I am getting a fair number of emails on development time in a Rondinax because of the difference in agitation. I have nothing to add on my original post which can be found here. If anybody has information to add on particular film/developer combinations please let me know.
I have mentioned in this blog that a daylight-loading Rondinax was seen as the Rolls-Royce of developing tanks in the 1950s and 60s. A Rondinax was much more expensive than the tanks that had to be loaded in the darkroom. They were, therefore, objects of envy but also of the kind of inverted snobbery that can still be seen in the letters pages of British photographic magazines.
They did though receive endorsement by celebrities in the photographic world. Here is one from Lancelot Vining FRPS FIBP from his near-weekly column, Miniature Camera Gossip, in Amateur Photographer (3 November 1954), then processing his own films after a lifetime as a professional pressman:
On the bench when ready to develop are a minute time clock, pencil and pad, thermometer, Rondinax tank, the two solutions, funnel and filter paper and the cassette of film.
Willoughby Lancelot Vining was immensely influential in amateur photography particularly for his advocacy, as a professional photographer, of the 35 mm camera—the ‘miniature’. From 1941 until 1961 he wrote a column for the magazine Amateur Photographer (there is an excellent history of the magazine here). He wrote My Way with the Miniature, a book in which the Rondinax also gets a mention. First published in 1941 it ran to the 14th edition published in 1961. He also wrote All About Daylight Indoors and Your Camera in 1946 and All About Sports and Games and Your Camera in 1948, both for Focal Press. There were various translations of his books for the overseas market.
Lancelot Vining was born on 10 April 1880 in West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool in Lancashire, the son of a civil engineer; he had four brothers and a sister. The family was obviously fairly affluent; two servants are shown in the 1891 Census. By 1901 the family had moved to Brentford, Middlesex; his father is listed as a mechanical engineer and Lancelot was an ‘engineer’s draughtsman’.
He describes his early life in My Way… He bought his first camera in 1897 and by 1902 he was taking pictures of football matches from the public stand on a ¼-plate camera and selling ½-plate enlargements to the Daily Graphic, the Daily Mirror and the News Chronicle by hawking them down Fleet Street on a Sunday morning. In 1904 he was headhunted by a photographic agency at three times his pay as a draughtsman. From there he joined the Daily Graphic and by the 1911 Census he is shown as ‘Journalist. Photographer on staff of Daily Graphic’. From there he joined the Daily Mirror, first as a photographer but then as an assistant to the art editor. It was as ‘Head of Photographic Staff of Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial’ that he appears in the records of the Royal Air Force, the successor to the Royal Flying Corps into which he was called up in 1916. He was Wing Photographic Officer at a flying school and then taught aerial photography as an Education Officer (3rd class) 2nd Lieutenant (acting unpaid Lieutenant) at a flying school in Canada.
Demobbed in January 1919, he became art editor of the Sunday Pictorial and then, on a two-year contract from 1921, worked as an art editor in the U.S.A. He returned as a night and then day art editor to the Daily Mirror. He bought a Zeiss Contax I in 1934 and was able, in the evenings, to use it for photographing live theatre with the aid of the free first or second night tickets he received as picture editor on a national daily newspaper. He sold the photographs to weekly magazines and had virtually covered the cost of the Contax by the end of 1935.
In 1936 (by which time he was 56) the editor of the Mirror ‘proposed I should give up Art Editing and devote my time to miniature photography for the paper…The majority of my subjects would be ones requiring to be taken with a miniature camera…’. It seems to me that the editor was putting Vining out to grass but from this sideways or downwards move, Vining launched a new career, as columnist, author and lecturer to amateur photographic societies for Ilford, the photographic materials manufacturer.
He married in 1902 and is shown as having two sons in the 1911 Census. However, records indicate that he was living apart from his wife in later decades and in 1957, after the death of his wife in 1956, he married, at the age of 77, Yvonne M. Baker.
