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11-05-2019, 09:43 AM - 1 Like   #1
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B&W Developer starter kits

Hi, I'd like to have a go at developing my own B&W film.
I see that there are a few 'starter kits' out there, ranging from about £50 to £350 depending on what you get.
I also see that Ilford's 'Simplicity' sachets seem like a good way to get enough chemicals for a 'do I want to actually do this?' test.

Does anyone have any experience with a kit? Patterson, AG, AP and others offer them.

Are there things that aren't in the kits which experience tells you I'd need? I have a basement that would be suitable for a dark space to work in.

Are there things that ARE in the kits which aren't really necessary, or aren't usually of good enough quality?

Basically I'd like some general advice on getting started, kit wise.

Cheers!

11-05-2019, 11:44 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I don't really know much about these beginners kits and what is in them but you can often pick up a lot of stuff cheaply on ebay.

The first thing to mention is that you don't need a darkroom if you are only developing film. You do need a darkroom if you intend to make proper "wet prints". For just developing the film, you need a changing bag which is a light proof bag in which you load your film into the developing tank. So you need the bag and the tank. Next, and quite important is an accurate liquid thermometer because the chemicals, particularly the developer, needs to be at a precise temperature. You will need some measuring jugs or measuring cylinders for your developer, stop bath and fixer. You will need somewhere dust free to hang your film once its developed. A steamy bathroom is good for this. You can use a clothes peg to hang the film initially but later you might want to buy some proper film clips.

So for the chemicals... you need some developer. A liquid developer like Rodinal or its modern namesakes will be cheapest initially (about £9 on ebay). Stop bath is a mild acidic solution used to stop the action of the developer. You could use plain water to save money for your "do I want to do this" trial but I would buy this if you decide to continue. It doesn't cost much and lasts for ages. Fixer.... a bottle of Ilford rapid fixer will cost about £11 on ebay and will last quite a long while. If you decide to continue with home development you might want to buy some photo flo wetting agent but not needed initialy.

So really you could get by with £20 worth of chemicals plus the cost of a changing bag, thermometer, a plastic development tank and some jugs.

Good luck
11-05-2019, 11:46 AM   #3
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The only dark space you need is one where you can load the film into the developing tank, and it has to be totally dark. After it's loaded it doesn't matter about the light. When I used to do it, a closet with all light blocked from around the door worked for me. If you can see anything at all, then it's not dark enough. I really don't know about today's kits, but I used a Patterson tank for years with no problems. One thing I used to do was on the final rinse I added just a drop or two of a mild dish soap to the rinse water. It acted as a surfactant and kept the water from beading up on the film as it dried thus avoiding water spots. Today's kits may have addressed this problem. I don't know.
11-05-2019, 11:49 AM   #4
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HiBeepaitch,
I'm fan ofFOMA brand. But generally, I think results will be the same (or really similar)all over brands... But I think the best solution is using one brand for film,for developer, fixer. For chemicals: I think better is dry powder (fordeveloper and fixer). From powder you can prepare fresh chemicals anytime andthis is important. Used developer and fixer can be used for papers. You canplay with chemicals for papers, but not for films. After some time developerbecame unusable. For stop bath Iím using simple citro acit and important thingis film wetting agent. For wetting agent Iím using ORWO more than 30years oldwithout any problem. So try asking somebody around you. You can save money.Also ask about developer tank. Universal tank for formats 135 and 120 isbetter. Of course, use only distilled water. Donít forget for air ventilationin your basement! Next: Film is really light sensitive! Try work in dark! Forpapers is better yellow or yellow-green light. Human eyes are more sensitive forthis light. Iím using original lamp = filter + 10W bulb. But also LED withcorrect wavelength can be used.

11-05-2019, 12:04 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Just to add..... I see you are in the UK. If you are anywhere near the Norfolk/Suffolk area, you are welcome to bring a roll to me and develop it using my gear/chems "under supervision"
11-05-2019, 12:31 PM   #6
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Any of the online photo equipment/supplies stores should have various starter kits.

If you don't have a convenient dark space for loading the film you can always buy a changing bag. I recommend a large or medium size bag. If you can pickup some expired rolls of film for cheap to practice loading the reels. You can practice out in light and then in the bag or dark area.
11-05-2019, 12:58 PM   #7
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Yes, get a changing bag - preferably a big one. I used to keep temperature nice and steady by keeping the tank in a water bath at the right temperature - a washing-up basin does just fine. A stopwatch for timing used to be handy, but there are phone apps which do the same job nowadays - the iPhone has a nice one bundled with it.

