Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

C-41 Process and Me.

The General Cemetery. Wisbech. Olympus XA2 compact camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film from Poundland. Developed in Rollei Digibase C-41 chemistry.

For crying out loud.  I really do not like this C-41 process game, and it does not like me.  However, I’m sticking with it, but it is fighting me back.  Ok confession time.  First attempt.  Screwed up totally, although sort of salvaged a few sprocket hole images.  I’ve posted on that one before, so I wont go into detail.  Second attempt.  I accidentally poured some used bleacher into the fixer storage drum.  I’ve checked with the swots on an analog forum – the verdict is that it’ll gradually degrade and to use it ASAP.  I did however pretty well process a 24 exposure of 35mm, although it wasn’t a very good shoot.  I took it in my 50p Olympus XA2, and it included the above image, of the chapel of rest, in the disused General Cemetery in Wisbech.

Third attempt – just now.  I processed two 35mm films in the Paterson tank together.  Too early to say how they’ll turn out, I’ll see tomorrow.  However, I accidentally dropped 600 ml of precious C-41 developer to waste.  I wanted this stuff to last 6 – 8 months, but it isn’t looking good.

Maybe I’m just too much of a rush-about klutz to process my own C-41 colour film.  Too much worrying about temperature, too many jugs.  It’s certainly another learning curve.

Film Dark Room, Monochrome, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Off Colour

Anita and the Post Box. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS/B 80 mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus 120 film. Developed in ID11

I know I keep putting off the C-41 thing.  I’ve got the chemistry, but right now, I can’t be bothered with colour.  I guess that my excuse is that I’m still scavenging five litre drums, so that I can properly mix all of my processing solutions, and store them properly.  So for now, I keep on loading those Ilfords into cameras.  Not all Ilfords though – I loaded a Firstcall 400S in my Olympus XA2 35mm compact today.  A very cheap, budget true black and white 135 film from Firstcall Photography.  I’ll see how it performs.  It’s the cheapest such film that I’ve seen on the markets, and 36 exposure.  Prices like that could almost lure me away from using the C-41 Poundland film.  Thing is you see, I’m really enjoying B/W film photography.  I’m not sure now if I want to dirty the bleach waters of C-41 yet.

For anyone interested.  For B/W processing, I use Ilford process chemicals, including Ilford ID-11, which I last bought in powder form, to make up five litres of developer solution.  Far cheaper than buying smaller packs, and it packs nicely into a recycled five litre drum (that contained car windscreen wash previously – well washed out), that you can squeeze quite a lot of air out, as you use it up.  The developer was muck cheap from an online dealer – but to make it even cheaper, I dilute my ID-11 down to 1:3 with tap water just prior to processing a film, at 20C.  This of course greatly extends process time.  For Ilford HP5 Plus film (my favourite) with no push, at ISO 400, it’s twenty minutes, with 10 seconds of gentle inversions in every minute.  Prior to developing, I’ve also started to pre-soak with tap water at 20C for three minutes.  Stop and fix solutions are re-used several times.  I use an extended Ilford rinsing technique – progressive inversions, and four rinses – with a fifth rinse at the end, containing a wetting agent.  I’ve stopped using a squeegee again (tram lines!).  It’s a long process, but it’s very cheap, and it’s starting to give me the developed B/W film negatives that I want.

Reading the above, I realise that yet again, I’m posting on techie issues, rather more than creative issues.  I recently read an opinion by someone, that photographers tend to divide into two different types – those that are very knowledgeable about photographic technologies, and those that are more artistic and creative.  I’m afraid that I’m more of the former.  I mean, why would anyone give a toss about how I process my films?

Cheapskate News

On a recent visit to the local refuse / recycling centre (what use to be tips), I spotted a load of old leather camera cases in the “Small Electrical” skip.  Please forgive my tight-fistedness.  I rummaged in the skip and found an old Kodak Box Brownie 620.  Whenever I spot an old box camera, I quickly open it up, check for used film and for 620 spindles.  This one had an empty 620 spindle.  I’ve posted on this subject before, but briefly, you cannot buy 620 film anymore, except for grossly priced, grossly expired rolls.  However, 120 roll film is widely available, and in a darkroom or film changing bag, can be rolled off it’s new 120 spindle, and with care, onto an old 620 spindle (lifting the taped end to release the slack), bringing any 620 camera back to Life.

