How to: semi-stand development in Rodinal

Foma Fomapan 100 in Rodinal semi-stand 1+200

Full disclosure: I’m badly biased in favor of Rodinal.

If you don’t know it (but it has been around from the end of the 19th century…) it is one of the best black and white film developers out there, and these are its pros and cons:



Amazing tonalities with almost any film
Super-sharp results
Infinitely scalable contrast
It lasts years without spoiling
Ultra cheap – you need only tiny amounts of it


For the same reason of point 2 of the PROS list it will emphasize the film grain


The – only – con(s) needs a bit of explanation. First of all it depends quite a bit from your agitation scheme too. Secondly more than enlarging the grain the Rodinal tends to render it in a sharper and more “honest” way, giving the single grain clumps a peppery aspect.

Given that, like I said, this developer it is going around from the late 1800s the original Afga patent is long expired. So you can actually find “Rodinal” sold under a lot of different brand names, but almost every one will refer to it, somewhere in the description, with its original, “real” name. And if you want you can also make it yourself, in the best DIY spirit, starting with a bit of paracetamol (a hint: search the web for “Parodinal” if you’re interested in the recipe).

Shanghai GP3 in Rodinal semi-stand 1+200

I like to use this amazing jake of all trades of developer at almost any dilution, depending on the light on the scene, the film I’m using, how lazy I feel that particular day and so on.

At this regard I will publish in an upcoming post a list of films / developers combinations that in my opinion tends to produce really beautiful results, so stay tuned. But a combo is my bread and butter, the one to which I default more often that I care to admit.

I’m talking obviously about the one mentioned in the title: Rodinal semi-stand at a dilution of 1+200 – yes, it is not a typo, TWO-HUNDRED; I said it was ultra cheap to use! In practice you dilute 5 milliliters of Rodinal in 1 liter of water, and you’re set. With this amount you can develop up to 2 rolls of 135mm or 120.

The full procedure will be carried in semi-stand development, and in detail it is composed of the following steps:


Step by step

1  Pre-soak = 5 / 10 minutes (depending on the film you use)
Fill the tank with water and let it rest; change it a couple of times until it comes out clear

 Developer = 2 hours (yes, 120 minutes)
Agitate the first 30 seconds, and then again invert the tank a couple of times at the 60 minutes mark (this is to avoid the bromide drag, a border effect similar to a bad sharpening halo between high contrast regions)

3  Stop bath = 1 minute
Just plain water; it is an optional passage, mostly to prolong the fixer solution life

4  Fixer = 4 / 5 minutes (depending on the dilution you use)
Agitate the first 10 seconds and then 5 inversions every 30 seconds

5  Wash = use the Ilford archival method
Fill the tank and do 5 gentle inversions, then refill and do 10 inversions, refill one last time and invert the tank 20 times. This will guarantee – per Ilford research center – archival quality without wasting water

6  Photoflo (wetting agent) = 2 minutes
Use 2 / 4 drops of Photoflo – or of a neuter PH dish soap -, fill the tank agitating it for 1 minute to create foam and let it rest for another 30-60 seconds

7  Hang the film to dry

8  Scan the film


Shanghai GP3 in Rodinal semi-stand 1+200

What makes the semi-stand development in general, and in Rodinal more so, special is the enormous quantity of information you can pull out of your films. The semi-stand process act as a compensator, so you will be left with a huge, and vastly customizable after scanning, tonality scale on your negative. Just to be clear: a digital file, even an HDR one, doesn’t come near not even in the least. At the same time, though, thanks to the characteristics of the Rodinal, you will not sacrifice the details; quite the opposite.

Summing up: you will get the true, only and original “raw” file that, after careful scanning – preferably with an high end scanner or using a digital camera with my method -, you will be able to interpret to your heart content, sure that each and every light value you may need will be on film – so no more blown out highlights, blocked out shadow or stepped histograms!

And as added bonuses not only you will have a lot of room to spare at the time of the exposure, even if you like to “guess” the exposure or using the reference card inside the film boxes; but you will also get to enjoy the time you would otherwise have spent agitating the tank with your significant other / friends / children – take a pick!

Give it a try, and I’m sure you will be hooked.


