Film developing setup that fits your backpack

13 February 2016

It’s lots of fun developing your own black & white film. Here’s the setup I’ve been using. My goals were to keep costs down and to have a simple, compact setup that’s easy to use.

Developing tank and reel ~ £ 22

This is the main cost and you want to make it a good one. You can shop around for a second hand for much less.

Thermometer ~ £ 4

To make sure the solutions are at the right temperature. A glass spirit thermometer also provides a means of stirring.

Developer ~ £ 5

A 120 mL bottle of Rodinal develops about 20 rolls of film at 1+25 dilutions. You can double the dilution to 1+50 for 40, that’s just 12 pence per roll! This stuff lasts forever if you store it in darkness and air tight. Rodinal is a "one shot" developer so you toss out your dilution after use.

Fixer ~ £ 3

Fixer dilution can be reused many times, so store it after use. One liter of a 1+5 dilution fixes 17 rolls of film.

To check if your fixer dilution is still good: take a piece of cut off film leader and put it in small cup filled with fixer. If the film becomes transparent after a few minutes the fixer is still good to use.

Measuring jug ~ £ 3

To mix chemicals in. Get one with a spout for easy pouring.

Spout bags ~ £ 2

These keep air out compared to using bottles, so your chemicals will last longer. They save space too. Label them well, you don’t want to mess up!

Funnel ~ £ 1

One with a small mouth, so it fits the spout bags easily when you need to pour chemicals back.

Syringe ~ £ 1

To measure the amount of developer. Around 10 to 20 mL volume will do. Make sure to get one with 1 mL marks for more accurate measuring, and a blunt needle to easily extract from the spout bag.

Common household items

You probably already have these: a clothes peg, for hanging your developed film to dry. And a pair of scissors, to remove the film from the cannister and to cut the film into strips after drying.

Developed Ilford HP5+ film

Total ~ £ 41

As you can see, it’s only a small investment. After developing a few rolls the equipment has paid for itself, compared to sending your rolls off for processing. There’s something special about seeing your images appear on a film for the first time that’s well worth it. Like magic. :)