Lab-Box has arrived!
Old 07-17-2019   #1
Godfrey
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Lab-Box has arrived!

There was a thread about the Ars Imago "Lab-Box" project on Kickstarter some ages ago, but I cannot find it. The campaign started in February of 2017.

It's been a long, long haul but my Lab-Box has been delivered and is ready for me to test and use.





It looks good, the pieces feel good too. I look forward to learning how to use them and seeing how well they work.

Finally a modern replacement for my 'always getting more ancient' Agfa Rondinax processing tanks ...

onwards!
G
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Old 07-17-2019   #2
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Interesting! Please keep us informed how it works, thanks
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Old 07-17-2019   #3
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I just loaded the Leica M4-2 and Voigtländer Perkeo II with some HP5 so I can test both the 35mm and 120 processing modules. It will take a few days to shoot some decent photos now ...

G
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Old 07-17-2019   #4
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I want one! How cool.
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Old 07-17-2019   #5
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Godfrey, please keep us posted. I'm always worried that I'm losing my touch when loading may reels. So, I trust you to give us the straight scoop.
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Old 07-17-2019   #6
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I also ordered this with both 35mm and 120 modules. I just got the email asking to confirm my shipping address on Friday. So hopefully mine will arrive soon as well! Looking forward to hearing your experiences with it, and seeing some results!
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Old 07-17-2019   #7
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Sweet! +1 for updates when it’s time.
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Old 07-17-2019   #8
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Bravo Sir! Let's us know how it performs.
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Old 07-17-2019   #9
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Old 07-17-2019   #10
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Freestyle Photo has them listed but not available until after August 1st.
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Old 07-17-2019   #11
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Godfrey, are you going to use the same developers and times that you have been using with the Rondinax?
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Old 07-17-2019   #12
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CineStill Film is another US supplier that is selling them, once supply catches up. Ars Imago is still fulfilling the Kickstarter community pledges at the moment, I believe.

The Lab-Box has the ability to be used like the Rondinax (250ml of chemistry, continuous agitation) but it also can be used like a standard tank (500ml of chemistry submerges the entire processing reel) so you can do different variations on agitation, chemistry, etc. For simplicity's sake, I'll start with shooting HP5 at the same EI that I adopted for Rondinax and processing that way. Then later I'll play with other workflows to see what works best for me.

I do like to keep it as simple as possible, and don't want to stock more than one developer at a time ... I don't use enough and don't want to constantly throw it away needlessly. HC-110 concentrate is very very good that way ... I'm only a third down on the big bottle I bought more than a decade ago, and it's still quite fresh, works as if I bought it yesterday.

G
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Old 07-17-2019   #13
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Was debating whether to post this at this time or not, but processed a 36 exposure roll of 135 in mine this afternoon, and there were “issues”.
First the upside: The unit is very well made, as are the packaging and instruction materials. Everything fits together very well, much nicer than my Rondinax. Chemistry pours into and out of it cleanly, no drips. Gasketing around the knob used to rotate the film in solution is well thought out and appears to be of high quality..again, seems nicer than the Rondinax. It doesn’t leak through there, and I was using a 14 minute development cycle. Not a drop of liquid escaped, and I was using the full tank option with intermittent rotations. Reel looks to be well designed and solid.

Everything seemed like it was working perfectly, film fits nicely in the funneling device with no binding. Get it started onto the reel, then snap the lid on. Continue rolling film onto the reel until the knob stops turning, meaning you have reached the end of the film in the canister, then push the blade up to sever the film (which also works very smoothly and cuts cleanly), then roll the last bit of film onto the reel and pour in the developer. Pour out developer when done, pour in stop, etc, as per usual. There are not that many places for user error to intrude.

