The Filmomat Home Film Processing System

The death of film has been widely reported, but technologies are only perfected after they’ve been made obsolete. It may not be instant photography, but there is at least one machine that will take 35mm film and 5×7″ prints and develop them automatically. It’s called the Filmomat, and while it won’t end up in the studios of many photographers, it is an incredible example of automation.

The Filmomat is an incredible confabulation of valves, tubes, and pumps that will automatically process any reasonably sized film, from 35mm to 5×7 color slides. The main body of the machine is an acrylic cube subdivided into different sections containing photo processing chemicals, rinse water, and baths. With a microcontroller, an OLED display, and a rotary encoder, different developing processes can be programmed in, the chemicals heated, developer agitated, and film processed. The Filomat is capable of storing fifty different processes that use three chemicals and a maximum of ten steps.

The video for this device is what sells it, although not quite yet; if enough people are interested, the Filmomat might be sold one day. This is likely the easiest film developing will ever get, but then again a technology is only perfected after it has been made obsolete.

Thanks [WhiteRaven] for sending this one in.

31 thoughts on “The Filmomat Home Film Processing System

    1. C41 (color negative film) and E6 (color slide film) processing don’t really have much tolerance for changes in the time and temperature per bath, unlike black and white where much control can be gained from modifying development parameters, so I’d imagine the machine doesn’t need it. Everything have to be kept at the same temperature, (39º C for C41 and 38ºC for E6) and the development times are standardised.
      So I’d imagine the machine doesn’t need it.

    2. I loved those on CRT monitors, with a finger indent. clickspinclickspinclickspinclick Very fast to navigate through menus and make adjustments, far faster and easier than monitors that had four or more buttons.

      Making it easy to use is all about designing the menu system properly. There’s basically two selection modes that clicking toggles between. First mode is for cycling through function selections. Second mode is for adjusting the selected value. Other types of function can be used but that involves more nested levels or other complexities and to avoid having to step back through every level to return to the root, every sub level needs a selection to go back to the previous and one to go back to the root level.

      I wish my LaserJet 4100DTN printer had such a control.

  1. Quite negative comments here? Single rotary is just enough for this kind of projects. It’s versatile and simple. Works on 3D printers well, too. If the tanks leak, there’s “some” other problems than getting it to electronics. And I didn’t see internal structure, maybe the electronics are protected (inverted pool over).

    I think this is brilliantly done, good video, good idea. I want one too (altough sending my slide films to a lab is not a biggie either..)

    1. Yeah – I have to call BS on the whole thing – the video shows the system being programmed for E-6. Yeah, right – I’ve done E-6 processing, and 3 chemicals doesn’t do it. According to Wikipedia, the chemicals needed are:

      1) 1st developer
      2) Reversal bath
      3) Color developer
      4) Pre-bleach conditioner
      5) Bleach
      6) Fixer

      I remember there were some processes being sold in the 1970s that simplified this by for example, using exposure to light instead of a reversal bath, eliminating the conditioner step, and combining bleach and fixer into a single “Blix” chemical, which COULD get you down to 3 chemicals, but reputable labs used the full process. In any case, it’s not correct to call one of these “shortcut” processes “E-6”.

      1. It’s not BS. You can do E6 with just three chemicals.

        If you could ready the Wikipedia article that you quoted in full, it says:
        “The ‘hobby’ type chemistry kits, such as those produced by Tetenal, use three chemical baths that combine the color developer and fogging bath solutions, and the pre-bleach, bleach and fixer bath solutions. “

      2. Well put, my experience was using a Jobo tube processor back in undergrad (’90-’93) we also did Cibachrome prints from E6 on a Jobo. I don’t remember it being 3 baths for any of those processes. So I heartily concur B.S. badges are due.

        1. There is no B.S. badge due, I develop E6 at home using the Arista E6 kits. Once mixed you have 3 separate chemical baths and that is it. Also this process is not in anyway inferior to lab processed E6, I have not had very good experiences at all with lab processed E^. Hence the reason I decided to do it myself. I know people who were using these 3 bath kits 15-20 years ago and there transparencies are every bit as archival as lab developed transparencies.

          1. My apologies. I was aware of the 3-chemical kits available in the late 1970s, which were considered inferior to the full 6-chemical process. I was not aware until after posting the “BS”, that kits like this were still in use. “BS” retracted.

  2. The 1 improvement I would add:
    Have and automated way to extract the film from the canister while inside the machine. This eliminates the need for a darkroom/red-light for spooling the film and reduces the risk of accidental exposure.

      1. Except for orthochromatic films, photographic film would be ruined under a red light. Those are only really for black and white printing paper. A darkroom is not necessary for loading film into the development spool on this machine, or for any home development system for that matter. To develop film at home, most people use a light tight film changing bag. Most film development tanks are designed to be used under normal lighting. I haven’t used a darkroom for developing film in nearly a decade.

    1. I’ve been using a “darkroom bag” for the last 3 years since I don’t have a darkroom anymore. An automated way to extract the film would probably be a mess for both 135 and 120 format films, having to cut the end of the film from the spool/backing paper. And for medium format, most of the time I use the spare tape at the end of the film to connect one roll to another so 2 films can go into 1 spool without overlapping by accident. I cannot imagine a good mechanical solution to do this other than doing it manually. That said, your idea would be revolutionary, if someone made it work in a sensible way.

      1. I don’t know about 120, but I remember seeing an automatic processing machine at a photo store in a mall many years ago. They had a flat strip of metal with something on the end (sticky or barby) that they’d stick into the slit of a 35 mm cassette to grab the end of the film, then they stuck the end into a slot in the machine and closed the cover over the cassette. It must’ve had a cutter to take care of the other end. No dark bag needed.

  3. Looks good to me, beam me back to 1979 and I’ll take it with me. Sadly I’ve gone digital, but I do still hanker after the “good old days”, there is something magical about developing film.

  4. Great design!. I agree with the amount of tanks, but I think expanding that setup is not a big issue.
    I would opt for a simple web interface for the configuration and the lcd only for status updates, but nice anyhow.

  5. Very nice. Tip for the next video. Like using testimonials, at least one glimpse of a developed transparency will speak volumes. (I have a bunch of old unopened E6 kits. Anyone interested?)

  6. This is a simply beautiful design. It’s clearly been well thought out for ease-of-use. Pouring the 3 chemicals in to the reservoirs and draining them back into the bottles again looks very straightforwards and avoids hoses running to racks of bottles on the shelf. You can see if there’s enough chemical needed before you start, and the moving columns of liquid are very satisfying to watch.

    As far as the interface goes, it looks perfect. Bear in mind common film recipes are likely programmed ahead of time, so it’s just a way to add the odd custom steps if needed, without dragging out a laptop and programming cable.

    I love the fitting on the film holders so the liquid can be moved in and out without light getting in. Does anyone know if that’s a standard idea for developing systems?

    It looks like a great system and a fantastic conversation piece, awesome work!

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