An interesting challenge came my way a week or so ago. A good friend of mine found a roll of JESSOPS colour negative film in his garage and brought it over for me to play with. How long it had been there he knew not, but a note inside the film canister suggested it had been in there for over twenty five years.
After giving the matter some thought and consulting with a couple of other film workers I decided to process the film in black and white chemicals. The logic being that even if the latent colour images had survived the years in the garage it was likely that the colours would have shifted somewhat; the consensus being that if there were images they would have a noticeable colour cast and I may we’ll end up converting these to black and white anyway.
The next decision was what developer. Colour negative film is generally developed for three or three and a quarter minutes in C41 chemistry but that information was of little use to me. I eventually opted for what is called stand development which involves immersing the film in highly diluted developer for an extended period leaving the tank to stand untouched for the duration. My developer of choice for stand development is Rodinal so the decision was made. Timings are less critical with Stand development as the very diluted developer is basically allowed to exhaust itself. It has a compensating effect in that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas, which has the effect of boosting shadow detail while preserving bright highlights.
Pre-wash in deionised water for 5 minutes
Develop in Rodinal, diluted 1+100, for 1 hour
Agitate initially for 30 seconds very slowly then two slow inversions at 30 minutes (which technically makes this semi-stand)
“Stop”, using deionised water for 1 minute
Fix using Ilford Rapid Fix for 8 minutes
So much for the theory. What about the reality? My plan, which I followed carefully, was based on my usual stand workflow with some tweaks to accommodate the unusual circumstances. I rarely use pre-wash but thought it might be helpful here to lubricate the film as it were. I usually use a Stop bath but plumped for water on the basis of keeping the chemicals used to the minimum. Finally, I fixed for 60% longer than usual.
To view the negatives are a bit on the dense side but there are definitely images!
Undeterred by the very dark negatives I turned on the scanner and set to work. It was not a fully exposed roll of 36 images and it had clearly been removed from the camera when only part-used. Most of the twenty-odd frames were out of focus shots of rally cars in a wooded area. A couple were taken indoors at a car show and one of these was pretty sharp so it was this one that I chose to scan fully.
So, there are images and my friend and I are delighted with how the negatives look. There remains one puzzle though. He does not recognise them and is adamant that he would never take a part exposed roll out of the camera!
I’m in the process of down-sizing my camera collection and am currently considering my small rangefinder style cameras. Today it was the turn of the Ricoh 35ZF.
Loading with a roll of Berlin Kino black and white film I hit the first key consideration: could I push the film beyond its box speed of 400? It was dull and overcast so rating the film at 800 would have been useful. The ISO selector goes from 64-800 so that was a tick in the box. In the event I chose to rate the film at box speed but it was nice to have the option.
The Ricoh 35 ZF is a zone focus, shutter priority (or fully manual) 35mm film camera from the mid-1970s. It has a fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens, shutter speeds from 1/500 to 1/8 (plus B), and an ISO range of 50-800. When shooting in an urban setting I have tended to set the shutter speed to 1/125th with the Ricoh, putting the aperture on ‘A’ and setting the focus pictogram depending on how close I expect to get to my subject.
The camera’s diminutive size means it fits in the palm of my hand so I carry it without a strap to make it even more discrete. It’s small size and unobtrusive shutter sound, a brief “click”, means I can shoot from the hip as I did for the opening shot here. Pre-setting the aperture and shutter speed and by using the zone focusing pictograms means I can also shoot quickly from the eye too as in the image above.
I won’t comment on the film beyond saying that it has its strengths and weaknesses both of which I tested today. For the very varied lighting situations I encountered today, indoors and outdoors, I would usually use HP5+ but that said there are some images on the roll that I’m very pleased with.
As for the camera, I think that it’s ideal for a walk-around, shoot-from-the-hip camera and I’ve had an enjoyable morning with it.
I’m 90% certain it’s staying in my collection too!
Another digital scan of a darkroom print. This one is a 10″x8″ print on Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper.
Taken with a Canon EOS 600 with a cheap and cheerful 28-105mm lens and the film was out of date Kodak 400TX, commercially developed, which had been in the camera since 2016 before I finished the roll recently. The print was a straight print with no dodging or burning.
As a brief follow-up to the Stand Development post, here is an image printed in the darkroom from one of those negatives.
A brief recap. The camera was a Nikon EM with a 50mm “E” lens. The film, Kodak 400TX (expired circa 2013) with this particular image being taken in early 2016, so the latent image has been languishing in the camera for over three years.
The print is grainier than I would prefer but as I already noted this was not the perfect situation for trying stand development. However, this is a straight print and despite the tonal differences between Zac and his background the whole print had a 17 second exposure under the enlarger and I have not needed to use contrast filters or any dodging and burning.
So, whilst it is unlikely that I shall be using stand development for 400 ISO films in the future I shall certainly be employing the technique from time to time and it’s a useful tool in my developing (pun intended) toolkit.
In the past I’ve always developed my 35mm black and white films using Ilford’s Ilfosol film developer, diluted at recommended ratios and developed for the recommended number of minutes. Such a little conformist! So, for my first film development in three years I decided to break with my own tradition and try stand development. No reason other than I wanted to try it out for myself having read a lot about it recently.
I was developing two rolls of Kodak 400TX which insofar as I can determine both expired in 2015. I’ve read mixed reports on Tri-X stand developed in Rodinal but decided to give it a whirl for myself. Nothing like mixing up all the variables!
My chosen workflow is an adaptation that has been based on the many recipes and slightly different approaches that I’ve been reading about.
Prewash in room temperature water 10 minutes
Rodinal diluted 1:100 at 20 degrees. Agitate using full inversions for 30 seconds, tap the tank twice on table top, leave for 60 minutes, agitating once at 30 minutes (which technically makes this semi-stand development)
Stop bath, 1 minute (I used Ilfostop diluted 1:19 as I had it to hand)
Fix using Ilford Rapid Fixer at 1:4 for 5 minutes (again it was what I had to hand)
Wash 10 minutes using the “Ilford method”. Fill the tank with water and invert 3 times and leave to stand for 1 minute, change the water and invert 6 times, and leave to stand for 1 minute, then change water and invert 12 times, leave to stand and finally you agitate 24 times before leaving to stand for another minute.
Final wash in room temperature water with a few drops of Adoflo II wetting agent
Hang to dry in bathroom – threatening Grandsons with dire consequences if they touch them!
And the verdict?
Seriously … this was tedious …
Seriously, compared to normal film development, this was tedious although to be fair, now I know what to expect I’d use the two thirty minute “breaks” to have lunch or catch up on my forum reading.
The two strips of negatives are currently drying but my first look at them was very positive. I have 72 decent-looking negatives and whilst I’ve not looked at them closely my first impressions are fairly good. They have a full range of tones, look clean and sharp and blemish free. They do appear to lack a little contrast although that is the price of getting a full range of tones I guess. Grain looks a little harsher than I expected from this film in the past but it must be remembered that they are out of date films, with one film having sat in the camera, part-exposed, for around four years and the negatives are definitely usable. And as I intimated earlier, not everyone recommends stand development of Kodak 400XT.
Will I use the process again? Yes – absolutely, although I’d like to try it with one of my better lenses, fresh film and also an emulsion that doesn’t get such mixed reviews for stand development. But first I’m looking forward to printing some of these in the cellar darkroom.