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02-17-2010, 07:41 AM   #1
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Processing B& W film - anything I'm missing out on - any tips?

Hi folks,

I have been shooting B&W for a long time. I used to get a local specialty printer to process my negs and then I would print them myself. Unfortunately she moved and is no longer local so I have been building up a stock of exposed film in the fridge. Last night i set about processing my films, i have a two roll tank and a four roll tank but I decided to start with the two roll tank, that way if i mucked it up it would not be so bad!

so i proceeded as follows:

got the film on the reels and in the tank, headed to the kitchen and went for it.

Developer - i think it's agfa rodinal - mixed 30:1 with water at 20 Degrees. Gave it 9 minutes (per recommendation from the shop where i bought the chemicals) with agitation every minute, tapping the tank on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.

Poured out the developer - and in with the stop bath - i used plain old tap water, sloshed it in, agitated and poured it out. I repeated this a number of times (maybe 3).

In with the fixer - ilford rapid fixer - mixed 4:1 with with water at 20 Degrees. Gave it 5 minutes (per the instructions) agitating every minute.

Out with the fixer and started to wash - was going to go for the 5 minute wash with water through the hose thing that came with the tank but the hose end won't fit the tap so i followed the ilford instructions instead - three rinses with increasing inversions. I then added some photo flow to a final rinse, shook it all about and poured it out.

Took the negs out, hung them up and used a squeegee tongs thing to wipe them down.

Will check how they look when i get home, but they looked good to me last night - ie there were images where images should be!

So - some questions:

1) how critical is the timing of the various steps? if i go over the time say with the developr of the stop bath is there a problem? can you over fix?

2) should i use a chemical stop bath - vinegar (diluted) or is water ok?

3) what is a few drops of photo flo - is it literally two ro tree drops? i poured a little bit in (didn't use any scinetific measuring method) followed by water - there were a lot of bubbles so i rinsed it changing the water a few times after wards until there were no more - is this ok?

thanks for taking the time to read this.

2 rolls down - 14 to go!

cheers

02-17-2010, 07:55 AM   #2
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The Rodinal is normally used at 1+25 or 1+50.

As for timing, the developer stage is more critical as is the temp of the developer. I prefer to use a proper stop bath because it kills the development dead but you can get away with plain water. Its not really possible to overfix. I use mine at 1+9 concentraion and give it 10 minutes. As the fix gets older then you will notice the negs are not so clear and you will have to increase the times and eventually discard the fixer and mix fresh stuff.

One thing to remember is that you can re fix at any time, even after the negs are dry. I always use distilled water for the last rinse because my water is hard and would leave marks when dry. A lot of people don't like to use a squegee because there is a risk of scratching the negs. Try and dry the film in a dust free environment.

A good resource for timings used with various films and developers is http://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.php
02-17-2010, 08:17 AM   #3
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Others will be able to give you better instructions for the rest, but for the photo flo you basically pour in as little as you can manage. Then you fill the tank really carefully to minimize the bubbles, let it sit for a minute and pour out. If you rinse it after that, you negate the effect of the photo flo. It's basically soap. It removes the surface tension from the water so that drops won't dry on the negative.

It's not the end of the world if you messed up the photo flo.
02-17-2010, 08:19 AM   #4
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Actually, I don't know if you need photo flo if you use a squeegee.

02-17-2010, 09:22 AM   #5
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BW developing

Welcome to the dark(room) side.

To attempt your questions:

1. Development time and temperature are quite critical. You don't want to vary by much -- I shoot for developer within .3 degree C of 20 degrees (use a digital thermometer) and time processing with a digital timer. A variation of +/- 15 seconds in 9 minutes won't hurt much. Time for the rest of the processes is a minimum. They are much less critical.

Development agitation is also quite critical. More agitation = more contrast, especially in the brighter areas of the photo. Follow directions for the developer and do it the same way each time and at the same interval.

2. Stop bath is cheap. I use it. Probably doesn't matter either way.

3. I use one or two drops of PhotoFlo for a 2-reel tank. Don't squeegee! You're risking major scratches if the squeegee encounters any tiny piece of grit.

Also, PhotoFlo is to be used as a final rinse and not rinsed off. If you rinse it off, you defeat the purpose. It works much the same way as the stuff in your dishwasher that makes glasses dry without spots.

