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Kentmere 400 – Development Process

Kentmere 400 – Development Process

PART 2: Film Development

As I mentioned in PART 1, Kentmere 400 is a part of the Ilford stable of products. It’s a low cost B&W 35mm film that often pitches up against Fomapan 400, Ilford HP5+ and Ilford FP125. Now I’ve used Ilford films in the past so I am aware of their characteristics but Kentmere 400, well, that’s another story. This was my opportunity to not only shoot it, but also to develop and then scan it.

Before progressing to the development process, let me summarise the materials and chemicals I was using. I had to figure this out from various facebook groups and websites so having it in one place might help someone else.

  • Paterson Developing Bag (or similar)
  • Jessops Dual Development tank (with 2 x 35mm reels)
  • Scissors & bottle opener (both knocking around the house)
  • The film (of course) – in this case Kentmere 400 B&W
  • Bellini Hydrofen developer
  • Bellini FX100 ECO fixer
  • Bellini Ornano Imbibente BB C 97 (this is to wash the film after fixing)
  • Dev IT App (for your phone) to time the development cycle
  • Thermometer
  • Several Paterson graduates – 45ml, 125ml and 600ml
  • A plastic measuring jug capable of holding 2L of water (for washing out etc)
  • A household water supply (or bottled water)
  • Some bulldog clips / coat hanger to hang out your drying film
  • Some 2L HDPE bottles to pour your developer, fixer and final wash into. The later two can be reused, the developer needs to be disposed of responsibly.

From loading the film to completing the developing process takes about 30 – 40 minutes if you go straight from loading the film in the developing tank and going straight into developing the film. I recommend that you use the graduates to measure out the developer (small one) and fixer (mid sized one) so they are ready to go into the larger 600ml graduate before adding to the tank as required. I also recommend putting your phone on airplane mode if you are doing this in daytime or evening as you really don’t want to get a call on your mobile while your timing the various cycles.

First and really important job, put the scissors, bottle opener, film cannister and development tank and reels into the Paterson darkroom bag. Forget any one item and you’ve got a problem. Check and double check!

Having not done any film development since the mid 1970’s I knew that there would be a few challanges along the way but I didn’t expect the first of these being how to get the 36 frame film on to the reel. Bearing in mind everything was being done in a Paterson darkroom bag, all went well until I tried to squeeze the full 36 frames on a single reel. Although I am sure that they should hold a full 36 frames It seems like the reels are best suited / designed for 24 frames because I found it really difficult to wind on the full film. In the end, I decided to cut the film at the point where it refused to go any further, and to wind the last frames on to spool two. Interestingly, when I checked later, I had cut exactly at the 24th frame which does rather reinforce the message to shoot 24 frame film in future!! That’s disappointing of course from a cost perspective. I can still shoot 36 frames but I’m going to have to sacrifice one frame around the 24th point. Other than this, I found loading the film relatively easy. Interestingly, as I was working on the loading in the bag, I fould I was doing it with my eyes closed!! No reason for that of course, just strange. My wife thinks it was the brains way of concentrating. Maybe, that makes sense!

Once the film was loaded, I was able to work in light. Using Bellini hydrofen, which I’d bought from the ever helpful. Nik & Trick in Folkestone, the quoted development time for Kentmere 400 is 6 minutes dead. Nik and Trick had already told me that the dilution was 1+39, which was confirmed by the info on the Bellini website, so I measured off 600ml total (17ml hydrofen + 583ml tap water) at just over 20 degC and set to one side while I did a prewash, again at 20 degC. This was a case of just filling the tank and agitating slowly for a minute. Pouring this away, I checked the temp of my developer mix to ensure it was at 20 degC – close enough. I’d already set the timer on Dev It, a natty little free app to 6mins DEV (at 20 degC) + 1 min STOP (I decided just to use water for this) + 3 min FIX (again from Bellini). I’d already measured off the 1+4 ratio needed ie 150ml fixer + 450ml water (600ml total) at 22degC so I was now good to go. 

I started the timer and poured in the developer agitatating for 30 seconds to thoroughly wet the film. There after the timer prompted me to agitate on the minute mark with I did for 15 seconds (using the agitation stick). After the 6 mins the timer prompted me to go to step 2 which was to pour out the developer and do a STOP wash. As mentioned, I’d already decided to use water as the STOP bath and I’d prepared 2L of this earlier. I wanted to give it a good wash over the 1min so I decided on fill, 15s agitation, pour out, replace, 15 seconds agitation, pour out, replace, 15 seconds agitation. That filled up the 1 min about perfectly.