Review: Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 C T*

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 C T*

This lens gets a lot of bad press.

From the moment its younger sibling, the FLE version, hit the shelves the older version became regarded automatically almost as if it were trash.

Don’t get me wrong, the CF FLE is better, just look at the MTF charts. The FLE has two more elements – 9 vs the 7 of both the C and the CF models, which share the same optical scheme. Thanks to them the FLE manages to gain one full MTF point at the borders, and supposedly it is better at close distance.

Now, especially if you do a lot of handheld or fast, reportage style, work (but then: why you use an Hasselblad for this?) sure go for the FLE. Quality aside, the focus ring of the newer style Hasselblad lenses is way faster to operate, and it may well justify the steeper cost alone. If you use a digital back go for the FLE as well. For crying out loud, after you spent 30.000€ or more on a Phase One, you don’t want to cheap out on the lenses!


Hasselblad Distagon 50mm - massiccio del pollino sopra Frascineto

Instead let’s say that you use your Hasselblad, as I do, mostly for landscape work, on film, tightly screwed on a tripod thanks to an awesome ClearSight Arca-compatible replacement foot.

If that’s the case you will find the older model not only a bargain, but a real jewel.

From f/4 to f/22 this dense chunk of glass will give you pictures really really sharp border-to-border. The only details “mushy” will be the ones out of the focus zone (obviously).

But they will not be very numerous, because other that being sharp this lens has a really extended depth of field too, and it reaches infinity pretty fast.

Frankly, the only drawback I can think of is the focus ring, pretty tight as usual for the C series. If you are concerned by this just buy a CF for a few bucks more and you will still be saving big money compared to an FLE.

How much, you’re asking? Well, I paid for mine 150€, and the more modern – in body shape, not optics – CF doesn’t change hands usually for more than 200/230€. In comparison the CF FLE variant starts around 500€ and goes only up from there, depending on personal luck, period of the year, astral connections etc.

Hasselblad Distagon 50mm - massiccio del pollino sopra Frascineto

My version, the C T*, should use some weird 63mm filters, kept in place by a special ring. But, thankfully, you can use plain 67mm filters and they will screw in all the same, just not very smoothly – the pitch is different – or up to the end. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference, though.

The only filter I use is a pretty thick Leitz yellow-green – Leica, Zeiss and Hasselblad, a threesome made in heaven! Even with this one the vignetting is limited to just a bit of a corner – yes, corner not corners. It seems to affect only the upper left side, I frankly don’t know why. Probably this has something to do with how beaten up my sample is… Anyway, dodging or cropping the affected bit in post is trivial.

Summing up: it’s a Zeiss for Hasselblad, you were really believing the people saying it was unsharp, the very same people who treat photography like it was optical engineering instead of art?

And if you don’t believe me: just try for yourself. It has become a really cheap lens nowadays. If you don’t like it you can always sell it later for pretty much the same money.

Rating: ★★★★½ on film


DIY Hasselblad flash shoe adapter

Hasselblad diy flash shoe adapter

An Hasselblad is a terrific camera for portraits – well, for almost everything really.

But if you want to shoot with a flash, connecting the syncro cable to the lens, you will be left with no place to put the wireless remote trigger body – because you are using the flash off-camera, right? (If not: come on, you’re using an Hasselblad, don’t light your pictures like you’re using a point and shot…)

To be able to attach the remote trigger or a flash to the camera you’d need the Hasselblad flash hot shoe adapter, that I’ve seen going anywhere from 30 (rarely) to 60 or more euro.

Now yes, I’m sure it is well crafted and ingegnerized, but for crying out loud: 60 bucks for an hot shoe adapter??? No way!

Luckily you can make your own version pretty easily, in just a couple of minutes work.

