I have been developing my own film for over ten years now, using tanks and reels from the Paterson system.
The process of finishing a roll, taking out the black bag, and getting the film on the The Paterson coil has become almost second nature and, when all goes well, almost meditative.
A few moments of calm.
Is it still going well? Oh no. On these occasions loading the reel is frustrating, listening to it crumple and warp, go off the tracks. Then your hands start to sweat and you have fingerprints all over your film.
This has happened to me more often than I want to admit and I’m sure most photographers have dealt with the same issues.
I have been watching the ars-imago LAB-BOX for a while, thinking that this may be the solution to my problems and then, by chance … I spotted the original daylight treatment tank, the Agfa Rondinax 35U, and, surprisingly, for a bargain.
What are the advantages of using one of these tanks?
First of all, there is no fuss in the dark. As long as you’ve taken out the film primer, you just need to cut it off, tie the strap to the end of the film, and put the top on. After that you wind a button which pulls the film from the cartridge and into the tracks of the reel.
Once you hit the resistance, there is a built-in blade to slice the film so that the last one can be wound onto the spool.
Second, and in my opinion the most important, is the volume of chemicals required. In a standard single coil Paterson tank the need is 300ml, while the Rondinax reduces that by a third to just 200ml. The trade-off for this, however, is that the film has to be constantly stirred using the button on the side, constantly rolling the film through the developer.
So what is the Agfa Rondinax 35U likes to use?
Well the first minor issue I ran into was that the clip that snaps onto the film and pulls it onto the spool wasn’t as strong as I thought it was, which meant that while I was trying to load the movie, the clip came off. This is not a real problem in my case as very little film was removed from the cartridge, but if it said once half loaded, the only way to save it would be to put the whole thing in the darkness. bag.
Decent pressure of the clip on the film and I felt a little more secure, so I continued and it loaded up fine with no issues.
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The film cutter is easy to use and surprisingly satisfying enough gives a recognizable sound that clearly says “The film has been cut”And you can wind the last of the film onto the reel.
The development process was straightforward; pour the developer (slowly!) It works well and is really easy to do, although I did experience a leak from the hole the button attaches to, perhaps indicating that 200ml is actually a bit too much.
At the end of the development time, it’s just a matter of pouring the developer into the same tub you added it to, replacing it with a stop or water bath, and then repeating the process for it. ‘fixing step. Leaking the hole continued to be a problem for me, especially when emptying the tank (as it’s on the same side as the little spout), so getting rid of the chemicals without them leaking even more was a bit of a task.
Washing the film is probably the part I didn’t like the most – the manual suggests filling the tank with water, letting it sit for five minutes, and draining it, repeating this process a few times. There are two issues I have seen with this method, one of which is the hole for the crank button. The other problem that is potentially more serious is to avoid getting water into the slot in the cutting blade or the small area where the film cartridge is located. If this happens, it will take a bit of surgery to remove the lumps and dry out. to prevent the blade from rusting.
In the end, I removed the coil and washed it separately, which worked fine.
The reel itself does not come apart, so you have to remove the film from it, which I have never done before but which does not seem to have had any ill effects on the film.
Agfa Rondinax 35U for professionals
- No need to use a black bag. If all goes well, the whole process is finished in normal light
- No fingerprints. The only part of the film you touch is the primer when you clip it on and the other end when you take it off the spool, although even that can be avoided.
- Less use of chemicals. Only 200ml per roll per chemical.
- The frame counter on the side allows you to use part of a roll and expand only that part, leaving the rest of the roll available for use.
Agfa Rondinax 35U versus
- Constant agitation is required throughout the process.
- Cinema leaders must be left behind. Not a big deal if you rewind by hand, but the electronic cameras may not have the option of leaving the leader out, which means you will have to collect it to use this tank.
- Leaks. It may be individual for my tank, but it’s always something to keep in mind.
- Normal wear. These tanks have been around for a long time now and, as with all things, will have worn components. In my case, it’s a slightly loose clip and frayed ribbon that attaches it to the spool.
I liked using the Rondinax, although it was not without problems. Washing the film is probably my biggest problem, followed by the leak, and you have to understand that this can be an easier method of developing your film. If something is wrong with the load, you are not in a better position than with a normal Paterson Coil.
The other thing to note is that while the volume of chemicals required is much less than a single Paterson coil, the number of cylinders / jars required to store them is not. You will always end up with the same number of things to wash as if you had used a Char Paterson in the first place, although potentially smaller.
Am I glad I bought the tank? Absolutely yes. Would I buy another one? Probably, if it was the right price. The added convenience is not worth the huge costs that some of these units are going for. Once it hits a certain price, you’re probably better off buying a LAB-BOX, which just might be a great way for newbies to get started in developing their own movie.
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