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 All of it was out of date, some by up to 10 years.

I’m not a fan of out-of-date developers.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. Back in the day, I settled on XTOL 1 + 3 as my standard developer. I agitated continuously for the first minute followed by 1 inversion per minute thereafter. I was never disappointed.

  2. Hi, I always use Xtol as a developer and started using your Stand method after reading your article. Since then it has been my preferred and most used method for developing with very very good results. I’ve had some serious problem with Xtol lately (aside from the continued supply uncertainty) and I want to switch to LC-29 to continue using your method.
    My question: have you done any tests with the Ilford HP5 + combo and developer LC-29 on the stand? I would appreciate your help to know which dilution to use in that case.
    Thanks a lot.

  3. I really enjoyed your excellent article.

    Just one question regarding capacity:
    Xtol stand / 1:7
    I assume 1400 ml of diluted dev. are used for 2 rolls of 135-36 or 2 120 films… (2 x 700ml each)
    Correct ?

    Thanks and kind regards – Beat,

    • Hi Beat, the 175ml of stock Xtol with 1225ml water to make 1400ml working solution will process 6 sheets of 4×5. That is according to my tests. Remember that I am working with Xtol powder over 10 years old. 6 sheets of 4×5 = 1.5 rolls of roll fim.