B&W film & Developer combos that work well

I have been shooting more B&W recently. Mainly because I can print them easily at home. I used to print color at home too, but with no dedicated darkroom that became a little bit too much. I lent my Nova processor to 120love.me for now and concentrated on B&W at home for now.  

I switched from Dektol to Polymax T developer because it’s as cheap if not cheaper and it’s conveniently liquid. I dump my developer after each print session and mix up what I need when I start. 

So far I cannot tell any difference between Dektol, D-72 and Polymax T.  

I still print on 5x7 paper exclusively except for contact sheets. The films I shoot the most are 

  • Tri-X
  • Tmax P3200
  • Delta 3200

I figured out recipes for each of these films. Each grew out of a simple but tedious min time for max black test. I don’t like testing films or cameras but it’s a small price to pay for having easy to print negatives in the darkroom. The more you print in the darkroom the more you appreciate a good negative. While I like the contrary and gritty look of pushed film I absolutely hate printing those negatives. It takes ages, costs me more paper to get it right and just isn’t as much fun. I found that I can get similar results with well exposed and developed film by playing with contrast filters, paper exposure and paper developing times. If I want to print the same negative with a less gritty look I can. With a pushed, thin negative I have no such option. I’m any case, when you go beyond scanning negatives you will learn to appreciate good negatives. 

To get good negatives I had to run some tests. That’s the only way to find out what really works and I encourage everyone to do so too.  

The times listed by manufacturers are usually on the low side to be safe. For Ilford Delta 3200 I found that I need 20 mins in Microphen stock solution instead of the 9 mins they say it needs.  

Ilford Delta 3200

  • Exposure Index: 3200iso
  • Developer: Microphen stock
  • Time: 20.0 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min.  
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius  

With the above method I get great negatives at 3200 ISO. The results are  contrasts and grainy but that’s to be expected when shooting a 3200 iso film. Even on my 5x7 prints I can clearly see the grain. I like it!

Delta 3200 dries flat and has no color cast to the film base.  Not that that matters much if you print instead of scan.  


 TMax P3200

  • Exposure Index: 2500iso
  • Developer: Xtol 1+1
  • Time: 22.0 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min. 
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius 

I’ve tried 3200 iso but that gives really crushed shadows and makes for difficult prints. At 2500 you still get contrasty negatives with deep blacks but manageable. This film is definitely slower than Ilford’s 3200 speed film. Grain is also a little more tamed than Delta 3200. I like the results but I haven’t shot enough of this stuff yet to really say much about it. If you want gritty and grainy pictures go for Delta3200. 


Tri-X 400

  • Exposure Index: 400iso
  • Developer: Xtol 1+1
  • Time: 12.5 mins
  • Agitation: 1st min continuously then 3 inversions every min. 
  • Temperature: 20 Degress Celsius

This is my go to film. In combination with yellow and orange filters I can make this work even on really sunny days. With Xtol I get real box speed out of this film. Extremely versatile film and especially with an orange filter it looks great. The grain seems finer than HP5 plus.