Processing B&W film using the Jobo ATL 1000
Processing B&W film using the Jobo ATL 1000 greatly simplifies the process of film development. This short article is a personal study of my experience of using the ATL 1000 to develop B&W film.
What is it?
The Jobo ATL 1000 is a film processing machine (made in Germany) for automating the development and fixing processes in both B&W and colour films. It is easy to use, well for the most part at least, and the results so far have been good. I’m trying to pluck up courage to try it on colour film as I have some C41 chemicals in the studio – I’ll report on this another time.
One of the benefits of the Jobo ATL 1000 is that it can undertake many time-consuming development processes automatically. It’s a kind of set and forget peice of equipment. For example you can process B&W film, C-41 film and E6 film using any of the presets available. So far I have only tried the B&W presets but I have used a variety of the settings with some success.
The Jobo ATL 1000 I have access to is very old and very battered having sat in a friend’s shed for over a decade. When I first tried it out I basically flooded the room!! Several of the internal pipes had become disconnected and I simply pumped water at 5 bar pressure anywhere it wanted to go. The result was very, very messy. I’m actually pretty surprised that it still worked after fixing these problems as the electronics boards got extremely wet!
There was also a problem with the on/off switch, the push to make / break type. This was permenantly stuck in the ON position. I tried various ways to release this but all to no vail. Eventually I removed it and spent some time trying to find the exact switch online to replace it. That proved possible but the price was extortinate even from major suppliers such as Farnell – somewhere close to £26 with shipping. In the end I bought a switch from Ebay for about £2.50 which although of the rocker type, was waterproof and of the same specification and designas the broken one. I had to cut out a slightly larger hole in the housing to allow it fit but that took less than 5 minutes. The switch is plug and play so once connected the unit fired up as expected.
Processing B&W film
Prior to preparing the chemicals for the processing part of the job it is necessary to first use a light tight box or bag to remove the film from the camera, take it off the cartridge and spool it onto the Jobo reel. Once this easy but frustrating job is done I simple pop the spooled film into the Jobo tank, while still in the dark bag of course, seal it and it’s ready to put into the ATL 1000.
Processing B&W film is remarkably simple for the Jobo ATL 1000. The most difficult part is to get the developer to temperature as the Jobo won’t operate unless the developer is sitting at 24 degC. Now I understand that the Jobo ATL 1000 heats the water using a heating element monitoring the temperature in the developer tank using a thermometer. I haven’t relied on this choosing instead to sit the developer (in a mixing vial) in a tub of very hot water from the kettle. I have to do this because the cold water supply here in the UK in April is still only about 10 degC. Sitting the mixing vial in the hot water brings the temperature up nicely as you mix the developer ( I use Bellini Hydrofen at 1:39 mix) and at 25 degC I pour the developer into the #1 container having already filled the #2, #3 and #4 containers with water, Bellini ISO100 fix bath (1:4 mix) and water with a a tiny amount of soapy type substance to avoid water staining.
The next step is to set the processing time. The jobo offers several options for B&W developing, for example 5 mins with +- 2.5, 5, 10 or 20% compensation adjustments. For example, if you want to develop B&W film for say 5mins 30 seconds you simple choose the 5 min process option and dial in a compensation of +10% ie 5 x 60 equals 300 so 10% of 300 is 30 which gives you a total of 5mins 30 seconds. Simple and efficient. Once the correct development time is set, hit the on switch and the machine starts up.
The Devlopment Process
If the Jobo ATL 1000 is working properly the first part of the process is to flush the film container with water to give it a good clean. This is done at the ambient temperature of the mains water supply which as I said is just 10 degC at the moment. I’m not sure that this is ideal though as in the the next step the temperture of the developer will be 24 degC – a fourteen degree difference!. Later in the summer this difference will be dramatically educed but at the moment, that’s quite a big temperature difference. In fact, other than the development process all of the other parts of the process will be at toom temperature which for example today is just 11 degC.
All of the above beng said, here’s the overall process summarised.
- Flush and clean – about 5 minutes using the mains water supply
- Develop (Bellini Hydrofen at 1:39) – as set on the timer. Continuous back and forth rotation of the tank
- Stop Bath (water) – runs for a couple of minues and is again aggitated as above
- Fix Bath – runs for another couple of minutes – aggitation as above
- Water flush with soap – this part of the process douesn’t seem to work, it gets skipped
- Final flush using mains water – this is repeated about 5 times over a 5 minute period – aggitiation as above
All of the time the ATL 1000 is running the film is being rotated unless of course it is being emptied between each of the above steps in the process. The rotation is both ways, say 3/4 of turn one way, back 1/2 a turn etc etc. This means that the whole of the film is being exposed to all of the various baths in the container at some point in the process. For a single film, the optimum fill is just 175ml but I tend to use 200ml for a single 35mm film. Overall, the processor seems to get through about 10L of water during the various flushes etc. That’s a lot of water for a single film! When I have processed film manually I have used a lot less water. Processing B&W film using the Jobo ATL 1000 is pretty wasteful of water.
Comparison with Manual Developing
As expected, the two processes are remarkably similar. The only difference is the pre-filling of the various tanks on the Jobo ATL 1000 prior to operation as opposed to emptying and filling the tank when done manually. Getting the film ready is exactly the same. The temperatures are basically the same, the mixes are exactly the same. The manual process however uses a fraction of the water used in the automatic process, something to remember if you’re going green.
With regards the results, there’s more difference in the camera / lens combination used than in the processed results for a particular film. FP4 plus looks basically the same when shot through my Nikon FE irrespective of whether it was processed manually or using the Jobo ATL 1000. I imagine that’s pretty much to be expected though. The primary difference in the processing between the two methods (manual versus automatic) is that in the manual process I simply invert and tap once every 30 seconds while in the Jobo process, the aggitation is continuous.
The following image is extracted from film that expired in 1996. The stock is Paterson Acupan 800, similar to Fomapan which is perhaps more widely known. Paterson is better known for making film darkroom equipment which is suprisingly apt for this article. This image is one of 36 taken using the Olympus Trip XB41 discussed elsewhere on this webite. I can’t be too unhappy with the results.
Other Posts you might like
There are a number of posts on this website talking about film processing and editing so have a wander around if this interests you. Here’s a few you might like:
- Digitising Film | Natural window backlight vs Huawei P20 Pro Backlight
- Digitising Film | The final solution – almost!
- Part 1: Digitising film with an office scanner
- Part 2: Digitising film with a camera setup!
- 35mm Film Resurgence?