About to develop my first B&W film, need advice.

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by pavelkupcik, Jan 8, 2021.

  1. I’m about to do my first B&W film development and would appreciate any feedback to the various random questions and topics below.

    I will be developing 120 TMAX 400 and 3200 Ilford film. I will develop TMAX first, scan it, inspect and then proceed to the Ilford. I will be using Nikor SS tank and reel, TMAX developer. Also have Kodak chemistry for stop bath, fixer, hypo clearing agent, final washing agent.

    The tank volume is 34oz/1L and takes two 120 reels, I plan on loading only one film, inserting the second reel as a spacer. This still leaves about 1.5” of empty space at the top of the tank. I will likely use a piece of PVC pipe cut to size to eliminate this additional 1.5” of potential reel travel. Is that a good idea or should I not worry about the 1.5” travel space? Is PVC plumping pipe ok as a spacer?

    I’ll put the reel with the film at the bottom. I measured time to fill the full tank at 15 seconds, time to empty 10 seconds. I will start developing timer about 8 seconds after I start pouring it in, this should be enough time to cover the bottom reel with film. I will start pouring out the developer 10 seconds before the time is up for developer.

    I plan on diluting the TMAX developer to 1:7 (instead of default 1:4) to increase development time to 8.25min at 75F for TMAX 400 to give myself some extra development time to minimize timing errors. I plan on loading only 1 film into the two reel tank and filling it up with the 1:7 developer to the top. I measured the tank can hold 34oz/1L. Should I fill it all the way to the top or leave a little bit of empty space, say ½ inch? I'm not comfortable at this point loading only half the tank to cover only the bottom reel.

    I plan on reusing the TMAX 1:7 1litre working solution for my second film (Ilford 3200). Per Kodak, at 1:4 dilution, 1 litre of working solution can be used for up to 4 films with no compensation. Since I’m diluting to 1:7, I approximate that I should be ok to use it for 2 films developed separately with no compensation. Development of second film will occur within 24 hours.

    Any recommendation on how long to store TMAX working solution before it should be discarded? Storing would be in a full dark bottle with no air in a dark cool place? Kodak says 1 month. Does it differ based on dilution, e.g. 1:4 vs 1:7?

    I won’t be doing any pushing, pulling, compensating, standing dev, etc. Just a normal development based on film ISO, film manufacturer recommended times, dilutions and agitation recommendations. I’ll start with that before I start experimenting/adjusting based on results.

    Do I need to worry about having air in a bottle storing stop bath and fixer working solution? For developer the advice is to eliminate air, how about stop bath and fixer? I plan on reusing 1 liter of working solution for stop bath and fixer until they're exhausted. Stop bath by color, fixer by testing it.

    Tap water temperature this time of the year is 65F. I plan on using distilled water for developer, stop bath, fixer and final wash with washing agent. I’ll warm up these working solutions to 75F. Do I need to worry about tap water temperature used for the final washing, after fixing and using hypo clearing agent? Tap water is 65F, working solutions will be at 75F.

    I will hang the film in a pre-steamed shower after steam settles.

    I bought a squeegee, but will not use it first time around. I’ll just run the film between my fingers to remove any sitting water on the film while it’s hanging. I’ll be wearing protective gloves, will rinse my fingers/gloves first in the washing aid solution.

    I’ll practice loading the reel beforehand. I’ll be loading the reel in a light sealed bathroom – will seal the door frame by hanging a thick blanket over it. Thoughts?

    I will practice the entire development process end to end, including controlling temperatures.

    Thank you.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2021
  2. OK – You are being overly cautious. Don’t worry about the pour time. The 8 minutes + developing time allows adequate time to cancel out timing irregularities. In other words, pour time is only a worry when the wet-time is super short.

    Don’t worry about protecting any of the fluids from contact with the air during the processing cycle. All of the fluids of the process contain agents that retard aerial oxidation plus goodies that neutralize staining agents that result from aerial oxidation. Do pay attention to aerial oxidation when storing fluids between sessions. Plastic bottles that squeeze are best as you can squeeze to expel trapped air. Other techniques, add marbles to displace air. Another technique is adding a floating lid or floating stars made for this purpose.

    It is a good idea to keep all fluids of the process the same temperature. Pictorial film is made by applying many coats of emulsion and other over and under coats. Each likely will expand or contract at different rates. This can lead to excessive curling or if the temperature differences are extreme, the emulsion can crack like broken glass (reticulation). So we try and keep all fluids, including water rinse / wash ± 2° F.

