A Walk in the Park

Developing 120 film with ILFORD DD-X in the Lab-Box (Podcast 684)

This week I share a video to walk you through developing a roll of 120 format film in the Ars-Imago Lab-Box using Ilford chemicals.

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Richard Ball
    Posted at 02:30h, 21 November Reply

    Martin – I have started doing some film work after a over 30 years. I can appreciate your struggles loading a reel in a changing bag. I finally realized if waited for the nighttime and turned off all of the room light outside I could close the door on a bathroom and have a perfectly dark room. It made life easier. I’m using old Kindermann and El-nikor tanks and reels. Easy enough to load with a little practice. The wash time you used seemed short. I generally use 20-30 minutes under gently running water. Keep up the Analog work!

    I’m going to bring up another topic if you don’t mind. A long time ago my Ex-wife gave me a book of Shinzo Maeda photos (Oku Mikawa). The photos are beautiful. I purchased another book of his photos the photographs are equally wonderful. I find no mention of him in the modern landscape photography world. Is Mr Maeda well known in Japan? In my opinion he is in the same league as Ansel Adams or Eliot Porter.

    Rich Ball

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:17h, 21 November Reply

      Hi Rich,

      Thanks for the comment! I have too much light coming through our bathroom window for that, but I can certainly appreciate that it would be nice to get out of the bag as it were.

      As I am doing my developing in my studio, without running water, I researched alternative methods, and the one I showed, with agitation, came up and seems to work fine for me. The film that I developed with this technique four years ago looks fine, so I’m happy enough to stick with this method.

      I’ll definitely keep up the analog work, mostly thanks to the Lab-Box. Now I’m hankering after a new Rollei. 🙂

      Shinzo Maeda is somewhat famous here in Japan. He is the person that put Biei on the map as a photography location. We spend the first three days of my Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Tour in Biei, and visit his gallery while we’re there. He has some beautiful work, and his son Akira also shoots and displays at the gallery.


  • Angela Brown
    Posted at 03:11h, 21 November Reply

    This blog post and video were awesome Martin! Enjoyed both very much. I was lucky enough to see the LabBox at Photo Expo NY this past October. Even helped the inventor develop a roll of film and I’m convinced it’s the way to go for 35mm and 120mm rolls. I just started shooting 4×5 film and recently developed my first sheets using the Stearman Press SP-445, which is similar to the LabBox in that it let’s you develop 4×5 film in a self-contained unit … eliminating the need for a traditional darkroom. Please keep us updated with your film progress as well as your other endeavors. By the way, yes I would appreciate a download link to your excel spreadsheet. Thanks again.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:23h, 21 November Reply

      Hi Angela,

      Thank you! I’m really pleased that you enjoyed this post and video.

      I’m happy too that you are enjoying developing your own film. 4×5 must be a lot of fun. Without the nerves associated with videoing my first roll in four years, the second roll that I did on Saturday morning was an absolutely and completely relaxing experience. I have another roll in the Yashica-D now and look forward to finishing it so that I can develop again.

      I’ll be sure to keep you updated with my work, film or digital. I really have been bitten by the film bug though. I shot film for years until 2000 but mostly moved away since digital came in. I’m really enjoying it again now though, so I’ll keep sharing.

      I’ve added a button to download the spreadsheet just below the video. Thanks for asking. I was hoping someone would find that useful.

      All the best!


  • Helen Hooker
    Posted at 21:25h, 22 November Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful review Martin. I’ve been considering the Lab Box and it’s good to get the opinion of someone whose opinion I trust. I’ve been shooting 120 film with my new Ondu pinhole camera lately and love the larger format. My film photography has been given a boost this week though as my uncle has given me his Rolleiflex 2.8F on loan as he’s no longer using it. I’ve shot a couple of rolls so far on expired film and am awaiting the results but in the meantime the camera has gone off for a much needed CLA. I can’t wait to get out shooting again and may well need a Lab Box soon to develop the films!

    I was interested to read your thoughts on digitising the negatives. My scanner is 20 years old and not suitable for negs so I use the high res mode on my camera and photograph them over a Lightbox (well, my iPad Mini actually) with my macro lens. That gives me 80 megapixel files which seem to work well. All it’s cost me in set up is a small wooden orange box (I ate the oranges!) and a piece of glass from a picture frame on top to lift the negs away from the iPad screen – bargain!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:56h, 22 November Reply

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for the comment, and for placing your trust in me. Pinhole cameras are a whole lot of fun, right!? I have a pinhole lens for the Canon EF mount and love messing around with it.

