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Friday, April 10

Adox CMS 20 - adventures in development Part Two

This is Part Two of Scotty Elmslie's experiments to find a conventional developer capable of producing good results with Adox CMS 20 II document-type film. If you haven't already done so, please read Part One or you'll be all at sea.

CMS 20 II – Test to determine ISO and development time

by Scotty Elmslie

Third Roll

Exposed at ISO 12/10/8 and developed in Rodinal 1+119 (2 + 238 ml) for the equivalent of 20 minutes at 68F, closer to traditional stand development. Rodinal is sufficiently active that I didn’t think I needed to do this in a 500 ml tank (4+496) since the whole point is to exhaust the developer at the film surface to limit the highlights.

Agitation was gentle for 5 seconds, once after 10 minutes. Unfortunately, this was not enough agitation. The developer appeared to bleed from the clearer (shadow) areas in the negative down into the denser (lighter) areas (the sky was at the bottom of the reel). It also bled in from the clear, unexposed edges. Even with this dilution, the contrast was excessive.

ISO 8:

Fourth Roll

Exposed at ISO 10/6/4 developed in Rodinal 1+119 (2 + 238 ml) for the equivalent of 13 minutes at 68F with 15 seconds initial agitation and 5 seconds every 4 minutes after that.

At ISO 6 the shadow detail is still not rendered properly. The reduction in development is getting closer to normal contrast but it is still too high. However, the agitation was insufficient and the thinner portions of the negative still bled unexhausted developer into the darker negative (lighter print) tones. When I do a fifth roll I will probably use ISO 6 since this is the normal low limit for 35 mm cameras. It will require more frequent agitation and shorter development, around 10 minutes.

ISO 6:


The good news is that, as advertised, it is an extremely fine grained film that can be used to make huge enlargements. It probably exceeds the resolution of most conventional lenses. It is possible, with some effort, to get it to render a pleasant range of tones from moderately dark to very light without blowing the highlights. CMS 20 is fine where the subject is low in contrast or where you don’t mind letting the shadows block up.

On the other hand, there are several more conventional films available that have grain that is nearly as fine, are easier to develop and whose true ISO (at 0.1 above film base = fog) is much higher.

Even ISO 6 may be overstating the film speed. To keep the contrast from getting out of hand, development needs to be so gentle that the shadow details and textures simply cannot be brought out. Deep shadows remain blocked up and cannot be coaxed into revealing texture. Insufficient agitation leads to bleeding of active developer and loss of sharpness.

It may be possible to get some form of normal development between ISO 12 to 20 using Adox Adotech developer. But I am not interested in spending $26 on a bottle that can only develop six rolls to find out. 

I would not recommend CMS 20 with low-light or high contrast situations since reciprocity will be hard to determine and control. The only thing I suggest in these cases is that you bracket your exposures. That’s OK for 35mm but it may be extravagant for medium and large format.

While CMS 20 II might provide some benefits for 35mm photography, medium and large format users are better off with TMax 100.


Bruce writes: A couple of years ago, I thought CMS 20 could be something of a wonder film and set up a Flickr group to encourage people to post their results. If you want to see some pics using this film then please visit the group at

I kind of lost interest in CMS 20 for the reasons I wrote about in Part One. I know other photographers have tried the film with varying degrees of success over the years. If you've cracked it or know of someone who has then please let me know about it by email.


John Carter said...

Your conclusions are exactly the same as mine. I have never really fallen in love with Rodinal because of its tendency to have irregular development. But my HC-110 (1:125) looks very similar to yours without the bleeding.

I am still wondering about H&W Control developer, could it have better results? Well, I'll probably never know. I will have to use these films for very low contrast scenes, and just be happy with that.

John Carter said...

By the way, thanks for writing the article. Although our conclusions are the same it helps me to know that my technique is not completely off the map.

morris1800 said...

Hi Bruce I wonder if John would share his workflow and times with HC110 1:125 through your blog. I purchased some 5x4 adox to simplify experimenting. I do use HC110 but have been trying stand dev in perceptol 1-10. With the idea that high dilution and long dev may provide a working alternative to adotech. But have also considered accelerated dev with higher temperatures.

Scotty Elmslie said...

Thanks John. I'm glad I'm not alone on this.

Incidentally, I did a fifth roll at ISO 6 in Rodinal 1+119 for 10 minutes with agitation at 3 minute intervals.. The contrast was right but I still had bleeding problems - some call this "bromide drag".

So I did my sixth roll at ISO 5 in HC-110(G) 1+119 (1+36.5 for the European concentrate) for 8 minutes and agitation at 2 minute intervals. Looks like no bleeding issues but the contrast was quite low. I sent away for four more rolls and I'm sure that my next test at 12 minutes will get me closer to the contrast I want.

DavidM said...

It does look as if stand development is encouraging the bromide drag in near-exhaustion conditions.
I wonder if the answer may be to continue with the eight minutes and invert at one minute intervals which would increase contrast and possibly improve shadow detail. And so on...

John Carter said...

To Morris1800, I use HC-110 diluted to 1:125, US syrup, this is Ansel Adams dilution for TriX to achieve semi-stand with highlight compensation. I shoot at EI 10 but this is Bluefire Police film which I think is the same as the Adox. Using 17 minutes, I agitate for 30 seconds, and the 3 inversions at 15, 10, 5 minutes, 68 degress F or 20 degress C.

Even though the results look similar here is some of mine:

Scotty Elmslie said...

Excellent images John. They support the possibility that HC-110 may be a better choice than Rodinal for semi-stand development.

HC-110 starts out as a thick syrup, at least in the U.S. version, which led me to wonder if it would be more viscous when diluted. It't hard to imagine once you get it diluted at 1+119 or more since it is nearly clear, but that may be the case. It may explain the absence of bromide drag that is so evident with Rodinal.


B said...

Hi Bruce,

Did I tell you that after much head banging, I decided to buy CMS 20 II, as I couldn't find CHS 100 II.

Anyway, after some digging I've that I will be trying two formulas in the future:
(1) TEA version of H&W Control by Tom Hoskinson (post # 11)
(2) Jay DeFehr's Developer-X

Considering I like Jay's work, and the fact that it's a more recent concoction, I will try no. 2 first. Please note that it is purely subjective without even trying.

Hopefully something good will turn up. :)



B said...

Forgot to mention,
(1) Thanks for the sharing the article.
(2) Those are lovely images, John. I might try with HC-110 as I have already.



Regular Rod said...

Take a look at Steve Barnett's work with CMS 20 developed in 510-PYRO (a very low cost developer indeed)




Anonymous said...

What I have Learned in my testing, is that Adotech II is the best option for this film. Period. I have come up with some of the most impresive high quality photos with this developer and Adox CMS II.
If you don't like the price of this developer then don't use the film. there are other films that are great and cheeper.