Over the past several weeks I have been tidying up and cleaning out the darkroom making it ready for the winter season. I don't know about the rest of you but I end up with a number of storage leaves full of negatives hanging around from previous printing sessions. While sorting them into order I noticed that a number of them were marked PMK Pyro afterbath. Wait a minute, these negs look more tanned than when I first processed them!. I did mention in another post that on first comparison the differences were slight and therefore not worth doing. On comparing the negatives now, the afterbath tinting stands out. ( see Fg1) Which would suggest that the developer continues to oxidise over time to some degree.
After giving this some thought I wondered if there would be any differences in how they printed, the only way to find out would be a practical comparison. I didn't think it would be enough to judge PMK against its self so I introduced a set of ID11 processed negatives to the equation. Both developers produce a fine grain just how fine I was not sure.
Materials for the comparison.
All the negatives are FP4 + 120 format and 6x6 in size. (the 6 x 4.5 negatives in Fg 1 were substituted for another set) Surprisingly they were all developed for 14 minutes in their respective developers. The afterbath neg's were exposed using a Zero Pinhole camera and to be honest is the only time I have used the afterbath. All the negatives are printed on Ilford Multigrade RC gloss and processed in Ilford MG developer using the split grade printing method.
In the darkroom.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in the clarity of the grain in the focus finder. The ID11 negatives were easy to focus, they had a defined grain pattern. The next neg I looked at was the PMK without afterbath these had a smoother looking grain pattern making it a little difficult to focus. The afterbath negatives had an even finer grain pattern, taking longer again to bring into sharp focus.
|PMK Pyro negative without afterbath|
The printing of each negative was straight forward. Once the pictures were completely dry I placed the three of them together in front of the window on a bight day to study them. The first thing I noticed was that the PMK negative prints looked warmer than the ID11 print; had a cooler more black and white look. I find that Ilford papers tend to have a warmer feel in comparison to the Foma papers I use. Next I noticed that the ID11 print looked crisper, sharper perhaps than the others this maybe be because the contrast was more defined or as other people have suggested that PMK negatives are softer due to the staining affect this developer has. One thing is for sure the afterbath neg is softer contrast wise, this was noticeable when it was being printed; as a rule of thumb I have found when setting the contrast part of the split grade method the timing is about half the time needed for the toned section. In this case it needed more and still looks soft.
|PMK Pyro netative with afterbath|
It would be unfair to conclude that the afterbath negatives were less sharp as they were taken with a lens-less camera and softer to start with. But when considering the other PMK Pyro negative I can say that it appears to be softer in sharpness when compared to the ID11 picture. With that in mind you could conclude by association that they would have been softer again. Therefore adding credence to those claims that PMK Pyro used with afterbath are less sharp but more subtly toned. When compared in isolation you would be hard pressed to notice a difference at all.
I believe that it is down to individual tastes when it comes to sharpness and if it was not for this comparison I would be none the wiser as far as my eyes are concerned. And that is all that counts.