Sometimes simple is the best way to go about things, and what could be easier than Kodak D-23. So with today being George Eastman’s birthday, I figured I’d dig into this wonderful developer that is new to me and give some of my first thoughts on this developer. Now for those who have been in the photography field for some time you probably are wondering why I’m reviewing a developer that hasn’t been commercially available for many years now. While I can’t pinpoint when D-23 was released, all I know is that Ansel Adams used the stuff.
Kodak D-23 is a semi-compensating developer, which makes it a favourite of those who use Adam’s Zone System to determine their exposure settings. The two chemicals that drive D-23 is Metol and Sodium Sulfite, both of which you can purchase in bulk from Photographer’s Formulary, or you just buy their “Developer 23” Kit. The kit was actually how I first started using this developer. I have used D-76 in the past and while I can see why D-76 is still around as it has a better shelf life, I much prefer D-23 after using it. I find that it produces the same grain and sharpness as D-76 but has way better contrast in my negatives.
As you can see with these images, the lighting conditions were pretty severe with lots of shadows and highlights especially when I was in Prairie du Chien thankfully my head was right in the game that day, and I was nailing my exposure (thanks to filters and my trusty Pentax Spotmeter V). The addition of D-23 into the mix was the secret weapon and brought these images to life in my opinion. While you can dilute the developer, I highly recommend using it with the stock dilution and the one-litre mix will last a while.
Kodak D-23 is not for everyone, it’s a low contrast developer and is slow acting. But don’t let that turn you away from it. If you need to tame a contrasty film or bring out the best in fast films then D-23 is your best friend. I have not found a film stock that I don’t like in this developer. It has even helped change my mind on Ilford HP5+ in 35mm. As for grain, don’t expect it to bring out finer grain in faster films you’ll get similar grain patterns as you would with Kodak D-76. But if you’re looking for an economical developer than this is the one for you. It’s inexpensive to make and lasts for some time.