    Many people like to use distilled water when mixing chemicals. I personally use tap water because I know that prepared formulas contain extra chemicals to combat tap water contaminates. Besides, distilled water in “hungry water” and it can over react, sometimes.

    As to drying: Film is made from gelatin. This stuff is the binder (glue) that holds the emulsion to the transparent film. Gelatin swells when wet and shrinks as it dries. We wash or otherwise purge the finished film of all residual chemicals. The last step is a wetting agent. This breaks up the surface tension of water thus mitigating its tendency to form water droplets. I squeegee to make sure no droplets remain. If they are present, they retard drying in that area. This causes microscopic differences in film thickness. The result is water-spots. Some think they are due to residual minerals however, most are thickness differences that are irreversible.

    Best advice, your first rolls should be test rolls void of valuable content. Practice makes perfect.
  3. I restarted developing and printing film over a year ago after some decades, and [just my experience of course], dreaded another encounter with those SS tanks and the seemingly impossible threading required for success.
    Starting again now with white hair, I found these Paterson plastic tanks with plastic reels included - A miracle of design and fail proof. Everything is silly expensive regarding film, but for me these were worth it.

    Good Luck!

    developing tank | B&H Photo Video
  4. Yeah, they'll load great the first 2 or 3 times before they start to stick and have you tearing your hair out.

    Jobo plastic spirals are better, but for reliability you can't beat stainless steel. It'll load in hot, cold, dry or humid conditions, even if the spirals aren't completely dry, and doesn't care how sweaty your hands get in the changing bag.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  5. I can't tear my hair out, not with my hands stuck in the #*@€& changing bag!
    bgelfand and Charles_Webster like this.
  6. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I developed hundreds of rolls of film with Paterson tanks and never had a problem. I would just rinse them out after use and allow them to dry before reuse.
    bgelfand likes this.
  7. Thank you everyone for your advice. I developed my first roll last night - TMAX400. Everything went smoothly, film looks great on my light table, now need to scan it. I ended up developing at 72F as that was the ambient temperature and also measured temperature of the liquids - that way all the containers and liquids didn't need any adjustment and stayed constant throughout the process. I did take a risk, maybe a big risk, and didn't adjust the temperature of the tap water when washing. Unfortunately the tap water ended up being much colder at midnight - 50F, then during the day 65F. So all the processing was at 72F, except the tap water washing at 50F. Film seems fine though, or I don't have the expertise to tell that it's not.
    The screenshot here shows the notes I took:

    2021-01-09 Film Dev Procedure.JPG
  8. Any good design can be defeated through poor maintenance or a refusal to simply wash up.
  9. Tradition is to time from starting to pour one solution to starting to pour the next one.

    As above, though, with 8 mintues you don't have to be that close.
    I only worry about that for color processing, especially as the C-41 developer is 3:15.

    Best not to go from 75F to 65F or 50F.

    What I usually do is fill the tank with water from a bottle stored near processing chemicals,
    and so is at the same temperature. I do try to get the sink temperature at least slightly
    close, but as the cold water mixes and dilutes the warm water in the tank, the change will
    be somewhat slower, probably slow enough.

    Also, at 50F it takes longer, as the diffusion is slower.

    It is the sudden change that can cause problems.

    For TMax 3200 and Ilford 3200 I recommend fresh, as in not previously used, developer.
    I note that you say you aren't pushing, but for both those films at 3200, they are actually pushed.

    Actually, you are probably fine at 3200, but the fun part of those films is that there are
    times for 6400, 12500, and 25000, and for those you definitely want fresh chemistry.

    Otherwise, there is a time increase for successive rolls as the developer gets weaker.

