If you could automate your film processing, would you?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by BHuij, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. calebarchie

    calebarchie Member

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    Being an ID student, they are my mortal enemies of course :D
     
  2. Europan

    Europan Member

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    Automation is my mortal enemy. Of course, there is nothing I can do about it, humanity is stumbling in that direction, it’s just my nature, namely that I love to do things entirely myself, with my hands, with my feel, learning something each time. To process photographic materials in the dark, that’s how I do it, is to meditate. I love, I need it. By the same token I am able to synchronize picture and sound on an editing device (Moviola, Steenbeck), you know, image film and magnetic film. Precisely.

    Automation inhibits physical experience, personal development, a feel for nature, strong and habile people. A photographer who doesn’t develop pictures her/himself is no photographer to me.
     
  3. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Automation is a blessing. Without it we all might be threshing grain by hand and weaving our own clothing.
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'm very content with my Jobo, because the amount of automation it does provide is a big help, and the parts that aren't automated allow me flexibility in terms of chemistry, time and temperature. Yes it's big and bulky, but that size allows me to run anywhere from a single roll to ten at a time, or process sheets of film from a single 4x5 to five 5x12/8x10 at a time, or process prints up to 16x20. If I had a bigger darkroom, a separate dedicated film processor would be nice. I'd love one at $300, but I don't see that as being a terribly realistic price point. Your software development costs for it alone would drive the price much higher. You'd need to provide a mechanism to set time, temperature, rotation speed, chemical sequence, and be able to store those sequences in easy to remember groupings, plus allow on-the-fly overrides ( for example, I put in my time and temp for Tmax 400 in Pyrocat HD for my Normal (N) development. I should be able to recall that, then hit a "customize" button, and alter the time for development, or fixer). And I should be able to do more than four rolls at a time. Otherwise you're not offering enough automation to provide a feature set to lure people away from existing proven alternatives.
     
  5. Luckless

    Luckless Member

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    Well the typical method to address an issue like tanks would be designing it around multiple tanks that can nest in side each other, and designing the rest of the kit's pieces such that they pack neatly into a shipping container based on the volume the nested water tight tanks take up...
     
  6. GGardner

    GGardner Member

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    I applaud your initiative, but to be honest, I wouldn't buy it. For evey hour I spent processing film, I probably spend 10 hours printing, maybe more. So, automating this step doesn't buy me much. If I had $300 extra to spend, it would probably first go to film and paper. Good luck, though.
     
  7. mshchem

    mshchem Subscriber

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    And print! I suppose you can be a photographer, but if you turn over your film for process and print, someone or some machine is making the final product. Good old Ansel looked at every print as an unique individual performance, well said.
    Mike
     
  8. wiedzmin

    wiedzmin Subscriber

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    I would be interested in such processor. If price will be around $500 excluding tanks and reels, I think many people will be interested as well.
     
  9. JWMster

    JWMster Subscriber

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    Proven technology and proven manufacture is a requirement. Jobo - for whatever other faults folks might assign it... is a known quantity. I think $300 down the drain is $300 down the drain. Not interested in a Kickstarter for something that already exists UNLESS it offers some greater convenience, smaller footprint, greater flexibility, smaller price. While the Filmomat is pretty sweet as a prototype, it's price is indicative of tangible development. Could volume reduce that? Not without flimsier construction. And from what I've seen, Germans don't generally do flimsy.

    For my money and maybe my money only, if the concept is only about price, I think it fails. Below some price point, credibility fails. Above another price point, prospective market size for another machine of unknown provenance shrinks significantly. If I have a fair amount invested in my negatives... there's a greater premium on quality development than is captured in a low price. Low price and a rigorous, dependable, flexible (color, B&W, etc.) reliable, proven technology... that's a winner. But in my book you have to prove all the OTHER adjectives before price gets negotiable. Price is important, but it's the last qualifier not the first.
     
  10. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Mainly because rollers eventually get stuff caught in the soft material that some of the rollers are made from. This in turn can and does make either impressions in the soft film emulsion, or can also make scratches that go for the entire length of the roll of film. These are often referred to as tram lines or train lines. In the graphic arts world from the late sixties through to the late eighties, large film processing machines were manufactured by manufacturers worldwide. Their sticking point was the need for absolute cleanliness of the rollers on the racks, it could be a nightmare to find a scratch source.