This first roll, however, was ruined because the film wound into the reel, one circumference worth, then the rest of the roll just piled onto the top of that first bit of film, around and around, tightly lumped together. There was no way to know this was happening from the outside, as it all felt pretty smooth, turning the knob on the outside. If I am loading a plastic Patterson reel in the darkroom, and it binds, I can tell, and just pull it out and start over. Here, it all felt fine, rolling it on, but the film was just piling on top of the first layer of film, outside the reel, so only the first 12 inches or so of film actually fed into the channels of the reel, so that is the only part of the film that ever got developer, etc, onto the emulsion. So, I got maybe 9 shots, and the rest was a mess, basically, with no images.
What I did get looked excellent, and I just used the same intermittent agitation scheme and times as I usually would.

So, what went wrong? I am guessing, hoping, it was due to a less than optimal amount of curl on the end of the film which caused it to bind once it got part way into the reel. This film was from a Nikon F2, which like a Leica may give you a film end which curls “the wrong way” or has a kink at the end. I tried to cut most of that off, but I didn’t cut the leader back far enough into the film strip that it had a nice gentle curl to allow it to slide into the tracks in the reel smoothly. (Though I would have had no trouble, as it was, loading it onto a Patterson reel.) They do make allusions to being careful about this in the manual, so am hoping that is it, as I am not sure how many shots I am willing to lose until this works itself out.
Not wanting to be unnecessarily negative here, just reporting. I will double check the reel tomorrow to make sure there are no burrs along the tracks which might have caused the film to stop feeding in. Will just run an exposed roll of dry film into it by hand and see if anything binds.
Looks like a nice, well thought out, and cleanly manufactured system, if it works. Seems a lot nicer than my Rondinax, I can say that much. And the results were nice on the frames that the chemicals could reach, though I haven’t scanned them yet.
Hoping Godfrey and others have better luck with their first rolls.
I will post later with further results as they happen, one way or the other.
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Old 07-17-2019   #14
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Where to buy?

For those living in Europe, macodirect (Germany) is a good place to buy from:


https://www.macodirect.de/en


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Old 07-18-2019   #15
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My lab-box showed up yesterday and I was really excited to try it. I pre-ordered mine in 2017 so it’s been quite the wait. At the time I had never processed any film before so the lab-box seemed like the perfect introduction. The wait was so long I ended up teaching myself how to use a Paterson tank and have since moved to SS tank with hewes reels.

Anyway, I did run a roll of 400tx with acufine through the lab-box yesterday according to the directions (490ml, agitate 30s then 5s every 30s) and it worked perfectly. No issues getting the film to load, no leaks, and a really nice and even development. It’s designed and made well, as I’d hoped considering the wait. But I’m still going to sell mine.

My problem with the lab-box is the same problem I had with the plastic Paterson tanks and reels - they have to be completely dry to load the film, otherwise they’ll bind up and ruin the roll. Not a problem if you only do a roll here and there but I shoot a bit more than that.

I’m going to sell my lab-box to a friend who’s just getting started processing at home. I think it will work really well for him, or anyone that’s looking for a simple no fuss setup to process a roll of film maybe once or twice a week. Great product, just not for me
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Old 07-18-2019   #16
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The more I read about these things the more I realise how ideal they are in the extremely small space I now live in. When they become readily available I may make the plunge!
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Old 07-18-2019   #17
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Quote:
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My problem with the lab-box is the same problem I had with the plastic Paterson tanks and reels - they have to be completely dry to load the film, otherwise they’ll bind up and ruin the roll.

Same issues with SS reels, I always use a hair dryer to dry them out between loading. Don;t know if you can do that with plastic reels (hair dryers can really deliver heat).
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Old 07-18-2019   #18
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I'm curious as it says on the box that it is the first multi format daylight loading etc. But what are the formats, bearing in mind that only 120 and 35mm exist plus home cut 127 and perhaps others I've not come across?


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Old 07-18-2019   #19
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The more I read about these things the more I realise how ideal they are in the extremely small space I now live in. When they become readily available I may make the punge!

