Tag Archives: Two bath

Spürsinn two bath developer

I was recently asked to give my professional opinion of one of a range of developers made by a company called Spürsinn. These are well known in Germany where they are produced, but I had not heard of them. Looking at the accompanying literature for the two bath developer I had been sent, known as HCD-S and HCD-2, I could see that they had done extensive testing. There were development times and detailed dilutions for 38 films and some of those had a long list of possible ratings and dilutions, -for instance there were 22 for Efke 50 alone.

They claim good results rating many of the films at a wide range of ISO settings. HP5 for instance can be rated between 25 and 25600 ISO. They also claim that these developers have excellent edge sharpness, good tonality and low chemical fog at all ratings. AND they have excellent keeping properties.  My first thoughts were that these were amazing and possibly exaggerated claims, so I began my tests hoping to be astounded, -but at the same time prepared for a disappointed thump of reality. These developers couldn’t be as good as they claim, could they? I needed to find out for myself.

I began my tests with the best film in the Ilford stable for sharpness and fine grain: Delta 100 and I shot 35mm because I wanted to use maximum enlargement to evaluate the quality. The first couple of films were very dense and I thought I had done something wrong. I checked my times and dilutions, shot another couple of test films, and after processing found exactly the same results. I contacted Spürsinn and they were extremely helpful, they looked into it and let me know pretty quickly that I had been working to a misprint (which apparently, 500 previous customers had not noticed!), and they supplied me with corrected time/dilutions, which worked better. The test prints from some of these negatives looked very crisp and the mid tones were punchy –what some refer to as micro-contrast and I found that the crisp detail that this developer produced showed one of my lenses to be not as sharp as I had previously thought!

I set about processing a few other films that I had in my darkroom. Next was FP4, this too turned out with punchy tonality, -ideal for low contrast subjects, but perhaps a bit too punchy for scenes of high contrast, or overexposed frames. This punchy quality is great for showing texture in low contrast subjects, like the mid to dark areas of a scene where you have similar shades, for instance: in weathered wood , like this old block.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.14.15

Having processed a few films with the HCD-S / HCD-2 combination, I can see that these developers do produce clean shadow areas and enhanced sharpness, but with the enhanced grain that this micro contrast brings. Personally, I think this is a nice quality in 35mm photographs and one of the reasons why I shoot 35mm. In medium format negatives the grain would be much less noticeable and with even greater sharpness, so that is probably where this developer would really come into its own. I don’t know if you can see from this crop of the 35mm image above, but the detail is very good.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.14.51

Density and contrast.

I am of the belief that what is considered correct tonality in a monochrome print is not absolute, but varies from region to region. In Eastern Europe for example, there seems to be a preference for higher contrast in their images. I think that this developer is designed for that kind of approach, but for the British photographer who, I think prefers a longer, smoother tonal range, it might be a little harsh. If you are getting negatives which are of a higher contrast than you are used to, the normal technique is to reduce the development time by 20%. If your negatives are still of a higher contrast than you would prefer, try a reduction of 25%. The instructions for the two bath process here, should, if it were a conventional two bath, need adjusting only in the second bath, but the instructions say to alter both. What they recommend is that you alter your dilution (both baths) but keep the time the same. So calculating 20% off a 1-24 dilution gives roughly 1-30.

Reducing the time should bring the density in the highlights down, with very little effect on shadow detail and would produce a negative with the same sharpness, but with a longer tonal range. I put my theory to the ever helpful Michael Weyl at Spursinn and he was interested in the idea, suggesting that he is going to start work on finding different dilutions for ‘British’ tastes soon.

When I printed from the Delta 100, Delta 400 and FP4 negatives I had processed for this test and review, I found the contrast was requiring pre flash and split grade printing to get a full range out of the negative. The FP4 being the most dense. I then calculated a new dilution with a reduction of 18%, keeping all other factors unaltered. The results were much better, but they were still more dense than the sort of negatives I am used to. The next test will be with a greater reduction.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.17.53

It is important to note that this developer, and the others that Spurrsin make, are quite sensitive to dilution and agitation, so once you have established the correct time and dilution for your tastes, good processing technique is important. Working with a quality developer like this requires accuracy in exposure readings, focus and careful control of measurement/dilution/temperature and agitation in processing. Variations in local water hardness can have an effect on outcome, but methods to get around this are explained clearly in the extensive instructions. To reduce the possibility of this happening I would suggest using de-ionised water to make up your developers.

