3D-Printed Automated Development Tank For Classic Photo Films

[packetandy] had a problem. He was still into classic analog photography, but local options for development were few and far between. After some frustration, he decided to take on the process himself, creating an automatic development tank for that very purpose.

For black and white film, developing is fairly straightforward, if dull and time consuming. The film requires constant agitation during development, which can be dull to do by hand. To get around this, [packetandy] decided to build a development tank rig that could handle agitation duties for him by wiggling the film around in his absence.

The tank itself is created by Patterson, and has a stick on top for agitating the film inside. The rig works by attaching a NEMA stepper motor to this stick to jerk it around appropriately. Rather than go with a microcontroller and custom code, [packetandy] instead just grabbed a programmable off-the-shelf stepper controller that can handle a variety of modes. It’s not sophisticated, but neither is the job at hand, and it does just fine.

It’s a nifty build that should see [packetandy]’s black-and-white photography on the up and up. Meanwhile, if simple development isn’t enough for you, consider diving into the world of darkroom robot automation if you’re so inclined!

Reviving A Sensorless X-Ray Cabinet With Analog Film

In the same way that a doctor often needs to take a non-destructive look inside a patient to diagnose a problem, those who seek to reverse engineer electronic systems can greatly benefit from the power of X-ray vision. The trouble is that X-ray cabinets designed for electronics are hideously expensive, even on the secondary market. Unless, of course, their sensors are kaput, in which case they’re not of much use. Or are they?

[Aleksandar Nikolic] and [Travis Goodspeed] strongly disagree, to the point that they dedicated a lot of work documenting how they capture X-ray images on plain old analog film. Of course, this is nothing new — [Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen] showed that photographic emulsions are sensitive to “X-light” all the way back in the 1890s, and film was the de facto image sensor for radiography up until the turn of this century. But CMOS sensors have muscled their way into film’s turf, to the point where traditional silver nitrate emulsions and wet processing of radiographic films, clinical and otherwise, are nearly things of the past. Continue reading “Reviving A Sensorless X-Ray Cabinet With Analog Film”

Darkroom Robot Automates Away The Tedium Of Film Developing

Anyone who has ever processed real analog film in a darkroom probably remembers two things: the awkward fumbling in absolute darkness while trying to get the film loaded into the developing reel, and the tedium of getting the timing for each solution just right. This automatic film-developing machine can’t help much with the former, but it more than makes up for that by taking care of the latter.

For those who haven’t experienced the pleasures of the darkroom — and we mean that sincerely; watching images appear before your eyes is straight magic — film processing is divided into two phases: developing the exposed film from the camera, and making prints from the film. [kauzerei]’s machine automates development and centers around a modified developing tank and a set of vessels for the various solutions needed for different film processes. Pumps and solenoid valves control the flow of solutions in and out of the developing tank, while a servo mounted on the tank’s cover gently rotates the reel to keep the film exposed to fresh solutions; proper agitation is the secret sauce of film developing.

The developing machine has a lot of other nice features that really should help with getting consistent results. The developing tank sits on a strain gauge, to ensure the proper amount of each solution is added. To avoid splotches that can come from using plain tap water, rinse water is filtered using a household drinking water pitcher. The entire rig can be submerged in a heated water bath for a consistent temperature during processing. And, with four solution reservoirs, the machine is adaptable to multiple processes. [kauzerei] lists black and white and C41 color negative processes, but we’d imagine it would be easy to support a color slide process like E6 too.

This looks like a great build, and while it’s not the first darkroom bot we’ve seen — we even featured one made from Lego Technics once upon a time — this one has us itching to get back into the darkroom again.

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New Tech And The Old Ways

This week on Hackaday, we featured a project that tickled my nostalgia bone, and proved that there are cool opportunities when bringing new tech to old problems. Let me explain.

[Muth] shared a project with us that combines old-school analog photography printing with modern LCD screens. The basic idea is to use a 4K monochrome screen in place of a negative, making a contact print by placing the screen directly on top of photographic paper and exposing it under a uniform light source. Just like the old ways, but with an LCD instead of film.

