I've been threatening to develop film myself for a while now. Why? Because, as much as I love and prefer using film, it gets costly quite quickly. A roll of film is anywhere from £4-8 to buy, getting it developed is about the same and then getting it scanned at a reasonable resolution can be even more. Spending £15-£20+ a roll is just too much.
So, I quickly discovered/decided that developing C41 colour film could be just as expensive as getting it done professionally when you consider the cost of chemicals and their short shelf life. Black and white film on the other hand could be done very cheaply... enter Rodinal. This marvelous mixture has been around since 1891, is cheap to buy (500ml, ~£13) and you need tiny amounts of it per roll (as little as 1.6ml!). Even better, a stop bath consists of water! Even when taking the cost of fixer into account, this starts to look very attractive.
Just as I was starting to decide this DIY developing might be a goer, I came across the Fomapan range of film and my mind was made up. Why? It comes in 3 speeds (ISO 100, 200 & 400) and can be bought for as little as £3.50 a roll. Sold! Literally, I bought three 36 exposure of rolls of the ISO 200 "creative" variety and loaded up my Nikon F-301 for, among other things, a walk along the beach at Broughty Ferry.
So with the roll of film shot, I was already to start developing. And then it sat on my desk for a few weeks while I failed to make time to do it. That is until today when Fynbaar managed to screw up rewinding a roll of Fomapan 400 "action" and got it stuck half out in the camera. So, to the Dark Room! We happen to be fortunate enough to work in a building that has a dark room (for developing scientific X-Rays among other things), so we grabbed my two roll development tank, my roll of "creative" and Fynbaar's stuck camera (along with a pair of scissors) and off we went.
We (I?) decided to start simple and put my roll of film onto a development tank spool first, just to get the hang of it as it's a bit fiddly, particularly when doing it for the first time in the dark. And... it was my turn to screw up! Having happily extracted what I thought was all the film from the canister and wound it on to the spool, I cut off the canister, secured the spool in the development tank and switched on the lights... only to find I still had about a third of the roll still in the canister! I'd been too gentle and thought I hit the end when I hadn't. Hey ho, I've learned for next time.
With that success(!) behind us, we went on to try and extract the film from Fynbaar's camera. Again in the dark, we executed a blind two-step which resulted in us not only successfully getting the film out of the camera, but also all of it onto the second spool and into the light-tight development tank. Hurrah, the day hath been saved!
So, finally we could actually do some developing. I had decided to use the 'Semi Stand' method of developing as it seemed easy and reportedly got good results. I will lay it out below for completeness, but will also provide the following link from which I gained this wisdom: How to: semi-stand development in Rodinal.
Here are the steps that I took:
- Dilute 3.25ml of Adox Adonal (Rodinal) with 650ml of water, add to development tank, shoogle** for 30s and bang down on the table to displace any air bubbles.
- Wait 60mins.
- Invert tank 3 times and bang back down on the table.
- Wait 60mins.
- Empty tank and refill with water, leaving to stand for 60s before emptying again.
- Dilute 200ml of Ilford Rapid Fixer with 800ml of water and pour 650ml into the development tank, shoogling for 10s.
- Invert tank 5 times every 30s for 5mins.
- Empty tank, refill with water, gently invert 5 times and empty tank. Repeat this process twice, inverting first 10 times and then 20 times and finishing with an empty tank.
- Dilute a few drops of Kodak Photo-flo in 650ml of water and pour into tank. Shoogle tank for 60s and then leave to rest for 60s.
- Remove each roll from the tank in turn (whilst still full of water), release from spools and hang up (I used bulldog clips and an improvised washing line).
- Dip a pair of film squeegees in the tank and remove excess water from film strips.
- Allow to dry.
** Shoogle: wonderful Scottish word meaning 'to shake'.
It should be noted that, against all advice on the subject, I used tap water (rather than distilled) at all stages and made no effort to measure nor modify its temperature (the recommendation is to do everything at 20°C). Why? I had neither thermometer or a method to warm up water to hand.
Finally, once the film was dry, I cut each roll into 4 frame sections and hurried home with mine to be digitised. We have a Jessops Zoom Slide Duplicator tube adapted to Sony E-mount, so I quickly attached this to my Sony Alpha7 Mk.II and snapped each of the 23 frames I had actually managed to develop before importing them into Lightroom for colour-correction and inversion.
What I consider to be the best eight shots are below. I will allow Fynbaar to comment on how his roll turned out, but I am certainly very happy with mine!
Not only am I really happy with the results, I actually really enjoyed this process. I am a convert to DIY film developing (and Rodinal!) and will be happy and confident to develop my own Black and White film from now on. If you've never tried it, give it a go!
As for Fomapan 200 "creative": So far, I love it! It has a great, high contrast look and, despite opinions and warnings to the contrary, the grain did not pick up absurdly when developed with Rodinal. I look forward to seeing the scans of Fynbaar's 400 "action" roll and shooting one (or more!) myself.