    The C41 roller transport machinery designed for the photographic minilabs were a machine with a process at the right place and right time. They were made from materials that were reasonably robust with a process that was quite forgiving. The film was at that point in time very reliable and forgiving, still is. That said, a scratch or processing streak on a roll or sheet of film, is a real pain to the owner of said film. Holding film in reels was preferable for an absolute scratch free processing system, but that meant hand processing. Enter Jobo and their rotary processor machines, right machine at the right time and made to last. They also sold in huge numbers, something that took a while for me to digest.

    I was visiting in a small town in Germany in the eighties, 1985/86/87 to be precise, Waiblingen, which is near Ludwigsburg. There in Blumen Strasse was a small photo shop, Kienzle Foto Haus. Over a three year period of visiting that shop and purchasing my F3 camera body there, as well as other photographic equipment, I became friendly with some of the staff. One day lunch was had with a couple of them. Over the course of lunch I asked about Jobo and whether they sold enough to warrant their rather large store display and stock of Jobo equipment. Their long thought out reply sort of astounded me. They mentioned that in the last year, their store had sold around 80 CPE2 units, with about 80% fitted with a lift mechanism. There were more than a few of the larger units sold to professional photographers along with a handful of the very expensive fully automatic seriously professional machines.

    We talked back and forth about the sheer numbers of Jobo equipment they were moving, with the question of why they were selling so many. The answer was quite succinctly answered in one word from Herr Helmut Waschin, scratches.

    Mick.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    So you are majoring in being able to identify yourself. Now I see your problem.
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Me too. I am very satisfied with my Jobo. It would be hard to change my choice.
     
  13. Michael Firstlight

    Michael Firstlight Subscriber

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    Well, I just pulled the trigger and bought an 8-roll PhotoThem Sidekick SK8-RH for $900. That might seem high to some, but an even older one sold for $1200 recently. What I really wanted was a Super Sidekick 8 at the same technology level as the Super Sidekick SSK-4V, but Photo-them doesn't build and sell the 8 roll units now - discontinued because they couldn't get the 8 roll drums anymore. But this older SK8-RH one is in good shape and comes with 2 8-roll and 2 4-roll (newer style) drums. Photo-Them still builds the Super Sidekick SSK-4V units and services/rebuilds the older units, and I spoke with the lead tech there. For $1,500 USD they'll completely rebuild an SK8-RH and make it the same as the SSK-4V with all of the latest tech - like new on the inside after the rebuild. So at the end of the day its a good way to avoid paying $7,000 for a new Super Sidekick SSK-4V and get the benefits of it supporting 8-roll processing. The total project will cost me $2500 or so by the time I'm done, but buying one used one and having it factory rebuilt seems to be the best way to get a top of the line automatic 8-roll compact film processor with all of the latest temp control and microprocessor tech.

    I doubt anyone can build something as good for anywhere near that.

    MFL
     
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  15. Kilgallb

    Kilgallb Subscriber

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    I would pay up to $300 for a system that keeps chemicals and water at 104F +/-0.5. Forget the automation, just control the temperature.
     
  16. Michael Firstlight

    Michael Firstlight Subscriber

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    Yah, but even if your chem is brought to precise temp, keeping it precise throughout the entire process is what's really critical. For what you want, a simple $300 Jobo TBE tempering unit would suffice. That's why people pay such a huge a premium for a Sidekick - the newer ones have temp sensors in the unit and inside the tank too - ensuring that you keep that +/- 0.5 temp constant throughout (I believe the latest Sidekick temp tolerance is even tighter - maybe to .01 or .02). So it's not just a matter of temp control for optimal development quality - not to mention consistency and control with agitation and speed of starting/stopping chemical reaction, or if you want to adjust processing consistently. Not so critical for B&W, but for color work it all matters.
     
  17. rpavich

    rpavich Subscriber

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    I have to say, I'm VERY skeptical that you could pull this off as described; however IF you could, I'd certainly be willing to buy one.
     
  18. Kilgallb

    Kilgallb Subscriber

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    I agree, that would be better, but for $300 bucks it gets me about 90% of the way. Currently I fill my unicolor drum with 1l of water at 104F for a pre soak then developer. I think better temperature control would get me more consistent results.
     
  19. OP
    OP
    BHuij

    BHuij Member

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    I appreciate everyone's feedback. My brother and I are making a lot of progress on our design, sourcing materials, etc. As we get closer to completing our first prototype, the price seems to be creeping up. I'm sure this doesn't surprise most of you :wink: However, at this stage I still believe we can hit below $400. It's still early to tell for sure, but I'll make sure to keep everyone in the loop.