Get three measuring jugs and label them with a marker. That way you won't muddle developer with fixer or stop bath. Have fun!
11-05-2019, 02:28 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Patterson dev tanks are the stable in the UK, their darkroom stuff is the most common and good quality. Be careful as their dev tanks are not always sold with the reels included, they can be expensive to buy separately.

I'd avoid a kit that includes gear for printing (enlarger & trays etc), as if you get that interested, you'll probably know enough to prefer a more suitable one. The Ilford simplicity chemicals look like an easy option for a first go.

Whatever you do, give it a go, it's immensely rewarding when that first film comes out of the tank with images on it.

Dust & scratches are your biggest enemies. Practise loading a dummy film in daylight before doing it in the dark. If using a changing bag (recommended) make sure everything you need is in it before you start (scissors, dev tank, dev tank lid, reels, film, dev tank centre post etc). If you get in a muddle in the bag, put the film in the tank, put the lid on and stop and have a break.

11-06-2019, 02:56 PM - 1 Like   #9
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Personally, I'd stay away from "kits" and just pick up the three components: developer, stop bath, and fixer. Then get a set of basic instructions geared toward your developer and film and have at it. Kits are ok but usually you pay a price premium whereas the individual components result in a lower cost (though you may find yourself with large quantities of each). Stop bath and fixer keep relatively well and developer will last for several months if kept in a sealed bottle. With some developers (particularly concentrated liquid developers), it's possible to mix partial quantities to suit your present needs. Stop bath will keep a long time and can be made by diluting acetic acid (use caution when handling glacial acetic acid). In fact, you can replace it with a water wash but a stop bath provides better and more consistent results.

There are some good books out there (see below) which can guide you through the process. Temperature control is fairly important not so much in itself, but for having consistent results from batch to batch, and only the developer is finicky that way. Be sure to wash you film thoroughly after fixing to preserve it long term (fixer residuals can discolor film and ruin images).

The Photographer's Black and White Handbook: Making and Processing Stunning Digital Black and White Photos: Harold Davis: 9781580934787: amazon.com: Books?tag=pentaxforums-20&

http://stores.photoformulary.com/http://

Last edited by Bob 256; 11-06-2019 at 03:01 PM.
11-06-2019, 05:06 PM - 3 Likes   #10
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Some items in developing kits I've seen are rather superfluous,
and some important items may not be included.

For less money you can assemble your own kit.
IMO for 35mm film at minimum you will need:
  1. Changing bag
  2. Developing tank with reel(s)
  3. Film clips for drying - two per reel (one weighted)
  4. Airtight opaque containers for chemical stock solutions - quart and pint sizes (2-3 each)
  5. Graduates - large and small sizes
  6. Funnel - should fit neck of developing tank
  7. Thermometer - should fit neck of developing tank
  8. Long stirring paddle
  9. Good scissors - long thin and straight

Paterson tanks and reels are ubiquitous and serviceable.
However I prefer the AP deluxe plastic tanks and reels.
IMO they are well worth a few more dollars/pounds/euros.

I also recommend you get a larger size changing bag.
The smaller size are difficult - and sweaty - to work in.

Assuming you will be developing factory loaded film
you will need something to open the 35mm cartridges.
A household bottle opener works fine for this purpose.
Your watch or smartphone will suffice as a timer.

Later you will add other items for convenience,
but you can make a good start with the above.

Good luck,
Chris

Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 11-07-2019 at 07:18 PM.
11-08-2019, 07:33 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
Some items in developing kits I've seen are rather superfluous,
and some important items may not be included.

For less money you can assemble your own kit.
IMO for 35mm film at minimum you will need:
  1. Changing bag
  2. Developing tank with reel(s)
  3. Film clips for drying - two per reel (one weighted)
  4. Airtight opaque containers for chemical stock solutions - quart and pint sizes (2-3 each)
  5. Graduates - large and small sizes
  6. Funnel - should fit neck of developing tank
  7. Thermometer - should fit neck of developing tank
  8. Long stirring paddle
  9. Good scissors - long thin and straight

Paterson tanks and reels are ubiquitous and serviceable.
However I prefer the AP deluxe plastic tanks and reels.
IMO they are well worth a few more dollars/pounds/euros.

