Home developing ? basic kit


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Home developing Ė basic kit

19 Apr 2020 9:36AM   Views : 406 Unique : 262


All the basic kit lined up on the kitched windowsill. The developer (white bottle with red label) is a small size, but the fixer (on the left) is family size. When you get into darkroom work seriously, you end up bulk buying for economy...

Iím assuming that you have a sink or a moderate-size hand basin to work in, with hot and cold running water, though at a pinch, you can manage without Ė itís just more complicated, and harder work!

Youíll also need somewhere relatively dust-free to dry films: a shower room where you can leave a film hanging up for a couple of hours will be good, and the more dust-free it is, the better.

I suggest buying a photographic measuring jug: using the kitchen Pyrex jug may cause a degree of domestic conflict.

You will definitely need a developing tank, a thermometer that gives readings around 20ᵒ Centigrade to +/- half a degree, and a clean bottle to keep the fixer in. And either a small photographic measuring cylinder or a large syringe for measuring the developer accurately.

The Paterson System 4 tank is the benchmark, but others exist, and some are very good indeed. A secondhand Paterson costs around £15, and you may well find it bundled with other useful stuff.


The parts of a Paterson tank laid out - I'll show you how to use them tomorrow...

For 35mm film, you need a 300ml measuring cylinder, but 600ml or 1000ml will be fine, and allow you to process roll film as well Ė cost will be around the £10 mark new. The smaller (50ml) cylinder that you use for measuring developer is a bit cheaper.

A photographic thermometer will cost from £10 new.

You can buy special photographic storage bottles, but anything will do. Beware, though Ė you need to make sure that the bottle is clean, and that it canít be mistaken for a soft drink. None of the chemicals you use for basic developing are terribly poisonous, but theyíre certainly not good for you if you neck them down. Ideally, use an old photographic bottle - if you can blag one from someone else who is already addicted, it's simple!

And if the bottle has a narrow neck, youíll need a moderate-size funnel to help you pour the fixer into it from the developing tank.

Finally, you will need small bottles of developer and fixer, from around £6 each.

And thatís all. You can get all of the chemicals and equipment from any good photographic retailer: I particularly like Ag Photographic, who offer a selection of starter kits as well as individual items. They are still very much open for business during lockdown, but only by mail order.


If you use a very highly concentrated developer, a syringe may be easier and cheaper to obtain than a measuring cylinder - to develop one 35mm film in a Paterson tank, you need to measure 12ml of developer if you're using the modern version of Afga Rodinal that I'm using. Other developers are diluted less.

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GeorgeP Avatar
GeorgeP 16 62 26 United States
19 Apr 2020 3:28PM
Clearing out the garage - got to do something during the "stay-at-home" - I discovered my Paterson System 4 tank. It rattled so hopefully, the necessary gubbins is inside. It dates from about 1993 but there doesn't look to be too much that can wear out. Now to find the measuring cylinders, order some chemicals and find new batteries for that old Pentax ME. After that comes the tricky part - reviving an old Minolta film scanner to work with Windoze 10, to get the images into a digital darkroom. Any talk of a physical enlarger/darkroom etc. are likely to initiate serious discussions so this project may die along the way . . . even if the spirit is willing. Thanks for the series.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Apr 2020 4:37PM
Good luck, George!

You need to develop an awful lot of films to wear out a Paterson tank - I'm sure more fall victim to being dropped (or thrown) than to old age.

The other major risk is leaving them somewhere too hot, so that they melt and distort...
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
19 Apr 2020 9:16PM
I recently came across a home developing film kit box that can process 135 and 120 format film (35mm or medium format 6x6) at broad daylight in Analogue Wonderland. It has an asking price of £180 (including tracked delivery in the UK). Would you reckon this is a reasonable asking price dudler for somebody who wants to begin home developing?
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Apr 2020 10:18PM
It really depends what's in the box for £180. Ag Photographic sell a kit at that price which includes all the stuff you need to develop film, not jsut the basics above, plus a cheap scanner: a couple of hundred quid more gets you an enlarger and dishes.

The very basic stuff comes in around 1/3 of that - and is fine for anyone who has already got a scanner that will handle negatives. On the other hand, if you are going to stick at it, and want the full kit, it's good value!
GeorgeP Avatar
GeorgeP 16 62 26 United States
20 Apr 2020 1:30AM

Just checked that tank. It is for 35mm film so is smaller than the one displayed here. But, it was sitting in a graduated beaker. So, maybe there are some cylinders somewhere!! (Hope springs eternal.) Now, to find an outlet for the chemicals close by.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
20 Apr 2020 6:32PM
An older tank, then - I think the Mk III tank came as a 35mm size, but both System 4 and Super System 4 began with a tank that can take 2 rolls of 325mm, or one of 120 film.

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