Has anyone tried Lab-Box, a daylight film developer tank?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by terrymc, Aug 14, 2019.

  1. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... I never go sailing.
    You can't get up to ramming
  2. But this Lab-Box gizmo is aimed at making film photography more about simply 'pushing a button' and taking away a stage that requires some degree of commitment and skill.
  3. Using the Kodak wooden box from 1920 would seem to add some extra challenge, and also some thoughts about photography 100 years ago.

    One part of using film is learning the rules for proper exposure, which are different from digital.

    As well as I know, Super 8 is coming back for use in film schools, so students can learn to think film.
    (I am not sure at all how fast Hollywood is going digital.)

    Even easier than Lab-Box is taking it to a professional lab, which I usually do for color film.
    I have done color, I know how to do it, but it is enough work, and the chemistry costs enough, and
    I don't do it all that often, that I have someone else do it.

    If Lab-Box cost $10, then I might buy one. Maybe it would be fun to try once.

    Last weekend, we went to a state park, not so close. I brought a DSLR, a Brownie 2-F with PXP120,
    and an FE2 with Ektachrome. (In the latter case, I had a partial roll from a camera whose shutter locked-up
    partway through the roll.) I took some pictures with both film cameras, and none with the DSLR.
  4. For some film enthusiast wanted to develop film at home the Lab Box might seem like a good idea, but even at the high price many might use it a few times and then put it away. Rather like the many telescopes purchased in 1986 to view Halley's Comet.
    Maybe I'm missing something, though, because it's difficult for someone like me who's been developing film since age 10 to understand the attraction of the Lab Box. In many areas the problem isn't learning how to use it, but obtaining chemicals.
    ] likes this.
  5. I think it's difficult for you to understand precisely because you've been doing it since age 10. For somebody like my whose only been doing it a few years, the initial struggles with getting film on a reel in a changing bag just relying on my sense of touch is fresh in my mind.

    I've gotten good enough at it now that Lab-Box doesn't have any appeal, but it might have a few years ago. In addition to the cost of a changing bag and a regular tank/reels, you've got to find a sacrificial roll of film. In my case both 35mm and 120. So that might cost $50 or more (changing bag, patterson tank, film). Still a whole lot cheaper than lab-box, but not free.
  6. I started when I was 9, when we returned from a trip to Canada, including Butchart Gardens.

    While visiting the gardens, I happened to notice an exposed roll of VP620 in a trash can, which
    I picked up. So, that was my first roll, just in case it didn't work.

    This was my first try with a Yankee II tank.

    I think I did have a practice roll besides that, which I remember because it was pink.

    It was a year later, after I learned from my grandfather how to load a Nikor tank, that I inherited
    much of his darkroom equipment, including the Nikor tank and a changing bag.

    There are enough people closing down home darkrooms and giving away supplies, that it isn't
    hard to find free equipment. The changing bag I have now was about $8, mailed from China.

    The difficulty of loading plastic reels depends a lot on humidity!
  7. AJG


    You do have a point about the difficulties of loading film onto a reel--I teach a beginning B&W film class at a community college and the thing my students have the hardest time with is learning how to load film onto reels. With our budget we're not about to invest in the number of Lab-Boxes we would need along with the additional chemistry we would use with them, though, particularly since virtually all of our students learn how to successfully load steel reels and tanks.
  8. Do you use the loading device (curved piece of metal that curves the film just
    the right amount) when teaching?

    When I learned from my grandfather 51 years ago, he told me that he used it
    the first few times, then found it better not to use it. I then used it the first
    few times, and found that I liked it better without it.

    Without using it, you get more feel for how the film is going into the slots,
    and especially when it isn't. (Going into the wrong layer, and possibly
    touching other parts of the roll.)

    Otherwise, it isn't all that hard to do, except that you do it in the dark.
    (And, unlike just about everything else, there isn't an app for it.)
  9. My first tank and reel was $5.00 set that I found on craigslist. The tank was fine but the reel had one of those awful spring clips. Had a I been less determined, using that reel might have turned me off to processing my own film completely.

    Eventually I got a decent Hewes reel on Ebay that worked well. When I started with medium format I purchased a two-reel Patterson tank that will let you process two 35mm rolls or a single 120 roll.

    So while you can find used dark room stuff cheap, it's not necessarily what you're looking for and not necessarily good.
  10. I NEVER use the center clips.
    Even on the good Nikor reels, if you put the film in the clip off-center, you can buckle the film.
    I just slide the end on the film into the center and start winding.

