Film Photography

Another try at home film developing

My second try at processing film at home was an utter failure. I was overconfident and tried a roll of Verichrome Pan expired since the early 1980s. The stuff simply would not go onto the reel. After 45 minutes of trying, it got so hot and humid in my dark bag that the film stuck to itself and was ruined. In retrospect, I probably reached too far too fast.

So for my third try I used up my last roll of Kosmo Foto Mono in my Agfa Clack (review here). I probably should have used my Yashica-12 as last time for consistency’s sake, but the Clack takes 8 6×9 images vs. the Yashica’s 12 6×6 images and I wanted to get through the roll as fast as I could so I could get on with the developing.

I had better luck this time, but the results still weren’t perfect. I diluted Rodinal to 1+50, and used the time-temp converter at the Massive Dev Chart site here to adjust developing time to my developer’s actual temperature, which was 23°, not the recommended 20°.

I am surprised by the widely varying directions online for developing black-and-white film. Some of them call for rinsing the film first, and some say that step is wholly unnecessary. They all use the chemicals in the same order, but except for the developer stage the amount of time for each subsequent step is all over the map.

Last time I used the Massive Dev Chart Timer app, and it was great except that it calls for a Hypo Clear step. I’m not using Hypo Clear and I couldn’t figure out how to skip it in the app. So this time I found some instructions online and followed them using my iPhone timer. My stupid iPhone screen kept shutting off and my damp fingers had trouble unlocking the phone — frustrating, and I’m sure some of my timings were off as a result. So maybe I need to invest in an actual timer.

As I searched online to find those instructions again, I came upon a different article that talked about agitation techniques in film developing — and discovered that I’m agitating too much and too hard, and that the results I’m getting are consistent with that. So next time I’ll agitate much more gently.

Below are all eight photos from the roll, from first to last. I put the film into the reel end first, so the last shots on the roll were closest to the reel’s core.

The negatives came out dense and several of them were blotchy, consistent with overagitation. The images closer to the spool’s core appear to be more messed up than the ones farther away. I had to really work them over in Photoshop. I was able to breathe good life into only a few of them.

My goals for developing my own film are to get scans fast and inexpensively. I’m not doing this because I want to fall in love with the process and be some film-processing fanboy. I’m mercenary; this is a means to an end, period. I’m not enjoying the learning curve. I will persist in hopes that I can soon get consistent and acceptable results.

I’m out of Kosmo Foto Mono now. I have a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros left so I’ll shoot it next. Looking around online, people seem to get great results with T-Max 100 in Rodinal. The Film Photography Store sells it for a good price, so a 5-pack is on its way to me now.

Here now, the photographs. All but the first two are from downtown Lebanon, IN.

Passsssssat
TTW
Crick
Jameson St.
Saint Adrian
Knights of Pythias
104
Umbrellas

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard

67 thoughts on “Another try at home film developing

  1. Looking good, Chris.
    I’m watching with interest, though, I have to admit, no urge to pick up my film cameras again.
    When I was using film I chickened out of the film processing side, partly due to time limitations. I had access to a pro film lab, who used to process my film, without any printing.
    That left me to learn to print in black and white. A serious task in its own right.

    • I’ve been chickening out on the processing side for 12 years now. I’m moving into it now primarily for speed and cost reduction, as the labs have all gotten way more expensive since I started. I’m not sure I’ll ever do printing but if I can shoot a roll, process it, and scan it all in one day that will be awesome.

      • That would be fantastic. Time was always my limitation – all night in the darkroom does not make the wife happy :)
        B & W printing is an interesting process, but with so many variables, it takes a fair commitment. I was only too happy to give it up and scan.

  2. P says:

    Jim,

    Sorry to hear your second roll was such a mess. But this roll shows you’ve already come a long way since your first. I know it can be frustrating, but keep at it. I’m enjoying reading about your experiences. Based on your results here, I think with the next roll or two you’ll really start ironing out the kinks and start getting the results you want. That’s when it becomes truly rewarding, even if you’re only doing it as a means to an end.

    T-Max 100 is beautiful in Rodinal, for sure. So is ACROS, maybe even more so than TMX, so I think you’ll be pleased with developing your final roll in Rodinal. Let’s just hope when ACROS returns as ACROS II its price point is fair. Fomapan 200, which I know is one of your personal favorites, is also a favorite of some photographers in Rodinal. Kosmo Foto Mono, which is Fomapan 100 as far as I can tell, is a very contrasty film in my experience, so it can prove a bit difficult, especially if shot in harsh light.

    Regarding the amount of time for each step, only the developing time is truly critical. For the stop bath (if you’re even using one), fixing, and washing steps, just make sure you’re giving it at least the recommended time in the film’s datasheet. Going over is largely irrelevant. Just make sure you don’t go under. If a person is stand-developing, I’d recommend the pre-soak to ensure the emulsion uniformly swells and is ready to evenly take up the developer. In my experience it does help eliminate uneven development. With standard development, I really don’t think it matters.

