Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

By Geoff Chaplin

How cheaply can you develop a film? Ten cents a roll? One cent???

I usually develop film in Adox Rodinal (now five years old) diluted 100:1 in water at 15-24 degrees and stand developed for one hour – twenty inversions of the tank at the start and go away for an hour. Stop-wash in plain water, fix, wash as usual. I had read that it could be used at 200:1, even 300:1, and the same batch of developer could be re-used on the same day. I was interested in trying this out, and seeing how far it could be taken.

I had a roll of FOMAPAN 100 Classic which had been rewound into the canister before exposure (user error). After getting serious with the canister I managed to retrieve the leader at a cost of some light leaks. I loaded the film into my Leica MP and shot local images with my 50mm Zeiss Planar and 15mm Voigtlander lenses. The first half was shot in good weather while the second half were shot on a dull and wet day.

After exposure I counted twenty five turns of the Paterson reel and cut the film, setting the remainder aside in a dark place until the first half was developed. Incidentally if your plastic reels stick on loading film it’s probably due to a build-up of wash aid – wash the reels in hot water and they will work like new again.

I mixed 3ml Rodinal in 600ml of water at 16-17 degrees and stand developed the film for two hours with a single inversion after one hour. For certain developers it’s necessary to break the micro-layer on the surface of the film with an aggressive movement of the liquid in order to bring fresh developer in contact with the film – hence the inversion rather than a gentle swirl.

After completing fixing and washing the first half I loaded the second half of the film onto a fresh reel. I had saved the developer I had used on the first half, poured 300ml away and added 300ml water. The developer was now 1.5ml once used Rodinal in 600ml of water – 400:1 dilution. I then developed the second reel for four hours with a single inversion after two hours.

Of course I could expect reasonable images from the fresh 200:1 dilution the real question was ‘how good or bad would the second batch be?’.

The featured image (of the viewpoint) was developed with fresh Rodinal at 200:1. Grain, what grain? I was surprised at how little the grain is visible – possibly down to cooler water than I had used recently, possibly the dilution. The Japanese Elm is also from the first half.

Rodinal 200:1
Japanese Elm

The following images are all with the ‘second-hand’ Rodinal at 400:1.

Reused Rodinal 400:1
Level crossing, train is coming.
Reused Rodinal 400:1
Ornamental tree
Reused Rodinal 400:1
Oil cans
Reused Rodinal 400:1
Urban Design (“for sale” sign)
Reused Rodinal 400:1
Space
Reused Rodinal 400:1
Temple

It is hard to compare the results from the two dilutions directly because of the very different lighting. I can say I am very pleased with the 200 dilution, and the “Space” image is also better than one taken in virtually identical light a few days ago on delta 100 developed in Rodinal at 100:1, so that gives me confidence in the 400 dilution.. Anyway I shall retake some of these images in a contrasty light.

Stand development in Rodinal 100:1 costs a little over ten cents per roll, at 400:1 dilution used to develop four rolls the cost drops to a little over one cent per roll. But this test has raised another question – if the grain is less apparent at low dilution or low temperature does this mean the developer is showing less acutance? Oh dear, more testing! This is going to work out expensive after all…

 

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About The Author

By Geoff Chaplin
Primarily a user of Leica film cameras and 8x10 for the past 30 years, recently a mix of film and digital. Interests are concept and series based art work. Professionally trained in astronomical photography, a scientist and mathematician.
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Comments

Darren Fielding on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 30/11/2023

Such a wealth of information and inspiration. I'm looking forward to my many years ahead inspired to experiment by your 'research' and findings. I'm hoping I can find Rodinal here in China. I appreciate these helpful articles. P.S Those photos are incredible. The one of the tree and the reflection in the puddle are just beautiful.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 30/11/2023

Thanks Darren. Various forms of Rodinal are or have been around: Agfa Rodinal, Adox Rodinal (aka Adonal) and Formadon R09 with variable availability. The R09 is a different formulation and has a shelf life, the Rodinals seem to last forever.