Check the link below.



https://www.freestylephoto.biz/searc...IMAGO+LAB-BOX+
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Old 07-18-2019   #20
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I already checked freestyle before ... I used to get film off them. I don't thing this is all that expensive considering the convenience.
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Old 07-18-2019   #21
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Outstanding news!!! I a well live in a space w/ no room for a "lab." So, I'm gonna give this a try. Since Philly lost Philadelphia Photographics who decided to close shop, I've had to depend upon a small shop for developing, and so I'm at the behest of their schedule and associated logistics. This unit looks as though it will fill the bill. Thanks for posting, Godfrey and for you all providing your feedback.
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Old 07-18-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post

I do like to keep it as simple as possible, and don't want to stock more than one developer at a time ... I don't use enough and don't want to constantly throw it away needlessly. HC-110 concentrate is very very good that way ... I'm only a third down on the big bottle I bought more than a decade ago, and it's still quite fresh, works as if I bought it yesterday.

G
With regards to a little HC-110 going a long way, about 6 years ago, I divided up a bottle of the developer into 4 brown glass bottles. I'm now part way through through the second glass bottle. Dilution h requires about 4.5 mL per 300mL of working solution.

Have fun folks. It'll be nice to read how the new apparatus performs with 120 film.
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Old 07-18-2019   #23
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Interesting - I wonder how this differs from my 1920s Kodak daylight loading box?

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Old 07-18-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
I'm curious as it says on the box that it is the first multi format daylight loading etc. But what are the formats, bearing in mind that only 120 and 35mm exist plus home cut 127 and perhaps others I've not come across?


Regards, David
What they mean is 120 and 35mm, provided you get both those clip on modules. It’s “the first” because with the Rondinax you either had the one which did 120, or the one which did 135, so you needed two separate Rondinaxes.
With the Lab Box, you have one machine, with two interchangeable film holding modules, provided you bought both of them. It’s a minor distinction which nonetheless provides some advertising copy.
They have done a really nice job on the manufacturing quality though. There are established companies who don’t do as well.
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Old 07-18-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
...
This first roll, however, was ruined because the film wound into the reel, one circumference worth, then the rest of the roll just piled onto the top of that first bit of film, around and around, tightly lumped together. There was no way to know this was happening from the outside, as it all felt pretty smooth, turning the knob on the outside. ...
If it's any consolation, I have had one or two 'accidents' like that with the Rondinax tanks. It is always a big disappointment when it does happen.

I've got a few 'junk' rolls that I constructed to learn loading and get the feel of the device. That's the one downside of all these kinds of tanks: You're operating blind during loading so you really have to develop a sensitive touch to feel when the film is mis-threading.

I've loaded up my junk 135 roll twice now and inspected the results. No problems. The feel*at the knob is very light so I can tell I have to concentrate to detect whether a problem is happening. I don't have a good way of simulating this for 120 format film.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xjonstars View Post
...
My problem with the lab-box is the same problem I had with the plastic Paterson tanks and reels - they have to be completely dry to load the film, otherwise they’ll bind up and ruin the roll. Not a problem if you only do a roll here and there but I shoot a bit more than that. ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
Same issues with SS reels, I always use a hair dryer to dry them out between loading. Don;t know if you can do that with plastic reels (hair dryers can really deliver heat).
This is why I acquired a couple of Rondinax and Rondix tanks, for processing more than one film at the same time. But using a hair dryer set on low, or even just a small fan after blotting the reels as dry as you can, will dry them out completely in just a couple of minutes. Given the volume of film I process nowadays, it's not proven to be a problem, but if you're doing multiple rolls per session then multiple tanks or other processing equipment that can handle more volume prove more efficient.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
I'm curious as it says on the box that it is the first multi format daylight loading etc. But what are the formats, bearing in mind that only 120 and 35mm exist plus home cut 127 and perhaps others I've not come across?
120 and 135 film sizes, at least for now. The previous such daylight loading tanks from Agfa, Essex, et al only handled one film type—you needed entirely different tanks to handle 135 and 120 film (for Agfa, it was Rondix 35 and Rondinax 35U for 135, and Rondinax 60 for 120).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
With regards to a little HC-110 going a long way, about 6 years ago, I divided up a bottle of the developer into 4 brown glass bottles. I'm now part way through through the second glass bottle. Dilution h requires about 4.5 mL per 300mL of working solution.

