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Original Perfection XR-1 Formula?

by Ed Buffaloe

It has been pointed out by various folks on two photography forums that patent number 4083722 may well be a precursor to the Perfection XR-1 formula, which is no longer commercially available.  XR-1 claimed three uses:  (1) contrast control and compensation, including for extended range night photography; (2) development of fine-grain films (such as Agfapan 25, Kodak Technical Pan, Kodak High Contrast 5069 and 5369, and various microfilms) for extreme enlargements with minimal grain; and (3) push processing any film from 1 to 3 stops. It is described as not being a fine grain developer, but as being capable of increasing the effective speed of any fine grain film.

The patent describes a developer capable of producing negatives “...that have high resolving power in the order of 90 to 150 lines per millimeter, exceptional sharpness, excellent definition, and a density range and contrast ratio suitable for photographic enlargement on normal contrast photographic printing papers.”  The patent describes at length possible substitutions that may be made for the various ingredients, as well as the ratios at which they may be combined. Catechol and pyrogallol may be substituted for hydroquinone, but are not as suitable.  Variants of phenidone may also be used, but again are not as suitable. There are clear hints that it may be useful to combine the phenidone with methyl, ethyl, propyl, or isopropyl alcohol.

 

The patent further states that slow films such as Ilford Pan-F and Adox KB-14 can be underexposed by 3 to 4 stops and will produce exceptional negatives when developed for 10 to 15 minutes at temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 F.  It also states that high speed films such as Tri-X can be rated as high as 4000 and can be developed for 12 minutes at 95 F. to print on a grade 2 paper.  In fact, the XR-1 instructions recommended processing most roll films at 86 F (30 C), and very high-contrast films at 95 F (35 C). For push processing Tri-X 35mm, it recommended a temperature of 92 F (33.3 C). The instructions recommend various dilutions of the stock solution for different films, so it will be necessary to do some experimentation to see what works best with the formula below.

I found a web post stating that the June 1981 issue of Darkroom Techniques magazine has an article on XR-1, and the December 1982 issue has an article that compares XR-1 with Technidol and FG7.  Unfortunately, my collection of this magazine only goes back to 1984, but I will try to obtain copies of these articles at some point.

In Bruce Barnbaum’s “Master Printing Class” in the November-December 1996 issue of Photo Techniques he describes a method of using two developers, XR-1 and very dilute HC-110, to develop Tri-X exposed in an extremely high-contrast situation (11 stops).  In this situation he could not use a long exposure but still wanted shadow detail, so he used Perfection XR-1 (for 1.5 minutes) to get the desired shadow detail, then followed it with dilute HC-110 (for 8.5 minutes) to prevent the high values from overdeveloping.

It looks as though William A. Anneman, who holds the above-mentioned patent, may have started with the POTA formula, adding both metol and hydroquinone for their superadditive effect, as well as a tiny amount of borax as an accelerator.  He then worked out appropriate dilutions and temperatures for various films.  The XR-1 instruction sheet states:  “Stock solution has a pH of 7.7.”  The patent gives two variants (I’ve included the POTA formula for comparison):
 

Ingredient

A

B

POTA

Phenidone (1-phenyl-3-pyrazolidone)

1.5 g

1.75 g

1.5 g

Metol (P-methylaminophenolsulfate)

0.25 g

0.25 g

-

Sodium sulfite

30 g

30 g

30 g

Hydroquinone

0.5 g

0.25 g

-

Borax

0.75 g

0.50 g

-

Distilled water to make

1 liter

1 liter

1 liter

Note:  Phenidone can be difficult to dissolve completely in water.  An alternative is to make a 1% solution dissolved in anhydrous isopropyl alcohol (2 gram phenidone in 200ml of alcohol).  Formula A would then require 150ml of this solution, and Formula B would require 175ml.  Remember, you must always add a pinch of sulfite to the water before dissolving metol--this prevents the metol from oxidising.



Processing Times from the Original Perfection XR-1 Data Sheet

Pre-wet in Photo-Flo (1:800) for 20 seconds with constant agitation. Develop at 86 F (30 C).

Film

Contrast

EI

Dilution

Time

Agitation

Kodak Technical Pan



 

Normal
Low
High
Normal
Low

50
80
12
50
80

1+7
1+7
1+7
1+22
1+22

13
15
12
18
21

minute
minute
minute
motor
motor

Ilford Pan F

 

Normal
Low
High

100
200
50

1+9
1+9
1+9

12
20
10

minute
minute
minute

Agfapan 100

 

Normal
Low
High

400
800
40

1+3
1+3
1+3

15
20
70

15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor

Kodak Plus-X Pan


 

Normal
Low
High
Push

400
800
80
800

1+3
1+3
1+3
1+3

17
22
8
8

15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor

Agfapan 400

 

Normal
Low
High

1600
3200
100

stock
stock
1+1

20
26
10

15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor

Kodak Tri-X Pan (roll film)


 

Normal
Low
High
Push

1600
2500
200
3200

1+1
1+1
1+1
stock

15
18
12
16

15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor
15 sec./motor

Kodak High Speed Infrared (35mm)
 

Daylight
Tungsten

400
1200

1+2
1+2

16
16

30 sec.
30 sec.