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Lee on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

At the real risk of being pedantic about the processes described here to develop this film, I feel the need to mention a few things. First, that if you're only developing half a roll of film at a time in these 1:200 and 1:400 dilutions of Rodinal, then you're not effectively developing the film at these dilutions. The reason is because there is only half as much film in your tank to consume the active developer, effectively making 1:200 and 1:400 behave like more concentrated developer. Secondly, there appears to be no rhyme or reason for why you developed in water with temperature of 16-17 degrees rather than the standard 20 degrees. Was this just whatever the final temperature ended up, because you didn't use a thermometer, and adjust water temp to 20 degrees up front, or was this a deliberate choice? Thirdly, that if the idea of using extreme dilutions (1:200 and 1:400) of Rodinal is to save yourself money on developing costs, then it's worth mentioning that your time is also valuable. Spending 2 or 4 hours to develop a single roll of film may be excessive for some folks. That's not to say you can't do something productive in the 2 or 4 hours of stand development, but it's a long time to wait. Since you've seemingly committed to conducting more tests, things I'd like to see, so you can present comprehensive results include: 1. Developing an entire roll of film (not just half) using the 1:200 and 1:400 Rodinal dilultions (2 and 4 hours respectively) to see if the final results vary by any measure. 2. Directly comparing results of developing an entire roll of film at both 16-17 degrees and 20 degrees using these 1:200 and 1:400 Rodinal dilutions. This kind of comparison will truly add value to the data you've already obtained.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

So the point of compensating development is after the initial agitation there is no further movement of developer - what is in contact with the emulsion surface stays there to the end. One single frame or two whole rolls makes no difference. Secondly Rodinal seems quite indifferent to temperature, and my water is cold, so why not? Third a development time of 4 hours means about two minutes of my time until development is finished.

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Tony Warren on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 27/11/2023

Isn't Rodinal marvellous? For a developer formulated 125 years ago and seeming to last almost indefinitely, even when looking like indian ink! I don't use anything else. I have never stand developed longer than an hour or used dilutions weaker than 1:100 but clearly they work. The development is continuing to exhaustion so I guess it doesn't matter how long you leave it. It stops when it does. When I first started taking my precious films to the local chemist many, many moons ago they used to say come back in the morning - they left films developing all night. No idea what developer they were using of course but no doubt something pretty standard.. Interesting comment about reduced grain. Dilute developers and minimum agitation usually increases acutance so grain should seem more pronounced. I have found that different emulsions respond differently to stand though, so that may be a factor. Great article and some good shots. Enjoyed that. Regards.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 27/11/2023

Thanks Tony. I recently used some Agfa Rodinal, nearly empty 500ml container, lumps at the bottom and maybe 15 years old. Worked perfectly. Interestingly the document with the developer only mentioned 25:1 and 50:1 dilutions, and also said "lasts for 6 months"! I agree, it's now the only developer I use. Negs are great, minimal hassle (having made my own developers from raw chemicals in the past - with lots of problems), and little effort on my part.

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John F. on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 26/11/2023

Thanks for sharing your results Geoff! Advancing the knowledge base, even a little bit at a time, helps us all. I'm planning stand development myself, so this just encourages me along the path.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 26/11/2023

Thanks John and good luck!

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Julian Tanase on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

My highest dilution with Rodinal never went up beyond 1:100 for a semi or stand development, never thought to go higher than that. But your approach is interesting, and I will have a go at this. Sounds like a challenge, and I'm game :) . Have put aside a roll of APX 100, all I need is time to go out and shoot it. With a polar cyclone above us here, it may take a while :) . Thank you, enjoyed the images, really great considering the dilution and time !
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

I read someone developed sheet film in a bath tub with Rodinal 1000:1 (yes, one thousand) leaving it overnight. In a way I'm surprised it worked - the large surface area would mean the Rodinal oxidises quickly and dies. So I think its a good idea to use a full tank with higher dilutions.

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John F. on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Geoff, I appreciate the experimentation. Please do keep the experiments coming, I've got some Rodinol and I'm hoping to get into stand development.
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'@artbypino on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Geoff, thanks for sharing, much helpful and results are second to none.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Thanks for the comment. Not sure about 'second to none', just snaps!

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Murray Leshner on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

I love this kind of documentation of this kind of experimentation. The images are great too.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Thanks Murray.

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Mike Avison on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Cheaper than caffinol.!
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Thanks Mike, but is it as good?

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Simon Foale on Development Tests: Rodinal 200:1 and re-used 400:1

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Interesting and impressive results Geoff. I recently tried Rodinal stand development for the first time (on Retro 80S shot at 100 and 50 ASA) and used 1:200 for one hour. My negs were pretty thin, but I got good scans for all but a couple of frames. Perhaps I should have left it for another hour, or maybe inverted the tank instead of spinning the reel at half time. I have noticed that the improved shadow detail from stand development is interpreted by some as a 'speed boost'. What is your view on this? i Ask because I have been experimenting with H&W Control, and FX1, both of which have given great results with Retro 80S at 100.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/11/2023

Thanks Simon. My guess is that using any developer in a 'self-compensating' way (i.e. low dilution, long development with minimal agitation) will develop the shadow detail more than a short development with high strength developer, at least relative to the development of the highlights. In other words stand development compresses the tonal range on the neg making it easier to print (or scan?) the entire tonal range.

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