Have fun folks. It'll be nice to read how the new apparatus performs with 120 film.
I have been using HC-110 diluted 1:49 with water, so 4ml concentrate plus 196ml water for 200 ml developer which works fine for all my Agfa tanks. It's a slightly dilute developer, I can use one mix for two or three rolls of 135 or 120, but I usually use it one-shot (I only very rarely have more than one roll to process at a time these days).

I'll probably do 120 first ... the Perkeo II is loaded and ready.
Can't wait to see how it performs on a 'wet' run.

G
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Old 07-18-2019   #26
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Thanks for the real life experience Larry. Very helpful. I'm interested in these contraptions!

I suspect that the problem you had w/ the reel is something that will go away once you understand the unit and get used to it. Can't tell you how many reels of film I ruined loading Paterson reels in the beginning. I still don't like it that w/o light one can never really know if a reel is loaded correctly or not, but after considerable use, it gets easier to feel the film on the reel w/ your fingers. You pretty well know if it's loaded correctly.

You can't do that w/ the Lab-Box, but again, I suspect it's just a matter of becoming more familiar w/ it before that issue resolves itself.
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Old 07-18-2019   #27
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Larry and Godfrey,


Thanks, I guessed it would be 120 and 35mm but thought it best to ask.



Regards, David
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Old 07-18-2019   #28
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How do you wash the film between chemicals?
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Old 07-18-2019   #29
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How do you wash the film between chemicals?
A youtube video, courtesy of Malcom Peaker - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdc6T6ydARQ

Just pour out the developer, add whatever milliliters of water that is require by the developing tank - twirl a bit - pour out again - then add a second whatever milliliters of water for good measure, twirl for about 30 seconds, pour out the second water bath and add the proper measurement of fixer.
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Old 07-18-2019   #30
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Thanks for the real life experience Larry. Very helpful. I'm interested in these contraptions!

I suspect that the problem you had w/ the reel is something that will go away once you understand the unit and get used to it. Can't tell you how many reels of film I ruined loading Paterson reels in the beginning. I still don't like it that w/o light one can never really know if a reel is loaded correctly or not, but after considerable use, it gets easier to feel the film on the reel w/ your fingers. You pretty well know if it's loaded correctly.

You can't do that w/ the Lab-Box, but again, I suspect it's just a matter of becoming more familiar w/ it before that issue resolves itself.

That’s probably the case. I have a fair amount of experience with the Rondinax and Patterson reels, but might have been pushing my luck a bit with the lack of perfect “flatness” on the leading edge of the film. This roll had been in the camera a long time, and the end had assumed a curled back shape that was resistant to flattening. I cut back a fair amount to get into some flatter film, but it still wasn’t perfectly flat. I knew at the time it might present a problem, but didn’t want to destroy the first frame by pulling any more of the film out in order to get back into some flatter film. I knew from my usage history with the Rondinax that this might cause a jam, but I think I was just trying to find out if this unit, with this new reel was any better in that regard. Apparently not
(And you cannot tell from the feel of the knob rotation that anything is amiss)

For someone contemplating buying one of these, I was trying to make a couple of points as points of reference. The lack of “flatness” I am describing was not severe. It would have easily threaded into a Patterson reel with no jamming problems. The Rondinax reels tend to be less forgiving of uneven bends in the leading edge of the film, and so, apparently, do the Lab Box reels. Lesson learned. I have dry run a test roll of film, having a clean leading edge with no kinks or bends in it, several times, and the reel loaded smoothly with no issues every time.