I’d be obliged if anyone testing these times would let me know if adjustments are necessary.
Most of these films have updated emulsions since this data sheet was published in 1982.


Test Information Provided by Ron Wilson

I finally tried the XR-1 formula yesterday.  I prepared the “A” solution as listed on your site, except that I dissolved the Phenidone in anhydrous Isopropyl and kept it in a separate 1% solution rather than mixing it into the stock solution. Then to prepare the developer I add stock Phenidone solution and fill with water.  I used the processing notes from the data sheet, diluting 1:7 and processing for 13 minutes at 30C, as is recommended for Kodak Tech Pan at normal speed and contrast.  The film I used, however, was the most recalcitrant microfilm stock I have, Fuji HS-U, exposed at ASA 64 in a 16mm Kiev 30.  In this case I diluted the stock solution in tap water, which is relatively alkaline this time of year in our neighborhood, about pH 7.6.  So this was a good test of the buffering properties of the formula.

The results are pretty remarkable.  HS-U normally gives zero shadow detail more than 1.5 stops below dead center and saturates about 1.5 stops above, making for a nearly unprintable negative even when the mid-tones look plausible.  These negs show good shadow detail, which I suspect will print pretty well since the film base on HS-U is almost completely transparent.  The mid-tones are absolutely lovely to look at through a magnifier, and there is no trace of blocking in the highlights.

The only comparable results I've seen for HS-U have been with David Foy's formula for H&W Control developer. That formula may give a bit more speed (maybe a half stop) but judging purely from the negative I think the XR-1 version may print better.  I will send another note after I've had a chance to print these. And then to work out the details, and on to push-processing Efke 25...



A couple of additional data points since the first message.

1. I printed up some of the Fuji HS-U microfilm negatives and they were, as inspection suggested, very useable. Extremely smooth tonal range, no blocking in the highlights, and consistently printed at contrast grade 3 on Ilford multigrade RC, using a dichroic head on an old Rollei enlarger.  One of the prints, a 5x7 of a Eucalyptus tree in direct sunlight, is as pretty as anything I've done lately.  And this is from 16mm.

2. I repeated the experiment with 35mm Kodak ImageLink HQ, which is my favorite microfilm to date.  Again I used 1:7 stock solution, adding the Phenidone in a 1% isopropyl solution, and THIS TIME using distilled water, as I had planned.  I have not printed the results yet, but the negs look spectacular.  Excellent contrast (probably start the test prints at grade 2) and that visceral feel to the tones that suggests a good negative.  So it appears that (a) XR-1 is a very good choice for ImageLink, and (b) it is not terribly sensitive to the pH of the diluting water.  More to follow on that after I print.

3. Tried the suggested 1:9 at 12 minutes, 30C for Pan F+ exposed at 100. The result was significantly underdeveloped--only some of the negatives could produce a good print at grade 5, others would have required more contrast or intensification.  But the shadow detail is definitely there, if you look closely.  So tentatively, I'm guessing that ASA 100 was about right for this combination, but that the developing time will need to be a bit longer, perhaps 16 minutes or so.  Darn.  I don't like messing with water baths, but I don't want to introduce dilution as yet another variable at this point.  So I'll keep experimenting with the Pan-F-Plus and keep you updated.

Overall, I'd say this is going to be a very versatile developer, and capable of making negatives at least as pretty as anything else I've spilled all over the place.  I think I already prefer it to H&W Control for microfilm.  But maybe that's because the 30C is extra trouble, and I want something back for the messing about.  If I can get ASA 100 or 200 out of Pan F+ and 100 out of Efke 25, that will definitely put this soup in my permanent stock.


Images:

Forest scenes with wide brightness range, from direct sun on bleached wood to deep shade. Pan F+ Exposure at ASA 100 estimated with Weston Master and experience.  Variety of 120-format bottom-feeder type cameras, but with consistent shutter performance.