You will need:

– ideally a piece of rail of the same size of the Hasselblad accessory shoe mount (8mm wide x 35mm long)

– if, like is most likely, you don’t have one of those handy you can just make your own with a piece of aluminum sheet

– a flash shoe. I found one in my junk bin, but you can buy those for 1 euro top

– cyanoacrylate glue / superglue / liquid metal glue (whichever you put your hands on first)


Hasselblad accessory shoe

Hasselblad accessory shoe with flash shoe adapter in place


All that you have to do is:

1a) if you have the rail of the correct measure: just cut it to the right length and bend slightly one of the ends, so it will not slide out of its socket

1b) if you have to make do with the aluminum sheet: bend it in a “letter C” shape – check the picture under the post title -, then bend slightly one of the ends like in 1a

2) glue the flash shoe on the rail. Let it rest a few minutes to give the glue enough time to properly set


Now go spend on film what you just saved, or put it in the saving jar for a digital back 🙂


Hasselblad lenses 5c DIY unjamming tool

Hasselblad DIY unjamming tool
I don’t know if I have to explain this…the picture pretty much speaks by itself.


1) pick a 5 euro cents coin

2) using a stepped bit – easier – or a normal bit drill a hole in the center

3) pass a piece of cord trough the hole and make a node creating a loop – I used a bit of paracord (parachute cord) I had laying around that it is worth more than the coin 🙂

4) attach it anywhere you want: your keys, the Hasselblad strap, your backpack.


The important thing is that you will have this object with you if (when) a jamming should happen.

Hell, this thing is so cheap and easy to do that you can also make tens of them, and spread them everywhere!


How to adjust infinity focus using a camera as a collimator

Rolleicord III

When you buy an used camera, especially a very old one, chances are that the focus will be out of whack. Sometime it will be off just a bit, other times a lot.

The procedure to adjust it varies from camera to camera, but in every case you will have to find a suitable target – i.e. a subject truly at infinity – to achieve a correct focus.

This, especially if you live as I do in a city surrounded by mountains, can be a bit difficult. One of the best way is focusing on the full moon; unless you are into astronophotography you will not find on Earth – literally – a subject more at infinity than the moon. Unfortunately to do so you will have to wait for a night of full moon, hoping that will not be cloudy and that nobody will take you for a crazy person 😉

Luckily there is a much simpler, if less known way: using a collimator. “What? And I should buy an expensive piece of equipment just to check my infinity focus? No way!” – I can hear you all saying. What you don’t know is that, if you happen to have a camera and a tele lens, you already own a collimator…

Here you can see a focus check performed on a nice Rolleicord – the poor man version of the Rolleiflex TLR cameras. All you have to do is:

1) tape a piece of ground glass* with a couple of lines marked on – a pencil will suffice – to the film plane of the camera whose focus you want to check (with a TLR like the Rolleicord you will have to check, obviously, also the viewing lens). This is critical: remember to tape the ground glass with the matt** side against the film plane.

ground glass attachment

2) point a flashlight – preferably a LED one because are way brighter – or a table lamp straight into the ground glass; the lens has to be at full aperture and the shutter locked with a remote release in B or T

shining a flashlight in the back of the camera

3) point your other camera with a tele lens set to its infinity stop and at full aperture mounted on straight into the lens of the camera you want to adjust. Focus the lens on the camera you want to check to infinity. When / if the lines on the ground glass will appear sharp well, congratulations, you have lab-perfect infinity focus. Otherwise you will have to adjust your camera – not the “collimator” camera! -, following the specific instruction for its model, until you can see the lines are sharp.

checking the focus

To adjust the viewing lens of a TLR you follow the same procedure, except that this time the flashlight goes straight on the ground glass in the waist level finder.

checking the viewing lens

For this job a Sony Nex is perfect because it lets you zoom up to 14x, so you can actually see the surface grain of the ground glass; with such magnification spotting even minor faults in the focus becomes trivial. I tend to use mine with a cheap but really good Minolta MD 135mm f/3,5, that on the Nex is equivalent to a 200mm on a full frame.

Now the Xenar of my two old Rolleicord are sharp as a tack! Talk about old lenses…

*I’ve seen pretty much everything used for this purpose on the net, from scratched cd jewel cases to masking tape. Please, do yourself a favor and by a piece of real ground glass for a couple of euro! The plane of focus has to be perfectly flat, so jewel cases or – worse – tape do not work… After all you haven’t shell out all that money for a high quality camera to take unsharp pictures!

**Troubles identifying the matt side? Orient the glass to catch the reflection of an open window: if you can clearly see the window image in it this is the glossy side, if you can just see a “blob” of light then that is the matt side