I asked the refuse workers if they can sell cameras.  The reply was no, as they are classed as “electrical” and could cause an issue with health & safety.   I don’t know where that 620 spindle in my pocket came from.

620 spindle next to a 120 spindle, and one of my Box Brownie cameras.

Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Lubitel 166B

Chaos Colour

Upwell Church and the Well Stream, Norfolk. Taken with Lomo Lubitel 166B camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film, developed in Rollei Digibase C-41 kit.

Well that was a cock up.  Ok, not all of it.  Let me start from the beginning.

The plan was to go crazy, and to load a Poundland 35mm film onto the 120 spindles of a Lomo Lubitel 166B camera, expose it in a day, then develop it using the Rollei Digibase C-41 chemistry kit.  My first ever attempt at C-41 colour film development.  A fun project.

The Lubitel 166B is a TLR (twin lens reflex) camera, built in the Lomo factory of the former USSR during the early 1980s.  It is designed to use 120 medium format roll film, exposing it in 12 frames of 6 cm by 6 cm squares.  It is an entirely manual camera, with no light meter.  They were mass produced in the former Soviet Union as a medium format camera for the masses – but with full exposure controls.  I bought mine at a car boot sale in Cambridgeshire for two quid (GBP £2.00).

I’ve already shot several rolls of Ilford b/w 120 roll film in it, and I’ve been pleased with it, although the Bronica SQ-A has replaced it as my number one medium format film camera.

I placed the camera in my film changing bag, with two empty 120 spindles, a small pair of scissors, and a 35mm cassette of Poundland film.  Later Lubitel’s have been fitted with masks for using 35 mm film – but the 166B was exclusively 120.  I rolled out the film from the 135 cassette, snipped it off, then rolled it back onto the middle of the 120 spindle.  Simple.  No masks or complications so far. I then fitted the spindle into the Lubitel, fed the end of the film into the second spindle, and then pulled it across – fitting the top spindle into the camera (all of this was done in the safe confines of my film changing bag).    I had already taped the red window over in case of light leak.  Shut the back, took out the Lubitel loaded with 35 mm.

In the field, I exposed the film using my usual Sunny F16 Rule of manual guess-timate settings.  I wound the film advance two full rotations between frames.  It turned out to be generous.  Next time I’ll use one and a half rotations, and should get an extra few exposures to my film.  I felt the 135 film release from the bottom spindle on my last exposure.

So far, it had gone very well.  The film had exposed quite well, although some wasted film between frames.  The Lubitel had performed well, and as expected, the whole width of the film, either side of sprocket holes had exposed, to give that sprocket holed

Leverington Church Spire. As above.

film look so beloved of the Lomo school of photography.

Then disaster struck.  I decided to rush into my first ever C-41 film development using the Rollei Digibase C-41 kit.  I did everything wrong.  I tried developing at a high temperature that I couldn’t sustain.  I mucked up solutions.  Last second realised that I hadn’t got a stopwatch in the house.  I dropped my beloved developing log book in water, losing my notes.  It turned into chaos.

I learned lessons, and I wont make certain mistakes again.  I’m not giving up with the C-41 colour film developing yet.  Indeed, I’m determined to do it better.  All of that lovely Poundland film demands it.  I was also quite pleased qith the Lubitel on 35mm.

More patience next time.  I’ll also try to C-41 develop at lower more sustainable temperatures.

This is partly what amateur photography should be about.  Challenges, learning, and improving.

Film Dark Room

Bad Man! Stop that Cross Processing!

Bad Man. Olympus Trip 35 camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 C-41 film cross processed with Ilford B/W chemistry.

Sorry about that.  In future I’ll try to develop my Poundland film, and any other C-41 films (quite fancy trying some 120 medium format C-41) in full glorious colour!  I ordered the mini Rollei Digibase C-41 developer 500 ml  kit in the evening.  It arrived at my door mid morning the next day!  Well done to FirstCall Photographic.  It’s so cute that I don’t want to break the seal.  I already wish that I’d gone for the five litre Super Maxi size kit, but this will do for a tester.  Now I need a bunch of used 35mm colour films!  I have nearly forty AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 36 exposure 200 films from Poundland in hoard.  I just need to find something to photo.  I’m afraid inspiration is a bit short lately.

