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Wednesday, January 15

Adox CHS 100 II in Atomal


adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Disused Boathouse

Rodinal may be the granddaddy of today's developers but Adox's Atomal isn't too far behind. It's one of those venerable old developers that has continued through to today with the odd change to the recipe here and there but still with the same taste. I thought I'd give it a whirl with CHS 100 II.

One of my favourite photo books is by Joe Ghislain Lootens (Lootens on Photographic Enlarging and Print Quality) and his advice when it came to choosing a film and developer was simple: buy a film and use the developer the film manufacturer recommends. His thinking was that the manufacturer has at least as much reason for wanting you to succeed as you do

Adox recommends Atomal where the finest grain and full film speed are required. Some online critics have complained about Atomal's lower acutance when compared with the like of Rodinal - or Adox's own version, Adonal. It all depends on what you want from your negatives. Portrait workers will definitely prefer the smooth tonal qualities of Atomal and won't be bothered so much by slightly softer definition.

If you shoot landscapes on 35mm, then you might be after something with a little more bite. It has to be emphasised here that we're not talking about VAST differences in grain and sharpness between developers but they are there and careful workers will be able to exploit their different characters to suit their demands.

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Derelict Water Works

I developed my first roll of CHS 100 II in Rodinal and was impressed by that combination. Taking Lootens' advice, however, I thought I'd give Atomal a try in my Contax 137 MA, rating the film at its box speed of 100 ISO. Atomal comes as a powder with three packets marked A, B and C in the bag. You dissolved A in 900 ml of water between about 20 and 26 degrees, follow it up with B and finish off with C. I gave the film 6.5 mins at stock. Here are some of the resultant negs:

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom

As ever, I chose some pretty foul weather for this film/dev test and had the usual problem of low contrast negs. The photographs accompanying this post are all scans from the Adox film and they've been tweaked in Adobe Lightroom, a consequence of which is that the grain has been exacerbated. Not an ideal situation when considering a fine grain developer and very unfair to Atomal if you're just going by these images.

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Flooded Village Road


adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Drystone Dyke

You'll need to take my word for it that the grain on the actual negs is really quite fine but it has a soft quality that I don't like as much as the sharply-defined look that Spur Acurol or Rodinal give. I'd rate the grain as about on a par with D76 stock but the Kodak brew is slight sharper. I think I'd have to agree with those photographers who find Atomal just a little soft-working for landscapes.

35mm is already up against it when it comes to landscape photography as it can be a struggle at times to capture the really fine detail in the distance. A soft-working developer doesn't really help matters here - you need every bit of help you can get when it comes to sharpness. I had to apply a reasonable amount of sharpening to the photographs on this page to overcome this. Perhaps using a +1 or 1+2 dilution would have helped sharpness a little.

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Drainage Ditch

Atomal would be perfect for portraits of women and girls where the reduced acutance gives faces a much more flattering look. But, since I hardly ever take portraits, this isn't such a lure for me. I'll try another roll in Atomal in brighter weather to see how it fares and try printing from the negs but, as it stands, I think it's unlikely that I'll be using much of it in future. It's a perfectly good developer but I think Perceptol, which Atomal resembles tonally, has a better balance at 1+3 between grain and sharpness, albeit with the loss of some film speed and much longer dev times.

adox chs 100 II, atomal, contax, spur acurol, ghislain lootens, rodinal, online darkroom
Broken Window



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11 comments :

Derek Scully said...

Hi Bruce

Photographer,printer,chief tester,reporter,editor,publisher. You have a full time job Bruce and am sure the rewards will flow your way.
This is and will continue to be a great site for all film users.

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks Derek. You forgot head cook and bottle washer, though. :)

marty said...

Very interesting dissertation as always, Bruce. The photographs look excellent despite the dull weather, full tonality is captured. I think you should really make some "real" print before to tell the final word on the topic. At least with my setup the prints look usually way sharper than a negative scan, Maybe is my scanner or my sharpening technique not adequate but indeed the prints are always more satisfying to look at,

Cheers, M.

Anonymous said...

Once again : BRAVO!!!

Omar Özenir said...

Bruce, thanks for the review.

Is that heavy fog on the rebate of some of the negs or just a lighting effect?

Cheers

Bruce Robbins said...

That's fog, Omar. Not quite sure what caused it. Don't know if it was a defective cassette or light piping. Pretty sure it's nothing to do with the camera. What do you reckon?

Herman Sheephouse said...

Where do you find these places Bruce? Great stuff as always, and I know you'll probably hate me for saying this seeing as you're an Angustinian now, but they are very much 'Dundee School' style photographs . . . especially the ones of derelict buildings.
Really excellent stuff.
For 35mm landscape, back in college days I did very nicely with Tri-X and HP5 in D76. Your objectives are totally different with a 35mm in the landscape - you need to capture atmosphere and I reckon you have done it in spades. Well done (yet again).

Bruce Robbins said...

Bloody hell - there's a Dundee School? I need to pay more attention to the art world. I don't know any of this stuff.

As for finding locations, I search the Angus countryside by engaging in nocturnal astral projection. It's cheaper than using the car and keeps my carbon footprint down.

Herman Sheephouse said...

There isn't a Dundee School y'berk . . it's just me . . but if there was you'd belong to it!

Bruce Robbins said...

Sorry - a bit brain dead this morning. :)

raavi said...

1+1 or 1+2 may shine on sharpness.

Atomal 1+1 with Delta 3200 can be a good combo.