Its been a few years since I developed a roll of film even through the digital naughties right up until 2015 when moving and the building of a new house / studio took preference over everything I managed to expose a pack or so of film a year. There has always been at least two slabs colour and an assortment of Ilford and ACROS 100 tucked away in the freezer. XP2 in 120 and 35mm has been the preferance for the last four years simply because it could be developed anywhere well almost…
However last week the Kickstarter Ars-Imago Lab box finally arrived which even though my new dark room is operable I’m still having a few supply problems that are holding me back from printing slowly slowly as is said.
The following is my slowly slowly startup review of an excelent product:
A Lab box experience
Daylight loading tanks have been around since the 1930’s according to https://www.photomemorabilia.co.uk I remember seeing them in the Wallace Heaton Blue book in the 1950’s at the beginnings of my photographic interest. But such exotic tools where not to be seen in small town Lancashire.
When Lab Box was first announced on kick starter I thought this is great I won’t have a darkroom for a few years. Little did I know that the building of my dark room would happen much faster than Ars-image could get their Lab Box to market…
Was it worth the wait? Yes it is, but there are a few issues that at this stage are irritating.
The packaging is as one would expect clean European graphics and descriptive illustrations in black and white… what else could it possibly be!
The instruction booklet is a good balance of CAD illustrations and clinical text. and easy to follow.
Each page has a QR code that once scanned loads a video that pertains to the page being read. The videos are very well scripted and edited. Some, particularly US and Chinese manufacturers should really take note of the quality of Ars – Imago instruction video production here This is good, very good!
The one outstanding error/omission from the manual and the corresponding webpage http://www.lab-box.it/petfilmlist is that it loads as the dreaded 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.
I personally have no idea how many film manufacturers use PET as their film base and on page 27 Ars-Imago state PET 120 films cannot be used with Lab box I suspect there are going to be many who will be disappointed.The warning on page 19 about loading 35mm film is not quite as severe.
I purchased both 35mm and 120 modules.
Long ago the first set of instructions I read on how to load a Patterson Spiral told me that to load 35mm film cut a 45 degree snip off the leading edge of the film before feeding it into the spiral. This I have done with many hundreds of 35mm films since… DO NOT do this with Lab Box it causes the film wrap around the axel and not feed onto the spiral.
Fortunately I had a dummy run with spent film and the lid off, the loading failed. I re-cut the film straight across between the sprocket holes and its fine. It happens because the guide curves the film into the spiral groves. The 45 degree snip causes the film to miss the groves then wrap around the central axel.
Once loaded the cutting of the end of the film is flawless and one can proceed with development. The tank fills and drains easily. A 500ml capacity is very handy for calculating the amounts of liquids required. There is a groove in the wall of the tank which I suspect is moulded into the body for a future thermometer placement this would be a very welcome addition to the system.
In two of the first 120 and one of the 35mm films processed the film was creased on the first round or the spiral causing uneven development on the first round. Was this a manifestation of PET film? I don’t know because as yet I have not been able to ascertain if the films I processed were actually PET.
Despite these initial short comings overall I am pleased with the Lab Box. It’s well designed and works well and I feel its usefulness will overcome its initial nuisance failings that with more practice in its use may fade away.