D76 VS Rodinal with Kodak Tri-X
Recently I compared Rodinal dilutions 1+25 and 1+50, and even more recently I did the same for D-76’s stock solution vs 1+2.
Both yielded very interesting results, and before you watch any further, I suggest catching up on those videos because today I am going to pit them head to head to see which one comes out on top.
Today’s comparison isn’t just going to be just about image quality, in fact, that will only be one factor, because the truth of the matter is you are not going to care how it looks if it’s too hard to mix or too expensive. You may actually overlook a reduction in quality for the sake of saving time.
Because of that, I am going to compare the two developers, as follows.
- I will look at cost comparisons
- I’ll go over the total workflow for each.
- We’ll take a look at developing times
- And finally I’ll show you how each looks side by side given the same circumstances. Because I took all the photos from both developers on the same roll of film within about a minute, we can have a pretty accurate look at the quality in a side by side comparison.
Not all of these comparisons will be cut and dry. Maybe one developer is more expensive than the other where you live, or you prefer a look that I don’t, but I think this will make a great guide for you on the sort of questions you should be asking yourself.
Okay, let’s take a look at our first category:
We are going based on the dilutions I reviewed for each developer. I’ll be using B&H Photo pricing and US currency as my guide.
First the full strength of D-76 vs the 1+25 of Rodinal.
My numbers are based on the idea that you develop one roll at a time, with 300ml of developer.
A gallon of D-76 is $12.99 and does 16 rolls of 35mm film at full strength. That’s 81 cents a roll. Remember, this is using the developer, and reusing it until it’s exhausted. If you wanted to take the same gallon, but one shot it, you’d only get 12 rolls.
Adox Rodinal is $15.99 for a 500ml bottle and that will develop 43 rolls of 35mm film. That’s 37 cents a roll.
If I use 1+2 dilution with D-76 I can get about 37 rolls and take that cost to 35 cents a roll, but if I go 1+50 with Rodinal, it’s 18 and a half cents.
So D76 1+2 beats Rodinal 1+25 in terms of cost, but Rodinal has the cheapest overall.
Next up is:
Rodinal is a liquid, and not even syrupy like Kodak HC-110. You can also add a little bit at a time.
Powders are messy, and wearing a mask and eye protection is a good idea because even though you can’t see it, you may kick up fine powder. I also need to heat up my water for D-76 to 50 Celsius, whereas Rodinal is just pour and go.
The advantage D-76 has here is Rodinal has to be precisely measured in small amounts each time. The advantage Rodinal has is that D76 needs to be mixed all at once and used within about 3 months in a partially filled bottle, and near the end of that you’ll probably want to adjust your developing time to compensate for a now weaker developer.
I’ve heard people mix small amount of the powder at a time and not see any issues but I’ve also heard people say you’re not going to get evenly distributed ingredients unless you use the whole bag at once so today we’ll just stick with Kodak’s guidelines.
Rodinal will be your choice if you are not developing often, or you can’t store large amounts of prepared developer . Use D-76 if you prefer easier mixing instructions, and plan to develop at least 6 rolls a month.
Developing time is about the same, for each dilution pairing. D-76 has a time of 6:45 for stock and 13:00 for 1+2, and Rodinal has 7 minutes for 1+25 and 13 minutes for 1+50.
This was intentional on my part so you can see how a 7 minute development and 13 minute development compare to each other.
The other consideration that I think a lot of people miss for developing time is preparing the solution. For D76 at stock, it’s just pour and go, and for 1+2 the math and pouring is really easy because of the large amount used. Rodinal needs to be measured in 10ths of a ml at times, which makes smaller variations give bigger results.
On the other hand, if you are developing D-76 at stock and it’s cold in the darkroom you’ll need to compensate with time, or figure out a way to raise its temperature. If you’re diluting you’ll have some control. With Rodinal, 10ml of developer won’t change the temperature of 500ml of water, so you can get your temps right much easier.