    Best of luck as you keep refining your process. I look forward to seeing your results as things continue to improve.

    • Yes, I feel like I’m about to turn the corner and start getting good results. Thanks for confirming that T-Max 100 and Acros look good in Rodinal! The non-traditional grain structure, I surmise, must play well with Rodinal’s properties. The roll of Acros is shot and awaits time for processing and scanning.

  3. It’s great you’re getting stuck in to the film developing. I’m not going to offer any advice as I’m sure you’ve more than enough already!

    I like the fact that you are documenting your journey in this field – warts and all. You’ll be able to look back in due course and be proud of how far you’ve travelled.

    When I started printing in the darkroom for the first time since a teenager it was very hit and miss. Keeping a blog record has proved a really good way to reflect on my progress.

  4. Too many variables. When I started, it was Plus-X in D-76, Plus-X in D-76, Plus-X in D-76…and I still messed up a few rolls. But I had a consistent baseline. When you do get it right though, a light bulb comes on and you say…”hey, this is fun!”

  5. Jim,
    Chin up, it will be worth it!
    Some suggestions from my own experience:
    1. buy some Kentmere 100 to practice. Fairly forgiving of exposure and development, and cheap so you don’t feel so bad if it doesn’t go well. Fomapan can be tricky, Ilford, Fuji, and Kodak films are beautiful but hurt more $ if you screw up. I haven’t tried others.
    2. I tried the plastic wind-on tanks a couple of times and never had good luck – similar kinds of problems to what you experienced. Genuine made-in-Springfield Nikor stainless tanks are worth the bother to find, although you still have to be positive you start the film square on the reel – best to practice a few times with a dead roll of film, first in the light so you can see what I mean, then in the dark. (here’s one area I’ve found maybe spending the extra on TriX or Tmax is worthwhile until you really have the hang of loading the tank – the Kodak bases are a little thicker and are easier to load than some others – I find Fomapan, Kentmere, and Ilford films a little more difficult to spool up because the base feels thinner and more flexible – on the other hand they dry really really flat, making scanning or enlarging easier).
    3. The Kodak data sheet for TriX (available online) has useful general data; as long as you adopt the development time you use for the film you’re developing, the rest of the stuff is applicable. It gives some idea about the interaction of temp and time. Agitation is clearly shown – per the TriX sheet, I invert the tank at straight-arms length and back 4-5 times every 30 seconds, and that has worked well. When you first pour in the chemicals, tap the tank to dislodge any air bubbles. Based on the C41 kit recommendations, I’ve also started doing inversions for the first 15 seconds will all films. I’m not sure I see a difference but I sleep better. In all cases, frequency of inversion is about 1 Hz (1 inversion/second).
    4. I’ve not be able to see a difference between pre-developer rinse and not, with B/W film. Color makes a difference.
    5. Fix clears the film, so in my mind is like developer – minimizing chemical contamination is key to consistency. I use Kodak indicator stop bath x 30-45″, followed by a water rinse (all with the can closed, of course) before fix.
    6. HypoClear just means you cut the wash time at the end, nothing more.
    7. I rinse at least 10 minutes in plain tap water from the cold faucet (city water), followed by the Kodak surfactant (PhotoFlo?). No spots, streaks etc…
    8. I hang the negatives from an overhead floor joist in my basement workshop to dry using those black metal spring clips; put a bolt through the “handles” of the bottom one to add a little weight to ensure the strip hangs straight. A quick very light wipe with a PhotoFlo-wetted negative squeegee gets the water drops off and I think minimizes any dust collection, so far after a hundred or so rolls of film without scratching.

    The Really Big Development Charts online are helpful but I’ve had good luck just sticking to the manufacturers’ data sheets, also available online. Only one I haven’t found that addresses the developer I use is Fomapan, so that took some experimenting (still does, but I really like the results when I nail it good.

    • I got some T-Max 100 at a reasonable price so I’m going to continue to practice on that. Plastic vs. stainless is an endless debate, isn’t it. Someone gave me plastic tanks and so that’s where I’m starting. The Verichrome Pan was endlessly frustrating but the Kosmo Foto Mono went on the reel like it was born for the job. I may try Hypo Clear one day because the length of washing really seems wasteful to me, especially at the rates I pay for water. I’m hanging my negs off the shower curtain rod on a plastic T-shirt hanger using binder clips, one looped over the end of the hanger and the other clipped to the bottom of the film to weigh it down. It’s working out all right.

  6. Andy Umbo says:

    I salute your experimentation! As an advertising photographer who’s been professionally processing film since the 60’s for picky ad clients, let me say the internet is full of really wrong-headed information about processing and almost everything else about film photography.

