AGFA Rondinax 35 U
Firstly let me say that when it comes to developing my own film I'm still very much in the experimentation stages, purchasing different film types in small amounts and trying to work out what I like most.
Initially, when I'd established that getting B&W film developed locally was going to be impossible and subsequently discovered that getting it developed nationally was going to be very expensive I took the plunge and decided that I needed to work this out for myself. A few hours of surfing the net, some scribbled notes and I was ready to take my first tentative steps.
Obviously I was starting from scratch and after missing out on a couple of internet auctions I eventually purchased a "Bulk Lot" of redundant developing equipment off Trade Me, our NZ equivalent to ebay. I made the journey up to Auckland to collect the items and conveniently managed to view the Leica M6 I later purchased at the same time.....
Just over NZ$100.00 got me two big boxes of very dusty equipment, and a Magnifax Enlarger.......no intention of using this I must add.
So after some cleaning, the sorting and discarding of chemicals that were several years past the expiration dates I was left with the following list, all in perfect condition -
Magnifax Enlarger + 2 Lenses, Two Enlarging Easels, Trays, Tongues and of course Instructions....
Watson Model 100 35mm Bulk Film Loader
Smiths English Clock Systems - Timer
Numerous Measuring Jugs
Patterson 4 Film Developing Tank
Two Patterson 2 Film Developing Tanks
I then purchased a Dark Bag and the necessary Chemicals, for the record I have used Ilford as it is the most easily obtainable.
And this is how I proceeded until I spotted the Agfa RONDINAX 35 U on Trade Me, "Use this once and you'll never go back to Patterson Tanks" proclaimed the ad. Intrigued by this I purchased it for the princely sum of NZ$11.50 + Shipping surely a real bargain?
So, I've finally got around to giving it a go and you can see what I think below.
The Agfa RONDINAX 35 U
Right, so in order to test the RONDINAX 35 U I'd need to do a couple of things, firstly have a quick read through the instructions that came with it, all quite self explanatory, secondly I'd need a film to process!!! Whilst I had several films awaiting developing I didn't really want to risk any of these.......
Can there be a more comforting statement than the words "Made in Germany", Porsche, Adidas, Leica you get the picture. As you lift the RONDINAX 35 U from the box and feel it's weight you immediately know it was built to last, beautifully constructed from that favourite material of a bygone generation, Bakelite. Being well constructed is one thing, actually doing the job you were built for is quite another but it was a promising start.
Opened Up - No more fiddling around with the dark bag???
Once your used to a Dark Bag and Patterson Tanks it's not really a problem loading film blind, you do however from time to time hit a glitch, that roll that just refuses to load.....I once spent 45 mins trying to get film on to a spool, in the end, arms soaking with sweat I just had to give in, I could probably have saved the film but I just lost my cool and pulled it out of the bag! A key benefit of the RONDINAX 35 U is the removal of this step, a nice touch if it works.
What's inside - Wonderful simplicity, thats what.....
For those familiar with the Patterson Tanks the Film Spool will look familiar, it does of course load from the inside - out though, and it loads very, very well.
Film Leader - Before inserting the Film it should be cut as shown in the image
When you finished that roll of film, you did rewind it so that the leader was still protruding from the film case didn't you???? If you didn't your still going to be using the Dark Bag & Patterson Tank! If you did then cut of the leader and trim the corners as illustrated.
Insert the Film - So far so good!!!
Turn the Cassette key to "I" and retract the peg at the opposite side, insert the film, push in the peg and turn the Cassette key to "II" so simple, it also takes Contax and Leica "Special Cassettes"
Attach the Film Clip - This is just too easy....
In the centre of the Film Spool there is the Tension Band. Attach it as indicated in the image, it will need to be in the centre of the film, there's a small indentation guide to help you achieve this, clip it on and your done. Wind the film on using the Winding Knob, rotate as indicated by the arrow, just enough so it locates in to the Film Guide.
Replace the Lid - I realise it's obvious but better to make sure.....
With the lid pressed back in to place your ready to wind on the film, rotate the Winding Knob clockwise as indicated by the arrow until you feel tension, stop immediately as this is the end of the film. To satisfy yourself its correct you can look at the guide on the side (12/24/36) in my case the indicator was on 36, to indicate 36 exposures wound on. With the lid back on the Reservoir through which you will add and drain Chemicals later is now clearly visible on the Right of the RONDINAX 35 U.
Cut the Film - I know, it's so simple yet brilliant!!!
With your fingers secure on the top if the RONDINAX 35 U use you thumb to apply upward pressure to the Cutting Lever, this will sever the film. Turn the Winding Knob a little further to take on the remaining film.
Developing Times and Process - Obviously this is going to be specific to your film, choice of chemicals and working temperature, I have detailed below my film and process in this example.
Ilford HP5 Plus 400
200ml ID11 Developer (1:1) 13mins - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Ilfostop (1:19) 1min - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Rapid Fixer (1:4) - 5 mins - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Water - 30 Sec - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Water - 1 min - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Water - 1 min 30 Sec - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
200ml Ilfotol (wetting Agent) - 30 Sec - Turning the Winding Knob through 180' turns every 2 seconds.
Developer at 68', I also mix all my other chemicals at the same temperature although I don't believe this to be essential.
It is also advisable to get the RONDINAX 35 U to a temperature of 68' also, there is a built in temperature gauge to assist with this. I just popped it in the fridge before I started for ten mins as it was 74' in the garage.
The developing Stage
A couple of things stand out now about the RONDINAX 35 U, I've listed them below.
Your only using 2/3 of the Chemical you would if you were using a Patterson Tank developing a single roll, 200ml as opposed to 290ml, thats a worthwhile saving.
There is no leakage from the RONDINAX 35 U, occasionally I will get drips from my Patterson Tanks during the agitation process.
It's perhaps a little more tedious turning the Winding Knob every couply of seconds, but to be honest thats all you need to think about, as opposed to agitating for 10 seconds every minute or whatever your process is.
It's so quiet, I was convinced the Winding Knob was turning nothing inside, you could't hear any liquid noise, just a point to note, the film is only ever half submerged in the RONDINAX 35 U.
You may notice the internal temperature rise slightly on the built in thermometer, you can make any adjustments to times if you feel they are necessary.
You should raise the film end of the RONDINAX 35 U slightly while adding chemicals to the reservoir, or you'll get a tiny amount of leakage via the exposure indicator if you pour it in too fast.
Developed Film - Yes, I'm still a little sceptical at this point....
Well, the lid is off, I can see the film but its too early to tell if it's actually worked.......I'm convinced at this point that it hasn't for some reason!!!
Spool Removal - Nearly there!!!
Unscrew the Sealing Knob which is holding the Winding Knob on, this is in the centre obviously. Lift out the Film Guide and remove the Spool. Blimey it seems to have worked!!!!
I have to say the RONDINAX 35 U really is very good, it's difficult to see why more people don't use them. I'm sure they would be 3 times the cost of a modern day alternative now and thats probably why they've fallen by the wayside, also you can only do a film at a time, not 4 like my large Patterson Tank. I will continue to experiment with it though and have every intention of using it lots more.
So, your probably thinking what was on the film you developed, what camera did you use etc. I shot a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 with the FED 3 and 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5. Metering was via the Gossen Pilot. All the shots were taken around the house over half an hour and I recorded the aperture and shutter speed for my records.
Here's a few of them.
As always, thanks to those who visit this site to read and comment.