I took a quick snap with a DSLR of my new Rollei C-41 kit just now, and slotted it into my previous post below.  It seemed more appropriate for that post.

Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Cheap C-41 colour negative film developing

My cute little Rollei Digibase C-41 kit. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR

What a plonker!  In my last post my maths went to hell.  It works out much cheaper than I initially calculated, to develop C41 film using the Rollei Digibase kits.  The larger the chemistry kit, the cheaper that it is.  However, I’ve just ordered a small kit for now, to test the water with.  With this 500 ml kit, if I successfully develop 10 films using it, it works our to £2.70 per film (including the cost of delivery).  If proven successful, then I’ll order the 5 litre kit next.  I’ve calculated, that for  the 100 films that it is supposed to develop (100-110), and including delivery of the kit, the cost per film would be 49p per film.  Yes, that’s GBP £0.49 for a 36 exposure 35 mm film.  If true, that is outstanding value!  On a 36 exposure AgfaPhoto Vista Plus film from Poundland, that adds up to a film price + developing cost of 4p per exposure on colour film.  Wow.

Ok, you are perfectly justified to argue that digital costs nothing per exposure, except for a few milliamps of power.  That’s perfectly true.  However, it misses the point that shooting with film is challenging and fun (as can be digital).  In addition, there are the negatives.  Stored in binders, they are future proof hardware copies of your photography.  Digital doesn’t offer that.  I’ve recently been reading that for this reason, negative film images are being sort for time capsules.  No issues with binary code or digital compression formats in the future, if you archive in film.

So, next adventure – developing colour negative film!

Film Dark Room, Rants and discussions

APS Film Cross Process

I had an APS film handed to me.  Found film that had apparently been used and then forgotten, only to be noticed by Nita while her father was redecorating his house.  I can’t really remember much about APS.  It dates to the late 90s, when Kodak heralded it as an advancement on 135 (35mm film).  It was promoted as a smart format, much in the way that Kodak Disk film was.  Looking rather like a 35mm film cassette, only with an oval cross section.  This one was Kodak Advantix Ultra (expired in 2001), Advanced Photo System (APS).

Nothing to lose, I attempted to crack it open in my film changing bag.  Bottle opener didn’t work, so cracked it open from the film exit using the handle end of a tea spoon.  Then went to spool it onto the developer reel.  Uh oh!

Now I understand.  APS was a smaller film than 35mm.  Enthusiasts didn’t like it.  Not only was it smaller, capturing less detail than even 35mm, but you couldn’t squeeze an extra frame or two on them (as with 35mm), and the Kodak processing units would pull them out for developing and scanning – then roll them back into the cassette, so no nice cut negatives were not returned with the prints – just the cassette.  Then it clicked with me.

All of this hype in the photography world today about sensor size.  When manufacturers started to produce DSLRs that were practical for the first time, the largest sensor that was also affordable, was comparable in size to an APS exposure frame, but smaller than a 35mm.  So they called this sensor size APS-C (Advanced Photo System – Classic) after the hated APS film format.  Later, they could manufacture sensors as large as a 35mm film exposure, but for now, at a price.  Up to now, this has become the choice of many professional photographers, but as prices start to drop, so more and more enthusiasts are entering the market for them.  The 35mm sensor size is marketed as “full frame”.  So, when they start to produce larger sensors, within the medium format film size range, at affordable prices (I know that they already manufacture medium format sensors for incredibly high prices), what are they going to call them, if 35mm is marketed as “full frame”?  Maybe “extra frame”?  The irony is that when 35mm film was originally introduced to the still photography world, some photographers regarded it as too small to be of serious use.

But getting back to my APS film in the changing bag.  It was too small for even the smallest setting on my adjustable Paterson spool.  So it was either try to proceed without spooling it, or give up on it and chuck it away.  I decided on the former.  I loosely dropped it into the tank, sealed it, and tried cross process developing in Ilford b/w chemicals.  I added extra developer, and agitated every 30 seconds.  As it turned out, I seriously over developed.  The digital scanner couldn’t even see the images they were so grainy and extreme.

Still, I could see enough to rediscover the forgotten images of Nita’s brother, to Lands End, Cornwall in 1999.

Found film. APS Kodak Advantix Ultra film, cross processed in Ilford.

