A little experiment

I got my Nikon F3 last year, and has been playing with films. I like the process of loading/unloading a roll of film, the sound when I wind the advance lever and the idea of having a physical artifact. Some say the quality of the photos are better than digital, but it doesn’t make much difference to me(at least not yet), since I’m not making huge prints and just a starter on film cameras.

I finally made friends with my Nikon F3, and having some rolls of negatives which are not totally rubbish. I decided to have fun and develop some negatives myself at home.

I got (almost) all the tools that I think need:

All set, ready to go, so I thought.

I unloaded the roll, which is HP5+ from my camera, then get stuck at the first step. I don’t have a film leader, or a canister opener, how can I extract the film out? So as most people would do, I googled hoping to find a hack. I ended up using a piece of waste slide to pull the film out.

Ok, all set, ready to go.

Step 1 Loading the film to the tank reel

When the film hasn’t be developed, it can’t be exposed to light, so I needed to extracting the films and load them into the reels in a dark environment. Last time when I did it was in a dark room. Since I don’t have a dark room at home, I used the dark changing bag and did it blindly. It’s a bit tricky to do it without looking at it. I practiced with developed film a few times beforehand.

Step 2 Developing

The tank I was using needs 290ml liquid to cover the reel for 35mm films, just to be on the safer side for the first time, I used 400ml in total. The developer to water ratio is 1:4, so 80ml developer and 320ml water.

I found this handy website, The Massive Dev Chart to look up how long it needed, and what temperature the water should be for the development. So I was using HP5+, Ilfotec DD-X, it took 9mins at 20℃. This information can also be found on the chemical bottle.

The rule of thumb for developing the film is, for each minute, agitate for 10s and rest the film in the tank for 50s. So after doing it 9 times, the stop bath (should) comes in.

(Missing) Step 3 Stop bath

Yeah, I totally forgot this step. Here is how it’s supposed to be.

The stop bath ratio should also be 1:19, so 20ml chemical and 380ml water at 20℃.

The stop bath should be in contact with the film for 30s to stop the further development of the film. Agitation for 10s, and rest for the rest.

Many people uses water to wash the film, it could have the same effect, just wasting water.

So I didn’t realize I forgot the stop bath until I poured in the fixer, which is the next step, and hoping it turns out ok. Potential consequences without using the stop bath are primarily two, one is the development continues and the film will be over developed, creating a very hight contrast, and the second is the fixer will get contaminated and can’t be used in the future(yeah, it’s reusable). I’m not planning to reuse it this time because I don’t have have a light-proof bottle at the moment. So I was hoping it wouldn’t cause problem. and continued with fixing. 🤞

Step 4 Fixing

Fixer stablizes the image. The ratio is 1:4, so 80ml fixer and 320ml water at 20℃.

Fixers are reusable, so a easier way to use fixer is to have a good amount of mixture of fixer water ratio to be 1:4, store it in a dark bottle and just use enough to cover the tank every time, no matter it’s 35mm or medium format. It saves the efforts to measure the amount. After using it pour it back to the bottle and reuse it for another couple of times.

Fixing took a couple of mins, I used 4 mins this time. It can vary from 2min to 8mins with the chemical I use. The same agitation process, for every minute, 10s for agitation and rest, and repeat.

Step 5 Washing

Wash the film with water at 20℃.

Step 6 Wetting agent

It is to break surface tension of water and have water drops removed from negatives before drying. Otherwise it’s easier to have marks on the negative and hard to remove later.

So just a few drops of wetting agent were added to the water filled tank, about agitate 5 more times, pour all the liquid out.

Step 7 Drying the negatives

So finally all the heavy lifting are done, I unload the films off the reel, used a squeegee to run down the slides to remove extra water, clipped it and hanged it up at a cool place to dry! 🎉

Here is a chart to summarise different parameter used this time

Temperature DurationTotal VolumeRatio
Developer20℃9 min400ml1:4
Stop bath20℃30 sec400ml1:19
Fixer20℃4 min400ml1:4
Wetting agent20℃5 times>400mlA few drops

(These are indeed MANY steps, I’ll try monobath next time 😉)

Here are some scans from the roll, not bad at all!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

October 5, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Wow, that’s really cool! And nice pictures too 😀

October 6, 2020 at 2:35 pm
– In reply to: sahil

haha, shall try using coffee next time

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