta filter (minus-green) increases PC. This is very simple and straightforward when using non-stained negatives, but when a stained negative is used, it gets complicated by the fact that the stained negative also acts as a filter, and to comlicate things further, it's a Yellow filter, which introduces a Yellow Filter Effect (YFE) into the exposure light path. This represents something of a conundrum, because increased Negative Contrast leads to increased stain formation, and an increase in the YFE, which reduces PC, and since print contrast is the combination of NC+PC (PrC=NC+PC), increased film development doesn't give increased print contrast until the PC reaches its minimum at grade 00, after which increased film development does increase PrC because you're essentially scaling your negatives to a grade 00 paper, and the YFE is no longer able to reduce contrast. This is why your meaty stained negs print flat on VC paper, but there is a simple remedy.

The YFE must be neutralized. Yellow + Magenta = Neutral Density (Y+M=ND), and neutral density has no contrast value, just exposure value, so by neutralizing the YFE, you're restoring the paper grade to 2, or equal to no contrast filtration. Only with the YFE neutralized can you assess film development's effect on print contrast. I use a color analyzer to manage filtration with my color head, but you can learn to do without one. With the stained negative in the carrier, focussed, and ready to print, add magenta filtration until the densest parts of the projected image look white, or neutral, not yellow or magenta. Now the contrast filtration value is 0, and approximates a grade 2 paper's Exposure Scale. At this point, you can make a test print to assess the contrast and exposure. If your test print indicates that you need to increase contrast, increase magenta, and if it indicates that you need to reduce contrast, reduce magenta. By reducing magenta from the neutral point, the YFE is reintroduced and acts to reduce contrast. Different light sources will require varying amounts of magenta filtration to neutralize the YFE. I use a color head with a tungsten lamp, which requires about 23 units of magenta filtration to balance with no negative in the carrier, and a typical, normal-contrast stained negative requires an additional 10-15 units of magenta to neutralize. A cold light head produces far more Blue, and will require less magenta filtration to neutralize.

I hope this has been helpful, and not to difficult to digest. After you wrap your head around the concepts, the practice is fairly straightforward, and can help you scale your negatives to a middle grade of paper, and regain all of the controls that VC papers offer. Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you. Good luck!

Cor said...

Hi Jeff,

I would like to give Hypercat a try on 35 mm PanF:

Can you give me some directions to sart with;

At which do you use PanF speed?

How long would you develop in in a Paterson tank (time, temp. and agitation scheme)

Thanks in advance!

best,

Cor

jdef said...

Hi Cor.

I've had good results with Pan F+ EI 50 using Hypercat 1:3:200, 8:00/70F with standard Ilford agitation of 10 seconds/minute. This is for scenes of normal contrast to be printed on grade 2 paper, or VC paper with a diffusion head. Hypercat/Pan F+ is a very good combination and produces very sharp, grainless negatives that print easily. Good luck, and let me know if I can be of any help.

Jay

Cor said...

Thanks Jay!

Now let's hope that there will be some sun this christmass holiday, so I can start shooting some PanF

(I alos have to wait for my order of propylene glycol to come in)
Best,

Cor

jdef said...

Check out the mixing instructions if you've never made up a developer in glycol. Good luck, and enjoy!

Jay

kmag said...

Hello Jay,
Can the hypercat be heated on a stove in a dedicated stainless steel pan? I don't own pyrex and am trying to accumulate as few specialized pieces of equipment as necessary and keep it simple.
Kurt

jdef said...

Hi Kurt.

Stainless Steel is fine, but I would recommend mixing the dry ingredients into the glycol outside, or in a well ventilated area, and not in the kitchen. Once the dry ingredients are mixed into the glycol at room temp to make a slurry, you can safely heat it on your stovetop. Just be sure your SS container is large enough to prevent spills, and if you do spill, clean up immediately and thoroughly with warm soapy water. Good luck!

kmag said...

Hello Jay,
I finally got all my chemicals ready and am going to develop some foma 200 film I shot in Sweden. I started looking at developing times and concentrations and noticed an old and new formula and a concentration difference. Is the new formula as printed on this blog? Is the basic proportions 1:10:100? I have VC paper and grade 2 paper. Would I develop differently for each paper and what, or which, would you recommend?
Thank you for your help,
Kurt

jdef said...

Hi Kurt.

The new formula is the one posted here, but development times posted elsewhere for Foma 200 are for the original formula. I recommend you scale your negatives to grade 2 paper, and then print on either the graded paper, or the VC paper with the appropriate magenta filtration.

For Foma 200, I'd use a 1:10:300 dilution, and develop 5:30/70F/ 0:10/1:00 (ten seconds/minute)agitation. Agitate continuously for the first 30 seconds. Assess development using your graded paper. When you have it dialed in for graded paper, you can switch to VC paper. You'll need to dial in some magenta filtration to acheive a paper Exposure Scale with your VC paper to match the ES of your grade 2 paper; this is normal, due to the effect of the stain on VC paper and doesn't mean you're printing on a higher paper grade. I really like Foma 200, but haven't tested it with the new formula. Maybe I'll do it tonight. Let me know how it works out for you, and I'll post any information I gather.

Jay

kmag said...

Hello Jay,
I developed the Foma 200 this morning with a 1:10:300 dilution at 5:30 min. The negatives look very thin with no perceptable staining. Should I try the dilution of 1:10:100 or longer times? Some are to thin to print at all but I will try to print some of the more dense ones this Thursday evening.
Thanks,
Kurt

kmag said...

Hello all,
I just posted about some negatives and an interesting development(?) has happened. I took another look at them and they seem to have improved on their own. They still seem thin,but some printable, but the stain seems to have developed. I am excited by this and am very curious to see how they print. I usually prefer slightly thin negatives to very dense ones anyway. I am also starting to wonder if one of my light meters is to blame.
I am going to try some more with another camera and light meter to see if that is one of the variables.
Thank you Jay,
Kurt

jdef said...

Hi Kurt.

I hope your negs print well, but my recommendation was just a starting point, and it's very possible that more development would make better negatives. The stain is often hard to see in wet negs, especially considering Hypercat is a very clean working developer and produces almost no general stain, which is easiest to see. I too like thin negs, but there's a limit. After you print these negs, you'll have a solid basis for making adjusttments to the next roll. I haven't had time to test Foma 200 with Hypercat yet, but maybe I'll get a chance tonight. Thank you for posting your data and impressions here; it's very valuable for other users, and I hope you'll have images to post as well.

Jay

Cor said...

Hi Jay,

Thought that you like to hear about my first test roll of PanF in Hypercat.

I shot it at 40 ASA.

I processed in 1,5:4,5:300 ml at 20degC for 9 minutes in a Patterson tank, gentle agitaion every 30 sec, first 30 sec cont.

The first thing I noticed that the spend developer came out clear (unlike pyrocatHD or PyroPMK)

The negatives were rather thin, no detectable stain, although under an angle they gave some kind of relief effect. No news here I guess, that's know for these neagtives.

Printed them at grad.2 1/2 on Ilford RC.

The prints were quite pleasing I must say, great sharpness/accutance.

I would like to see some more shadow detail though, and a tad bit more highlight contrast, so next time shoot at 25 asa and process for 10 minutes?

All and all a nice result, still have to make my mind up if I like this combo for portaits, but for buildings etc this looks like a winner!

Best & thanks for sharing,

Cor