Jan gets beautiful results using Rodinal and he was kind enough to accept writing something about his experiments for this little corner on the web. The result is a great article about one of the most iconic names in Photography history: Rodinal.
It is impossible to choose from Jan’s pictures the right ones to illustrate his post so please be kind enough to take a look at his Flickr stream.
And here’s a PDF version of this article.
Thank you Jan!
Rodinal by Jan Caspary
Invented in 1891 by AGFA in Germany, Rodinal is the oldest commercial photography
product, availble today, so no wonder everyone has heard of it. Or at least of one of the many
derivates out there (Adonal, APH 09, …).
So why write an entire article about a developer most people already know and probably
Nearly all recipes for Rodinal are obviously given for 20°C and a concentration of 1+50 or
1+25 and yield a well known look, that is pretty easy to distinguish.
Another well known and often discussed method is stand-development with a concentration
of 1+100 for usually about one hour.
Both of these methods are perfectly fine and give nice negatives.
I started out with Rodinal when I began shooting film about 5 years ago and haven’t really
tried other developers as I felt I hadn’t tested out Rodinal enough to be “done with it” and I
really liked the comfort benefits it offers. It doesn’t ever go bad so the results are always
perfectly consistent, it is cheap, it works with nearly every film, it is a so called “one-shot”
developer, so there is no need to make and store stock solutions and the list goes on and on.
In the end I also really like the special look it provides, especially with films like AGFA APX.
In the beginning I overexposed my film by one stop and developed according to the data
sheet, maybe adding a minute or two.
I was quite happy with the results, but read a lot on the internet about different ways of using
Rodinal. Stand develoement was discussed most often, but usually in context with an
extreme push and 400 ISO films. As I only used AGFA APX then and took pictures in daylight,
I was much more intrigued by the proposition to lower the temperature while increasing the
duration of the development, so I tried it.
The negatives became noticeably less dense, but remained pretty flat. They offer a
tremendous tonal range of 12 or even more stops with exceptional differentiation in the
shadows. The loss in sensitivity also transformed itself into a light “push” effect – exposure at
box speed or a one stop push is the way to go. Also, the size and intensity of the grain was
reduced, while the definition of details, and especially edges improved further.
A downside of the low-temperature method however, are the pretty long development times
(up to 30 minutes) and the need for a mantle bath as well as a pre-soak to ensure constant
temperature. Also, with some images, contrast is low, which makes printing difficult at times,
but that heavily depends on the choice of film, the scene and your metering and exposure
Another proposed technique I found on the internet was increasing the temperature
dramatically and using constant agitation with a very high dilution. The author promised a
drastic increase in sharpness and sensitivity as well as a nice tonality.
The contrast of the negative increased noticeably, with a straighter curve. Sharpness, as well
as the intensity of the grain increased dramatically. These negatives are great for printing as
they have very pleasant tones and a good contrast to start with. Also, grain is much less
visible when printing. The convenience of this method is the short development time and not
having to worry about a constant rhythm of agitation.
These two techniques have become my standard methods of developing now.
I usually use Agfa APX or Adox CHS, but as both films are discontinued I started looking for
an alternative to be safe for the future.
I looked for a film that was readily available at most online stores, that is offered in 135 and
120 format and ideally also in ISO 100 and 400, while also being cheap and easy to scan.
I came across Rollei RPX (aka. Kentmere) and tried it.
For me, it satisfied all my wishes. It is readily available and competitively priced, available in
both formats and speeds and has a clear base that stays perfectly flat.
When starting out with RPX and Rodinal, I exposed at box speed and developed according
to the provided data sheet, while reducing the temperature and adjusting the time, as I
wanted to stick with my preferred method.
Another desire of mine was being able to develop the ISO 100 and 400 films together in one
tank in order to save some time and work after a long trip. After calibrating both films and a
little trip around Germany, I tried it.
The results turned out pretty nice. Really broad range of about 12 stops and very good
definition and differentiation. Some pictures lacked some contrast but that was mainly due to
sloppy metering or exposure and the subject. But actually I prefer my negatives a little flatter
in order to avoid blown highlights.
In the end, Rodinal is a very flexible developer, allowing for various techniques and variations,
so see for your self which one of the recipes suits your style and maybe experiment a little bit,
To summarize my findings:
reducing contrast and density, as well as grain.
A higher temperature, obviously, increases contrast and grain, while reducing the range, but
improving the differentiation of mid-tones and highlights, as well as improving sharpness.
Dilution should be varied according to temperature. Higher dilutions increase sharpness and
edge definition as well as the tonal range and shadow detail, while reducing density and
The agitation influences the definition of edges and detail, as well as shadow detail and grain.
A longer time of agitation increases definition of detail and the intensity of the grain, while an
increase in the frequency reduces shadow detail and edge definition, while improving the
differentiation of the mid tones.
Agfa APX 100
high temp: 30°C / 1+100 / 10min / constant agitation / ISO 100
low temp: 16°C / 1+50 / 30min / 2s of agitation per minute / ISO 100
standard: 20°C / 1+50 / 17min / 5s agitation per minute / ISO 50
Agfa APX 400
low temp: 16°C / 1+50 / 17min / 2s of agitation per minute / ISO 400
standard: 20°C / 1+50 / 11min / 5s agitation per minute / ISO 320
Adox CHS 50
low temp: 16°C / 1+50 / 12:30min / 2s agitation per minute / ISO 50
Rollei RPX 100
high temp: 30°C / 1+100 / 16min / constant agitation / ISO 100
low temp: 16°C / 1+50 / 25min / 2s agitation per minute / ISO 100
standard: 20°C / 1+50 / 18min / 2s of agitation every 30s / ISO 100
Rollei RPX 400
high temp: 30°C / 1+100 / 16min / constant agitation / ISO 400
low temp: 16°C / 1+50 /25min / 2s agitation per minute / ISO 400
standard: 20°C / 1+25 / 8min / 2s of agitation every 30s / ISO 400
(standard recipes taken from the respective data sheets)
Jan Caspary, 21, born in Frankfurt (Germany), living in Zurich (Switzerland), studying
chemistry. Into photography for 7 years, film photography since 2008. Mainly black and
white, influenced mostly by the Düsseldorf school of photography (Becher, Struth, Gursky)
and the Magnum Photography Agency.
Leica M6TTL with 50mm and 90mm Summicron, Leica M4-2 with 35mm Voigtländer
Nokton, Leica IIIa with 50mm Summicron
Nikon F100 with 28mm, 50mm, 85mm and 105mm AFS-Nikkors
Hasselblad 500C/M with 50mm, 80mm and 150mm and Hasselblad SWC 38mm
Minolta XD7 and SRT101 with 24mm, 50mm and 135mm