It’s funny how some developers just drop right into your lap. One of my readers, Jon Porter, wanted to know my thoughts on FX-39. And at the time I had never even heard of Adox FX-39, so I hopped onto my source for the rarer chemicals, Argentix.ca, and found that yes they did carry Adox FX-39 II. Is this new version any different from OG FX-39, not on the surface, it just has been adjusted to last longer. But that wouldn’t be a problem. I went through my first 500mL bottle quickly and in a couple of months. FX-39 is based on Neofin Red (created by Willi Beutler) and further improved upon by Geoffrey Crawley. I’m not often one to enjoy a developer right off the bat, but FX-39 has certainly impressed itself upon me, and I can see myself keeping it around, and even more than Pyrocat-HD, but more on that later.
Name: FX-39 II
Primary Developer: Hydroquinone
Mix From: Liquid
As a liquid developer, FX-39 is surprisingly easy to handle. It pours nicely and is easily measured out. And when it comes to measuring FX-39, the standard dilution is 1+9, but you can also increase the dilution to 1+14 just extend the time by x1.5 and even 1+19 by doubling the time. Plus there’s no difference in how you agitate the tank during development. Now the one problem that faced the original FX-39 is the shelf life, but still lasting six months to a year is still a decent amount of time, but the new stuff will undoubtedly get at least a year to a year and a half. So it’s best to buy and use the developer. Even a 500mL bottle will get ten rolls using the 1+9 dilution, more if you’re using the higher-dilutions. Being available in two sizes, 500mL or 100mL makes it easy to store if space is a premium. And even still the 500mL bottle fits nicely among my other chemicals without taking up too much space.
On the surface, FX-39 might appear to be for speciality purposes, but I can honestly see it becoming a general-purpose developer in my toolkit. That said, I find that the developer works best on mid and slower films, nothing over ASA-200 and even there I find that’s pushing the envelope. One thing that does make the developer suitable for general use is that it allows you to shoot film at full box speed without any sacrifice quickly. But where FX-39 shines is with ASA-100 to ASA-25 films. I find that RPX 100, Fomapan 100, Fuji Acros 100 (OG, but Acros II will do just as well), and Ilford FP4+ perform in ways I have never seen them perform in any other developer. I also saw an improvement using FX-39 with Fomapan 400 (shot at ASA-200) plus helped Ilford SFX 200 with both sharpness without increasing the grain, in fact it decreased the inherent grain in the film. Plus it works well on both cubic and tabular grained films, making it perfect for learning film development without having to keep large volumes of developers around at any given time. And given the nature of the developer, it will undoubtedly help with reviewing films that I feel aren’t well suited for Rodinal beyond stand-developing.
The images I got with FX-39 blew my mind; I had not seen such quality since I started using Pyrocat-HD. First off the pictures are sharp, and we’re talking Rodinal sharp. And yet there is a certain amount in grain reduction like what you get from Xtol. I mean, it makes Fomapan 400 and Ilford SFX 200 look good; every film it touches look good! Again, just like Pyrocat-HD. But there’s no staining action on the film. When it comes to contrast, there’s no change to any inherent contrast with the film itself. Plus the developer is a compensating developer. Now the one thing that I did not test out, but certainly hope to in the future is to adjust the dilution to compensate for overly contrasty scenes, something that folks who use the Zone system will certainly appreciate. Dilute to 1+14 or 1+19 to help bring down the contrast in films like RPX 25, Pan F+ or TMax 100.
I quickly found that FX-39 is the best parts of Xtol and Rodinal, which is mostly like Pyrocat-HD, but you don’t get the same toxicity as that developer and without the staining action. I do plan on using this developer more in the future I have already integrated it into my film reviews with Ilford SFX200, and other films that I feel wouldn’t do well with Rodinal and run with FX-39. Also, due to the small size, it certainly will make for an excellent Xtol replacement since I don’t have room to keep that 5L jerry can in the house. The one downside is that not all photographic supplies stores carry it, I have to order it from Argentix.ca which isn’t bad, and I certainly intend to keep it in the kit more often. FX-39 is a sure winner.
Don’t just take my word on FX-39 check out these other blogs on the subject!
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