I received an email tonight from a gentleman who mostly uses digital, but wants to start shooting a few rolls of B&W per month (which by the way, I find to be a really good strategy – colour film photos look different than colour digital, but B&W film photos really look different than B&W digital). He’s had darkroom experience, but it was many years ago, and he was wondering whether he should order Blazinal (which is Rodinal, sold under a different name for legal reasons in Canada – trademarks or something) in combination with Ilford Stop Bath and Ilford Rapid Fixer.
The short answer is yes, there is no problem at all with that combination. In fact, judging by the sales from my store, this is the most popular combination people are using right now (in Canada at least!)
Now to be fair, as far as stop bath and fixer go, I only sell the Ilford stuff, but that’s because it’s all anyone ever asks for or wants. There are other products out there (Kodak makes fixer for instance), but they’re harder to get, and there’s not really any point, because stop bath and fixer are very utilitarian products. At least as far as I know, there aren’t any that really impart any different looks or qualities to the final photos they produce. I suppose that if you had some really outdated bottles that went bad, those would affect your image quality, but that doesn’t really count.
Developer chemicals will change your final image, of course. Different developers can affect the sharpness, contrast, etc. of your negatives, as can the process you use. For instance, Blazinal/Rodinal is very popular for stand development, which seems to be constantly growing in popularity (I haven’t personally had great results when I’ve tried it, but that was only twice).
Blazinal is the most popular developer I sell, followed closely by Ilford DD-X, which is an excellent developer, although without the extremely long shelf life of Blazinal/Rodinal (this is not a slam on DD-X, it has a normal shelf life, but Blazinal is just much longer than almost any other developer I know).
But yes, the fact is, if you’re just talking about standard B&W developing, and not any special process (like cyanotype, silver collodion, etc), you can mix any developer with any stop bath and fixer. They each have a very distinct part of the development process to take care of, but they don’t really interact with each other in any way that would cause compatibility issues.