After some years, I found the best method for getting clean negatives is to do a final rinse in PhotoFlo + filtered water. I use the stuff from our refrigerator and warm it back to room temp in the microwave. Slosh it around a few seconds, take the negatives out and hang in a dustfree place where they won't be disturbed for several hours. I haven't had any problems with dust since I started doing this.

You don't mention what kind of film you're using. 9 minutes in Rodinal will likely give you pretty contrasty negatives. In general, more developing time increases contrast, less time decreases it. Most manufacturers' directions call for too much developing time.

Developing film requires about the same level of skill as good cooking. Following time and temperature recommendations from manufacturers or from other photographers will give you a starting point, but you really need to work out your own system and calibrate it. Accuracy is not as important as repeatability. Do it exactly the same way, over and over, calibrate your approach, and it won't matter at all if your thermometer is off a bit.

For example, using Rodinal 1:30 is fine -- just don't mess around with the ratio. I use 1:24 myself, because it's easier to measure with my cheap non-metric measuring cups and spoons.

A good resource is a Kodak book called Advanced Black and White Photography. It's inexpensive and uses a lot of common sense.

Have fun!
02-17-2010, 09:23 AM   #6
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Good advice above, I don't really need to say anything... but I'll step through your process and see what I might pick out:

- using one-shot (diluted) developer you're doing fine. Timings are fairly critical - obviously the shorter the development time the more accurate you need to be. But usually it isn't really critical to be right on the second. The more important thing is to do the same things the same way each time - this way you can make adjustments based on the results you get.

- as above, plain water stop is OK, though mixing a leter of stop bath is cheap enough - you can reuse the diluted stuff until the indicator turns color (indicator stop has a pH sensitive dye to show when the stop is exhausted).

- Not sure about your fixer. Fixer can be reused - you can mix 1 liter of working solution, say, and keep it in a bottle, and fix 24 or more films. Just pour it back in the bottle after the tank. (I use a 1 liter soda bottle.) But maybe you're doing this already. The exact time isn't critical, though I'd follow the manufacturer's guidelines, plus info on the net - e.g. it appears T-max film benefits from a longer fix. Remember to agitate during fixing as well, and all the other things to ensure all of the film gets to see the fixer.

- my reading of the Ilford method has more than 3 rinses. Here's what I do: fill once and empty. Fill & invert 5x. Fill & invert 10x. Fill & invert 15x. Fill & empty. Fill & invert 15x. Again, not critical, but you do want to ensure the fixer is all washed off.

- Get a bottle of old fashioned nose drops, you know, with the dropper in the cap. Pour out the nose drops, wash bottle. Put the photo-flow in the bottle. After the wash, take the top off the tank - so you see the reel. Fill with water, filtered etc if need be. Use the dropper to put 2-3 drops of photo-flo in the water. Lift and dunk the reel(s) a couple of times - you don't want to make bubbles so do it gently. Take the reel out, film out of the reel.

- you can experiment with the squeegee - you may not need it, and it may scratch the film. To use the squeegee, first dip it in the tank with the photo-flo solution so it is wetted.
02-17-2010, 11:19 AM   #7
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I can't add much to what's been said. Following the manufacture's recommendations is always a good start. Some fixers/developer combination's you really do need to not over fix. But, yes, the developer is the critical stage. The rest are much more tolerant.

Are sure that's Rodinal? Like Vendee said, 1+25, 1+50 and 1+100 are common dilutions. But there is nothing stopping you from using 1+30. And if you are using Rodinal on small format at 1+25, be prepared for GRAIN. More so with classical emulsions and less so with T-grain films.

My photo flo is one drop per 500ml. It helps displace the water off the film. I'm too scared to wipe my film down. I'd rather shake off and let it dry.
02-18-2010, 04:55 AM   #8
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Original Poster
Thanks all for the replies, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

I'm using mostly fuji acros 100 & neopan 400. I have only developed two rolls of acros 100 so far. I got the recomendation of 1:30 for the developr and 9 minutes at 20 degrees from the local photo shop (John Gunn Camera shop in Dublin) where I bought the chemicals. They seem to be very knowledgeable so I went with their recommendation.

I looked at the negatives yesterday evening briefly and they look ok to my untrained eye, so things seem to have worked out well.

In the future I'll be more exact with my timings and temperatures - repeatability is my new word!