    Most developers turn brown as the oxidize, a sign that you have stored it too long.
    It is not a guaranteed test, and they actually work just fine at tan or other light colors.
  10. So last night I developed one 120 roll of Delta 3200 and it didn't go so well. Need help figuring out what went wrong. To me it looks like it wasn't developed long enough or the developer was exhausted. Maybe I also didn't fix long enough?
    When I compare my attempt to a different film from last year developed in a lab, it's obvious that my role from last night is way off. The film base itself isn't clear, it's fairly gray with some magenta in it (I think). I reused 1L of TMAX developer at 1:4 that I used the previous day for one 120 roll of TMAX400 film. I followed Ilford's instructions and developed for 8.5min at 68F. I followed Ilford's agitation instructions for 10s every minute. I changed my final washing routine to use prestored tap water to keep the temperature consistent with the developer, instead of using running very cold water. Here's a scan with my DSLR of the negative. I'm also posting my detailed developing tests.
    02 copy-2.jpeg 2021-01-10 Film Dev Procedure for Delta 3200.JPG
  11. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

  12. Just a reminder, you can try too hard to be precise. There's a lot of leeway here (and even more if you are scanning in the negatives after chemical development).
    robert_bowring likes this.
  13. I just took a clipping from the processed Delta 3200 film and tried to refix it with fresh fixer, both stock solution and working solution and it didn’t clear any further. Also tested the fixer with unprocessed TMAX film clip. I assume this means it wasn’t fixing error?
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
  14. That's normal with Delta 3200 for three reasons:
    1. Faster film has more base fog.
    2. The film base is deliberately tinted grey to reduce light-piping from fogging the film.
    3. Faster film needs a denser anti-halation backing, which is often difficult to wash out - especially in cooler water.

    None of these things makes the slightest difference to a scanned or wet-printed image.

    So unless you really need the speed it's best to stick to 400 ISO film. The grain of medium format Delta 3200 reduces its quality to that of a 400 ISO film in 35mm format - or worse.

    If you really need that sort of speed, then almost any digital camera is a better choice.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
  15. The only one you need to measure with a syringe is the developer.

    If you are 10% or 20% off for the stop bath, that is close enough.

    For fixer, 10% is also probably close enough, more is probably better than less.

    Syringe is good for developer. I also have a 10ml graduated cylinder with 0.2ml lines.

    If I remember 1L should be enough for 12 rolls, with extra time for later rolls.
    So only 2nd roll isn't so bad. Even so, with Delta 3200 you really want to be sure
    it develops enough. It is way too easy to underdevelop, and hard to overdo it.

    Did you really expose for 3200? Not 4000 or 6000 or 10000?

    The actual ISO value for this is about 1000 so it is pushed to 3200, though
    it is designed to do that. It might also need more fixing that other films.

    And hexagonal grain films also need more fixing than cubic grain films.

    The pink color is sensitizing dye, which also comes out in the fixer.
    A little pink in the end isn't bad, though.
  16. Good design?

    Life's too short to wait a week for a plastic reel to dry properly - even if rinsed in distilled water. Or to apply silicone furniture polish to it when it starts to get sticky. When a small amount of acquired skill and a stainless tank makes all of that unnecessary.

    Plus scrubbing away at a plastic tank after every use creates micro-scratches that just increase its friction.
  17. When you say it's easy to underdevelop, how would I make sure it develops enough? Do I just do some more tests, e.g. shoot new film and develop with longer development time, higher temp, etc? How much longer time?

    I'm certain I exposed at box speed 3200 and when I had enough shutter speed room I might have even slightly overexposed.

    Here's a picture comparing my inhouse developed negative with one I got from a lab. Both are Delta 3200, both are developed in TMAX developer. Top one by a commercial lab, bottom one by me. What I don't understand is the difference in the film base color. The one developed by lab is much lighter. What can cause that or is that normal? Also as I mentioned in earlier post, I tried to refix a clip of the bottom film and it didn't make any difference. Could my Kodafix stock solution be bad - I just purchased a new bottle, not sure if it's common that it's bad already when purchased. You can also clearly see the difference in contrast and density.

  18. And just to add, both samples of Delta 3200 were from the same purchase batch of film. It's just that the bottom one sat in a freezer for a year waiting to be shot. After it was shot I had it in a fridge for about 3 weeks before I developed it yesterday.
  19. AJG


    The faster (more sensitive) a film is the more likely it is to develop fog with increasing age. Refrigerators and freezers don't block background radiation that can fog film. How long was it between when the commercially developed roll was exposed and developed and the recent roll that you developed?
    kmac likes this.
  20. One year in a freezer for the second role since the first role was developed. Expiration was March 2021. I have one or two more rolls still in a freezer, any recommendation on how to process it differently or test it?

    Edit: It has been more than a year, it was close to 2 years. First film was shot April 2019. Second film was shot December 2020.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021

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