Processing procedure:

XR-1 prepared as two stock solutions. “Solution A” is the formula (version A) on the web site, but leaving out the Phenidone.  “Solution B” is a 1% solution of Phenidone in anhydrous isopropyl.  This combination appears to have excellent shelf life and is trivially easy when it comes to dissolving the Phenidone.  I measure out A, add enough of B to include the right number of mg of Phenidone for the volume of A, and then dilute to the final working volume with distilled water. Then heat to 30C in a microwave oven. (note: the formula appears to function just the same with pH 7.6 tap water replacing the distilled water.)

Presoak with tap water. Then develop at 30C with 20s initial agitation, then 10s each minute. Omega plastic rollfilm tank in water bath. Generally I start the developer at about 31C and let it droop to about 29.5 by the end of development.

Initial time and dilution was as given, 1:9 for 12m. Shadow detail was there, but highlights were significantly thin, requiring F5 paper for good prints.

Second experiment lengthened the developing time to 18m. This resulted in only a marginal increase in highlight density. From this I speculate that at 550 ml of 1:9 working solution for a roll of 120 film (about 70 in-squared, if I'm not mistaken) at least one of the developing agents is being depleted.

So the third experiment was to increase the concentration of developer. This time, 1:5 for 12m. This time the highlights were noticeably denser than in the previous experiment, but still not the equivalent of Efke 100 developed in Clayton F76+ (my reference developer.)

Fourth experiment: again use the 1:5 concentration, but develop for 16m. Results excellent, with quite visible shadow detail even 2.5 stops below center-of-exposure (what's that, Zone II, maybe?) and strong, dense highlights that retain smooth detail. Comparable density to Efke or J&R Classic Pan developed in F76+, so I suspect they will print on Grade 2.5-3. Grain appears noticeably finer than with Efke 100/F76+. Subjectively, the negatives are beautiful, with smooth, detailed and "visceral" tonal gradations in both highlights and shadows. Quite good sharpness. This combination appears to deliver more deep-shadow detail than anything else I've used.  [Later he writes:  “I've since been printing the negatives from the last trial (Pan F @100, 1:5, 16 minutes) and they mostly do quite well at contrast grade 3 or 3.5 for my taste.]


Bottom line:

I never used the original XR-1, so I have no basis of comparison with the original. But I can say that this formula does in fact deliver a very solid ASA 100 on Pan F+, and gives beautiful negatives with excellent shadow detail. I intend to continue using it. I think I would do so even if I hadn't already fallen in love with its results on my various microfilms.

Next:

Experiments with Pan F at ASA 200, Efke and J&C Classic films (because I use their sheet film in cm sizes. I know, I know, bottom feeder.)

Thanks again for pulling the formula and datasheet information together. You may have saved a treasure here.


I have found reasonably good developing times for XR-1 diluted 1:5 to produce ASA 100 (12 minutes at 30C) and ASA 200 (20 m at 30C) results on Efke 25.  Using a 1:2 dilution for 20 minutes seems to produce speed considerably in excess of ASA 200, but I didn't experiment with it enough to quantify it.  Comparison to the results with PanF Plus is interesting.  First, Efke 25 doesn't appear to lose shadow detail as quickly as PanF when it is pushed two stops or more.  The negatives at all speeds are quite visually pleasing, without either blandness or excessive contrast, and without the growing areas of zero density that PanF shows at ASA 200.  This is not at all quantitative, but PanF gives the impression that it resists being pushed, losing maximum density and shadow detail both as you push harder. Efke doesn't. In fact, its maximum density appears to increase as you push harder.  Second , unlike PanF, which seems to maintain its fine grain structure no matter how far it's pushed, there is a quite visible difference in grain size in Efke 25 as it is pushed harder.  Grain at ASA 100 appears about the same as PanF at 100.  But at ASA 200, the Efke material has considerably coarser grain structure.  It is coarser again at the 1:2 dilution I tried.  This does not seem, interestingly enough, to impair resolution or apparent edge sharpness.  It is only visible in diffuse areas of the image.


I've been trying the XR-1 formula A with Efke 100.  Again, wow!  Developing 1:5 for 14 minutes appears to give a good, solid ASA 200 with remarkable deep-shadow detail on direct sunlit subjects, and very fine grain.  Grain is quite invisible in 5x7 prints from 35mm.  In an 11x14 print, the grain is visible in diffuse areas of the image (if you look closely) but to my taste is just below the point of being intrusive into the apparent surface textures of objects in the picture.

Summary of Ron Wilson’s Results with the “A” Formula

Film

Exposure Index

Dilution

Temperature

Time

Fuji HS-U

64

1+7

30C / 86F

13 m

Ilford Pan F+

100

1+5

30C / 86F

16 m

Efke 25

100

1+5

30C / 86F

12 m

Efke 25

200

1+5

30C / 86F

20 m

Efke 100

200

1+5

30C / 86F

14 m


 

 

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