    When we first had this idea, we identified a few "deal breakers" that would be good enough reasons not to proceed with a Kickstarter:

    1) If we couldn't get to an attractive price point (beating out used Jobo options, etc.)
    2) If we couldn't get consistent results (i.e. if I wouldn't feel comfortable using this for my own work)
    4) If the completed machine took so much time to assemble that we have to totally devalue our time to produce them
    3) If there just wasn't any market interest

    So far we haven't hit any of these roadblocks, so it's full steam ahead.

    Please feel free to keep offering any suggestions, concerns, questions, or anything else about our project. I'll do what I can to address these as we continue working on our prototype.
     
  20. Cholentpot

    Cholentpot Member

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    Will you charge more for racing stripes?
     
  21. OP
    OP
    BHuij

    BHuij Member

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    One of our goals from the very beginning was to be able to provide racing stripes at a price point that the individual consumer could afford. Jobo and Phototherm have racing stripe units available, but cost is prohibitive for all but large labs who are consistently processing film at over 100 miles per hour.

    Our prototype uses inexpensively sourced electrical tape-material for the racing stripes, bringing the cost per unit down to pennies. Soon, you too will be able to develop your films in style, and without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in markup on proprietary or brand-name racing stripes.
     
  22. Cholentpot

    Cholentpot Member

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    Awesome! And it will have a shoulder thing that goes up I presume?
     
  23. paulbarden

    paulbarden Member

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    Definitely not me.
     
  24. Kawaiithulhu

    Kawaiithulhu Subscriber

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    PS: if the tank is red, it'll develop faster.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The top of my Jobo is red.
     
  26. ozmoose

    ozmoose Member

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    This sounds rather like trying to reinvent the wheel, and then sell it for peanuts.

    A case in point. Jobo tried this in the (I believe) late 1990s. The ultimate product was the Jobo Duolab. By the time I came across this small marvel, the sale price has dropped to about A$300 (in Australia) and the retailer in Melbourne was trying to move about two dozen new machines for this heavily discounted price. I bought two. They have worked wonders for me, suddenly B&W and C41 my film processing became super easy with constant good results. The print making facility on this units quite frankly doesn't suit me, after dropping several big prints off the Jobo tong provided with the units and into the depths of the three tanks I gave up and went back to my processing trays. But for films, I've not found anything better.

    But a new unit for $300 (which will be closer to A$500 in Down Under dollars)? Unlikely. To make any sort of decent profit on the items, you will have to use super fast assembly line manufacturing with bottom-of-the-market parts to build it. Bits and pieces will fall off and break down in time. Will they be replaceable? The major flaw I found in Jobo's marketing strategy for the Duolab was they never provided spare parts for this unit. Rubber drainage tubes and plugs have worn out and I've had to improvise replacements from hardware store basics, fortunately the heating systems (originally created from a coffee maker system!) still work well and maintain exact stated temperatures, but if/ when these go West, the machines will then be rotary units and nothing else. that's why I bought two of the units - prices were right and I use one and keep the other as a backup. It's still in its original package after 14 years, touch wood, but with all such old electricals, you never know. I've just been lucky.

    Let me also say that while I'm generally sympathetic to Kickstarter projects, I've found many of these to be one pony shows and the creators of whatever item they want to raise funds for usually mean well but haven't put their markets or marketing strategies to any test. Often as not the gadget is a brilliant mind flash of inspiration but little more. In this mostly digital photo age, what is the market for a new processor aimed at the declining numbers of analog shooters who still process film and make prints? A visit to Ebay will reveal many Jobo and other items in good used condition being flogged off at low prices. With so much competition, how many people will buy a new version of an old item? Maybe if the new product is a big improvement on the old, yes - but if it's another version of something that has basically seen its day and is on the decline as far as sales market go, what's the point?

    Apologies if I seem to be negative about all this, but I've been around long enough to see many such projects start with a big bang, and end up with a whimper. I started out in life as a journalist in the newspaper trade.Do you remember the Graflex? After two decades it got supplanted by the Speed Graphic, which in turn fell by the wayside when the Rolleiflex took over.Then the Nikon F came along and...well, you know the story.

    All the above stated, I accept it may be that there is a viable if limited sale market for this item, but a $300 sale price is unrealistic and a fast road to corporate bankruptcy for the makers. This said, I am quite interested in the project, I've bookmarked the post and I'll follow this thread. If you decide to go ahead with it, my very best wishes and good luck.
     
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