Kodak Xtol Stand Development

Kodak Xtol Stand Development with Ilford FP4 and Ilford HP5 films

I have been presented with an opportunity to try Kodak Xtol stand development.

A colleague recently gave me about 30 hermetically sealed packages of Kodak Xtol powder developer. It had come into their hands from items other photographers had quit. All of it was out of date, some by up to 10 years.

I’m not a fan of out-of-date developers. But, given it was hermetically sealed powder, I thought there is a good chance it will be OK. Besides, the 30 packs equated to potentially 150 litres of Xytol stock developer.

bannister creek ferndale stand developing
Sun reflected in Bannister Creek, stand development Ilford FP4 in Kodak Xtol 30 minutes

I have never used Kodak Xtol before. It comes in 2 parts, both powders. Both are mixed together according to the instructions on the pack, making a total of 5 litres of stock per set.

large format camera bannister creek
Location with camera set up, paperbark swamp, Bannister Creek, Perth.
bannister creek paperbarks stand developing
Paperbark swampland, stand development, Ilford FP4 in Kodak Xtol, 30 mins

If you are familiar with some of my earlier posts you may know I use stand development: the use of dilute film developers over comparatively long development times with minimal agitation. This process particularly suits high contrast subjects but is also of use for general photographic subjects.

After a few failed attempts to use Xtol for stand development, I eventually settled with the following procedure. I make a 1400ml jug of dilute developer up to use with my Jobo tank. The dilute developer consists of 175mls of Kodak Xtol stock developer plus tap water to make a final volume of 1400mls.

Stand Development Kodak Xtol

3 minspre-soak film in tank with tap water at 20ºC
after 3 minutes empty tank of pre-soak water
Start Development
first 60 secondspour dilute developer into the tank, then invert agitate for remaining first 60 seconds
at 2 minutesinvert agitate tank 3 times in 3 seconds, then leave the tank a water bath at 20ºC
at 7 minutesinvert agitate tank 3 times in 3 seconds
at 12 minutesinvert agitate tank 3 times in 3 seconds
at 17 minutesinvert agitate tank 3 times in 3 seconds
at 25 minutesinvert agitate tank 3 times in 3 seconds
at 29′ 40”pour out the developer and commence stop bath at 30 minutes
Stop bath, then fix as per your preferred method
bannister creek perth kodak xtol stand development
Fallen paperbarks, stand development, Ilford HP5 in Kodak Xtol, 30 mins

The image above was made on Ilford HP5 looking directly into the sun. You can see the lens flare even though I tried to shield it with my hand during exposure.

Both the HP5 and the FP4 images in this post were developed in the same tank for 30 minutes, along with HP5 and FP4 step wedges tests.

Later, I will produce some contact prints from the step wedges to quantify the compensation effect of Kodak Xtol developer with stand development.

Early Observations Xtol Developer

One observation on earlier tests was that the base fog appeared considerably more than with Ilford LC29 developer, especially with HP5 film. A second observation is that Xtol is a lower activity developer compared to Ilford LC29.

Kodak Xtol does apparently have some solvent effect on grain, so this too must be explored during printmaking.

These initial images would indicate that Kodak Xtol can be used successfully in stand development with good compensatory effects. You can download the technical specs for Xtol from Kodak.

If you have experience with Xtol I would be interested to hear about it.

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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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  1. Hi. I have read the Kodak Xtol Stand Development post. There you state that “One observation on earlier tests was that the base fog appeared considerably more than with Ilford LC29 developer, especially with HP5 film.” Have you tested the Ilford LC 29 Stand Development? Even though LC29 shows less “base fog”, do you prefer Xtol Stand development than LC29? Thank you

    • Hi Lluis, I have used Ilford LC29 for stand development and like the results (see my other extensive post on LC29).

      I won’t really know the full difference between Xtol and LC29 until I do some darkroom prints from both.

      I have made 2 exposures each of various scenes, one will be developed in Xtol, the other in LC29.

      Sometime soon I hope to update this post with the results.

  2. I really enjoyed this article… and perhaps more importantly I really like some of your photographs… I read a lovely book by John Blakemore about making black and white photographs, I was attracted to his work for the same reason I am attracted to yours, a wonderful sense of peace about many of the photographs, combined with an incredible level of tonal control that reveals so much texture. John mentioned that I needed examples of really top quality work to serve as a goal, as a benchmark, your work provides just such inspiration.

    OK, now that I have softened you up (meant honestly..)..

    To be brief (!) a very long time ago I was a photographer in my teenage years, taking snaps, developing and printing in a cupboard under the stairs. Now after more than 40 years away I am returning to film photography, in a bid to do something non-digital, to re-connect with my artistic side (I had to make a tough choice between science and art at college) and also to re-connect with nature – so the slow pace of large format is good. I bought an Intrepid 4×5. It took an age to work out and then source all the other bits that are needed, but I’m up and running. I’m still full time working – online at the moment – so finding time for printing in particular is a challenge. But I love it. Part of my desire to go for large format was to better understand the whole process. It just happens that my next door neighbour is a professional photographer – all digital now, but she insisted I should avoid metol and hydroquinone, so Xtol is my only film developer. I’m just at the beginning of getting the zone system sorted out – going OK, great advice from John Blakemore’s book, and now I am working on Paul Wainwright’s version using a Stouffer step wedge.

    I have also become enamoured with a 4×5 pinhole camera. Here though I think the contrast goes up – if for no other reason than reciprocity correction for the ‘dark’ regions is very different to that for the ‘bright’ regions. Stand development seems like a good thing to try, and I will try it, even though many web forum posts don’t look too encouraging. This is how I came across your web site – I saw you were trying it – so now I have a great starting point – so a big thank you for that, and for what looks like a wonderful collection of other articles to learn from and enjoy.

    So all of this is to say – keep going! I’m keen to find out more about stand development and Xtol, and you are surley going to work through it faster than me..

    Best wishes,


    • Hello Bill,
      Thanks for reading my articles and your kind comments.

      John Blakemore’s photography is stunning, he is a master printmaker. I actually recommend his book in my Analogue Resources List For examples of fine art black and white printing, get a copy of his book “John Blakemore’s Black and White Photography Workshop”. I think it might be out of print but you can still get second-hand copies now and then from internet booksellers.

      The results of stand development with Kodak Xtol look very positive. I hope to update the Xtol article soon with some contact prints and actual print enlargements. Stay tuned!