We are Parallax Photographic. We sell film, paper, chemistry and everything else you need if you’re shooting film. The four of us: Alice, Frank, Sam and Sol, set up Parallax in 2016 with the intention to support the use of film, and love of photography, into the future. You can come and visit our shop in Brixton, to browse, buy things or just have a chat.
We all shoot film and process it ourselves so have fairly extensive knowledge of the products we sell. Our reviews are based on our combined years of experience doing it ourselves and helping our happy customers.
So you have decided to start developing your film? We have helped a lot of people get set up to process their film at home. It is a good choice – it’s surprisingly simple and can save you huge amounts of money. You also get the added benefit of handling your film from start to finish, which means you learn a lot more, and you know how it’s done.
When it comes to developing at home you have a few options available. There are machine processors, like the Jobo systems, or there are the tanks, from various suppliers that you can use by hand. In our opinion, the Paterson Universal Tank is the obvious place to start if you don’t have any equipment. Paterson make a range of darkroom equipment here in the UK, making it very easy to get additions or replacements if you need them. The Universal tank is part of their Super System 4 range – which is basically their full range of different sized developing tanks.
The Universal Tank comes with the main tank, a funnel that clicks into the top, a central column, an agitator, a lid and two reels. In terms of value for money, the Universal Tank is definitely the one to get if you are processing for the first time. You can develop two 35mm films or a single 120 at a time, so it’s flexible if you shoot both formats. Even if you plan to move up to a larger tank at a later date, it’s worth the price because it includes the two reels (with all the other tanks these are additional extras). It will also make a good backup if you just want to do one or two rolls.
The trickiest thing to get used to when using the tank is loading the film onto the reels. This is definitely something that is best to practice with a test roll of film before doing it for real. There are two notches on the outer rings that you need to line up. You then guide the film under these until it gets past the ball bearings. At this point you can hold the reel in both hands and move the two sides back and forth in opposite directions, this will feed the film through the reel. It can be a bit fiddly to feed the film in, but once you’ve done that the rest of the process is pretty smooth. Just remember that this all has to be done in complete darkness, in a light tight room or changing bag.
With the hard bit out of the way the next step is pretty straightforward. The reel slots over the central column inside the tank and the funnel lid goes on top and is locked into place. The click isn’t as satisfying as you might expect, considering your exposed film is in there. However, we have never experienced any issues or light leaks.
Chemicals are poured into the central funnel, which fills the tank from the bottom up. To empty the tank you tip it sideways and the liquid pours from the outer edge of the funnel. It can be a bit messy, so be careful how you pour it out and do it somewhere that can get a little wet (just in case). When agitating you have two options, inversion or with the agitator. If you are using the inversion method you need to put the cap on. This can take a few second to get firmly in place. This is another thing worth practising before actually developing. We’d have to say in all our years of processing we have never known the cap not to leak. It’s only slight, but it will always happen, so wear gloves… but don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong.
The funnel lid and column are very effective for washing the film at the end of development. The water is pushed through the central column and flows up from the bottom and out from the edge of the funnel. It keeps a constant flow of water running through which is exactly what you need for nicely washed film. If you have a tap that the Paterson Force Film Washer will fit on to, you can have an even more reliable flow that will also cut down on washing time and water.
There are a few things to be aware of. The reels need to be completely dry before you try loading them or your film will stick and you won’t get far. Be patient and let the reels dry before processing again. Too much fiddling in the dark with the film and it will get bent and marked, which might result in you losing frames.
Also, you need to tap the tank after each agitation to release any air bubbles. But don’t get too carried away and put too much force into in on a hard surface. It has only happened to us once, but it is possible to crack the tank.
We believe the Paterson Universal Tank to be the best start point for somebody looking to develop colour and/or black-and-white film. Paterson equipment is affordable enough to set yourself up with everything you need, no matter the amount of film you are shooting. Most importantly, it’s well made and easy to use. In all the years we have been setting people up with developing kits, we have never had any complaints – so it must be doing something right.
It is also worth noting that if you need a full set up, you can get the Paterson Film Processing Kit – which includes the Universal Tank and all the other equipment you need to get going.
All the products mentioned in this article are available in our London shop or online from our website – parallaxphotographic.coop