Brilliant ID – In praise of ID62 all-purpose developer

I stopped buying B&W developers years ago. It’s not that I didn’t like what I could buy. It’s just that I liked to experiment – and still do. And the flexibility of mixing your own ‘soups’ comes in handy in that case. One of the formulas I’ve come to rely on is this general-purpose developer of Ilford pedigree, ID-62. I think it’s just great.

A shout out to Ian Grant who has built and maintains an impressive catalog of photographic formulae on http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/index.htm I keep coming back to his database, which is insanely useful as well as comprehensive.

I found the ID-62 formula there when I was looking for an alternative to ID-78, which I had been using before for prints. ID-78 is a warmtone developer and it’s beautiful in its own right – if only for the fact that it can be mixed as a concentrated stock which can be diluted before use into a working strength developer. The concentrate keeps very well, even in a partially full bottle.

I was looking for something that I could use in a similar way: as a concentrate, always ready to go, needing to be mixed from dry compounds only periodically. For me, this is the sweet spot. The dry components tend to have a long (often virtually indefinite) shelf life: they never go bad. But mixing from powders and the business of weighing them out is a little inconvenient if it needs to be done before every print or film development session. However, doing this periodically to make a stock concentrate is no trouble at all, in my view.

So I was looking for something along those lines, and in contrast to ID-78, I wanted a neutral tone developer. Something like good-old Kodak Dektol, basically. And something for which I had the ingredients on stock as well – so nothing too outlandish, involving Amidol or Glycin and other oddball compounds.

After a bit of rooting around, I hit upon the ID-62 formula on Ian’s website: http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/photography/formulae/developers/devID62.htm Conveniently, Ian provides both a working strength formula and a slightly modified concentrate. I use the latter, and generally mix it in 500ml batches – which I did just now, in fact.

People sometimes think that I must be going through massive amounts of chemistry, if I take the trouble of mixing them myself. Nothing could be further from the truth. I mix from dry powders because of the flexibility it gives me in experimentation, but also because I’m actually pretty darn frugal in my chemistry use.

This is the bottle of ID-62 concentrate that had run empty. Note the labels with the dates: I mixed a fresh batch back in March 2022, and then again in late March 2023. It’s now May 2024, and I’m running out again. It looks like I go through only 500ml of ID-62 concentrate in a year. Not all that much. How come?

Well, why waste a perfectly good thing? I mostly use ID-62 for prints, and most of my prints are fairly small – up to about 24x30cm. It takes about 500ml of working strength developer in a flat-bottom tray to develop these prints. And instead of dumping the developer at the end of a session, I simply top up the bottle and shelf it away. That’s it! I basically replenish and reuse – and I virtually never throw out the working strength. Every time I open the bottle, even if I’ve not printed for months, it’s right there, ready to go. It’s one (major!) reason why I like ID-62 so much. Treat it reasonably well, and it just lives on.

A couple of bottles of ID-62. I’m getting to the green stuff in a minute. The tan bottle in the middle is my working strength paper developer; it’s at a dilution of…I don’t know; something close to 1+3 I think. The freshly topped up bottle of concentrate to the right – likely enough to last me the next year!

And not only does it work great for prints – I actually use it for film, too! Not all film, though. But it’s great for making high-density negatives for carbon transfer, I think. I’m currently using Fomapan 200 in 8×10″ mostly (and a little 4×5″) for carbon transfer, and after trying several things, I’m starting to settle on ID-62 1+2 for this.

Grain? The size of basketballs! But it doesn’t matter, because carbon transfer is a contact printing process and this renders the ‘coarse’ grain invisible since it’s not being enlarged. In fact, I think the pronounced grain even helps with the tonal threshold problems with DAS carbon transfer, by acting as a sort of halftone screen. On a freshly made carbon transfer on a temporary support, I can clearly see the individual grain ‘dots’ with a good loupe!

More importantly, ID-62 gives a gigantic tonal scale without taking ages to develop, without the need to intensify negatives (I still need to do a blog on that one!) and also without throwing down a layer of fog or overall stain (like pyro developers tend to do) that’s just a nuisance to print through. The other day, I was developing some 8×10’s in a tray of ID62 1+2 for 3 to 4 minutes, and obtained a perfectly usable tonal scale of around 2.5logD. Yes, that’s bulletproof and the highlight areas on these negatives are virtually impossible to see through unless you hold them against a very bright light source – but that’s just right for DAS carbon!

ID-62: magic stuff, if you ask me. Here’s the formula I use; it’s really copied from Ian’s website – I only scaled it to the various bottle sizes I use. But admittedly, I virtually only mix it in 500ml batches anyway.

To make:1000ml500ml300ml200ml150ml
Sodium sulfite12562.537.52518.75
Hydroquinone3015964.5
Potassium carbonate9547.528.51914.25
Sodium hydroxide5.32.651.591.060.795
Phenidone1.250.6250.3750.250.188
Potassium bromide52.51.510.75
Benzotriazole 1% solution502515107.5
ID-62 concentrated stock. Dilute 1+2 to 1+9 for working strength.

For 500ml, I start with 400ml of moderately warm tap water (40-50C or so) and then dissolve the ingredients in the order they’re listed in. Just that. Wait until one ingredient dissolves entirely before adding the next.

The benzotriazole is added as a 1% solution because you use such a tiny amount of it. However, the solubility of benzotriazole in water is so limited, that even a 1% solution takes some time to entirely dissolve. I’ve started to do things a little differently; instead of using water, I use ethanol to make the benzotriazole solution – and I make a 5% solution instead of 1%, since benzotriazole dissolves quite readily in ethanol anyway. So instead of adding 25ml of a 1% water-based benzotriazole solution, I add 5ml of a 5% ethanol-based benzotriazole solution.

I store the concentrate in a glass bottle with a tightly fitting cap. I don’t use marbles, a blanketing gas, vacuum contraptions or anything else; the concentrate appears to keep quite well even in a partially full bottle. As said, it takes me about a year to go through 500ml, which means that most of the time, there’s plenty of air in the bottle. But there’s also plenty of sulfite in the concentrate to protect the developing agents.

For mixing, I prefer to use a magnetic stirrer – but a glass rod or even a stainless steel or plastic spoon will do just fine, too. For weighing out the ingredients, I use the little digital scale in the middle of the photo below. They are cheap as chips and easily available online. Mine touts an accuracy of 1mg at a scale of 50g. Take the accuracy with a grain of salt, but it doesn’t matter. It’s plenty precise enough for this kind of application!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *