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 thought I had solved the problem of the film and backing paper failing to separate for certain types of film. As a reminder the film comes through the slit with the backing paper and does not enter the film chamber in the Rondinax 60.
I thought applying extra pressure from the metal spoon in the lid was the answer to this problem as it is Andrés Cuervo’s problem in which the film comes out of the slit on top of the backing paper.
When I tried a Rollei Infrared film with tighter pressure from the spoon, it loaded fine. However, I realised a week or so later that the spool of film had been stored for several years and that the film itself coiled easily whereas when I first used film from that batch the film did not curl easily. So was I testing like with like? The answer was no.
I took the Rollei infrared film and an Ilford FP4 film and placed the backing paper and the end of film that loads first into the tank into a heavy book for a few weeks in order to flatten the films. Today I wound them back onto their reels. There was still some degree of curl in both films but when I tried to load them into the tank, they both failed to load, either jamming as they hit the ridge after they should have gone into the film chamber or coming out with the backing paper. With an open tank no amount of pressure on the top of the spool made any difference.
The answer must be that this type of failure to load must be related to how long the film has been spooled and to the properties of the film base. I must have had factory fresh Rollei film that takes some time to maintain a curl when spooled for the first time. It would seem that polyester film base might be particularly prone to wanting to stay flat, for want of a better term. However, the fact that flattened acetate-backed FP4 also failed to load would suggest that there may be a problem if really fresh film of that type is used. However, acetate may be less prone to wanting to stay flat since I have never had any problem with Ilford films.
A problem with film that had been in a camera for some time or had been wound backwards in some film backs was known about by Agfa and the instructions for using the tank (see Manual download for the Rondinax 60) include warnings like this one on page 21:
Partly exposed films which are in the camera for more than two weeks lose their curling quality. To regain this quality which is necessary for threading, the film must lie rolled up tightly for at least one day. Films from cassettes [film backs] with opposite winding must be rewound before (see p. 11)
In some roll film cameras the film is wound up in the opposite direction to the original winding. If these films are to be developed in the Rondinax 60 tank they must be rewound twice and kept tightly rolled up for at least a day. Caution! The film must be rewound twice so that the end of the film showing the word “exposed” points outwards again.
These instructions would have applied to acetate film. The question is: how long does it take for polyester film to gain or curliness its curliness? If my experience with Rollei film is anything to go back, some time in excess in several weeks for new film could be the answer. For the time taken to regain its curliness when spooled after partial flattening, I shall do further tests and report them here.
Clearly though, the physical property of ‘curliness’ and the maintenance of ‘curliness’ and ‘flatness’ when flattened or when spooled, respectively, is important for trouble-free use of a Rondinax 60.
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.
Andrés Cuervo’s solution to his problem reported in yesterday’s post got me thinking overnight. Would additional pressure from the metal spoon in the lid of the tank solve the other problem bugging Rondinax users – some polyester-backed films not entering the film compartment but emerging with, and not separated from, the backing paper through the slit?
I had a few rolls of Rollei Infrared film in a drawer so I passed one through a camera and then held it down firmly in the Rondinax with the lid off and the film compartment open (lever position ‘2’). While pushing the spool down firmly I pulled gently on the backing paper, and what happened next – the film coiled perfectly into the film compartment. So I then bent the spoon in the lid down in order to apply more pressure to the spool of film and tried loading the Rollei film as in normal processing, i.e. lid on, position ‘2’. And, would you believe it, the film loaded properly.
UPDATE – I now know the reason the original film did not load properly. It is not helped by additional pressure from the metal spoon. See Post of 7 March 2017 for update.
So does this simple solution work for other polyester based film types that people have reported problems with? Feedback please, because if that is the case, the Rondinax is back to being suitable for all 120 film types and brands.
I reckon Andrés is Rondinax man of the year and it is only 7 January.
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.
I have just noticed that the catawiki auction site sometimes has Rondinax tanks listed (catawiki.com). I know nothing about this site or have experience of using 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
Christopher Moss reports:
The motorised Rondinax has worked well with a C-41 film and I apologise if this seems like some kind of sacrilege to you! I did have to provide a new strap and film clamp for this particular tank, and this might interest the few of us who understand the value of these tanks.
I chose to use a blue rubber tourniquet as I have plentiful access to them. I cut it lengthways, not very neatly, with scissors. Remembering your post about strap replacement, I used a length of paperclip, folded twice to make a threefold thickness, in the loop of the doubled tourniquet and pulled tightly into the hub. It works. That left me two free ends to clamp onto the film.
Then I sewed a press stud or popper (depending on where you live; I speak UK English and Canadian English) onto the two free ends of the rubber. A ‘ticket collector’s punch’ makes a circular hole in the film end that accepts the press stud perfectly. Some photos of the final arrangement:
…and finally, for the sake of proof, I ran some Fuji Superia through the motorised Rondinax with Unicolor presskit chemicals. Unfortunately there was no other subject than myself, so here’s a selfie!
How many Rondinax users and potential users are out there? I will start by showing the viewing data for this site.
2013. 808 views by 180 different people
2014. 12,779 views by 3,360 different people
2015 so far. 4993 views by 1419 different people
The people viewing in different years could be the same, so these data suggest there are more than 3,500 in the world who are interested in daylight-developing tanks and who have found this site.
The viewing figures for the videos on YouTube suggest about 5,000.
Leading the popularity stakes on YouTube is the video on the Rondinax 60 with 5240 views. This confirms my suspicion that the majority of Rondinax users are medium-format film users. The Rondinax 35 follows with 3547 views. The short video on how the spiral loading works has 1323 views; how to use the Essex 35 has 983 views. The Rondix video has 990 views.
These figures illustrate the level of interest but do not answer the question of how many Rondinax, Essex and Kent tanks are actually in use or in a condition fit to be used.
I often do a search on eBay to see what Rondinax tanks are available. This week for the first time in years, the worldwide search using ‘Rondinax’ showed none. Because people (and Agfa in the original German catalogue) get confused and call them ‘Rodinax’, it is worth also searching eBay under that name. This time, one, a 35U appeared. So in the whole world at the moment there is just one Rondinax on eBay.
There is a Rondix (in the USA) which is relatively unusual. Sometimes months go by without one being seen.