    I thought, at one time, that I would throw up a site covering everything from proper sheet film cleaning and loading, to how to load different film camera backs, the idiosyncrasies of processing, how to read a light meter correctly, etc., etc. I’ve kept a running list of all the inaccuracies and lies I’ve read as gospel on the ‘nets! Then I decided it was pure folly to swim upstream against the rising tide of misinformation promoted by “the generation who will not be mentored”.

    As for processing “pre-wash”, some films used to have a coating that seemed to reduce developer spotting etc. from initial contact with the developer, but I’ve always found that a 3-5 minute distilled water pre-wash before developer help reduce agitation marks, especially so with limited processing times. I’d do it!

    I still think you’re barking up the wrong tree with Rodinal: too tweaky. You can drink scotch and process all day with D-76 full strength, with perfect results (I used replenisher, but based on volume, you could probably just toss after each)! I always used Perma Wash hypo clear to not only ensure archival quality, but to reduce wasting natural resources like clean water! There are also “anti-stop-bath”proponents out there; I’ve done both and using stop bath gives you less processing marks in the long run! Hate to say it, but I would also use “fresh everything”, mixed in distilled water; including fresh film! No way to parse out if a funky looking film is the result of your processing or 30 year old film! Save the experimentation until you’re getting rock-solid repeatable results!

    This is probably not the time to boast that for some reason, even when I was 14, I never had a problem loading stainless steel processing reels, and actually the 120 used to just “jump” on the reel without ever practicing! I’ve seen all sorts of plastic reel “fixes” for not using stainless steel, but for some reason I think it’s fear that makes people screw it up. It’s the most natural thing in the world!

    • You really ought to write solid instructions and tips based on your considerable experience. I’m in the “fresh everything” camp so far – I mix up just what I need to process one roll, use it once, and dump it. Not sure if that’s fully required with things like the fixer but it’s what I’m doing right now anyway.

    • I wasn’t going to comment on the Rodinal, but Andy confirms a suspicion I’ve long had. I’m not a pro, but “in the old days” always stuck with Microdol, and since it’s been gone have used nothing but D76. I use it 1:1 though, the 7-15 minute development times (with agitation) for most films gives me plenty of leeway without taking too much time. I haven’t yet tried drinking scotch while developing, but I do like the stuff.

  7. jon campo says:

    I agree. For a box camera those shots look very good. I have not processed film since my school days, but I can remember it had a lot of moments of frustration. Once you get in the grove it can be hugely satisfying.

  8. Nigel says:

    Having spent about 50 years developing film, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s much less important exactly what you do than doing it the same each time. And to start, stick with one developer and film till you get reproducible results that you like.

    • Thank you for saying that. It’s been my suspicion as well. I’m hoping to find “my method” and be able to do it in my sleep. I’m sticking with Rodinal until I get the process down, despite considerable criticism from some commenters!

      • P says:

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with Rodinal. I mean, if there was, do people really think it would still be sold 130 years after its creation? There’s a reason it’s still here, and that reason is obviously because it’s a quality developer. There’s no need to feel like it’s messing you up (it’s not), or that you should have chosen something else. I can understand people advocating D-76 or HC-110 as they’re obviously good developers also, but even they haven’t been around anywhere nearly as long as Rodinal. So that’s food for thought. And personally, if I’m shooting slower/finer grain film stocks, I massively prefer the look of Rodinal developed negatives to D-76, etc. As far as I’m concerned, in today’s world where the destination is typically scanning and not printing optically, if a person wants maximum image quality, non-solvent/high acutance developers like Rodinal make a lot more sense than solvent developers like D-76, at least with finer grain emulsions. Now with really high speed films, sure, I think solvent developers have some use. But when shooting fine grain film, why anyone would want to use a developer that creates a softer image by default is a bit of a mystery to me. I understand why back in the days of darkroom printing, but not today. I’m no pro so maybe I’m missing something.

        • P says:

          Andy, if you’re wet printing, that’s fine. Use whatever film developer that creates negatives which in turn yield prints to your liking. My advice wasn’t directed at you, anyone else working in a darkroom, or anyone that already has ample developing experience under their belt. It was for Jim. If someone else finds it useful, great. But Jim’s not wet printing. The destination of his negatives is a scanner, and it’s probably very safe to say that’s the case for 99% of people shooting film today. Given that, I still believe high acutance/non-solvent/high definition (whatever you want to call them) developers will yield a scan with much higher image quality than a fine-grain/solvent developer will. Fine detail definitely seems to be superior with non-solvent developers based on what I’ve seen. And for that reason, even if I was making optical enlargements, I’d likely still use a non-solvent developer for slow/medium speed films (200 ASA and lower) where the grain is fairly inconsequential. Now for higher speed films (400 ASA and up), yeah, I’d probably use XTOL to diminish the appearance of grain a little bit since, when printing optically, if the grain is well-defined in the negative it’s going to be in the print as well and there’s not much that can be done about it, entirely unlike software post-processing. With high speed films and big enlargements that can obviously be an issue, depending on the subject matter. But even then, I’d use XTOL diluted 1+1 or 1+2 in order to retain better acutance than what the stock solution provides, kind of providing a good middle ground compromise. At the end of the day it’s all up to a person’s own preferences, how they’re creating their images, and what they’re looking for in them, whether they’re being traditionally printed or scanned. I think it is worth keeping in mind, however, that there are a variety of ways grain can be dealt with in software, with minimal overall image degradation. But there is no way to recover fine detail that was lost due to the solvent action of a developer. It’s simply gone. Likewise, with a scan, having an image that inherently has better sharpness/acutance is always more desirable than having to add significant sharpening in software to get an image that doesn’t look too soft. In general, I’d say that even holds true for optical printing.