I have not had time to test a lot of films in this developer, but I shall continue to experiment with it. With the huge range of ISO ratings for so many films, there are possibilities for some quite interesting styles of photography. From (I would expect, but I’ve not tested yet) Ilford Pan F rated at 320 ISO for high contrast effects, through to Ilford HP5 rated at 25 ISO for a long, smooth tonal range. I am also interested to see if Ilford Delta 3200 rated at ISO 12800 will produce an exaggerated grain effect. I will be testing these ideas soon and will post my findings here when I have my results.

A friend of mine, Bruce Robbins writes a blog on film based photography which is very informative and has tested the Acurol-N developer from Spur. He can be found at: http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com

Currently, The Spursinn developers can be bought from:

Keyphoto –  http://www.keyphoto.com/latest-news.html?article=109

MacoDirect – http://www.macodirect.de/spur-acurol-250ml-p-2510.html?language=en&osCsid=782e362bc991eab30a270f24c72cd642 ,

Photoimpex – http://www.fotoimpex.de/shopen/chemistry/spur-acurol-n-250ml.html

and Spurrsin themselves in Europe – http://www.spuersinn-shop.de/index.php?page=product&info=681


  1. Andrea Ingram

Posted 05/07/2013 at 2:53 pm

Looks like something worth trying I must say

  1. Thomas Binsfeld

Posted 05/03/2014 at 2:42 pm

In the past I have tested several negative developers and always returned to ID-11 which I use since 35 years and know best. (Which is in opinion the most important thing in using negative developers.)

2. Andrew Sanderson

Posted 06/03/2014 at 11:36 pm

Dear Thomas, I think I am beginning to come to the same conclusion. I was trying out some other developers last week (Pyrocat, Microphen, Ilfotec DD-X) and my results were not consistent.

Thwarted by lack of raw chemical!

First posted 28 April 2009

This weekend I put aside a few hours to processing some of the remaining Scotland 10×8 negatives. I discarded the old two bath developer from February and as I poured it out it occurred to me that perhaps I should check to see if I had enough raw chemical to mix up some fresh.

Sure enough, when I got out the scales and the chemicals I was almost out of Sodium Sulphite!

I spent some considerable time racking my brains to think who I knew who still mixed their own dev.

The next day I had arranged to meet a young photographer who had recently moved into our town and as we sat talking cameras and film in a local cafe, he revealed that he was still shooting on Polaroid Type 55. This was an instant print material which also gave a High quality negative. after shooting and processing the neg is separated from the print and dipped in a clearing solution of.. Sodium Sulphite!

He very kindly offered to donate some, so later that day I managed to mix up and process the other negatives and the negs look great.

So thank you Johnathan.

10×8 snow negs contact printed.

First posted 12 Feb 2009

I contact printed my 10×8 negs onto some grade 3 Forte Fibre Based paper today (this paper is slightly less contrasty than a grade 3 on Ilford Multigrade). the main reason I chose it was that the exposure for the shadows can be determined by a simple test and the highlight detail can be controlled by development. This made it perfect for these large format negatives, because of the full shadow detail and long tonal range.

I was impressed with the technical quality of these negatives and the tonal range this developer gives. I really enjoyed making the contact prints and I’m very pleased with the shots themselves.

Snow shots on 10×8

First posted 4 Feb 2009

The picture possibilities today are not ideal, the snow has been messed up on the roads, but not cleared enough to get anywhere. I would like to take the 10×8 out and do some snow scenes, so I’ll stop writing and go and load some darkslides.


I did manage to get out with the 10×8, but it was hard going, the ground was slippy and I couldn’t find a strap for the tripod, so I was carrying a large tripod in one arm, the bag with the 10×8 in the other and a big bag over my shoulder containing darkslides, filters, meter etc.. You can’t get far with an awkward load like that without stopping for rests.

Anyway, enough whingeing, I did manage about 8 shots, which wasn’t too bad. I was a bit short of time because I had to be back to collect the kids from school.

I intend to process the sheets of HP5 in Barry Thornton’s two bath. This gives me a really long tonal range. I got to know Barry just six months before he died. He was a very good photographer and his two books are full of really useful information. The first one was called ‘Elements’ and the second was ‘Edge of darkness’.


Bath A. Metol 6.2 grams and Sodium Sulphite 85 grams in 1 litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Bath B. Sodium Metaborate 12 grams in 1 Litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Mix the Metol in about 700 ml of water at 38 degrees C and once dissolved, mix in the Sodium Sulphite and top up to 1 litre with cold water. Do the same with the Sodium Metaborate. Give films around 4 minutes in each bath. In the first bath, the film must be gently, but constantly agitated. In the second bath there is a little agitation to begin with, then leave standing. A slight agitation at 2 minutes is all that is needed to avoid streaking, then leave alone until the fourth minute. Stop and fix as usual.