This attribute isn’t really a design flaw, you just need to watch your technique, as with most things.
Will see how things go from here on out, but my initial experience should not dissuade anyone from trying one of these, as I was pushing the envelope a bit more than I should have. Used carefully, this will probably turn out to be a useful piece of equipment for a lot of people.
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Old 07-18-2019   #31
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A youtube video, courtesy of Malcom Peaker - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdc6T6ydARQ

Just pour out the developer, add whatever milliliters of water that is require by the developing tank - twirl a bit - pour out again - then add a second whatever milliliters of water for good measure, twirl for about 30 seconds, pour out the second water bath and add the proper measurement of fixer.
Thanks Andrew.
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Old 07-18-2019   #32
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So, one roll at a time, ah?
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Old 07-18-2019   #33
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Looks cool, clever engineering...but really expensive to avoid a changing bag and only be able to do one roll per session. ONE ROLL?!
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Old 07-18-2019   #34
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Tanks like this aren't for everyone. They suit me very well now ... the number of times I've had more than one roll to process at any given time in the past decade I could count on the fingers of one hand.

They're simply very very useful if you don't have a darkroom and don't want to fuss with changing bags or light tents, etc. I can process a roll of film in 25 minutes end to end with one and everything is cleaned up and put away in another 3.

G
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Old 07-18-2019   #35
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Mine is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. It will be my first time developing film. I've got the Monobath from Cinestill on hand. Will share results from developing this weekend.
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Old 07-18-2019   #36
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Looks cool, clever engineering...but really expensive to avoid a changing bag and only be able to do one roll per session. ONE ROLL?!
Forum denizens are not indicative of the world at large. Most people take weeks or months to shoot one 36 exposure roll of film.

Processing one roll at a time isn’t a drawback for most people, and the small niche of people who have a legitimate need to process multiple rolls of film at one time, most of those people already have a darkroom if they are that serious about film photography. Some don’t, but most do.
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Old 07-18-2019   #37
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Count me among the agnostics, to me it seems like a solution in search of a problem. It doesn't take less space or time than a normal tank. And a normal tank doesn't require a darkroom to load, a dark room is sufficient. For those who shoot very rarely, the price is high. For beginners, it seems to help create the impression that it's all very difficult if something like this is needed.... and again, the price is a hurdle, so maybe in total it's not all that useful to get more people to develop their own film. But never mind, apparently enough people backed the Kickstarter after all.
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Old 07-18-2019   #38
Pete B
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post

This first roll, however, was ruined because the film wound into the reel, one circumference worth, then the rest of the roll just piled onto the top of that first bit of film,
Is it possible to load in a changing bag with the Lab Box's lid open so you can monitor its correct loading with a finger tip on the edge of the film, or is it not possible to load with the lid open?
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Old 07-18-2019   #39
davidnewtonguitars
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My young son & I both shoot B&W film, I bulk load cassettes and process in a 4 roll tank, every few weeks, 8-10 rolls. I am very frugal, use 1+1 D76, water stop bath, and keep count of how many rolls I have fixed before mixing a new batch.
All that to say I think that I will encourage my son to stay the heck out of my developing equipment, buy the Lab Box and do some films on his own. I think this is a great way to get started.
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Old 07-18-2019   #40
Larry Cloetta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete B View Post
Is it possible to load in a changing bag with the Lab Box's lid open so you can monitor its correct loading with a finger tip on the edge of the film, or is it not possible to load with the lid open?
Pete
You could do that, but.....

If the leading edge of the film is trimmed correctly, there are not likely to be any problems. That was the main reason I posted my original description of what went wrong, not to scare people off of these, but to highlight best practices.
Using this thing is easier than anything that involves fumbling around in a changing bag....just need to do it right, which I didn’t for that first roll.

People who already have a darkroom, or have changing bags and a full complement of tanks that they are used to using, don’t really need one of these, but, for someone who has nothing, and just wants a way to get started processing their own film, this thing is pretty slick, and would likely be all they would ever need. They’d be unlikely to ever think a changing bag was going to be the next step up.
(FWIW, I have a darkroom, I just bought this because I like to see how effectively different engineering challenges are met, and I grew up enjoying Rube Goldberg diagrams.)
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“It is about time we take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby.” Elliot Erwitt
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