Do note that this post is somewhat irrelevant now that CMS 20 and Adotech version 1 are now out of production, but I wanted to follow up properly on my previous post and a conversation on Flickr.

A while back I gushed about Adox CMS 20, which I had developed in Diafine. Having been politely scolded that the proper developer is that which was intended for it, I promptly purchased a small bottle of Adox Adotech developer and put in on a remote shelf. I finally mixed some up and developed a roll of CMS 20 from a few months ago.

This film rewards precise exposure.

The results are good and pretty much identical to what I got with Diafine. I’m not a chemist, but if someone out there is and has a good reason to use Adotech over Diafine, please school me.

I’m especially pleased that the detail I expect of this film is still there. I expected potentially more detail, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I do think Diafine simply works well with this film, and Adotech does the same thing. As I did last time, I want to point out a particular detail in an otherwise mundane photograph.

Here is a scan of two frames so you can see how contrasty they are–no adjustments here:

Here is a scan of the individual frame:

And finally, the detail from the upper-right-quadrant. The language is a bit unsafe for work (though incomplete), but this is for educational purposes, so you don’t have to blush:

The detail is astonishing and seems to be equally sharp and grain-free when comparing Diafine versus Adotech.

Per Adox’s recommendations, I strove to shoot all of the roll at a half-stop to one-stop down from the maximum aperture of the lens. I used an old Canon rangefinder lens, the 50mm f/1.4 screwmount lens, so I shot at f/2-2.8. It’s a wonderful lens, and in this case I used it with my Leica MP using a screwmount-to-M-mount adapter.

You can see the depth of field at such a wide aperture in the photograph below, in the brush in the foreground and trees in the background. Rather, you can see the depth of field between them.


And in this perilously clichéd photograph of stickers on a lamppost.

Beautiful grays, remarkable sharpness, but look at how this lens handles the out-of-focus images.


Adox CMS 20 (version 1)
Adotech developer (version 1) at 1:24 dilution
5 minutes (per Silverprint UK’s data sheet – PDF Here) for medium contrast; 68F/20C
30 seconds initial agitation, then one inversion every 30 seconds
30 seconds stop bath
30 seconds rinse
50 seconds Ilford Rapid Fixer (recommended 30-60 seconds, but no more)
5 minute wash

Supposedly the emulsion is very thin, hence the quick fixing.

The Silverprint data sheet was useful to find and a bit more complete than Adox’s own. I especially benefited from the explanation of shorter fix time. Note that in my Diafine development of this film, I did a full fix and hypo rinse, etc. and the film is fine as of several years later. That doesn’t mean it will always be, of course.

What do I think? The negatives have a generous range with lots of grays. They scan beautifully, and hopefully I’ll print some soon and see how that goes. The film has a terrible curl to it. After drying, when you pull off the bottom clip, the film just rolls right up. It’s a pain in the ass to get a strip into a negative carrier without it acting as a spring and making its way to the dustiest spot in the room.

In noon sun without clouds, CMS 20 gets really black and really white. I’d like to try reducing contrast with a shorter development time next try.

In direct sunlight, the contrast is excessive. My best photos with this film have been taken in the early morning light. My best photos with any film are usually taken in early morning and just-before-sunset light. Probably most people’s photos. I will try another roll developed at the lower contrast time, which is I believe 4.5 minutes instead of 5.

When photographing textures like these, a slow speed film with high resolution gives great results. As does most medium and large format film.

I see no advantage whatsoever of this developer over Diafine. I may also try Perceptol, as I’ve just mixed up a batch to play with. I would love to hear from anyone using the newer Adotech II developer. My issue with Adotech is that it costs a fortune–it’s over $4USD a roll to use it. Diafine is a $15USD investment once a year at most (Diafine lasts longer than a year, but user error sets in at some point in that timeframe for me). HC-110 and Rodinal are pennies a roll at the dilutions I use. I can’t justify paying such as steep price for a one-shot developer that has a remarkably short shelf life (even adding water to fill the concentrate bottle only increases the shelf life to six months).

This child may look small, but he’s actually very dense.

To sum up, I love this film. If you’re shooting small (35mm) and want a stunning amount of resolution, you have to try it. To be honest, if you really want such detail, you should jump into medium and/or large format photography. It’s not that expensive these days. That said, I’m going to jump ahead and say I’ve ordered some medium format of this film, too, and I can’t wait to try it. I’ll admit I wasn’t seeking a miracle in Adotech developer. I already knew what I had achieved with Diafine, so the only way was down, to be honest.

I’ll call it a tie.