    The Hewes method of hooking onto the sprocket holes for 35mm film, is simpler and better than the clip.
    But there is no sprocket hole for 120 film, so we are back to clip or not clip, and I again do not use the clip.
  11. Even with the Paterson tanks, the students had to practice loading it in daylight.
    To paraphrase Murphy,

    If a student can make a mistake, a mistake WILL be made.

    So I consider a sacrificial roll of film, the CHEAPEST you can find, mandatory for ANY method used.
    An outdated roll of film might be $1 or less, or even free if really outdated.
    If you are getting a used darkroom setup, the seller might even throw in a few rolls of old film.​
  12. It surprises me what people want for expired film but I have gotten a bunch at a garage sale for very little money so it can be done.

    Finding stuff like good used changing bags and reels might require some patience. Just a quick search of the craigslist adds in my area show stuff like timers, trays, and other miscellaneous darkroom stuff, along with several enlargers, but no reels or tanks. I know that they pop up now and then.
  13. I believe my Yankee II came with a plastic strip the size of a roll of film to practice,
    except for the stickyness of damp (humid days or sweaty hands) film.

    Otherwise, there are people who collect old film, so sometimes
    the price goes up. Especially for rare or unusual films.

    Black and white film are usually usable many years, even decades, after the date.

    Color films don't last as long, so might be better choices for practice film.
  14. I never had a 35mm stainless reel with a clip, but my 120 reel has one.

    The first time I tried it, I didn't use the clip. During processing, the film started to
    move toward the center, so now I use the clip. The first one wasn't especially
    important, just practice and fun, but I think one frame went into the center.
    (I suspect older film with a lot of curl. That might matter.)

    I also have a plastic reel with a sharp hood at the center, so you can use either
    the traditional (outside in) loading, or like stainless reels, inside out. I bought
    that one for 116, but now have a stainless 116 reel.
  15. AJG


    We don't have or use the curved loading aid with stainless steel reels, but we have students practice with old film first in room light, then with their eyes closed before they actually try to load film that they shot. Most get it on the first try, the rest by the second or third.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  16. I use a BIG changing bag with something in the bag (like a cardboard box) to hold it up.
    The more air you have in the bag the less your hands get sticky.
    And you have to work FAST, or your hands and arm start to sweat in the bag.
    A fan blowing on you may help to not sweat.

    I made the mistake of buying a small bag for 35mm.
    And that was fine, except for the smaller volume of air in the small bag.
  17. Because a changing bag HAS TO BE LIGHT TIGHT, I don't buy them used. Especially since they are relatively inexpensive.

    I got my extra SS reels and tanks from the used section of a photo shop, now closed. I've also seen them for sale at photo fairs/shows.
    The problem with used reels is that if they were dropped, they could be bent, and a bent SS reel can be a PiA to load. So you have to check very carefully to verify that they are not bent.
    I have a couple of the Honeywell Nikor 4x5 tanks, from the photo fair. :)
  18. The first bag I had, from my grandfather, was pretty big.

    The second, which I should still have except forget where is, is pretty small.
    (Birthday present many years ago.)

    The one I have now is medium sized. After I put my arms in, I open the seal around the
    arm holes and let the weight of the tank and such pull air in. It is a pretty nice bag,
    with two arm seals. I only remember one on my other bags, but maybe they have two.

    Mostly it isn't so hot here, but once it was a hot summer day when I learned not
    to do it on a hot summer day.
  19. The first one I had, used rubber for the light proof stuff, (along with black cloth), but the rubber got
    hard and dry after some years. If it is still flexible enough, I probably don't worry too much about it.

    All changing bags I know of, use two layers of black materials, though only one with plastic or rubber
    coating. The first two bags I had, you could see in the space between the two bags.
    I just noticed on my current bag that you can't do that. That makes it harder to test the
    light tightness.

    But also, the suggestion above about used darkroom equipment was mostly for tanks, trays,
    safelights, timers, and such. My main enlarger I got free, except that the condenser lenses
    were missing. Buying used ones on eBay fixed that for about $10. I also have a color enlarger
    that I got free, but haven't tried testing at all.
  20. AJG


    I've owned and used a Photoflex Changing Room for many years--first for dealing with loading and unloading sheet film on location shoots and more recently for loading developing tanks. In addition to being fairly large it also has a metal frame that holds the bag off your hands when you are loading reels or sheet film holders. This helps a lot with the problem of sweating hands, although it will still get warm if you're in there for a long time.
    I agree with you about used reels--they are frequently bent and will never load properly.

Share This Page