Okay, here’s the big one
As stated, all of the examples here were taken on the same roll of film, then split into four strips. For Rodinal I have one at 1+25 and 1+50. For D-76, I have a strip dev’ed at stock, and one at 1+2.
A few of you asked why I didn’t use a 1+1, which is arguably the most popular, and there are two reasons for that. (A), I wanted to see a greater difference from stock, and (B) because a 1+2 has the same developing time of 13 minutes as Rodinal’s 1+50 and we can see how both compare.
First we will compare Rodinal 1+25 to D-76 stock
There is quite a bit of difference here. D-76 gives a flatter negative, allowing you to bring out more contrast if you’d like, while Rodinal has more contrast from the gate. D76 is, in my opinion quite a bit sharper, and Rodinal’s grain is clumpier and coarser.
Looking at Rodinal 1+50 vs D76 1+2, we get similar results. Both will be flatter and more sharp than the last examples, but I think the difference here is while Rodinal is still more contrasty, the sharpness difference is less obvious.
Take this with a grain of salt as a bump in the lens focus, a negative that lays a little more flat, these things can skew the results, so this slight difference may not be just the developer.
I definitely noticed D76 made my film curl more.
Last of the negative comparisons, we look at Rodinal 1+50 vs D76- Stock. Very similar in the mid tones, though Rodinal has an open shadow, and D76 better highlights. Also, as the highlights progress, the difference becomes less noticeable until you can barely see the separating line.
I’d be curious as to your thoughts regarding the negative comparisons, I would have to say my favourite negative was D76 stock, because a flatter negative allows me the most control in the darkroom. If I want something punchy out of the gate, I think we can all agree Rodinal 1+25 is the answer.
In the other videos we looked at darkroom prints as well, and now we can compare those results to each other.
First up. Rodinal 1+25 and Stock D76 with a 2.5 contrast filter.
Unlike a computer scan, a true silver print is going to show you much more of a films differences. It’s not nearly as forgiving. This is pretty dramatic too. The numbers at the bottom are exposure times in seconds, and you can see that Rodinal at 50 seconds is about D-76 at 20 seconds.
I noticed that even though the whites of the highlights are about the same, Rodinal has more grain.
Here are the more diluted counterparts, Rodinal at 1+50 and D76 at 1+2
Less of a difference, but still striking. The 10 second exposures look similar, but then we see a bit more deviation as we go, but only by 10-20 seconds rather than 30. D76 has a smoother flatter look and takes less of an exposure time, while Rodinal is rough, textured and chunky.
As you saw in the last two videos, I also did a contrast 5 comparison, but in this case it doesn’t reveal anything that we don’t already know here. The Rodinal negative requires a longer exposure, and has, for the lack of a better term, coarser grain. Here are the contrast five filter results if you're curious.
So there you have it, Kodak’s D76 vs Rodinal in a fight to the Dev, and I am curious about your thoughts and which came out on top for you? I imagine some people want a harsh look, while others want something a bit creamier. You may want an open shadow, or you may wantcrushed blacks.
As for myself I have been using Rodinal for the last couple years….however, I hated the results here when I compared them to D-76.
I never thought I would be a grain gawker, but Rodinal is really ugly when put beside the smooth D76. Not only that but even though it’s a powder, being able to just dump and go is an alluring benefit, especially in the summer when my chems sit at about 68F on their own. I also think shorter enlarging times for darkroom prints will help ensure sharper images.
What is a pain in the butt, is having to heat up the water for the initial mix with D76 and I can’t use it right away after, as I needs to cool down. It also gave me curly negatives, which is already a problem with Tri-X.
I will continue to use Rodinal, but I think if I had some really important rolls to develop I may take the time to use D-76. Once it’s there on the shelf it’s super easy to use, and I loved the results.
Well, that’s all for now. I really hope you enjoyed this episode, if you did, please consider becoming my patron on Patreon. I offer early access to my videos, your name in the credits and free prints. You can also follow me on Instagram and twitter, and until next time, stay classic.