I now have everything I need to process my own black-and-white film.
I want to thank reader Peter for giving me a solid push by gifting me his processing tanks and changing bag. He has processed his own film since the 1950s but set that activity aside not long ago. He told me he was happy to pass some of his gear along to me. (I ordered everything else from Freestyle and Amazon.) Peter also gave me a ton of advice from his long experience about how to do this.
I corresponded with Peter, as well as with readers Pate and Mike, about which developer to use. The array of developers is bewildering. Each has different storage requirements and means of mixing and diluting to the right concentration. Each yields different results.
Based on their advice I saw that I wanted to simplify things as much as I could. That led me to one-shot developers, meaning I’d mix up enough for one roll, use it, and then throw it away. I also wanted a developer that keeps for years and years, as I won’t shoot in high volumes. That made Rodinal, also known as R09, my choice. It’s a classic developer, patented in 1891. It’s also a high-acutance developer, which means it will deliver strong sharpness with the tradeoff of enhanced grain. That high-grain look doesn’t please everyone. It might not even please me. But because of ease and long storage it’s where I’m going to start.
I hear the grain is best managed with slower films, under 400 ISO, so I’ll shoot primarily ISO 100-ish films, at least at first. I’ll start in medium format. Currently chilling in the garage fridge are three rolls of Kosmo Foto Mono (which is Fomapan 100 in disguise), one roll of Ilford Pan-F Plus 50, and as a special added bonus three rolls of Kodak Verichrome Pan, expired since the 1980s.
I’ll start shooting with my Yashica-D (review here), as it is probably the medium-format camera I know best. I adore this camera and really look forward to using it.
I’d also like to use my old folders more, like my Kodak Monitor (review here) and my Certo Super Sport Dolly (review here). I also bought an Argus Argoflex Forty in January that I’d love to use. It and the Monitor take 620 film. One of my rolls of Verichrome Pan is in 620. I also have a bunch of 620 spools. Using my changing bag, with some practice, I’ll be able to respool fresh 120 film onto those spools and put those 620 cameras to good use.
But first things first: Fresh film, the Yashica-D, and practicing my home development. I hope to have first results to share in the next few weeks.
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Last updated on 19 March 2020 by Jim Grey