In his weekly column, which had become rather ‘tired’ by the mid-1950s when he was in his mid-70s, he often detailed the vicissitudes of lecturing to camera clubs throughout the country (he was away from home every other working week). He was forthright in his opinions, often decrying the use of cameras other than the ‘first-class’ Contax and Leica (which, because of currency restrictions, put in place to protect the £ Sterling in post-war real austerity, were actually not available new to amateur photographers in U.K). He is described as ‘defending’ the use of 35 mm cameras in his talks to camera clubs (aka photographic societies). I will return to this topic in another post but there was enormous opposition from the old guard in amateur photography who were using large plates as were professionals. Even the three sizes provided by 120 film (9 x 6, 6 x 6 and 6 x 4.5 cm) were regarded and derided as ‘miniature’.
Lancelot Vining devoted a great deal of his columns to advising readers how to photograph attractions in London like circuses and ice shows—both incredibly popular in the 1950s. He spent some time and effort in testing and using flash synchronisers for his Contax and it was frustration with the Contax—a camera system to which he had shown utter devotion and on which he had showered constant praise—that led him to deliver a bombshell to his readers on 26 October 1955. He sold the Contax and bought a Voigtländer Prominent. He did so because his unsynchronised Contax needed a bulky accessory synchroniser in order to use flash and because of the limited flash synchronisation speed of cameras with a focal-plane shutter. Each lens of the Prominent (he bought a 35, 50 and 135 mm—the latter then considered a really long lens) had a Compur leaf shutter then, and still, far more versatile and convenient for flash photography.
An internet search shows a few of his excellent photographs that are in national or local collections. It is worth looking at one in the National Portrait Gallery which shows the ‘old guard’ in 1944 in process of choosing prints for the London Salon of Photography.
Lancelot Vining died on 18 January 1968, aged 87; he had given up writing for Amateur Photography at the age of 80.
I remember an occasion at the Cabaret Club when I was about to photograph Denise Vane in the Fan Dance. A Press Club friend sitting at a table on my extreme left—and a lady friend—asked if he was in; I assured him he was not. By the time the exposure was made (using my W.A.) lens I must have altered direction as my friend was in. The picture was hung in the Salon and published in Photograms of the Year. Was my friend angry? He was—but his anger was nothing compared with that of his wife.
Over the past month I have had a number of emails and comments from people who have bought Rondinax tanks and then found the film guide was absent. The film guide is essential so please look at the BUYING TIPS in the bar above for advice on how to check that all the parts are there. Many sellers on eBay are not aware of what they are selling. The film guide is the one item most likely to be missing.
The following question was raised by Jim Huang on my YouTube video on the 35U:
Do you know if it comes with different drums? Mine is somehow too narrow and my film is bent on the side. It results in only some part of the film got developed and a damaged roll of film.
Then he followed up with:
Hey I asked you a question on youtube about the width of the drum, which you directed me to ask the question here.
When I opened up the lid, I realised all/most of the film was all bunch up near the axis of the drum. The results to a large portion of the film not developed.
I realised there resistance from the film cartridge was quite high. That basically keeps pulling the film so much that the grooves on the drums isn’t enough the hold the film in place. As the result, everything got bunched up at the axis of the drum.
I don’t know how to solve this problem before I develop my next film. I guess I may completely remove the film from the cartridge, then load it into the develop tank. However, that defeats the purposes of it.
I have received the following. I have never processed a colour negative film in my life and so I am hoping for replies to come in.
Comment: Hi, my name is Thomas and I am a industrial-design student from Germany.
For my Bachelor thesis I am currently tackling the negative colour development for home usage as I have been suffering of keeping the temperatures on myself. So the aim right now is to make an easy kit which heats and stirrs the chemicals to a desired temperature both before and during the chemical process and to automate the rotation/agitation of the film in the tank.
During my research I came across your great website and ever since then I really want to include the ‘daylight tank’ technology into my project.
I would be more then thankful if you could spare some minutes to help me with a few quastion.
