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Monday, June 2

SPUR HRX: Omar's First Impressions

By Omar Ozenir

Below are Omar's impressions of Spur HRX-3 New, the forerunner to the company's most up-to-date developer, HRX. The two developers are essentially the same but the latest incarnation has been tweaked slightly for even finer grain, a bit more film speed and longer life. The differences, however, are fairly minor and what Omar says for HRX-3 New can be read for HRX. For a bit more on the HRX history, see here.

"Mix equal amounts of Part A and Part B according to dilution instructions"

Last year, when SPUR offered Bruce to test some of their products, he kindly asked me whether I'd like to try some myself. As I was going through an experimental phase back then, mixing film and paper developers from raw chemicals, I welcomed the opportunity to throw yet another miracle brew at my usual Kodak Tmax400. That's how I received HRX-3 New, a fine grain developer and the precursor to today's HRX

The basic properties of a film are by and large determined during manufacture. As long as you develop the film to a similar contrast index, it takes a keen eye to discern the differences of developers within the same class**. Hence the common advice to stick to one developer and learn to use it. D76/ID-11 has been a long time favourite of mine, because I think they strike a particularly nice balance. SPUR HRX-3 New appears to be of similar superb quality with the convenience of a high concentrate liquid developer.

Although I hoped to do side-by-side comparisons with HRX-3 New and D76/ID-11, I never came around to it (Bruce has done that here), because right from the first rolI I got top quality negs, easily on par with D76/ID-11, beautifully balanced in terms of fineness of grain and sharpness, and also with extremely low fog*, too precious to waste for test shots, I thought.

So I just went ahead and took roll after roll under various lighting conditions as I usually do, developing my film in HRX-3 New until it was all gone. I exposed Tmax400 at EI200, and stuck to SPUR's development time recommendation.

I'm not going to restate technical matters about the developer; that is readily available on SPUR's website. Instead, I'd like to show pictures and negatives developed with HRX-3 New. As the title of this post suggests, it's my impressions that I shall write about here. The pics are flatbed scans from prints: about 15x23cm for 35mm negs and 20x20cm for the 6x6 neg.

The first photo was taken during the massive political unrest in Turkey in June last year, the Gezi Park protest. It's a relatively calm Sunday. Taksim Square in Istanbul, the centre of the turmoil, has been temporarily claimed back by the protesters and is full with crowds. A wrecked bus sees some "touristic" use.

Taksim Square, Istanbul, June 2013

I took the photo with a Leica M6 and 28mm Zeiss lens.

Although it does not give a true impression of the print, I'd still like to show a 1200dpi scan from a small part of the photo in order to convey a rough idea about the grain and level of detail.

Click to enlarge

SPUR ask to expose Tmax400 at EI320. Old habits die hard: I stuck to my usual EI200 and got good negs:

Click to enlarge

The following photo was made with a Rolleiflex TLR under extremely harsh summer light.

Istanbul, 2013

As expected, the level of detail from medium format is quite impressive:

1200dpi scan - click to enlarge

The above is a straight print with detail in both the highlights and shadows. It's all in the negative:

I made the lily picture at home with window lighting and a large black cardboard made up the background.

105mm macro lens on a Nikon F3

Again, I'm posting a high-res scan, although you'd need to look at the print with a loupe to get a similar magnification.

1200dpi scan - click to enlarge

The neg, as usual with HRX-3 New, is exceptional:

I very much liked how the lily appeared to glow from inside out and decided to make a print on the fairly new (at least in the world of film photography) Ilford Multigrade Art300:

A 24x30cm print on Ilford Multigrade Art300 fresh from the fixer - click to enlarge

If some of you raised your eyebrows upon reading the phrase "fresh from the fixer" in the caption above, in the sense that it does not sound very archival to linger around with a fixer soaked need not worry! Don't take it too literally. The print has gone through several changes of water.

I usually make one smallish print first, which I scan on a flatbed scanner for publishing on blogger. Then, if I see some merit in the photo, I also print it on larger paper and add pictures like the one above to give readers a feel for the darkroom and for the hands-on approach, with fingers getting wet and so on. Most of you have probably seen pictures of a painter or sculptor at work, with paint, dust, chisels, canvasses and what not all over the place. That's how I like my photography, dear reader. I like to be close to the elements.

That's all folks. Thanks for reading. And thank you SPUR for providing the small but dedicated community of B&W film photographers some excellent options.

* You can indeed get some fog by making the wrong choice. For example try to develop Tmax400 in Thornton's two-bath and extend the time in bath B to more than 10 minutes. It sounds benign, but in my experience this raises base fog slightly.

** Needless to say, you can always end up with dramatically different results by using, say, Dektol


Herman Sheephouse said...

Och for goodness sake Omar - you've got me questioning my developer now!
The delicacy of that flower is quite something, not just the development but the print too which is beautiful.
Excellent and thought provoking as always!

marty said...

An excellent essay, as always. And very useful too : -)...

Cheers, M.

Stefan Eisele said...

Dear Omar,

I noticed on several foto's of your dark-room that you have a Focomat IIc enlarger. By chance, I found one at a very reasonable price and will become a proud owner of one very soon. What I was wondering, however, is how you are using filters for multigrad paper? Are you using them with the drawer? Is it not a problem of slight changes in position, when using a split-grade method?

Sorry to ask such simple questions, but I'm still not a very experienced dark-room user.

Very best & many thanks!

Omar Özenir said...

Hi Stefan,

I'm using the drawer for filters. It's an extremely solid enlarger and with a bit of care you shouldn't experience the problem you mention. I occasionally change filters for the same print and have not seen any ill effects.


Stefan Eisele said...

Many thanks for the quick answer! I'm really looking forward to that enlarger!