          Now, with regards to this whole idea that Rodinal isn’t a good developer and that it’s overly difficult (or nigh impossible) to achieve high quality and consistent results with it, that’s just nonsensical. It’s no more difficult to use — or achieve exceptional results with — than any other liquid concentrate developer, and it’s by far the easiest to mix. But just like anything in life, practice makes perfect. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a pro, and I’m sure a lot of people here have way more experience than I do. And I’m always trying to learn more, in everything I do. All I’ve been trying to do here is give Jim some advice based on his requirements, namely that he wants to reduce his costs, use a developer that’s easy to mix (eliminating powders), has a very long shelf life (eliminating basically everything except Rodinal, HC-110, and some more exotic developers, such as TEA devs), is used one-shot for the sake of simplicity, the fact he’s primarily developing medium format (where grain is much less of an issue compared to 35mm), and the fact he’s exclusively scanning his negatives (not wet printing). With all those things in mind, I think Rodinal was the perfect choice, especially for slow and medium speed films. If he decides he doesn’t like it and moves on to something else, that’s perfectly fine. But for his needs, I think it’s difficult to argue that Rodinal was a poor choice. And I don’t want him feeling like it’s reducing the quality of his work, because it’s not.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          No one said that Rodinal is bad developer, just that it’s “tweaky”, and difficult to reproduce similar results without a religious level of devotion to lab work. Some people don’t want that. With the same reasoning that Rodinal still wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t “good”, D-76 and HC-110 wouldn’t be around (and two of the most professionally used developers), if they weren’t revered by generations of processors! Just saying, if your starting out, “tweaky” might not be the way to go!

        • P says:

          Andy,

          You may not have stated explicitly that Rodinal is a “bad” developer, but it’s certainly what’s seemingly been implied both here and in previous posts, and if I was in Jim’s shoes, it’s definitely the message I would be getting. In turn, this would just cause me to always second guess my decision to use Rodinal, and question whether that choice was responsible every time I developed a roll of film and it didn’t turn out as I had hoped.

          In all honesty, if a developer is so “tweaky” that a religious devotion to the process is required to get even remotely repeatable results (it’s not); so “tweaky” and inconsistent that you claimed in a previous post people used to write books about how maddening it was to use (I’ve never seen such a book, but I’d be legitimately interested in reading one if you can point me in the right direction); so “tweaky” that a running joke you had in the past is that one must agitate so many times standing on one foot, followed by so many times standing on the other foot to achieve a desirable outcome; so “tweaky” that a beginner attempting to use it is barking up the wrong tree, then yeah, it’s a “bad” developer — definitively so. If those things were true, I certainly wouldn’t use it, and in all honesty probably very nearly nobody would. But thankfully, this simply isn’t the case.

          Just like with any other developer, if a person is consistent with their process, consistent results will follow. This holds true for HC-110, D-76, XTOL, DDX, T-MAX and T-MAX RS, Ilfosol, Perceptol, Microfine, FX-1, FX-39, Diafine, and every other one of the hundreds of developers concocted over the past century-and-a-half every bit as much as it does for Rodinal. The developer solutions that were legitimately too difficult to achieve consistency with have naturally fallen by the wayside — which is only logical — and are not available as commercial products. Instead, they’ve been relegated to being mixed from raw chemicals for those diehards that wish to use them. The real irony here is that a lot of people — and I do mean a lot — actually choose Rodinal because it’s easier to achieve consistent results with than many other developers when one is processing by hand at room temperature, not the opposite.

          All that said, there’s simply no point in Jim feeling bad about his choice or having to constantly second guess himself. Rodinal is a fine developer, and as far as I can tell it directly fits Jim’s stated needs much better than anything else available across the board, by a wide margin. If he chooses to switch to something else in the future, it shouldn’t be because he believes the developer is failing him due to it being an inferior product, but rather because he prefers the aesthetic a different developer provides (softer/smaller perceived grain, etc.). I’m really not trying to be rude, so please don’t take me the wrong way, but it’s not helpful for Jim if every time he develops a roll of film he feels like he’s playing the lottery because of the developer in use. When it comes to standard developers, Rodinal is an excellent choice and is no more difficult to use than any other out there. Just like with anything else, including D-76 which you like so much (and yes, it is obviously a quality developer, as is HC-110, and I’ve stated as much outright multiple times — but they don’t match Jim’s requirements as well), one has to dial in their process for their developer/film combo. After that it’s smooth sailing.