LCD exposure animationBut what’s the main difference between a screen and film? You can change the image on the LCD at will, of course. So when [Muth] was calibrating out exposures, it dawned on him that he could create a dynamic, animated version of his image and progressively expose different portions of the paper, extending the available dynamic range and providing him the ability to control the slightest nuances of the resulting image contrast.

As an old photo geek, this is the sort of trick that we would pull off manually in the darkroom all the time. “Dodging” would lighten up a section of the image by covering up the projected light with your hand or a special tool for a part of the exposure time. With [Muth]’s procedure, he can dodge the image programmatically on the per-pixel level. We would have killed for this ability back in the day.

The larger story here is that by trying something out of the box, applying a new tool to an old procedure, [Muth] stumbled on new capabilities. As hackers, we’re playing around with the newest tech we can get our hands on all the time. When you are, it might be that you also stumble on new possibilities simply afforded by new tech. Keep your eyes open!

Digital To Analog In The Darkroom

As the world becomes more and more digital, there are still a few holdouts from the analog world we’ve left behind. Vinyl records are making quite the comeback, and film photography is still hanging on as well. While records and a turntable have a low barrier for entry, photography is a little more involved, especially when developing the film. But with the right kind of equipment you can bridge the gap from digital to analog with a darkroom setup that takes digital photographs and converts them to analog prints.

The project’s creator, [Muth], has been working on this project since he found a 4K monochrome display. These displays are often used in resin 3D printers, but he thought he could put them to use developing photographs. This is much different from traditional darkroom methods, though. The monochrome display is put into contact with photo-sensitive paper, and then exposed to light. Black pixels will block the light while white pixels allow it through, creating a digital-to-analog negative of sorts. With some calibration done to know exactly how long to expose each “pixel” of the paper, the device can create black-and-white analog images from a digital photograph.

[Muth] notes that this method isn’t quite as good as professional print, but we wouldn’t expect it to be. It creates excellent black-and-white prints with a unique method that we think generates striking results. The 4K displays needed to reproduce this method aren’t too hard to find, either, so it’s fairly accessible to those willing to build a small darkroom to experiment. For those willing to go further, take a look at some other darkroom builds we’ve seen in the past.

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Simple Photo Enlarger Makes Great Addition To Any Darkroom

Chemical-based photography can seem like a dark art at times, but it needn’t be so. [Dan K] developed the Simple Enlarger to help spread the idea that classical photographic darkroom tools are fundamentally quite easy to understand and build.

The assembled enlarger.

A photographic enlarger illuminates a negative with light, and focuses this light on a sheet of photographic paper which can then be developed. [Dan’s] enlarger design is intended to be built using materials readily available from any dollar store or stationer’s shop, and can be built in just a few short hours. It’s built to work with a single film format and with a fixed size of photographic paper for simplicity’s sake.

A simple M-mount camera lens is pressed into service for the main optic, with the ex-Soviet part chosen for its easy focusing and cheap price. A small plywood box makes a decent body, and a white phosphor LED provides¬† the light source. The final rig is designed to print 35mm negatives on to standard 8×10 paper.

If you want to get into developing your own negatives and don’t want to buy a commercial enlarger, [Dan]’s build could be just the way to go. We’ve seen some other similar builds before, too. Meanwhile, if you’ve got your own nifty darkroom hacks, be sure to drop us a line!

Hacking Film Processing With Coffee

Years ago, doing your own darkroom work was the only way to really control what your pictures looked like. In those days, coffee was what kept you going while you mixed another batch of noxious chemicals in the dark and fumbled to load a tank reel by feel. But did you know that you can process black and white film with coffee? Not just coffee, of course. [Andrew Shepherd] takes us through the process using what is coyly known as Caffenol-C.

Apparently, the process is not original, but if you’ve ever wanted to do some film developing and don’t want exotic and dangerous chemicals, it might be just the ticket. The ingredients are simple: instant coffee, washing soda, water and –optionally — vitamin C powder. If nothing else, all of this is safe to pour down your drain, something you probably aren’t supposed to do with conventional developers that contain things like formaldehyde and methyl chloroform.

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