Anyway, it was another journey of discovery.  In my first six months of home developing, I’ve now developed film in the formats of 120,620,127,135,and now APS.  Not bad, eh?

Film Dark Room, Monochrome, Olympus Trip 35, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

Couldn’t resist.

That Ilford ID-11 package to make five litres of ID-11 developer stock.  Cost me GBP £9.78 plus £3.50 post & packing.  Now I need to find a nice air tightish 5 L drum to store it in once I’ve made it up.  Still, for goodness sake, its only a few quid more than a 1 litre packet.  It means that I’ll be able to try developing with lower dilutions.  1:1 stock to water, or even pure stock.  That’ll cut down my developing time.  If I remember the table, pure stock instead of my usual 1:3 dilution, reduces developing time from twenty minutes to a mere six or seven minutes!  Ordered.

Also ordered three Ilford HP5 135 (35 mm) films.  Although I’m determined to as much as possible concentrate on medium format film photography, primarily home developed b&w with the Bronica SQ-A, I really would miss my little zone focus 35mm film compact cameras – the Olympus Trip 35, and even more so my highly pocketable Olympus XA2.  Unfortunately the dog got hold of my Olympus XA2 yesterday.  Looks OK, except with a few scratches on the body.  Kudos.  It has now also survived dog attack.  I do wonder if I should finally reward my little XA2 Wonder with a light seal replacement.  I haven’t seen them on sale on this side of the Pond, and importing a set costs a staggering seven quid plus.  Still, at some point, my lovely ickle fifty pence XA2 deserves a refurbish.  Here’s a recent home developed HP5 photograph from my Olympus Trip 35.  Wonder how the XA2 will compare?

Photography at the Fun Fair. Olympus Trip 35 camera. Ilford HP5 Plus (400) film, home developed in Microphen.

Two posts in a day – Woot!

Film Dark Room, Monochrome, Uncategorized, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Bronica on Trial – and transferring 120 film to a Paterson Tank

Nita pulling her Dad’s face. Zenza Bronica SQ-A medium format film SLR. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5+ film. Developed in ID-11.

Struggling to get time, and inspiration to fully road test my newly acquired Zenza Bronica SQ-A.  Manufactured in Japan during the 1980s, this is a medium format SLR system camera, fitted with a Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 stock lens, a waist height ground glass viewer (as usually found in TLR cameras), and a 120 film back.

Granddaughter Mia. As above photo.

I loaded it with an in-date roll of 120 Ilford HP5 Plus (ASA 400).  I found the Japanenglish instructions a little confusing on film loading, and I seem to have misloaded the film.  As a result, I only had seven exposures on the film.  The SQ-A exposes 120 film with twelve 6 x 6 square frames.  That’s about four times the area of a 35mm film frame, or of a “full frame” DSLR.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the best digital film scanner to exploit this at the moment.  I have an Epson Perfection V500 on my wishlist, but for now, I use an antiquated Epson Perfection 1200 for my medium format scans.  It scans only one frame at a time, and produces  measly maximum resolution of 2600 x 2600 pixels – barely doing justice for the 6 x 6 cm negs.  On the tight-fisted side though, my ancient Perfection 1200 only cost me £15 (plus postage) and is incredibly fast.

Hopefully I’ve loaded the film back correctly this time!  It certainly appears OK, and I’m on frame 8 of the second roll already.  The Bronica seems to be performing OK.  No signs of light leaks or any problems so far – except for a small screw that fell out and needed replacing.  Expect to see the Bronica SQ-A used as my primary camera on this blog in the future.

Transferring 120 film in a changing bag.

Transferring 120 film for developing in a Paterson tank. Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

I did mention in my previous post that I’ve finally found a method of safely transferring 120 film onto a Paterson tank spool, in a changing bag.

Briefly, this is it:

1) Place the exposed and sealed film, with the Paterson tank, funnel top, auto load reel/spool (set to the 120 size), and spindle, into the changing bag, zip and seal.  A changing bag, for those who do not know, is an alternative to a dark room, for handling films in complete darkness before developing.  It is made to be light proof, but allows you to place your hands inside through double elasticated ports.  Cheap and portable, but compared to a dedicated light proof darkroom, it can be cramped to unroll film in without contact.