          Again, please don’t take me the wrong way as I’m not in any way trying to be rude, but I know the intended tone of things in writing can unfortunately get lost sometimes. I hope it didn’t here. All I’m trying to do is provide Jim with positive affirmation that he’s not going down some path that’s going to be inconsistent in providing him with good quality negatives, because he’s not. And there’s no sense in him having any lingering doubts about that as he continues to move forward with his developing endeavors. Once he dials in his method, he’ll have no problem achieving consistency with Rodinal.

          Take care.

  9. I’m with you in wanting to develop my negatives with the least possible fuss and bother. I document the process I was using last year at https://merefilmphoto.com/2018/05/26/developing-film-4-process/

    Since then I switched to making 1 liter of working strength fixer using distilled water and using it for 12 of my short (12-exposure) rolls or two months, whichever comes first.

    And regardless of the type of tank, plastic or stainless, I’ve found loading MF film is easier if I don’t remove the adhesive tape from the end of the MF film, but rather fold it over the end of the film to stiffen the leading edge when it goes into or onto the reel.

    • Thanks for sharing your method; I’ve bookmarked the page. I haven’t been removing the tape, either, but I have just been tearing it off where the film meets the backing paper. Maybe I’ll try peeling it off the backing paper and folding it over the film.

  10. Jim I do applaud your persistence, indeed your bravery for even attempting home developing. I’m not sure why you’re changing so much each time though? Why don’t you stick with one camera, one film emulsion and one developer, shoot and process a dozen rolls and get that mastered, before changing any of those core variables?

    • Camera as a variable isn’t very important, as I know how my cameras behave. At this point I just need exposed film to process.

      Film is, admittedly, important. But I’m also impatient and so I have been shooting up what I have on hand here. The Kosmo Foto Mono is new but the other films I’ve tried have been hanging around here for a long time and it’s time for them to be shot.

      But now I’m going to center on T-Max 100 until I get the process down.

  11. You could ask an old film photographer; someone who has done so many rolls it isn’t even calculable anymore.
    Hypo clearing agent isn’t necessary; it just reduces final wash time for getting rid of the hypo. Likewise it is not necessary to wet B&W before developing unless you are using a ‘fast’ developer like DK-50 (about 5 minutes to develop – consistently lousy results). Some colour films (C41) require pre-wetting. Yes your chemical temperature was a little high, but the result shows somewhat low contrast still (on my screen to my eyes). Old film likes to be shot a little ‘slower’ than rating for better contrast.
    Isn’t it fun, though? And there are vast libraries of books telling you how to do it!

  12. Hi Jim, the negatives do look a but soft. Stick with one developer and get to know it. Over time, you will gain better results. I use the “spinner stick” as opposed to inversions. It works well for me, and it’s a lot less messy, no leakage. If you do inversions, I find that soaking the top of a Paterson tank in hot water for a short time gives a better seal. I have been using HC 110 as a one shot developer. The undiluted developer lasts a long time. I break up the bottle into sealed canning jars to help preserve it even more. The dilution I usually use is Dilution B, 1/31 meaning I need only 16ml of developer in 500 ml of water. I also use Rodinal from time to time in semi-stand development, especially when I am lazy. There is good sharpness from Rodinal stand but depending on the time used, the highlights can get ghosted. For Rodinal, I generally soup for one hour, a few agitations at inception then another few at 30 minutes. The dilution is 1/100 for stand. Em from Emulsive did a great article on stand development using a much different technique. I have been using an environmentally friendly stop bath and fixer and it has been working great. I know many who forego the stop bath and use only water for the stop. I find soaking the film for several minutes before development helps to avoid streaking and promotes more even development. I generally don’t use hypoclear, I honestly am not sure of its benefits. I believe it helps to remove the fix and leads to longer preservation of the negative, but could be wrong. Photophlo is good for more even drying without streaks. Dust is the ultimate enemy. I put the drying film in the shower after running it hot for several minutes. I still get dust. A dedicated cabinet or other container to shield from dust is something I am thinking of fashioning. Rather than a dark bag, I use a “tent” style dark bag, it’s much easier for me. I find it is much better to use the Samigon style reels, they have a shelf that collects the film leader and are much easier and faster to load. For the moisture, wear cotton or thin latex talc free gloves and I try to keep my arms out of the inside of the bag as much as possible. As you get better, you’ll spool the film easily and quickly. It is very important that the reel is dry from inception. I go over the entire thing with a dry cloth before putting the reel into the dark bag.

