Film development remains one of the most beautiful aspects in classical photography.
I can remember clearly the first time that I developed a film. The fear of loosing all my photos , the doubts on the process itself… Was it all ok ? Did I forgot something? What if something was overlooked ?
The first time I developed a film…all went wrong!
An AGFAPAN 100, 35 mm roll, with pictures from a travel trip, photographed with great care, entered in my first JOBO tank. All in place..
Developer (Ilford Ilfosol 3, 1:9, 6 minutes, 20ºC) at the right temperature, agitation procedure adopted, stop, fixing, washing solutions all set.
Stopwatch started, developer in. No turning back.
Procedure was followed and completed to every detail, final washes, tank was opened and…. nothing! The film was as completely clean. 36 memories disappeared in to solution, nothing remained.
My devastation and sadness was such that I said “Never again, it must be flawless”!
Search, research and, film development
Who was the villain in my first attempt to develop a film ?
Never crossed my mind that by some weird chance I left the lens cap on in my 36 exposures, with that aside, my suspicions were the developer itself as the film was blank, hypo solution made the job well to completion in removing all the undeveloped silver from the negative.
So, I went in testings to see what happened.
A well exposed film with test images was produced and the same development procedure was reproduced. Nothing came out of the tank.
A second exposed film with test images was sent to a comercial lab and there they were. All developed and present.
As a chemist, developer was tested for it’s proper composition and identity, Dimezone S ( 4-Hydroxymethyl-4-Methyl-1-Phenyl-3-Pyrazolidinone ) was essayed, along with hydroquinone and sulfite concentrations by process described in KODAK chemicals analysis book.
Dimezone S had degraded and it’s concentration was far bellow the optimum amounts along with hydroquinone also in a concentration that wouldn’t permit any film development. Check was made on the production date of the developer and batch and immediately flagged a degraded developer. Dimezone S is very prone to degradation.
My mistake on the buy.
Ilford was not the culprit,( it was me, when I bought an old flask of developer and on choosing a Dimezone S developer) my opinion on their products was affected and the brand was discarded.
I don’t know why I chose that particular brand for my first attempt. AGFA was always my love brand.
AGFA – Rodinal®
Classical literature on this developer could make a complete novel.
Rock solid reputation, 127 years of unsurpassed quality, used by so many photographers that it became more than a branded developer, it was The Developer.
Rodinal, was developed by Dr. Momme Andresen in June 1891, as a concentrated developer to substitute one with similar characteristics from the Lumiére brothers.
Difference between the Lumiére formula and Andresen was in the alkali used. In the Rodinal formulation the alkali chosen was potassium hydroxide.
Here you can find Dr. Momme Andresen original journal entry published in 1891, describing Rodinal for the first time.
The developer itself has some remarkable characteristics attributed to the active ingredient in it’s formulation : 4-aminophenol. This substance develops silver in films with the particularity that the element is deposited as the element itself in natural state, giving supreme acutance and edge sharpness.
Those effects can be controled by carefully controlling the sulfite present in the developer solution and adjusted to more or less extent depending on the desired effect.
Rodinal is supplied as a concentrated solution, and must be diluted to proper ratio before using it for film development.
The undiluted developer is stable for very long periods and some say that it gets better with aging. This is not strange because part of the commercial process described for the production of the developer uses a holding aging period in order to get the final product.
For a report on Rodinal, made by intelligence group CIOS by the end of WWII, reporting selected targets on industry in Germany, please see CIOS-XXX-15 report on AGFA factory. This report has the industrial process and Rodinal formula by the time it was made.
After choosing the brand I was going to use, I started to test different approaches to obtain a perfectly developed film by adopting some standard practices to be maintained throughout all films developed.
Physical factors were controlled by instrumentation such as temperature, density, pH, and all necessary adjustments were developed to get the most standardized process possible and adapted to all kinds of film.
The film development processes assayed were recorded and results were logged in a lab book.
68 processes were tested, the last one was adopted as standard.
Notes on this particular film development process: it was tested with AGFAPAN (all assortment), Kodak Tri-X, Kodak Plus 125, and Ilford range of b&w films. All developed perfectly, with good stability and consistency. No variation was found in terms of any particular defect or commonly seen incidences.
The film development process is described here in detail :
- Pre-Soak in water at 20-22ºC : 5 minutes.
Agitation: first 2 minutes constant, afterwards 5/30 (5 seconds each 30 sec.)
- Rodinal 1+25 at 21ºC : Developing times vary on film (8 minutes AGFA APX 100).
Agitation: constant on first minute, then 5/30, dump tank by the last 10 seconds
- WATER-QUENCH (Water 18-20ºC) : 30 seconds
Constant agitation, dump at the end of the correct time.
- Stop-Bath ( Kodak MaxStop 1+15 at 18-20ºC) : 30 seconds
Agitation: 30 seconds constant, dump tank in the last 10 seconds.
- Fixing ( AGFA AGEFIX 1+7, 20-22ºC) : 9 minutes
Agitation, 2 first minutes constant, then 5/30, dump tank at the correct time.
- Pre-Wash In-Tank ( Water 18-20ºC) : 1 minute.
Strong and constant agitation throughout the defined time.
- KODAK HYPO-CLEARING ( 1ss+4, aprox.20ºC) : 2 minutes
Agitation: constant on first minute, then 5/30, dump at the correct time.
- Post-Wash In-Tank (Water 18-20ºC) : 5 minutes
Constant agitation : one minute, tank is then dumped and refilled, agitation is resumed and the process is repeated 5 times at each minute.
- Final Wash (Water 18-20ºC) : 15 minutes
Running water with jet nozzle agitation, tank is now opened and completely emptied each minute for the first 5 minutes of washing. Then, water is ran continuously in the tank until the end of the washing cycle.
- WETTING (Photo-Flo 1+600, 20ºC, or 15 drops /L, water) : 2-4 minutes
- Dry : 5 hours at room temperature, no dust environment, controlled humidity set in between 35-40%
Notes : all water is from reverse osmosis, pH was adjusted if needed in the developing step to about 7 for preparation of the Rodinal solution.