Monday, December 31, 2012

Zen and the Art of Rondinax Developing

For those who want an simple way to dive into home negative developing, I can't think of an easier way of getting started than to get your hand on the Agfa Rondinax 35U.



The Awesomeness of the Rondinax

The Rondinax 35U is daylight film developing tank, meaning that you don't need a darkroom for developing 35mm negatives. For those people who previously have used traditional plastic / steel tanks to load film, you are are in for a treat:
  • No Darkroom Required. You might need a change bag for certain situations, but I'll cover that later.
  • Spooling Film is no fuss! - This is great for beginners. You just put the clamp on the film and the Rondinax will almost do all the rest for you. Although I can now easily spool film now, I still prefer the Rondinax I have minimal contact with the film. This means less scratches and scuffs on the negative. That is always a plus. 
  • Minimal Amount Developer Needed. I think the smallest single developing tanks use 300ml of developer, the Rondinax only uses 200ml. Save your precious developer fluid. Its very economical, especially for colour development.
  • Colour and B&W - though the instructions in the manual are for B&W film, its just as easy (so long as you keep your temperatures constant) to develop colour film with a Tetenal c-41 kit.
  • Very consistent development - I've developed in tanks and the Rondinax, I've always gotten the most consistent results out of the Rondinax over my other tanks. 
The sub-awesomeness of the Rondinax

So whats bad about the Rondinax? There are a few things to consider:
  • One film at a time: Rondinax is a film-at-a-time type of tank. This means that it can take a lot of time, especially if you do colour development. I don't mind at all, if I wanted speed I'd shoot digital :)
  • Its made of Bakelite: There is nothing wrong Bakelite if you take care of it, however it doesn't seem to age a well as other plastics. I've had a couple of chips in my Rondinax, but nothing a bit of super glue couldn't fix. 
  • Temp Control: -The Thermometer doesn't go up to 38 C for colour development, so you'll just need to buy an extra thermometer.
  • Needs the film leader out. This is a nuance with modern 35mm cameras. By default, many automatic cameras will rewind the film all the way into the canister. The film leader, that small strip at the end with perforations only one edge gets sucked in. Well, you'll need to have the leader out.  I know of two methods for retrieving: film leader retriever and cracking the film open in a darkbag. I haven't used a film leader retriever before but have used the darkbag method several times. What you'll need is the film canister, can opener, Rondinax, and darkbag. Once in the darkbag, crack open the film from the bottom (not the top bit with the plastic bit sticking out). Place the film in the Rondinax and spool it.
Other Stuff 'bout the Rondinax:

What amazes me is these boxes has been around for 50+ years. It was based of a patent by Ernst Leitz dating to the late 1930s (ever hear of Leica?) and the design and use is very efficient and user friendly. Later Leitz partnered with Agfa to make Rondinax that I use. Here is a great link on the Rondinax's history, though you'll have use a translation program as its in Francaise.

What should you pay for your Rondinax? Its a bit of a mixed bag - I have paid as much as $100NZ (for the first one) and recently I pounced on a $40 Buy Now on Trademe.co.nz. You can see cheaper Rondinax's on Ebay, but by the time you are done with shipping and exchange rates the price comes closer to $80NZD. Note, if you do see one on Ebay, don't be afraid to ask the seller if they will ship it to NZ, even if its plastered on their listing that they will not ship overseas. I've found most sellers will actually ship to NZ (must be some of that Hobbit charm).

If you are looking for a rondinax manualclick here. If you are looking for more detailed how-to of using it, check out this superb Rondinax introduction from aperturepriority.co.nz. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any English videos of how to use the Rondinax 35, but if you do find one, make sure post it in a comment here.

A couple of final tips:
  • If you have manual rewind camera, don't wind the film all the way into the cartridge, leave a little something for your friend, the Rondinax.
  • When spooling your film, don't ever tug needlessly after you meet resistance. Use the Rondinax cutting lever as soon as you feel a firm tug. If you are not sure, check the exposure counter to see where you are at (eg if its pointing at 36, and you have 36 exposure film, then its time to cut). The only time I messed up a roll in the Rondinax was when I pulling too tightly after feeling the first sign of resistance.
  • While it is Daylight box (meaning that you don't need a dark room or dark bag), having a changing bag is going to be really useful for emergency situations such as removing stuck film in the camera or the above mentioned film leader rewind problem. 
Parting Thoughts:

This is a very well designed daylight box - its perfect for beginners or extremes amateurs such as myself. Though I may overpaid for my Rondinax, I am reminding of the words of Gucci who said "Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten".

2 comments:

  1. Nice one. Always torn between the urge to publicise these little beauties and the desire to keep them secret (and cheap). You never know when you're gonna need a replacement ...

    On the subject of Bakelite, I think the later models (with the off-white winding knobs) were made from a more modern plastic. On the other hand, they have a transparent plastic clamping strap on the reel that usually needs regluing - I once lost the little metal piece from inside down the plughole during this operation.

    Another thing, it's worth mentioning the Rondinax 60, which is the 120 film version. In some ways simpler (it doesn't have a thermometer), in other ways it's incredible - especially the brilliant way it separates the backing paper from the film. Magic.

    As usual with any method of development, the key to success is watching your temperatures and times. A bit of experimenting might be required at first, but after that you're set.

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  2. http://youtu.be/vj8IZFhfH5M

    Here's a link to an English YouTube video. He doesn't go into color, but does cover the processing steps for 35mm B&W.

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