    • Thank you – those are some good tips, esp. about the gloves and keeping the arms out of the bag. I was so deep into that bag with the Verichrome Pan trying to make the film load it’s no wonder it got so hot and humid in there.

  13. Bob says:

    Jim,
    I have read your blogs on developing. I have tried Rodinal, HC110, caffenol, mono developers and have settled on Freestyle Ascorbic Film Developer (generic XTOL) You can use kitchen timers or a clock with a 2nd hand to time yourself. I tried using expired film and prefer to buy new film because I want consistent results. Really old film like you are talking about can be a real pill to load. I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner.

    Here’s what I do.
    Film Fomapan 100
    Freestyle Ascorbic Film Developer (XTOL Clone) mix stock solution 1 to 1 with tap water (I tried using distilled water and it didn’t make any difference).
    3 min prewash
    pour in developer and agitate with rod 30 seconds
    agitate 5-6 sec with rod every 30 seconds
    pour out at end of 8 minutes
    three tap water washes of 30 seconds each (agitate with rod for whole time)
    fix
    I use a tap water rinse for 2 minutes
    Perma wash for 2 minutes
    tap water for 2 minutes
    I use a couple of drops of Freestyles version of photoflo in a tank and a cap of rubbing alcohol agitate for 30 seconds with rod. The alcohol helps it dry faster. Too much photoflo will make water spots a couple of drops is all you need.
    squeegee and dry

    • P says:

      I use a regular analog clock with a second hand. I actually think it’s much easier and far less frustrating than messing around with a timer or phone app.

      Bob, I don’t know what the deal is with Freestyle of late, but in the past year or so they’ve hiked many of their prices way up, especially on chemicals, to the point they’re no longer even a good deal (which is kind of supposed to be the point of their existence, right?). Official XTOL is now quite a bit cheaper than Freestyle’s clone. I just thought I’d let you know in case you hadn’t priced things in a while. And XTOL, as well as any of its clones out there, should be cheap. Ridiculously cheap. The required raw components to make it cost very nearly nothing.

    • Bob, thank you very much for your tips. I’ve been using distilled water for all but final rinse – our water here is awful and rinsing feels like the only sort of safe time to use it. I do add photo-flo at the end and then squeegee the negs dry as they hang. I think I’m going to try agitating with the rod next.

  14. I mentioned this before, when processing expired black and white films particularly, and using Rodinal or it’s clones, use stand development. Pretty much guaranteed to get a usable negative with any speed film. Dilute developer 1 part Rodinal +100 parts water. You will need to be able to use a tank which can take 400-500ml liquid so thaa there is enough developer in solution for a 35mm film. Load the film dry, seal and pour in the developer, agitate slowly 2=3 times and tap on the work surface. Leave to stand without agitation for 30 mins. agitate once slowly and stand for a further 30 mins. Empty tank and continue with stop bath, and fix as normal. It works

    Bill

    ________________________________

    • I have one more roll of 120 Verichrome Pan I’d like to use someday, and when I do, first I hope I can get the dang thing on the reel, and second, I’ll stand develop it in Rodinal as you suggest.

  15. Massive Dev Chart Timer app, to clear the ‘Hypo Clear’ time. Touch the star in the top right hand corner of the screen, that now becomes ‘edit’
    Touch edit and you will see on the sixth line down of the menu, ‘Hypo Clear, Final Wash, Rinse Aid’ touch arrow to the right, change time accordingly and save.
    You can also change the chemical temperature, click the automatic adjust box below and developing time will be updated to the corresponding temperature.

  16. Hi Jim, I did not realize these images were made with a box camera. Given that, the development process you used was fine in my opinion. Boy you really touched a nerve with this post! I again encourage you to try a plastic Samigon reel. Much easier to load both 120 and 35. Steel reels work fine too, but take a bit of practice. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy too just like all processes. My guess is the plastic tank will probably retain temperature a bit better than the steel tank. As far as the moisture in the dark bag goes, it is as much about the ambient conditions in the room as it is about what’s going on inside of the bag. I use the Photoflex changing room instead of a traditional dark bag. There is a greater volume to work with inside, and more air. One caveat. If you have cats, be sure to zip the door closed when putting the tent away. It looks a lot like a litter box. I learned this THE HARD WAY!

    • Oh dear, your poor changing tent! Good tip on the Samigon reels. If I continue to struggle with my Paterson reels I’ll give them a go. I’m not struggling with my dark bag as a rule, it was just that one roll of VP that I couldn’t get on. The roll I processed for this post went on the reel like it was meant to be there.

      I’m learning from this post that there are lots and lots and lots of firm opinions about the best way to process film.