      I envy you having a chance to use the Rolleiflex 2.8F! Not quite as much as I would have done though, as I’ve just broke down and ordered a 3.5F, which should arrive in the morning. I haven’t actually checked it out yet, but it’s the best quality in its class that my local store has, and it comes with the original box, case, strap and manual, so I think it’s been pretty well looked after. If there are any problems I can take it back for up to a month and it comes with a 1 year warranty, which isn’t bad for a 54 year old camera! 🙂

      I cannot recommend the Lab-Box more if you are going to develop yourself. It’s so easy, and as I mentioned in the text above, without the videos and the experience from just a few days before, compared to four years before, I found the experience on Saturday morning almost meditative. It sounds like you have your digitization process all sorted, so that’s great.

      I had two rolls of the new Fujifilm Neopan Acros II 120 film delivered today, and I’m looking forward to shooting that, hopefully in the new Rollei assuming there are no problems when it arrives. The Lab-Box has reignited the film bug in me, so I’m really grateful for that.

      Have fun, and keep me in the loop on your own film fun!


  • Richard Ball
    Posted at 02:52h, 26 November Reply

    Martin – To continue this discussion a bit. If you were to print from your negatives how big would you feel comfortable making the print before you felt the quality would start to break down? When you scan the B/W film are you using the JPEG setting or as A TIFF? It seems like a TIFF is overkill. It will be fun to hear your thoughts on the Rolli vs the Yashica. The Yashinon lens is highly regarded. I recently bought a Rolliflex T. it was available locally here in Seattle.

    I have another suggestion for a camera in the medium format size. One that should be easy for you to find and not break the budget. Try finding an Okako, Waltax or Zenobia folder. They are folders and are, essentially, all the same camera. All of these cameras were made in Japan. I have an Okako that I need to do a little work on the bellows. Last week I shot a roll with a Voightlander Bessa 66 (The Baby Bessa) which is the model for the Okako. The negatives are quite nice. The beauty of the camera is the photographer has to do everything. Zero automation! No computer with a lens! Lastly the cameras are quite compact.

    I have considered your tours but they are a little to long and intense for me. At this point in my life I’m content to shoot locally with occasional forays into parts of the Western US.

    All the Best – Rich

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:26h, 26 November Reply

      Hi Rich,

      Looking at the detail I have in the Delta Pro film, over the HP-5, I’d be happy to print these new images at 44 inches square, which is the largest I can print at home. They’d go higher, as the images are a relatively clean 100 megapixels.

      I am saving them as TIFF. They are large files, but JPEG is a poor option. Even if you don’t consider the fact that JPEG will degrade every time you save the image, they are poor quality right from the start. Details like grass or fine texture get mushed together the moment you save the first copy of the file, so in my opinion, it’s important to use a pixel for pixel uncompressed or non-destructive image format for the original copy.

      I have yet to put a film in the Rolleiflex, but I’ll be sure to update you via the blog when I do get some shots to compare. I am hoping that the image quality increases at least a small amount, although the Yashica images on Delta Pro were very good, so I’m not sure how much improvement to expect at this point. The main reasons for getting the Rollei are to avoid losing that last frame on every roll I shoot. The Rollei doesn’t require/recommend that you wind the film on to line the arrows up inside the camera, so I’m thinking that it starts to shoot earlier on the film. I’ll have to see how this works. The other reason is the ability to use a cable release, which my Yashica does not have, and the Rollei has a built-in light meter, which is new compared to the Yashica. I have really enjoyed the Yashica-D, but at the end of the day it’s a copy of the Rollei, so I figured I’d come back to the mother ship and see what that’s like.

      I’ll keep my eyes open for the cameras you mention, but having just spent almost $1,900 for my Rollei, I think I’ll hold off on any future film cameras for a while. I realize that this is probably more than you’d expect to pay for one of these in the US, but here in Japan, that was actually a good price for a model with all the accessories and a year’s warranty etc. I’m very happy with it, and can’t wait to get a film into it.


      • Richard Ball
        Posted at 03:51h, 28 November Reply

        Wow – That is about twice as large as I would have guessed.

        With respect to the OKAKO, Waltax and Zenobia camera’s they are quite inexpensive on ebay around $50.00. They are very compact about 12cm X 9.5cm X 4.5cm when folded up. Actually pocketable. They are very elemental. No range finder – it’s up to the photographer to determine where to set focus, advance the film and cock the shutter. The format is 6cm X 4.5cm.

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 08:30h, 28 November Reply

          Hi Rich,

          It really depends on the film and the scanner, but I am confident that prints of that size would be no problem with the Delta Pro film and my current Canon Scanner. I tried scanning at higher resolution, but it was overkill. The file size went up without any increased definition.

          I’ll certainly keep my eyes open for those cameras, but it will be later if I’m able to get any of them. Right now if anything I need a few of the Rolleinar close-up lenses, and they probably still cost more than one of these cameras. I have to pick my battles carefully. 🙂


  • Daniel Brewer
    Posted at 08:41h, 31 March Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the great post about using the Lab Box. Your first impressions were obviously very positive. How has it held up since then? Are you still satisfied? I’m trying to decide whether to get this, or go the Paterson Tank & changing bag route.


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