Introducing the LAB-BOX – daylight loading and film development from ars-imago

Last Monday, I had the chance to spend some time with ars imagofrom Giorgio Di Noto to talk about their new daylight film development system, the LAB-BOX, which just opened on Kickstarter (12pm EST, February 21, 2017).

If you are familiar with ars imago and follow them on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen teasers left, right and center over the past few months.

The idea is simple, a self-contained, modular daylight loading and film developing system without a single darkroom or changing bag in sight. Maybe this video will help describe it a bit better:

I was one of the lucky ones outside of the company to get a few more details ahead of the Kickstarter campaign launch and I’m here to share what I learned with you.

Here we are:

EMULSIVE: So, Giorgio… what is it?

LAB-BOX

George: We started this project two years ago. For people who don’t know ars imago, we are an analog photography company with stores in Switzerland and Italy and also have an online store where people can buy films, supplies and darkroom accessories. We are passionate about cinema.

Thanks to our physical stores, we are in contact with people who shoot films every day. Every day we hear what movie photographers want, do, buy. We listen to their stories and learn what interests them. We have a feeling of the analog world.

A lot of young people are starting to film for the first time and so right now, with the growth of analog photography, we think that producing something, a tool that simplifies the process and allows anyone to try… to film …that could be interesting.

EMULSIVE: There were and still are many daylight film processing tanks. How is the Lab Box different?

LAB-BOX
LAB-BOX

George: We’ve analyzed several film development products and systems from the past and present to understand what works and what doesn’t in practice. We can therefore say that LAB-BOX started from this idea: to redesign a daylight loading system and to develop films in several formats.

We combined that research, our ideas for improvements, and what we learned in our labs to create what you see here today; something that allows anyone to load and develop their own movie.

No darkroom or dark bags or extra things to buy. We wanted to create something that could ease the process of getting started and discovering film photography.

EMULSIVE: Your Kickstarter is here. How close are you to being able to start production from a product design perspective?

LAB-BOX
LAB-BOX

George: We completed the prototype you see in the videos and pictures three or four months ago. At this point, we had completed our necessary design steps, ensuring that the final design could be scaled and manufactured at scale without major changes to its underlying design and usability. Most recently we presented at Photokina and had great feedback from the film photography community there.

I guess you can say we learned a lot trying to build a robust and reliable system that didn’t depend on too much hassle during the production process.

We are ready to start production and need help from the Kickstarter campaign to make the significant investments we need in molds and other parts for the mass production stage.

EMULSIVE: What about the product? Right now it’s hand-driven and supports 135 and 120 movies. Is it too early to wonder what’s coming in 2.0?

LAB-BOX
LAB-BOX

George: Evolution will happen. We are really lucky because the designers we work with have already designed and made a number of products for the mass market. It’s easy to design something in isolation without realizing what’s possible in the making, so having this support and guidance is extremely valuable to us.

You might be interested in…

Our goal with LAB-BOX is to enter the market. Improvements and upgrades will come and if you promise not to hold me to a schedule, I will tell you that we are already planning and designing additions for the LAB-BOX. It’s modular and we want customers to be able to use a system that grows with them. Motorizations are planned, as well as timers, and we are also working on a method of heating and controlling the temperature of the tank. It is a continuous evolution.

For the first version we wanted to make the product simple and robust. We looked at different ways to make our tank work during development, but it comes down to trying to make something that will last – the less trouble there is, the less there will be.

EMULSIVE: Who is this for?

LAB-BOX
LAB-BOX

George: We really wanted to create something to help people who are getting into film photography for the first time and make it easy for them to get involved in the whole process, from shooting the film to developing it and beyond.

I said that we meet and speak with film photographers every day, which means experienced people as well as people coming to film for the first time.

The idea that you can offer something that removes an uncertain aspect that worries new film photographers: loading and developing film, we believe will help encourage more people to film.

It’s easy enough that anyone can do it!

My two cents

There you are! Thanks Giorgio.

Note: Although the final image above may suggest that LAB-BOX is for cats, it is not. You need to keep your cats and other pets away from your chemicals – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Back to the current case and it’s cards on the table: I love the idea of ​​this system.

Yes, I am developing my own film and yes, I am looking for efficiencies in this process, especially when developing multiple rolls in one batch. At the same time, I often don’t feel like bothering to pull out my black bag and fiddle around, especially when I know film can be tricky to load into a diaper bag – Rollei and Maco, I’m you look 😉

I know this product won’t appeal to a good number of established film photographers, but I think for those just starting out, the LAB-BOX is not just an easy way to develop film at home, it’s also a means which is potentially less painful.

LAB-BOX
LAB-BOX

ars imago are also planning to launch a range of chemicals (including a single bath) alongside the LAB-BOX and ultimately it’s an innovation in film photography.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 2017 is going to be a great year for film photographers everywhere.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to head over to the Kickstarter campaign to learn more about LAB-BOX and consider supporting it. If it’s not for you, that’s okay, but you can still help spread the word and help bring this innovation to life.

Thanks for reading.

~ EMULSIVE

PS. I would like to warmly thank the friend of EMULSIVE Massimiliano Acanfora for helping me to get in touch with ars imago. Massimiliano, thank you for your support and help!

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