1) The daylight tanks have disappeared for quite a long time and have quite a bad reputation among some users. Do you think this is due to the lack of the slide film possibilities at that time? Or because it can only load one film at the time? Or maybe ecause of ‘less contrasty/sharp’ image results? Or because of some difficulties while developing colour negatives?
2) As I am completely rebuilding the tank I thought of maybe adding the option to load two 35mm film at the same time or even make a universal tank for both 35 and 120mm films. Do you think that would be a big point for people considering switching from JOBO to a daylight tank solution?
3) Would you still consider the Rondinax 60 a good solution to go for although of a lot of complaints about films not working or would you recommend to stick to JOBO tanks instead for 120mm?
Quite a lot of questions but I do hope that you could give me some insights before I will take a wrong turn.
Thank you already for your time and effort.
Have a nice evening and all the best
Leslie Lazenby in an email covering other matters commented:
By the way I tested it [Rondinax 35U] with a film made in the Ukraine, Svema 200, it is ultra thin and an ultra strong polyester base. It was a bit harder for the cutting blade to go through but it did it without issue. It was also mentioned you could load the reel while wet or damp. Oh my gosh I loaded one right after the other without time to dry. Perfect every time, without one hiccup. I love this tank.
Chris Rusbridge writes:
I have a Rondinax 35 and have noticed occasional white streaks going partway across the frames. This usually happens on several frames in a film, but not for all films. (In fact I suspect it doesn’t happen for second and subsequent films in one session…)
I have started a thread on the Film & Conventional section of Talk Photography about this, including some examples. No useful responses so far. Link:
I have recently purchased a pair of Rondinax 35 B developers. I am a keen photographer and have come back to shooting film again, together with digital. My clients are starting to ask questions about having their portraits taken with my Contax II and a Zeiss 50mm, f1,5, or the 85mm, f2, lenses. I am disabled, use an electric wheelchair, and wanted to start developing my own films again. I have taken a special liking to the Adox Silvermax iso 100 film, which requires its own developer to come out good, which the shop I used for developing film couldn’t help me with. They had their standard developer.
I am extremely pleased with the workings of the Rondinax 35 as I can load and develop the films myself. Working in complete darkness with the limited use of my hands that I have just wasn’t a alternative.
Still learning about how to properly use the tank.
From Christopher Moss:
The epoxy failed on the motorised Rondinax that my son made, so I decided to rebuild it. This time I have a wooden base with quarter-round strip to hold the tank in place. The motor is attached to the wooden base rather than to the tank. The tank can be lifted off to pour out solutions, and then placed back in situ, where the cogs will engage and rotation continues. Simpler, easier to use and I hope it will be sturdier. I’m planning to run a Fuji Superia 400 through it this afternoon.
I’m now up to four Rondinax 35s – one for use, one motorised and two for spare parts. Sadly no spare Rondinax 60, but that’s probably OK as I don’t do as much MF as 35mm. Today, however, was a big day in that my first Rondix arrived. I had no expectation that it would be so tiny! The latent engineer in me has to admire the simplicity of design and the minimalism of it. Remarkable! I note a couple of things – compared to the Rondinax it looks like it was made for a left handed person, in that the open end for pouring in solutions is on the left if the right hand is used on the crank. I can’t imagine why they did that, unless it was a deliberate attempt to allow continued cranking with the right hand while solutions are poured in with the left?
Secondly, I see the manual says it is for black and white films only. I don’t see why that was written, and I will try a C-41 film in it at some stage just to see how it goes. It’s a bit of a tedious process, so the motorised Rondinax is probably going to remain my usual tank for colour 35mm.
On a different note, I see my 35u tanks belong to four different generations:
1. The oldest is black (?Bakelite) with a black reel, red rubber strap, a small black winding knob, black film canister opening knob.
2. The next has a black reel, red rubber strap, a large black winding knob, and a black film canister opening knob.
3. The next has a clear reel, red rubber strap and a large back winding knob, and a black film canister opening knob.
4. The newest is black plastic (not the possible Bakelite of earlier models), and has a clear reel, clear plastic strap, large grey winding knob and red film canister opening knob.