Moving on, I poured out the water and added the prepared FIX, this time at 1+4 ratio and again at 20 degC (or near enough). I don’t know if it’s necessary but I followed the same 15s agitation at the beginning of each minute as for the DEV cycle. After the 3mins was complete, I poured the mix into a 2L container as I have read that, unlike the DEV, this can be reused. 

Finally, I did a final wash using tap water and a tiny amount of Ornano Imbibente BB C 97 which basically creates what looks like a soapy wash. I used a little too much the Ornano though, only a few drops are needed apparently, so it was pretty soapy but as for the FIX, I saved what wasn’t spilled / lost for future use. I’d bought some 2L HDPE containers from Parallax Photography in London just for this purpose. However I think I’ll also get some 5L ones as well as I think you can create a lot of waste fluids, especially the non usable DEV. 

At this point I was able to open the Dev tank and see if I’d managed to develop anything. This is both exciting and traumatic in equal measure as hours of trudging around in the cold plus the last hours efforts would have been for nothing. As it was, I was greeted by some decent looking, contrasty negatives which I duly hung out to dry after squeeging off the excess water. All this being done at midnight meant there was no inclination to fiddle with the negatives, it was time to sleep. Fortunately they looked equally as good on inspection in the morning so it appears I’m good to move on to stage 3 which is working out how to get them into the digital domain. Final job before then is to trim them to fit the sleeves. A job for after breakfast. 

Once I’ve figured out how best to turn them into digital images, I’ve two ways in mind, I’ll document that process too. In the meantime, here’s a pretty crap mobile phoned scanned image just to see what I had managed to capture. The film wasn’t flat, hence the distortion and I was just using a phone app to convert B&W negative to a B&W positive (with some basic snapseed editing) so don’t expect too much at this stage!!

Kentmere 400 – Worth the Effort?

Kentmere 400 – Worth the Effort?

PART 1: Using Film Again!!

Recently I decided to step back 40 odd years and shoot 35mm film. I’m fortunate in that I still have my old Pentax KM from the 1970’s so a quick check over, new battery and a good clean, and bingo, the old girl purred back into life. Not knowing how light tight she was I decided to go for Kentmere 400, an easy to locate, cheap but well thought of black and white film. The other thing going through my mind was that I’d not played with developing since the mid 1970’s so another hurdle and another reason not to go mad. As it was, buying the films, some basic darkroom gear and chemicals still set me back £70 and that was only because I had some equipment to hand.

First step, take a wander, find interesting subjects and take great pictures. I’m lucky in that I live in the southwest UK so there’s plenty of good subjects around, both on the coast, a little inland and, importantly fo rme, on the streets. That doesn’t necessarily mean my photos will be any good but good subject matter is all around me. My only problem, grey sky’s and rain. Weeks of it. Hardly a blue sky in sight. Undaunted, and keen to see whether the Pentax KM still had it, I pushed on and shot 36 images over a week or so. I’ve no idea what I shot of course so it’s going to be interesting to see exactly what’s on this roll assuming I’m able to develop it without issue. That’ll be part 2 of this blog by the way.

One of the key things I learned, or more correctly, remembered during this project was that with film, you need to slow down and think about what you’re shooting or going to shoot. Not only that, with the Pentax KM I was working old school. No A, P or Auto settings, just manual. The lenses I have are also all manual focus. Now, to be fair, there’s no big problem working in manual, thecamera has a light meter so set the ISO (or ASA as it says on the dial), set your desired shutter speed and open and close the aperture to let in the right amount of light. Once you’re correctly exposed, it’s just a matter of focusing and pressing the shutter button. Prefer to shoot in aperture mode, no problem. Set your aperture, and then adjust the shutter speed to achieve the right light into the camera. You can slightly under or over expose of course, plus you can use an external light meter to better capture shadows or highlights. Yo can even use the fabled zone system to expose your film but that’s for another day. Which ever method you choose, it’s pretty difficult not to capture anything and to be hones, you’re more likely to be slightly out on focus than exposure.

Did I enjoy the experience? Well, it was a little strange not being able to see the image on the screen straight after shooting and of course, capturing anything using fully manual settings and a manual focus lens does mean you tend to miss more than you capture as it’s a much slower process overall. There’s also a learning curve to master. That all being said, it was huge fun to go back 40 years plus it was actually good to slow down and think about the shot. Some shots I would have snapped on my digital camera I let go because I didn’t think they were good enough. That’s a relatively new and enjoyable experience.

PART 2: Developing Film (Coming Soon)