  17. Doug Isokait says:

    Jim-
    I have been developing B&W film for 10 years. I think you are over-complicating things. Here’s what I do: (1) Do not take the film out of the cassette. Using a film extractor, or better yet not winding the film all the back back into the cassette while in the camera, cut off the first couple inches making the end square, clip the corners of the squared off end to make the film smoothly track on the reel. In daylight, put the first 3 inches or so of film on the reel. (2) Go into a dark room [I use a bathroom with no window and block the bottom of the door with a towel] or use your bag [I never liked bags, feeling around is a pain]. Now you already have the film started on the reel- wind it onto the reel. Cut the film off at the cassette when its all on the reel. (2) Get the developer at 68F or close to that. I use D76 stock because it is very common and widely understood and used. Use a kitchen timer, not a cell phone. Swizzle stick every minute or so- don’t turn the tank upside down and so forth. I throw the developer away after use. (3) rinse with about 68F water once, swizzle and few times- discard water. (4) Pour in the stop, swizzle a few times, keep it in about 1-2minutes- save it back in the bottle, you can use it repeatedly. Don’t worry about the temperature of the stop- it is just an acid. (5) rinse in water once, swizzle a few times, throw water away. (6) Put the fix in the tank at +/- 7 degrees or so of 68F- the temp of the fix should not be much of a concern, swizzle as per developing stage, leave in about 5 minutes if rapid fixer [I use Illford rapid fixer]- pour the fix back in the bottle, you can use it repeatedly. (7) pour in hypo clearing agent if you are using it- I do, but this step is optional. I throw the hypo clearing agent away after use. (8) Rinse by running water about 5 minutes– done.

    The water rinse between steps is optional, but I think it extends the life of the chemicals and makes for cleaner negs.

    Try color film developing. Get a kit from Freestyle. Color is more standardized and easier than B&W. Use an immersion heater from Bed Bath & Beyond to heat the chemicals. I use an old plastic cut off whisky bottle to mix the chemicals up. Develop E6 film- you’d be surprised how easy and interesting this can be.

    • Thanks Doug, there are some useful tips in there. I’m shooting 120 film at the moment but when I do switch to 35mm I’ll be sure to leave the tail out on rewind so I can load the reel w/o having to open the canister. I am really struggling to get 68 degree solution here — we keep the house at 72 during the summer months and in my bathroom even if I have 68 degree water it pretty quickly warms to 72. So I’m just adjusting development time to match that reality. It should be better in the winter because we heat the place to 68. Several others have recommended using the swizzle stick rather than inverting the tank so that will be the next thing I try. I shot a roll of Acros the other day and it’s waiting for me to find time today to develop it.

  18. Hi Jim, last suggestion in this litany of them. As far as water waste goes, there is an alternate way to wash called the Ilford Method. It involves agitation of the film in water rather than just letting the tank sit in running water. You use much less water this way. I use a different form of it, employing the spinners when the tank is full of water. I use a disposable rubber glove with this method. I have a roll of Silvermax being washed now. I have a 52 rolls page on my blog and will post some of the frames there later today. I am using only BW film for this project with home development.

    • Yes – an earlier commenter recommends the Ilford Method. I processed a roll today and did the normal long rinse but might try the Ilford Method next time. BTW, I agitated using the twist rod and that didn’t work well either, looks like the developer concentrated at the bottom of the tank and developed to clear the bottom edge of the negative. Try, try again.

      • P says:

        I also recommend the Ilford Wash Method to save on water. However, you should keep in mind it’s assuming that you are either (a) not using a hardening fixer, or (b) if you are using a hardening fixer you’re using hypo clear (or another washing aid). If you’re using a hardening fixer without a wash aid it takes a lot longer to wash to archival standards. I don’t know if you’re using a hardening fixer or not so I thought it was worth mentioning.

        Are you sure the edge of the film that’s clear was at the bottom of the tank? If the film is actually clear on one edge that means it’s undeveloped, not overdeveloped by developer settling out into a stronger solution at the bottom of the tank. If one edge is clear it sounds more like you didn’t have enough developer in the tank, so the top edge (not the bottom) was not submerged, and therefore received no development. This makes sense if you weren’t inverting this time, and could also explain some of your uneven development on prior rolls if you’ve been measuring your chemistry the same each time.

        • P says:

          I should have also mentioned that the top edge of your film from the standpoint of the image being upright may not be the “top edge” in terms of what’s at the top of the developing tank during development. This depends on how you load your reels into the tank. Furthermore, remember that the latent image formed on the film during exposure is upside down.

        • Here’s what the negative looks like:

          https://jimgrey.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/neg3.jpg

          It just hit me what might have happened. I might not have had the reel all the way at the bottom of the tank. The tank is taller than the reel, the core is taller than the reel even. I should make sure that the reel is at the bottom of the core so it sits at the bottom of the tank.

          Obviously I was guessing at what was wrong and I misguessed the first time.

