We all know it, photographic chemicals are not very environmentally friendly. They all contain hazardous stuff. That is why it can be a good idea to use a developer with only a tiny amount of chemicals in it. For this purpose, we can use the developing agent phenidone, which can be purchased on Ebay. The chemical is an extremely potent developer which means that only a tiny amount is needed for developing a film. On top of that is has very low toxicity and unlike metol, another developing chemical, phenidone does not cause dermatitis upon skin contact.
I will give you the basic recipe here.
To start from scratch, you will need the following:
- 10g phenidone
- 250ml propylene glycol
- 25g sodium hydroxide in dried crystal form
- Vitamin C powder
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Distilled water
- 2 250ml chemical bottles
The developer cannot be mixed and stored as a ready to use solution or concentrate. It needs to be mixed immediately before each use. However, we can prepare a few solutions beforehand.
The phenidone solution:
Heat 250ml of propylene glycol in a safe container in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then mix in the phenidone powder, little by little til it has all dissolved. This will give you a 3.7% phenidone solution. We use propylene glycol here, because it prevents the chemical from oxidizing, thus preserving it. Store in one of the chemical bottles.
The sodium hydroxide solution:
Dissolve 25g of sodium hydroxide crystals in 200ml of distilled water. Then add more water till the 250ml mark. This will give you a 10% solution. Store in the other bottle.
One shot developing solution:
- 400ml water
- 8ml sodium hydroxide solution 10%
- 1.4g baking soda
- 1g vitamin C
- 0.3ml phenidone solution
- Water to 500ml
In 400ml of water, mix sodium hydroxide, baking soda, and vitamin C. This can create some bubbles or foam. Once it has settled, add the phenidone solution and top up with water to 500ml. You are now ready to go. If you for some reason need to control base fogging a bit, add 2g of iodized table salt to the developing solution. I have not tried this yet but it could be an idea if developing expired and/or poorly stored film.
Developing times are usually around 17-19 minutes for regular black and white films at 20C (68F). Agitate GENTLY for the first minute and then again GENTLY for 10 seconds every 3 minutes. Some films may require a shorter or longer development time. Experiment for yourself.
I’ve had great success with Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at box speed and developed for 17 minutes. Below are a few unedited examples from that film.
This basic recipe can also be used with other developing agents. There are many natural developers and one that immediately leaps to mind is coffee. Now this is not your average Caffenol-C recipe, but I would certainly like to try this one using instant coffee instead of phenidone. Other natural developers worth mentioning is beer, thyme, peppermint, green tea extract.
When I find the time, I will experiment more with this.