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Film Minimalist Monobath Development Workflow?

agentlossing

Regular
Mar 23, 2015
44
Hey, I have zero experience developing film, but it has gotten to the point where no one remotely close to my rural area develops on site, and sending film off to higher quality development houses is cost prohibitive. I would still like to shoot some film, though, and I'm thinking about trying this very spartan approach:

• B&W film stocks - I like Tri-X of course and several Ilford films, but also the one and only available film stock for the Yashica TLR I have never used yet but want to is a B&W film.

• Monobath developer - maybe not the best for a beginner, but if I follow time and temp closely, and burn a few rolls for trial and error, a very fast development method to get myself to negatives.

• FilmLab Android app - read some reviews, and while it's definitely not archival quality, should provide decent B&W scans, at least as good as I was getting from the 5MP scans offered by the local place before they stopped developing.

What are your thoughts on this neophyte setup idea?
 
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
I read good things about the FilmLab app; I use a dedicated scanner, but I fully appreciate your point - it can be very tedious. Light tables are not that expensive and help a lot; I'd also look for a good stand or mini tripod with a solid clamp.

As to film stocks, colour development just adds temperature dependance - it's actually not that much harder than b&w, but way easier with a sophisticated processor - which isn't cheap. So sticking with b&w is a good decision - I do the same thing for home development (though I may change my mind in the long run - but I'll watch the market for a while before deciding to add more gear).

The monobath sounds quite convenient, but to be honest, the three-step process isn't a problem at all in practice, and you can tweak (and correct!) things way more easily that way. My advice would be to get three beakers and a couple of measures and do it the traditional way - it's a fun experience (once you stop messing things up - two to three test rolls should do it) and no trouble at all.

That said, I've yet to try a monobath, but will do so in the future (I have a piece of kit on order - Kickstarter again, hence the wait - that actually comes with a bottle set for a monobath developer as a bonus).

btw. Developer and fixer fluids are quite bad for the environment and really should be desposed of correctly - I collect mine in canisters that I take to a disposal plant to empty. If I lived further away from such a facility, I'd use barrels of some kind.

M.
 
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Hey, I have zero experience developing film, but it has gotten to the point where no one remotely close to my rural area develops on site, and sending film off to higher quality development houses is cost prohibitive. I would still like to shoot some film, though, and I'm thinking about trying this very spartan approach:
I'm in area between your typical "suburbs" and rural, and am fairly close to a big town, but we have the same problem where nobody around here does on-site processing anymore and some of the places that used to send it out no longer even do that, instead they have in-house kiosks for printing from digital.

Even though I'm entirely digital I've been acquiring more old 35mm gear for my collection and have it on my 'someday' list to see if I can get some of that older stuff in working shape and trying them out. Recently I came across some old 35mm rolls from a relative who has passed and nobody knows what was on them so I resorted to using the local chain drugstore to get them processed. They send them out, two weeks turnaround time. :eek: For that purpose output quality wasn't really the concern but it made me find out who in the area can still handle film.

Unfortunately I can't give any advice but you & Matt are making me take a look at that FilmLab app as a way of working with a bunch of negatives that are piling up. In recent years, as family members have passed and houses are getting cleaned out, there is starting to be large amount of older photographs & negatives piling up at my house. I'm not sure how/why they're ending up with me but it seems to be working out that way.
 

agentlossing

Regular
Mar 23, 2015
44
What would you guys recommend as the minimum setup of darkroom equipment that works well, and is cheap?
 
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Just curious... if you know, how do they dispose of the chemicals?
I honestly don't know; but they are certified to deal with lots of worse stuff; I guess most things can be neutralised or chemically reacted to end up as a less toxic compound (it's only really poisonous to micro-organisms; it'd make humans sick, but apparently not live-threateningly so). A friend of mine who is a chemistry teacher said it would be possible, but comparatively hazardous to try to achieve that at home - I think I'm better of handing that stuff off to people who know what they're doing.

What would you guys recommend as the minimum setup of darkroom equipment that works well, and is cheap?
You need:
  • a tank with a couple of reels - to use your chemicals more efficiently, I'd not go too small on this stuff;
  • a changing bag or a room you can black out completely to load the reels and put them into the tank;
  • FORGOT: a means to get the film out of its canister - I use a lead catcher and a pair of scissors, but you can crack them open with a can opener; nothing like that is needed for medium format film, though scissors or a small pocket knife (or a small carpet knife) can come in handy - just use something you can safely put away in complete darkness;
  • a couple of measuring jugs (or rather, graduates) to measure your chemicals (I use a big and a small one - plus a pipette); take care to have enough precision available;
  • three jugs to mix and hold your developer, stop bath and fixer (I use an additional tray to hold my wash bath - you can also rinse your film under a running tab, but that means wasting an unnecessary amount of water);
  • a reliable thermometer;
  • at least two, maybe three bottles, at least the size of your tank, so that you can re-use the fixer and stop bath a couple of times, and maybe the developer too, depending on the product you choose.
  • a couple of canisters to receive the developer and fixer once they've been used - btw., there are biologically neutral developers available that you can pour down the sink along with the stop and wash baths (the latter is only mild soapy (alkaline) stuff, less dangerous than what comes out of your dish washer).
  • a means to clock your development steps - a timer is very helpful; there are also apps available for that purpose, but they mean that you have to handle your smartphone with traces of development chemicals on your hands - maybe not the best move ...
  • and finally, a couple of clamps and a place where to hang up your film to dry (the less dust-prone, the better - baths are preferable if they're well vented ...).
Prepare your chemicals beforehand and keep things organised - or it'll all turn pretty wild, and you may end up with noxious (well, unpleasant) chemicals all over the place, not to mention lost rolls ...

I use Paterson products for most of the more specific items mentioned above (tank, reels, changing bag, thermometer, timer), but there are of course other makers, and you can easily buy used as well (I found the timer for something like €5). Sets are usually good bargains.

A great resource is the Massive Dev Chart site. You'll find basically all information you need on common chemicals and procedures. I myself use less known stuff from ars-imago (in Italy and Switzerland) at the moment which is less well covered, but most products are very well documented.

N.B. I'm by no means an expert - there are probably people with loads more experience around here!

M.
 
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Ranger Rick

Regular
Mar 12, 2012
43
Tempe, AZ
Initial reviews for the CineStill TCS-1000 (temperature control system) and their B&W Monobath and C41 (soon available in dry form) look good. For color, the TCS looks like a good solution- will have to see how they look in wider distribution. I know there are more basic ways to control temps... :)
 

Lawrence A.

Hall of Famer
Nov 8, 2012
124
New Mexico
There's nothing complicated about developer, stop, fix. The hard part is getting yourself a dark spot to do it, (preferably with water, but that can wait until you are out of the fix and can go light if it has to). Loading a reel is hard for some people, but in all honesty, I'd go with good stainless reels. If they are not bent they load easily after a couple of practice runs, and it soon becomes automatic. When I've tried to load a reel in the light to show someone how, I have to close my eyes! The development times and temps here Massive Dev Chart Film Development, Film Developing Database are a good starting point, though you may eventually want to tweak them to your own liking. Just make sure you follow a consistent agitation routine.
 

siftu

Regular
Nov 10, 2018
33
Just curious... if you know, how do they dispose of the chemicals?
My local dump takes the fixer which is full of silver once used. They have a hazards section where they also take paint, fire extinguishers etc. The developer (Xtol) I use is fairly harmless and can be dumped down the drain, saying that I wouldn't put something like rodinal down the drain, and would also take that to the dump.
 

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