I saw a strange looking 35 mm daylight developing tank on eBay and bought it since I had never heard of it previously and I was curious to know how it worked. A few days later an e-mail arrived from Stuart Tallack to say he had acquired one as well also to see how it worked.

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Mine came with instructions and even some monobath developer/fixer. I have been unable to find any information at all on Sigell. It is marked ‘Made in Japan’ with a Tokyo patent pending. However, it is possible to narrow down its date. There is a retail label on the box for Midland Camera Co Ltd of Leicester. Also written is Photopia and the price 16/6. The price shows it was for sale before decimalisation in 1971. The Midland Camera Co went bust in 1970, so we are looking at a date of appearance some time in the 1960s. Photopia, as a company as opposed to an own-brand label, appeared in 1957 and their import of Japanese goods took off after 1962. My guess is the Sigell tank appeared in UK in the mid to late 1960s.

The instruction sheet states: (1) No dark room needed—the whole process is carried out in broad daylight, (2) No chemicals to mix, (3) No bulky equipment to carry.

This is Stuart’s account with the diagrams from the instruction sheet and my extra interpretation added:

I had an old film lying about so I tried a dummy run without any liquids. It is quite ingenious though I am not sure that I will ever try it properly. The little tank made in cheap transparent plastic has a lid with a spool rotating spindle attached. With the tank comes a two part cassette containing a double roll of black lightproof paper. You sellotape the end of the film to the two papers [I think one paper is in use the other a spare] and, using the tank lid, you wind the two papers [or one] attached to the film back into the tank

Sigell A

When it is all in (and it is a tight squeeze) you remove the end of the 35mm cassette and lift out the spool with its now black wrapped film and put it into the two part black Sigell cassette.

Sigell B

Sigell C

The back paper is now pulled out leaving the film in the Sigell cassette which has a greater volume that the original film cassette.

Sigell D

Sigell E

[After rotating the core of the cassette so that liquid can circulate between the coils, that Sigell] cassette goes into the tank which you have filled with Sigell’s monobath solution and it is turned back and forth for four minutes [working like a mini-Rondix]. Let it stand for two minutes then remove film and wash for fifteen minutes in running water.

Stuart has tried a dummy run but says: It needs smaller fingers and a more agile brain than I was given. Nevertheless, it is an interesting approach to cheap easy processing. Has anyone tried one?

A pdf of the instructions is here for anybody interested:

Sigell Instructions

Stuart does not think it would not work for a full 36-exposure length because of the tight squeeze of film and the black paper in the cassette (the first one, from the camera, not the Sigell one). However, the instructions state: for 36 exposure films only. Perhaps with a 20-exposure cassette, the black tape does not fill the cassette sufficiently to form a tight coil and thereby exclude the light while the spool is transferred to the Sigell cassette.

The actual method of development—rotation back and forth in a film cassette—is that used by 35 mm owners in the past when no tank was available, by soldiers in the second world war, for example, when the developer itself was warmed in a little hot water in a canteen, or, in the best stories, in an upturned helmet. Part of the film was, of course, liable to uneven development or no development as all in the tight confines of a 35 mm cassette. Transfer to the slightly larger cassette in the Sigell was meant, I guess, to overcome that problem.

Finally, I do not think the first owner of my Sigell was that impressed. The bottle of developer (the whole lot was used in the tank but could be used twice if in quick succession) is still nearly full and now, if not then, a murky shade of brown with a whitish precipitate.

Does anybody have any further information on Sigell or on this tank?

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