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Mike O'Pray 27th December 2020 12:34 PM

Microphen v Xtol
Does anyone here have experience of using both developers? I am looking for your experience in terms of grain. Is Xtol decidedly better for less grain in 35mm to the extent that in smaller format such as 35 it clearly has the edge on Microphen. I should add that in either format of 35mm or 120 I will probably never print larger than 8x10

Ilford describes Microphen as fine grain but how much of this is "marketing"

I ask this question now because I have a TMY 400 in 120 to develop plus 2 x120 D3200 and last night my Xtol was showing signs of "fading" when I did the leader test so I decided not to use it.

I have 2 choices now: Make up fresh Xtol which may fade again before I can use anything like 5L but I know is fine grained or make up Microphen which is only 1L and will almost certainly be used before it expires but may or may not be fine for 120 but less so for the one 35mm I will have used up in the next few days/week or so



Uwe Pilz 27th December 2020 01:54 PM

There are some variables which control the graininess of a developer
- how strong is the alkali
- which developing agent is used
- is there a substance which solves silver

From this point of view, the developers ar similar.
- Both have use a very mild alkali (borate)
- both use a phenidone kind developing agent. Microphen has phenidone, XTOL has Dimezone which act similar
- both have a high content in sulfite which dissolves silver. Both have 85 g/L

The main difference is the redox system. Xtol uses ascorbate, but Microphen hydroquinone.

I don't think that you see a difference grainwise.If there are slight differences they can be matched by a slight variation of the developing time.

Miha 27th December 2020 03:25 PM


Originally Posted by Uwe Pilz (Post 137373)
- both have a high content in sulfite which dissolves silver. Both have 85 g/L

Source? Thank you.

Mike O'Pray 27th December 2020 05:52 PM

Thanks Uwe. That was very helpful. In connection with Microphen there are two ways to use it.

1. Replenishment whereby you pour the developer back into its 1L container after each use and on each subsequent occasion you add 10% to whatever is the original time until you get to a maximum of 10 films when the additional time is 90% more than what the time for the first film is. So if all ten films are say D3200 then the times are 10%, 20 % etc of D3200's original time so, it is straightforward

If you develop different films then I assume that if you change from say D3200 to TMax and then HP5+ you calculate the time based on the fresh developer time for that film plus however many films of varying types that you have already developed?

So if film 5 is TMax and not D3200 then it is the fresh developer time for TMax plus 40 %?

Can other confirm this to be the case?

Finally on the matter of Ilford replenishment method, Ilford gives some warnings about this method versus the one shot and dump.

Has anyone tried this replenishment and if so did you find any problems?

Safety in the form of one shot and dump looks to be hideously expensive and certainly so for the likes of D3200 where Ilford recommends stock only. In the case of 120 the tank takes 480 ml so call it 500ml and that means only 2 x 120 D3200 films per litre

So you can see why i am keen to find out if anyone has used the replenishment method and without problems



Miha 27th December 2020 08:49 PM

Mike, Xtol is said to be finer grained than D76. (Kodak say so) ID11 is said to be the same as D76 by many. ID11 is finer grained than Microphen (Ilford say so). I have been using ID11 and Microphen a lot in the past and can confirm the fact. Make your own deduction :)

Mike O'Pray 28th December 2020 12:11 AM

Thanks Miha. I feared this might be the case but it may give greater speed with better shadow detail than Xtol. However my concern is whether that greater speed and better shadow detail will show up at the sort of speeds I use HP5+ or D3200

Currently I have yet to try HP5+ at more than its box speed and D3200 looks good in Xtol at my usual EI 1600


Uwe Pilz 28th December 2020 05:52 AM

For regular use I have another developer (Atomal 49), which would require increasing of developing time too. I never was very happy with that, because the result are not stable. I used two methods with success:
1) Divide the developer in one-film-parts. For me, this is 250 mL für 35 mm films and 500 mL for two 120 films. Use the developer twice. You have to investigate in both times, for the first and for the second film.If the developer is used once, fill the bottle to the edge, with older developer or with water. Water is better than air.
The once used developer is less stable as the fresh one. I try to develop the second film / the second pair of 120 within a week.
2) I dilute the developer 1+1 and take a longer developing time. For developers with redox system the factor should be in the range 1.4...1.5.

>> both have a high content in sulfite which dissolves silver. Both have 85 g/L
> Source? Thank you.

I collect formulae for developers and took that form my collection. Unfortunately, I did not note the source every time.
I know that the Microphen formula was never published. But there exist inverse engineering solutions (sic!) which behave similar. It may be that Ilford uses 80 or 95 g/L. But it is a high content which
dissolves silver.

Svend 28th December 2020 06:10 AM

Hi Mike,

Re. your question about replenished Microphen, here is a long thread in which Ian G. describes it's characteristics and replenishing techniques very thoroughly.

He is a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Well worth a read through the entire thread.

BTW, according the Ian, Microphen is near enough to ID-68 as to be more or less interchangeable, and he provides a link to the formula for the latter on his web page.

Lostlabours 28th December 2020 12:22 PM

The only difference between packaged Microphen and ID-68 is a touch of Sodium Metabisulphe in Micropen Part A and the appropriate touch of extra Carbonate in Part B to keep the same pH and convert the Metabisulphite to sulphite.

In terms of grain Micrphen gives relatively fine grained, the grain is sharper andmore noticable than D76, Xtol is finer still. Given a choice of these three it would be Xtol by a long way.


Mike O'Pray 28th December 2020 05:28 PM

Thanks all. As I have the Microphen I may as well use it

The question remains: can I risk the Ilford replenishment method and get 10 films out of it or do I simply use it as stock on my 2 D3200 120 films. The tank I prefer for 120 is the Durst tank which unfortunately only holds 1 x 120.

I could use 450mls for one of my D3200 awaiting development, check out post development and provided I had decanted the once used Microphen back into a bottle the time interval should not be long enough to have affected the same 450 ml?

I was tempted to try the Ilford replenishment method but its warnings and those of Uwe has put me off to an extent

It would look as if Ilford only recommends stock solution for D3200. So unless the Ilford replenishment method is generally OK and say at least 8 films can be done this way, then Microphen becomes a very expensive and grainy developer that does only 2 x 120 D3200 films :shock:


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