Some notes on film processing. A good place to start in my mind are these documents for Kodak and Ilford:
- How to Process and Print Black-and-White Film - Kodak AJ-3
- Processing Your First Black & White Film - Ilford
I also highly recommend using the Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji film and developer documents as starting points for development times. There’s a lot of hearsay out there, and much have has reached places the like the Massive Dev Chart. The Massive Dev Chart is a wonderful resource for obscure film and developer combinations, but if you are developing something ‘normal’ like Tri-X in D-76 at a standard speed, Kodak probably has a better starting point for you.
Tanks and Reels #
I use generic stainless steel tanks from B&H Photo or Freestyle Photo. I don’t use generic reels though. Hewes professional reels are the best 35mm reels. They make loading the film a breeze. They are expensive, but they last forever and sometimes you can get the used for cheap.
I follow Kodak’s recommendations for agitation. Here is what the recommend for invertible small tanks from their document AJ-3:
Tap tank on work surface to dislodge air bubbles. Provide 5 to 7 inversion cycles in 5 seconds, i.e., extend your arm and twist your wrist 180°.
I also do a slight rotation of the tank with each agitation. This helps prevent the developer from just sloshing back and forth.
Almost all of my developing is done with XTOL. I do have some Diafine lying around, but I rarely use it. Up until now, I always use it 1:1, though at some point I want to run some tests with it at higher dilutions.
I mix up 5 liters at a time with distilled water and then pour it into .5 L water bottles. There are two nice things about doing this. The first is that you never have more than .5 L of XTOL sitting around oxidating due to a half empty bottle. At 1:1 dilutions, a bottle does about 4 rolls of film. Secondly, your developer is in conveniently sized bottles—no trying to manhandle a gallon sized glass jar and pouring too much out. Dasani water bottles seem relatively robust, so I bought a case of it just for the bottles. Be sure to label them appropriately.
Fixing and Washing #
I use Ilford Rapid Fixer. I mix it up 1:4, about 1.5 L of it, which is good for 36 rolls. Every roll of T-grain film I put through it counts as 2 rolls - they also get fixed for longer.
Tri-X does have a slight purplish tint to the base, but its clear and even. Don’t kill yourself trying to get that out. When I process T-MAX P3200TMZ, which is notorious for having a pink color to it, it comes out gray, so my fix and wash procedure is robust enough for Tri-X. I use Ilford Wash Aid even though you really don’t need to, but it can’t hurt. My wash cycle is as follows:
- Fill tank with water and agitate for 30 seconds.
- Wash with Wash Aid, mixed 1:4, for two minutes with heavy agitation, 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.
- Fill tank and give 25 inversions.
- Fill tank and give 30 inversions.
- Fill tank and give 35 inversions.
- Fill tanks with Photo-flo solution (see below), invert 5 times, give it a tap and let it sit for 30 seconds.
- Hang film to dry and pour Photo-flo solution on negative strips from the top.
I use Photo-flo 200 for my post-washing surfactant.
When my tap water dries it leaves this sticky oily residue everywhere. I found that a final rinse in distilled water and Photo-Flo wasn’t enough, and that I had to do my washing (Ilford style) with all distilled water. I could probably do tap water for the first wash or two then switch over, but distilled water is cheap and its working. In my previous apartment, I did NOT have to do this—tap water all the way except for the last one with Photo-Flo.
As far as Photo-Flo goes, I have a little eye dropper that I use, and I put in 1 drop per ounce of wash water. I use stainless tanks and reels which are 8 oz per roll, so for the two reel tank, I put in 16 drops in 16 oz of water. I’ve tried Kodak’s dilutions, which was a hair too much all the way down to no Photo-Flo, and this amount works the best for me. I think my dropper is 10 drops/ml (roughly) so this works out to .1ml Photo-Flo / 29.7 ml water, which is… a dilution of about 1:300. The Photo-Flo I have states 1:200 dilution, so I’m using less, but not half as much, about 2/3’s as much.