I'll go and get myself a dropper bottle for the photoflo so - good advice and much appreciated.

More questions now -

How do you ensure that the temperature is 20 degrees - I have a thermometer and I just mixed hot and cold water until it was in or around the 20 on it - it's analogue and I wasn't too scientific about it.

Final question - how often can I reuse the developr and fixer? I have poured them into compressible plastic containers for reuse.

And finally finally - this indicator stop bath that is mentioned - anyone got a brand name?

cheers all

fantastic information so far.

02-18-2010, 06:02 AM   #9
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Try and buy a proper spirit thermometer. You can pick them up on ebay.

As for the stopbath, most brands have an indicator. Ilford Ilfostop is just one of them. Its yellow when fresh mixed and turns blue when exhausted.

The fix can be re-used. The trick is to keep the film leader that you cut off before loading onto the reel. You put that into the fix and make a note how long it takes for the emulsion to clear from the film. When it takes twice as long to clear compared with fresh fixer then its time to discard it. The concertina bottles you mention are great but its more important to store your developer in them. If you have enough concertina bottles for everything then great.
02-18-2010, 07:22 AM   #10
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To reuse developer - you need to use one that is designed to be so used, e.g. D-76 or equivalent, Xtol, etc. These developers have an option to use as one-shot, eg. mixed 1:4 - you do this just before you use it, and then discard it after. Used at full strength, you pour it back in the bottle (and keep tally of how many films you develop - the manufacturer will indicate how many films you can develop with say, a liter). To get truly fancy, these developers often can be replenished - D-76 has special replenisher, Xtol is 'self replenishing'. With self replenishing developer you keep a separate bottle of unused developer, and pour a bit into the use bottle - say 70ml - and then fill the use bottle from your tank, discarding what's left over in the tank. Again, the manufacturers have instructions. There is something to be said for replenishing or just reusing - the developer 'develops' after a roll or two and you start to get nicer tone.

For temperature - you can start with cold, and then zap it in the microwave for a couple of seconds at a time till you reach the temp you need.
02-18-2010, 08:51 AM   #11
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Another trick to warming up your chemicals is to get one of those six-pack coolers. Fill to proper level of hot tap water. Put your mixed developer and beaker in it. Stir with the themometer and in only a matter of minutes, it's done. And if the room temperature is significantly different than the developer temperature, you can also use the cooler re-filled to the proper temperature and place your tank in it between agitations to maintain your developer temperature.

One of those thin, 1 glass themometers rock. They are precise and react to temperature immediately. The short, thick cheap ones need time for the heat transfer and don't have a precise graduated scale.

I use the the Photographers' Formulary TF-4 fixer. Mostly because it's a non-hardening fixer required for use with my main developer PMK Pyro. But it tells you how many rolls of film you can develop per 1000ml mix and I just keep track on a white board of the date of mix and number of rolls and then discard and mix a new batch when I reach the limit of either useful life or volume of film.
02-18-2010, 09:13 AM   #12
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Excellent, tuco! (I put a patch of masking tape on the bottle with a mixed date + tally the films on it)
02-18-2010, 11:19 AM   #13
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9 minutes has been repeated here a few times, so I'll state the obvious:
Developing time varies based on film, developer, temperature and dilution. It's not always or often 9 minutes.

I'm probably just repeating info you know, but doesn't hurt to be sure.
02-18-2010, 01:44 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by oinkely Quote
Thanks all for the replies, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

I'm using mostly fuji acros 100 & neopan 400. I have only developed two rolls of acros 100 so far. I got the recomendation of 1:30 for the developr and 9 minutes at 20 degrees from the local photo shop (John Gunn Camera shop in Dublin) where I bought the chemicals. They seem to be very knowledgeable so I went with their recommendation.
Neopan 400 is very nice stand developed in Rodinal 1:100
Agitate for 30 seconds at the start, leave for 47 minutes. You can use a water stopbath for this method because most of the developer will be used up by the time you pour it out.

Rodinal should be agitated quite gently and should not be used at too high temperatures, both to avoid grain.
02-18-2010, 04:31 PM   #15
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I don't worry about stop baths. Not because I've determined they aren't necessary by myself, but because I read an article by someone who very clearly knew his business and mentioned off hand he didn't use them. If he didn't need them, I certainly don't. I took it to mean he uses water, though. Getting developer in the fixer doesn't sound nice.
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