After the lack luster across the board performance of Ilford DD-X (Which I have since tried with Delta 3200 which DD-X was designed for, and my good friend Julie Douglas saying it works well with Kodak films) I decided to give another Ilford developer a try, Perceptol. According to the Ilford site the developer is a very fine grain developer with excellent image quality. While designed for the slower films in the Ilford line up it would produce noticeably finer grain with faster films. This is Ilford’s version of the classic Microdol-X from Kodak, a developer that actually grew on me the more I used it, so I was looking forward to the results!
With Delta 400
So the first film I gave the developer a go on was a film I don’t really have a good feeling on, Delta 400, mostly because I just don’t like the contrast, but that’s a rant for Part 5 of Exploring Ilford. I also decided to help cut the grain and boost the contrast by pulling the film one stop. It worked, a bit, but the one thing that I really liked about this is that the developer did exactly what it said it would do, it reduced the grain to something a lot more pleasing in the film scans and produced a super sharp image! I mean, razor sharp.
With Pan F+
The next film up was Ilford Pan F, a favourite of mine. Now I’ve developed Pan F in plenty of other developers, some of my favourites being Rodinal and Xtol. But Perceptol really added something to the film. Pan F on it’s own is already a fine grained film with good contrast because of the slow speed, but Perceptol really brought out all the great qualities of the film. The grain was reduced to nothing which is going to make printing it all the more interesting while trying to focus it. But the grain that is there is oh so pleasing.
I already was a big fan of FP4+ but souping this film in Perceptol while generally enhancing the grain of the grain of the film (which really isn’t a bad thing since it’s a pleasing grain) made the film razor sharp. And probably my favourite part of the film was the contrast, dead on, exactly where I like my contrast to be!
With Delta 100
Next film on the list is Delta 100 and I was even more impressed with the results. Contrast, Sharp, and next to no grain. I mean the grain of Delta 100 wasn’t exactly my favourite in some other developers (it was okay in DD-X), but in Perceptol it was giving results of Pan F+ and contrast again right where I want it, if not more than I was getting with FP4.
HP5+ in 35mm is a rough film to work with, so I figured I got some decent results out of Delta 400 (sure in medium format) and not wanting to give HP5 a bum rap I took a roll out to test out a camera and again pulled the film just a touch to a classic ASA-320. Well the grain is still there, but the contrast has certainly improved. While HP5 is still not my favourite film in 35mm ASA-400 offering, in Perceptol it certainly looks better than Delta 400.
With Kodak Tri-X 400
Having enough developer left over, I figured, why not give it a shot with a film other than Ilford to see what happens, and having a couple of rolls of Kodak Tri-X laying around, and Doors Open Toronto here…I thought…why not! Now I’ve always used Ilford film in non-Ilford developers and have enjoyed the results, and as my good friend Julie pointed out to me she loves using Kodak films in Ilford developers. And well I was seriously impressed with the results of my beloved Tri-X in Perceptol, smoothed out the grain, kept the contrast and gave a very very very classic Tri-X look.
However there is one thing that I really don’t like with Perceptol and that it only comes in packages to make 1 liter of the stock solution, I know that you can just use it as stock and keep reusing it for a specific amount of processed rolls but I’m a diluting guy, so if I’m using 250mL of chemistry of each batch of 500mL (2 rolls of 120 or 2 of 35mm) that’s only four rolls per bottle. But at least the cost is lower. In the final say, I won’t keep Perceptol all the time, but if I want a better look out of HP5+ or a really fine grain look on Tri-X I’ll make sure I shoot enough film to use up a single 1 liter bottle in one go.