        • P says:

          Yep, I think you’re exactly right about the reel not being all the way at the base of the core, leading to the top edge of the film not being submerged. So you probably had plenty of developer in the tank; the reel was just too high. In addition to the one edge being undeveloped, you can also see how it wasn’t cleared by the fixer. That’s why it’s purple. The positive thing here is that you didn’t lose that much of the image. In fact, a lot of labs irritatingly crop nearly as much as was lost here, so since you’re scanning yourself I think you’ll still be able to get some really nice results from this roll.

          Furthermore, while it’s always difficult to judge a negative’s density from a digital image, I’m going to say that to my eye, since the image you attached was not backlit by anything but ambient light, this negative looks quite good to me. Contrast looks good. Tonal range looks good. As best I can tell, it looks pretty good all around. I’m looking forward to seeing the scans and hearing about your thoughts.

          I know it’s taken a few rolls to start smoothing out your process, but I think you’re just about there, Jim! Good work!

        • Oh yeah, these images came out great except for where the developer didn’t reach. Here’s that negative:

          https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/48813737133/in/dateposted/

          So next time I’ll be sure to push the reel to the bottom of the core, and I’ll stick with the “swizzle stick” agitation. It’s sure a heck of a lot easier than dealing with putting the cap on and taking it off between stages, which is necessary with inversions.

        • P says:

          Jim, you nailed it — beautiful results. I can’t wait for your full write-up. Even though you’re doing this simply as a means to an end, I know that has to feel rewarding! :)

        • P says:

          Jim,

          One more thing I forgot to mention. If you want to re-fix and re-wash the ACROS negatives in order to get rid of the purple edge, you can always do that. Depending on whether it bothers you or not, you may not care. If it’s no big deal to you, then it’s probably not worth the effort.

          Again, great job, and congratulations on persevering through the irritating bits and nailing down your process. I’m sure it’ll only get better from here.

          Take care.

  19. StephenJ says:

    Hi Jim, I went though this developing maze, and had experiences like you. I too started with Rodinal, which I still use. I also have now tried various others, and am particularly attracted to the ones with stain. I am still learning and still making mistakes.

    However, the easiest one to get good results from straight away, was Diafine. I checked to see whether you are in America, cos this stuff is very difficult to get elsewhere, even though I live elsewhere… (I got my nephew to buy it from B&H and brought it with him to Ireland, where we were both going to a wedding).

    But the reason it is good, is that it is not fussy, and as long as you don’t mix part B, with Part A, you will get a decent result, and you will get it by a little or a lot of agitation, by a little or a lot of mistiming, temperature doesn’t have to be that accurate either, so it is very forgiving.

      • P says:

        Diafine is a two-bath, compensating developer designed to achieve maximum emulsion speed. Most film stocks are exposed at at least double their box speed. Tri-X is usually shot at EI 1000 or higher, for example, if it’s going to be souped in Diafine. It’s probably best for extremely high contrast, low light photography. I’ve admittedly never used it, but based on what it is and the results I’ve seen, I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a general purpose developer. Any two-bath developer is more work when developing (obviously), and it’s also mixed from powder so that’s extra fuss too (I certainly don’t enjoy messing with powder chemistry, especially when they contain some of the ingredients Diafine does). Plus, it’s not cheap ($30 for a 1 liter packet, the last time I looked!), and if you contaminate bath B it’s done for. On the plus side, it is re-used so there’s no need for mixing chemistry every time you need to develop a roll and it has a pretty good shelf life as long as no contamination occurs (although nowhere near Rodinal’s shelf life), so it does have that going for it. If you’re regularly shooting high contrast scenes in low light, then it may be worth experimenting with someday, but for normal contrast daytime photography I pretty much always like the results I’ve seen Rodinal yield a lot more than Diafine results shot in similar light. But that’s entirely subjective, and is just my personal opinion. I know there are a lot of Diafine proponents out there, so it’s obviously not a bad developer by any means, and it clearly has its uses. I just think for normal photography there are much better and simpler-to-use options available, Rodinal being at the top of the list for slow and medium speed films. I think Rodinal even yields good results with many 400 ASA emulsions, but I’m aware others would disagree. If one finds the Rodinal grain is bothersome with high speed stocks (400 ASA and above), then there are plenty of other easy-to-use options out there to reduce the appearance of the grain (i.e. a solvent developer instead of a non-solvent developer — the primary trade-off of course is perceived sharpness, or acutance). Based on what I’ve seen, the apparent grain of Diafine developed negatives is no “better” than Rodinal, despite its claims to be a “fine grain” developer, and in some cases possibly “worse.” But again, I’m aware that’s subjective. The only real “benefit” I see in using Diafine as a general purpose developer is that it’s practically time/temperature agnostic, regardless of the film stock or speed. But personally, I don’t really see this as a benefit as once a person has worked out their times with a normal developer, it’s really irrelevant. Plus, in order to get the best results with Diafine, you really do have to change how you meter for different film stocks. Due to Diafine’s speed increasing properties, box speed probably won’t yield the best results, so you have to figure that out. Anyways, that’s just a bit of information to keep in mind.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.