Developing Film 4a – Prep


This is the first installment of a two-part update of an earlier post describing my 35mm film developing process.

In my continuing quest to standardize and simplify my 35mm film photography, and to save some money in the process, I have settled on just three materials/chemicals for developing my film: Rodinal developer, Ilford Rapid Fixer and distilled water.

Rodinal, the oldest film developer in current production, was patented by Dr. Momme Andresen in 1891. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I am in the former camp. When I buy a new 500 ml bottle of Rodinal I divide it into four 125 ml amber glass bottles, three filled to the absolute top and tightly capped. The fourth “working” bottle is also tightly capped and is stored with my other two working materials/chemicals.

CAUTION! I wear nitrile gloves and eye protection when handling undiluted Rodinal. It contains sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in drain cleaner, and could cause injury if mishandled.

Any non-hardening rapid fixer from a reputable manufacturer will work fine. I use Ilford Rapid Fixer. I mix 250ml of the fixer concentrate with 750ml of distilled water and put it in a tightly capped 1 liter glass bottle. I put a strip of blue masking tape on the bottle and write the date on it. I store this bottle of “working” fixer solution with my other two working materials/chemicals.

The only water I use for processing film is distilled water. When using distilled water for any chemical process it is important that the label says it is “steam distilled,” not just “suitable for applications where distilled water is specified.” The later is not actually distilled, but just filtered. It’s fine for an electric iron but there is no telling what is actually in it. I store two 1 gallon jugs of distilled water with my two other working materials/chemicals. 

I don’t have the patience to fool around with the temperature of my film developing chemicals. One of many good features of Rodinal is that it works well over a range of temperatures. All I do for temperature control is store my working Rodinal, fixer solution and distilled water where the average temperature is no lower than 68°F or higher than 75°F. In the winter that is on the shelf over the refrigerator. In the summer it is on the floor of the pantry against the north wall of the house. 

When it’s time to develop a roll of film I get out the Rodinal, fixer solution and distilled water along with my developing kit in a retired Kodak Duraflex developing tray and I’m good to go. 


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