Hands up now. How many of us would use document-type films if we could guarantee consistent results? I suspect the proportion might be quite large. It's the troublesome issue of that guarantee that's the problem, isn't it?
Yes, these films can be very slow but in decent light with a fastish lens you can still shoot handheld at reasonable shutter speeds. Use a tripod and you'll be blown away by the quality that's on tap when you get everything right. So although ISO 12 or whatever might seem an impediment, it needn't necessarily be the case.
The first person I heard of who was using a "normal" developer to handle the inherently high contrast of these document films was an English photographer called Hugh Milsom. He gave a talk at a meeting of Dundee Photographic Society and revealed that he souped Kodak Technical Pan in Rodinal using, if I remember correctly, something like 2 mls per 150 mls of water. Hugh had some great results from this combination and seemed to prefer this to Kodak's own tailor-made Technidol.
Since the sad demise of Technical Pan, Adox has been upholding the ultra fine grain, ultra sharpness end of things with CMS 20 II and produces its own bespoke developer (it's actually made by Spur, I believe) called Adotech. I've tried it and, as I said in my previous post, the results were patchy. Absolutely fantastic when you hit the sweet spot but lacking in shadow detail in bright sunshine. It's not just something as simple as increasing exposure either to cure this problem as that can push the highlights to new, unexplored heights. The best way of using the film, I found, is to treat it like slide film and bracket a lot.
So, given these issues, the feeling has grown amongst some photographers that there might be a way of getting the most from CMS 20 II using something that many will already have in darkroom cupboards. I found some interesting stuff at the website of David Bivens a while back. He liked the results he was getting from CMS 20 developed in Diafine. Sharpness and grain seemed little changed from the dedicated Adox developer but his images looked to be lacking some shadow detail to me. I can imagine this combination being perfect for the gloomy day shots I like where shadow detail isn't so much of a problem.
Some readers might wonder why photographers would want to go to these lengths with CMS 20 II when there are excellent films like TMax 100, Delta 100 and Acros on the market. The answer is that, in terms of grain and sharpness, CMS 20 II is in a different league altogether. Some reckon that you have to use Acros or similar in 5x4 to surpass the detail that a good CMS 20 II 35mm negative contains. Bear in mind, too, that CMS 20 II is also available in 120 and 5x4...
This information a few years ago on the APUG forums from Henning Serger in response to a question puts the CMS 20 II potential into some context.
The Online Darkroom reader Scotty Elmslie of Jacksonville, Florida, sent me some pictures and text of his experiments thus far in case it might be of interest to other readers. Scotty is on a quest to find a suitable replacement for Adotech, partly for reasons of economy as the Adox developer is quite expensive in the US.
Given that my old post about Adox CMS 20 is the seventh most popular from almost 450 I've written and that the number one position is held by a brief "first look" review I did of Adox CHS 100 II, I'd say that there seems to be considerable interest in both Adox products and CMS 20 so I'm more than happy to share Scotty's efforts with you.
With the introduction out of the way, it's time to hand over to Scotty. I've decided to split his article over two posts with part two probably published on Friday.
CMS 20 II – Test to determine ISO and development time
by Scotty Elmslie
This film is described by Adox as “orthopanchromatic”. It is a little deficient in red and more sensitive to blue. This was not easy to confirm in my tests since the weather was overcast for my first two rolls and cloudless for the third and fourth rolls. The film base is crystal clear, thin and somewhat curly.
Much of the challenge presented by this film is because it probably started out as an orthographic film for use in lithography. It is by nature a very high contrast film and you need to develop it very little to get a relatively normal negative.
The characteristic curve appears to be unusually shaped but if you scan the film you can probably normalize it to make produce a more traditional range of tones. This might be more challenging in a wet darkroom.
MethodologyRather than attempt a rigorous, scientific test for which I am not equipped, I decided to do a test using real subjects and available light – direct sunlight, overcast daylight and indirect daylight indoors.
I used a Nikon F100 and a Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens with a light yellow filter to expose the test rolls. For the first roll I also used an orange and red filter as well as a Nikon 35mm F/2 D lens.
Each subject was taken using aperture priority, 3 frames bracketed at 2/3 or 1/3 stops. The middle ISO was set on the camera and each exposure was determined using matrix metering, through the filter (when I used one). This is my normal approach for 35mm photography. I sometimes bracket when in doubt.
The film was developed in a 250 ml stainless steel tank using 240 ml of developer at 69F and 70F. The film was scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED at 4000 dpi. The only adjustment made during scanning for a few frames was to the gain setting.
First RollAfter trying Diafine with Pan F+ (disappointing) I tested the first roll of CMS 20 II in Diafine at ISO 32/20/12 with a light yellow filter. Diafine is supposed to behave somewhat like a compensating developer and reputed to increase film speed in some cases, notably Tri-X.
I exposed a variety of subjects, indoors and out. For all exposures the contrast was too high but ISO 12 seemed to come closest to holding any shadows detail. Agitation was minimal at 3 minute intervals but development was uneven around the sprocket holes.
Second RollExposed at ISO 16/12/10 with Rodinal 1+79 (3 ml in 240 ml) for the equivalent of 15 minutes at 68F with 10 seconds of agitation at 3 minute intervals. Contrast was still too high but development was even. Contrast is still a little harsh.
In Part Two, we'll show the results of Scotty's third and fourth rolls and his conclusions thus far.