Adventures in Film Development – Part 2


Today was the day. I got out of the house with “Helmut” (my WW2 vintage Rolleiflex Automat) and shot a roll of 120 film. This evening I processed the film myself at home and I have to say I’m fairly pleased with my results.

I have to get used to composing in the square format, but it really does look like this lovely old camera is light tight and working pretty well. I was rushing a bit with my shooting today, I was keen to get the roll finished and get it processed.

As I expected, the trickiest part for me was getting the 120 roll film onto the developing spiral correctly. I think I’ve learned some lessons and hopefully I’ll find it easier next time around. It was a huge relief when I finally got it to wind onto the spiral. Once that’s done it’s simply a matter of popping the film into the development tank, snapping the lid shut and you know you’re safe to get on with the actual developing.

I was using Ilford chemistry and ended up developing this roll at 19C (66F). It didn’t seem worth the bother to try and bring the temperature of the chemicals up by just 1 degree from the temperature they were sitting in the bottles at. I just adjusted my timings accordingly and it seems to have worked out pretty well.

It was a magical feeling to finally take the film out of the tank and see that I had images. This is the first film I’ve taken using “Helmut” from which I’ve seen the results. I did shoot a roll a couple of weeks ago but sent that off to a professional lab for processing and I’ve not had it back yet. That was the main reason I wanted to try processing my own negatives – the delay in seeing my results.

I’ve scanned all the negatives at 4800 dpi this evening. I could scan at a higher resolution, but I’ll only do so if I need to print them out big. The examples I show below have all been downsized a lot. The original scans are something like 10,000 pixels square, so 100 megapixel images. Yes, I can scan them at a higher resolution, but there’s absolutely no need to do that for presentation on screen. If you click through to Flickr on any of the examples you’ll be able to see them at 1500 x 1500 pixels.

For my first shots I visited Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery. This is my favourite statue in the place and this seemed a good place to start off my shooting today. I was sorry to see that this statue had suffered more damage since last time I had seen her, a finger she was holding up to her cheek is now missing.

It was a little on the bright side so I had my aperture closed down to f11 for most of the shots I took today. If I can get myself a hand held light meter I’ll be able to shoot using slower film, but for now I have to use my EOS 7D as a light meter for the Rolleiflex and the lowest ISO I can set on that is ISO 100. The Ilford FP4+ is rated at 125 and as my 7D can be set to ISO 125 I’ll be sticking with FP4+ for now. I am keen to see the results I could get with the ISO 50 rated Ilford PAN F Plus – all in good time.


This photo was taken on “Main Street” in Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire. I liked the motorcycle propped up against the old cottages. I got a bit a flare towards the top of this image. I was shooting partially into the light so I can expect that.

Wistow church, Leicestershire. I had the camera sat on the ground for this one so you can see some very out of focus blades of grass in the foreground.

Just a small sample of my roll of 12 photos. Considering that I’m still learning my way with the camera and that this was the very first roll of film I have ever processed for myself then I’m pretty pleased with the results. I certainly nailed the exposure and focus on every single shot on the roll. A couple needed a little straightening, and on a couple I had rather less depth of field than I had anticipated.

The processing went amazingly well. I just need to gain confidence in getting the film onto the spiral and then I’ll be a lot happier. I know I’m bound to have the odd developing disaster from time to time and I’ll need to find out from experience just how long my fixer will keep “on the shelf”. I’ll be mixing fresh developer for every roll, but the other chemicals I’m going to re-use.

I’m not planning to use “Helmut” as my every day camera, he’ll come out on special occasions and when I just feel like I really want to go a bit retro. There is something amazingly satisfying in producing photos from purely mechanical and chemical means and doing it all yourself, manually. Hopefully I’ll soon get better at composing square photographs.


5 thoughts on “Adventures in Film Development – Part 2

  1. There’s something deeply satisfying about developing one’s own film, isn’t there?

    It does get easier getting the film onto the sprockety thing, though my experience is only with 35 mm film, not the 120.

    I finally gave my film developing stuff away as we knew we’d not use it again…

    • There certainly was for this first time Kavey. I suppose it will soon get to feel “old hat”, but just taking the spiral out of the tank and seeing that there were indeed images on the film was a wonderful feeling that first time, especially as this was confirmation that “Helmut” was actually working as well as he seemed to.

      I’m sure I’ll try some 35mm at some point, but yes 120 is rather tricky mainly due to the width of the film. Any film I shoot really will be “just for the fun of it”. I’ve got a trip lined up to Duxford with my dad soon. I’ve not introduced him to “Helmut” yet and the plan is that I’ll bring out my WW2 vintage Rolleiflex to take a photo of him stood by a Spitfire or something :^)

    • Thank you Simone, and yes, I am pretty proud that my first attempt to “cook” a film worked so well. I’ll be able to take my time over shooting with Helmut in future – I was just so eager to see that he was working. When I have some spare cash available then I’m going to invest in a vintage light meter to go with him, hopefully a closeup lens too. I want to keep it fairly simple though, I know from my DSLR kit that you can just end up with too much stuff to carry around. Hopefully you’ll be looking at some similar results from your Voigtlander soon!

  2. Great results! All round both camera and developing. Welcome to the wonderful world of medium format self developed photography šŸ™‚
    I definitely recommend trying some Pan F+ 50 its wicked film… You could always use your 7D set to 100 ISO and then increase the f stop by one eg f5.6 to f4. I also love Delta 3200 ISO film (I guess I’m one for extremes). For street stuff I use HP5+ 400 ISO so I can keep the shutter at about 1/250 to freeze motion and it also gives you a bit more of a buffer if your focus isn’t quite right.
    Look forward to seeing some more from “Helmut”

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