I also recommend you get a larger size changing bag.
The smaller size are difficult - and sweaty - to work in.

Assuming you will be developing factory loaded film
you will need something to open the 35mm cartridges.
A household bottle opener works fine for this purpose.
Your watch or smartphone will suffice as a timer.

Later you will add other items for convenience,
but you can make a good start with the above.

Good luck,
Chris
Thanks, this was a good summary. I had a similar question to the OP. I have had most of these items sitting in a B&H wishlist for a while, but have not pulled the trigger quite yet. I'm worried about running out of time to shoot film and use the kit only once or twice before the chemicals expire. But, it's something I do want to experience.
11-08-2019, 09:36 AM - 1 Like   #12
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If you posted a link to a specific kit you're looking at, we could offer more specific advise.

I don't mean to get into the technical details of developing film but one thing I like to stress to beginners is how you go about shaking your film. IMHO it is very important to understand this right at the beginning. It will help when playing around with different film, developers and all the different development times people have using the same stuff. How you go about shaking the film on a schedule to develop it will affect the outcome. It's not a precise thing though. A little variation does not affect the outcome in a big way. But here is an example of what I mean:

Let's say you learn to develop film from an Ilford developing kit using their products. You follow their instructions down to a tee. You get good results. Ilford has a standard agitation profile they use with I think most - if not all - of their developers. Their development times are derived from that profile. Agitate 4 inversions within 10 seconds every minute. That's a pretty comfortable speed to do 4 inversion cycles within 10 seconds. If you use a different Ilford film/developer you can count on their posted development time to work well with that agitation profile too.

Now let's look at Kodak's "standard agitation" profile. If you read their D-76 data sheet it will say to perform 4 inversion cycles every 30 seconds (5 for T-Max films) and perform those 4 cycles within 4 seconds (5 sec for T-Max). That agitation profile is twice as often as Ilford and much more vigorous too. So what would happen if you used a Kodak agitation profile with an Ilford's posted developing time? That's right, you'd get a more contrasty negative. Your highlights would be pushed up higher in value then were placed by the Ilford agitation profile.

And to confuse the subject more, some developers need a specific profile. Some do most their developing at the beginning and fade off towards end of the cycle so you might see an agitation profile that begins with a minute of continuous agitation and much less thereafter. Just keep this in mind is all you have to do.

Good luck and have fun.
11-11-2019, 06:12 AM   #13
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Original Poster
Thanks for all the advice. Taking into account everything suggested, I'm going to start collecting what's needed - essentials first - and won't bother with a kit.
I'll come back with any specific questions if/when needed.

Cheers!
11-11-2019, 11:34 AM   #14
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One other tip is when you decide on a developing tank and reels, practice loading those reels before you step into a darkroom or use a changing bag. Take a roll of film you can do without and practice opening the film canister, and then putting that film onto your reels. There's a technique to it depending on the type of reels you have, but it takes a few try's to perfect it. You don't want one layer to touch the layer above or below it or marks can result in the finished images. The last thing you want is to open the film canister and then not be able to get it properly loaded onto the reels. However, once you get a good load and get it in the tank, the lights go on and the rest is pretty simple.
11-11-2019, 05:49 PM   #15
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I use liquid ilford chemicals because it's simpler (dd-x developer, stop bath and rapid fixer) and a 1 roll paterson tank. If you plan to develop at least 6 rolls of film, it's more cost effective to get the chemicals separately, here I see a kit for two rolls of 35mm (if you have a double tank) costs $17.

The other tools don't have to be expensive or dedicated to photo processing, though I'm sure they're more convenient. All my measuring tools are for the kitchen, which I've now repurposed: 15ml measuring spoon, a couple pint glasses (the tank takes 300ml), a graduated pitcher and a steak thermometer. I've been considering getting a bag, but I've gotten used to using a (bath)room with no windows, though you have to be careful to check for light leaks if there's still light outside... less of a concern in this season in the evening.

As others have said above, practice loading the reel, the rest is pretty simple, I'm far from an expert but the learning curve was for the first few tries and now after three years it's become more or less automatic. I use massive dev chart to check how my developer pairs with the film I'm shooting, water temperature, dilution, and push/pull https://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.php

I've found that either a drop of liquid soap, or kodak photo-flo if you want the proper stuff, is effective to avoid drying marks, just add it with the last wash.

Last edited by aaacb; 11-11-2019 at 05:59 PM.
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