2) I then CAREFULLY unravel the paper backing until I detect (slowly here) the free end of the film starting to unravel.  I then CAREFULLY unravel the film, allowing it to gently roll up, free of the paper backing. Only touching the edges, and certainly not the inside of the film.

3) When I reach the end of the film at the end of the tape, I peel away the paper backing, then carefully remove any free tape.  I don’t try to clean all of the tape away – just the free overhang, as it tightly adheres to the film itself.  I stick any sticky tape that I peeled off onto the paper backing (to avoid it falling into the tank), then scrunch it up (making sure first that I’m scrunching up the paper backing NOT the film itself!), and push it down out of the way in the corner of the changing bag under the Paterson tank.

4)  I then feed the film carefully into the auto load reel inserts.  If anyone hasn’t done this before, then practicing first with a spoiled film in light, outside of the changing bag, is essential.  Only that way can you get to recognise where on the reel that the film feeds in.  I pull it  past the locking pins (as long as you rip any free hanging sticky tape off, it will still feed past the locking pins with a surface of sticky tape on the back), back onto the reel some 3 – 4 cm.

It’s at this point that I kept having trouble, until I worked out my method.  If you simply try to rock on the film as per instructions, the free film coils too tight, and pulls out of the tracks of the reel.  Or it catches the surface of the bag and knocks out of line.  You don’t have free space in the bag to simply pull out a strip of film, and anyway, it just snaps back into a coil.  Each time, I had to start again, becoming more and more tense, and roughly handling of the film would damage it – fingertips catching the exposed surface, or creasing the film.  Other’s make it look so simple on Youtube.  Maybe they used more supple brands of film.  One put his finger inside to coil of film – but you have to be dexterous to still rock the film on, and keep your finger straight – also, I’d fear of damaging the exposed surfaces.  So, here is my method:

5) Once you have that first three or four cm past the locking pins on the auto load reel, GENTLY wrap the free film around the outside of the reel.  Then just touching the outsides of the reel (not the edge where you might catch and stop film from moving onto the spool), carefully rock the remainder of the film on.  Job done, no contact, no creasing.  Phew!

All that’s left is to place the reel on it’s spindle, then place it (the spindle to correct way up with the flange at the bottom) inside the tank, and to carefully screw on the funnel top.  To avoid cross threading unevenly, I reverse screw it slightly first, then clockwise screw – making sure that it snaps shut as it should.  Job done, it can come out of the bag, and I can now add developing chems.

Film Dark Room

Film Roll #15

Self Developing film photography. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR and Sont AF DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Film roll #15 was a 135 format 36 exposure Ilford HP5 Plus, that Anita exposed in her Pentax P30 35mm SLR camera. Now I can say … with all certainty … contrary to popular belief, 35mm is easier to transfer to the spool of a Paterson developing tank than is 120 roll film.  You just need to either a) leave the tail out of the cassette when rolling back, or b) put a pen knife in the bag to split the light sealed 135 cassette open, AND to make sure you zip in a pair of scissors in the bag.  Then it’s pretty easy.  Snip off the tail and trim the leading corners.  Feed it on the spool.  Then just pull out several centimeters at a time, and reel it on.  Snip the end off with the scissors.

In contrast, the 120 can be a horror.  A real arse.  When I finally find the best method, I’ll blog it.

Film Dark Room

From the Dark Room Log

Focus on Expired Film. Lubitel 166B camera. Medium format 120 film. Ten year expired (2003) Ilford FP4+ 125 film. Developed in Microphen.

One month ago, I was working up towards developing my first photographic film.  Now I’ve developed thirteen of them.  I’ve developed four formats:

  • 120 medium format
  • 620 medium format
  • 127 medium format
  • 135 or 35mm

I’ve developed four brands/types of film:

  • Ilford HP5+ 400
  • Ilford FP4+ 125
  • Kodak Verichrome Pan
  • Foma Fomapan Classic 100

Including 50 year old found film and 10 year expired film.

In two developers:

  • Ilford ID-11
  • Ilford Microphen

Exposed in six cameras:

  • Lubitel 166B TLR
  • Agfa Isolette I folder
  • Coronet No2 Portrait Box
  • Kodak Brownie Flash III Box
  • Kodak Brownie A44
  • Olympus Trip 35 zone focus

That’s not bad for my first month learning to develop is it?