If you know anything about film developing you might be confused by the title of this post – C41 film is the standard colour negative film most people are used to (stuff like Kodak Gold, for example), while Rodinal is a classic (very old formula) black-and-white film developing fluid.
So, why do this? Furthermore, why on earth did I choose this as my first ever attempt at self-developing a film?!
I’ve been getting into film photography for the last couple of months. I think I’ve run out of steam with my digital stuff for the moment – I’m sure I’ll go back to it soon and I still rely on it for anything “important”, but I seem to have stagnated in terms of subject matter and style – I can’t see anything different in my pictures from this year than last year, or the year before. So, I’ve bought a random selection of very cheap film cameras from eBay and I’ve been putting various random films through them, with substantially varying results! I’ve also bought a big box of ultra-cheap C41 film (re-badged Ferrania 200), mainly so I can test out all these cameras without wasting too much money.
Getting C41 film processsed is still surprisingly easy and cheap, even in this digital age – my local Tesco Extra does development (process-only) in under an hour for less than £1, and corner shops like Kodak Express and Snappy Snaps will do it quickly enough, although they charge a bit more. However, none of these places will process black-and-white film on the premises, they all send it off. That means it takes longer, and in most cases costs more. For this reason, I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks about learning to develop my own black and white film – lots of people seem to do it with great success, and it gives you a lot more control over the whole process.
My plans have been brought forward by the fact I managed to completely snap a film inside one of these old cameras – a Yashica Minister II that has definitely seen better days. Although I’ve mostly managed to get it working (including clearing lots of bits of broken glass from inside the rangefinder!) it’s still a bit flakey and the rewind sticks sometimes. So, when it stopped mid-rewind I gave it a bit of extra pressure. It turns out that the gearing ratio must be tremendous as I’d actually reached the end of the film, and the extra pressure tore the film down the middle!
This left me with a quandary – I couldn’t wind the film back into the canister as it had snapped near the end of the film, so there was no way to even get it out of the camera without exposing the whole lot, losing all the pictures, let alone get it to a development shop. Around the same time, almost purely by chance I came across the Colour Films Developed In B/W Chemicals group on Flickr, which gave me my answer. After an awful lot of research on the web, I decided that Rodinal (or a Rodinal-based developer) was the way I wanted to go for black and white, and it seemed to be fine for the occasional C41 development too. Of course, developing C41 in Rodinal gives you black-and-white negatives, not colour.. except that occasionally Rodinal does develop a tiny bit of some of the colour as well, so we’ll see what happens.
This has all happened quickly – I broke the film on friday night (trying to finish it up so I could take it in for development on Saturday). On Sunday I ordered all the chemicals and equipment, which arrived today (Tuesday), and this evening I’ve developed my first film!
I’m writing this as the negatives are drying – so far it looks like the development has worked a treat – the pictures look clear and sharp to the naked eye, which is doubly good news as it means the Yashica is working well, otherwise they’d be wrongly exposed. But, the final proof will be once I get them on to the scanner. Watch this space!