Wednesday, July 7, 2010

gear: Yankee film squeegee and Paterson tank

Best purchase ever--this Yankee brand film squeegee that I recently ordered from B&H for (get this) 4.95. It's not that I was unaware that such a thing existed back in August, 2008 when I first began developing black and white film at home. (I started with at-home color dev a couple of weeks later.) It was that I was trying to cut corners (and costs) wherever I could. Not a wise decision where the squeegee is concerned. In fact, I highly recommend that anyone interested in setting up an in-home lab spring for one of these right away. Back in 2008, I think I was thinking that god gave me fingers for a good reason and that I could make a make-shift (not to mention free) squeegee by using them. Fast forward almost two years and all I can say is that I've photoshopped out more water streaks and spots than I care to remember. Of course, many times I just let them be, reasoning that it was all in service of making the process--warts and all--more visible. But all that has changed since the Yankee arrived--streak-free film for me!

Doing b/w film developing at home is really satisfying, fun, easy and, of course, really inexpensive, especially when compared with the cost of sending b/w film out to be developed. Developing color film at home is also satisfying, fun, relatively inexpensive (on average, it costs me about 80 cents a roll to do at home) and, I think, color dev is much easier (and quicker) than doing b/w film at home, mainly because the dev, fix and rinse times are shorter and because there's no need to consult the massive dev chart since all color films, all speeds, cook for the same time. Yeah!

Getting set up to do home developing (whether color or b/w) can, on the other hand, be costly. In this post, I focus on the costs for b/w film since that's what I started doing first, leaving the costs related to color developing for another post.

As I said to start, I started with b/w home-dev as modestly (read: cheaply!) as I could. The Paterson tank (plus an extra reel) cost me about 28 bucks, film clips were another 5 bucks per set, and I also needed a set of mix-up cups. I also had to add to the mix things that I didn't necessarily need to (and, indeed, did not) purchase from Adorama, Freestyle or B&H--a timer, thermometer, scissor, and funnel. Add to this the cost of the chemicals--a developer, fixer and wetting agent (to reduce streaks). I was using (and still use) plain water for the stop bath. Oh yeah. Did I mention the film scanner? That also needed to be factored into the start-up costs. So why I didn't add the squeegee to the mix is beyond me. Like I said to start, I knew they were available, inexpensive and I was well aware of the function they served. I guess I was thinking then any little bit of money saved was a good thing. So while the initial output for starting up can be significant (in my case, about 300-350 dollars, with the greater portion of that going to the film scanner) day-to-day developing is really inexpensive, especially if one does stand developing--a process that involves little agitation, very small amounts of developer and longer-than-usual development times. (look here for more on stand developing.)

For example, say I want to do a stand development on a roll of 120 film. A 17 oz (or 500 ml) bottle of Agfa Rodinal (the developer most often used for stand development) costs about 17 bucks. For the stand process, I use 1 part Rodinal and 100 parts water. (To complete the stand, I'd pour the chemicals in the tank and then let the film stand for about an hour, rinse, fix and then do a final 10 minute rinse.) But back to the mixing: Since 500 ml of liquid is needed to adequately cover the film in the tank, I will need to mix 5ml of Rodinal with 500 ml of water. One bottle of Rodinal will allow me to stand develop 100 rolls of 120 film, bringing the cost per roll to 17 cents (minus the cost of fixer which is also really inexpensive).

While on the subject of expense, perhaps one of the more costly b/w development processes involves developing film in coffee (but it must be instant coffee), vitamin C and washing soda. Caffenol development is, hands-down, better for the environment but depending on the price of instant coffee and the availability of powdered vitamin C (vitamin C crystals) and washing soda (in my case, I had to order the washing soda online and it took me forever and a trip to CA to find vitamin C crystals/powder-that said, one box of washing soda and jar of vitamin C powder will last you forever!) it can be a more costly way to go. Certainly so when compared with Rodinal stand development--the cheapest development process I've found. There is a lot on the web about Caffenol development, but this is my favorite resource--I've downloaded and saved the pdf directions, the link to which is available beneath the video.

A final note: I mentioned above and provided links to three of the places from which I most often order film and developing supplies. Of the three, I think B&H prices are definitely the best (and given my proximity to NY, I usually receive orders within two days with standard shipping), but they can't always send the stuff I want to buy (i.e., most b/w developers I want are only available for purchase in their store), so I often purchase b/w chemicals from Freestyle. Freestyle has tons of great stuff--products as well as learning/teaching resources--but they do have a 25 dollar minimum order there. I used Adorama a lot when I first got into photography, but tend now only to use B&H and Freestyle.

One other final note: There is a way to keep start up costs down and that's by forgoing the scanner. There are indeed, Flickr groups out there, members of which insist they don't need no stinkin' scanner and I also have a set on Flickr that contains images I've scanned using my kitchen window.

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