Film developing with Rodinal

Rodinal is a film developer, the recipe of which was introduced by Agfa in 1892 and which has been actively used since then despite the fact that photographic emulsions have undergone changes during this time. It is also worth noting that the formula of Rodinal also underwent some changes, mainly aimed at improving its shelf life. Anyway, Rodinal is based on chemical p-aminophenol.

Rodinal is a liquid concentrated one-shot developer that cannot be re-used after processing. This is one of its big advantages as you always have a fresh developer solution just before the development process. Also, the unused working solution will not keep. And the Rodinal concentrate has a comparatively incredible shelf life — up to several years in an airtight container.

Despite its long history, Rodinal still remains a very popular film developer thanks to its advantages: a) High edge sharpness and low veil. Film negatives developed in Rodinal look much sharper than those developed in Kodak D-76. It is especially visible when zooming scanned images to 100%; b) Contrast control with different dilutions of the concentrate; c) One-shot development leads to stable results; d) The cheapest cost of development per film compared to other developers.

It is believed that the processing with the Rodinal developer results in grainier film negatives. However, it is a subjective feeling. In fact, the grain is the same but Rodinal makes it more clearly visible because of its high edge sharpness. At the same time, the film grain it reveals has its signature and recognizable structure with a rather beautiful pattern.

Since Agfa doesn’t produce Rodinal there are several different versions which are currently available on the market. However, for legal reasons, some of these film developers cannot use the name “Rodinal”. Currently, it can be purchased under various names but their formulas may differ. Only Adox has the right to manufacture it under its historical name “Rodinal” and its developer not only fully conforms to the latest Agfa Rodinal formula from 2004 but is manufactured by the same factory as genuine Agfa Rodinal. Earlier it was released under the name Adox Adonal.

Rodinal vs R09

Other manufacturers often use the name “R09” and its variations. These developers are usually based on the old pre-WWII formula — Rodinal formula number 9. Thus, strictly speaking, R09 is not identical to the Agfa/Adox Rodinal.

Fresh concentrates of these developers may have different colors: R09 is usually less transparent and has a more distinct reddish hue, while Rodinal is light-pink and more transparent. However, both developers get dark-red with some residue over time being opened. Their developing strength, however, doesn’t seem to change.

It is known that Agfa reformulated the developer to increase its shelf life. But in general Rodinal and R09 are very similar to each other. I have used both and have not noticed any great difference between them. However, the developing time of the two will differ.

Fomadon R09

In my work, I use Fomadon R09 and I give all developing times for this developer. After 2008 Foma noted that Fomadon R09 “is equivalent to former Agfa Rodinal”. It is, however, hard to say whether they are exactly the same. But I can say that the developing times I used for the original Agfa Rodinal are almost the same as for Fomadon R09. The fresh concentrate of Fomadon R09 also looks very similar to Agfa/Adox Rodinal.

Fomadon R09 one-shot film developer

Fomadon R09

It’s not important what variant you would use. I recommend you to use always one of the variants of Rodinal depending on which of them is easier to get, test the developing times and correct them if necessary. I choose Fomadon R09 just because it is the cheapest option out of all and is always in stock in a local store.

Anyway, you should remember that the shelf life of Fomadon R09 is a way shorter than that of Agfa/Adox Rodinal. Fomadon R09 becomes deep red significantly faster than Agfa/Adox Rodinal. After storage for a year in a half-opened bottle, I recommend increasing the developing time multiplying it by ×1.5 for the first roll of film.

Rodinal dilutions

Recommended dilutions for Rodinal are 1+25 and 1+50. In practice, the dilution 1+50 is used most frequently. It is very convenient because it gives more possibilities to control the entire development process and helps it easier to get stable results.

The dilution 1+25 makes it more difficult to control the contrast, tonality and pull processing unless you need to shorten the developing time or increase the contrast. Such a dilution gives low compensating effect with extra grain.

The dilution 1+100 is most suitable for developing low-speed films, which tend to be overly contrasty in standard situations. With the dilution 1+100, these films will produce an excellent contrast rendition and superior tonal scale. On the other hand, high-speed films above 400 ISO would not have enough contrast and would not reach full emulsion film speed with the dilution 1+100.

The higher dilutions are typically used for stand development.

Push and Pull processing

Using Rodinal for pull processing is one of its strongest points. Apart from great compensating effect and tonal rendition, different dilutions allow to very easily control the pull process, adapting it for your needs. For -2EV pull processing I usually use the dilution 1+100 which makes the pull process much more stable and controllable. For -1EV pull processing I typically use the dilution 1+50. But in this case, the choice of dilution will depend on developing time — if it happens to be too short, approximately less than 7 minutes, then I will use the dilution 1+100.

In my view, push processing with Rodinal is not an area of its strength in contrast to Kodak D-76. However, push processing is also possible with Rodinal. In my work, I don’t often use Rodinal for push processing above +1EV. For this, I primarily use the dilution 1+50. If I need to do push processing starting from +2EV, I usually opt for the dilution 1+25. But it may also depend on developing times.

Developing times

The key to getting stable results is to rigorously repeat the same set of actions during every development: temperature, agitation, and dilution. If you are dissatisfied with the result, try to increase/decrease developing time using the same dilution. If it doesn’t help, then change the dilution and do another time test.

The times in this chart are given for the temperature 20°C with no presoaking. The agitation is two tank inversions or 4-sec film reel rotation for every 30 sec. To remove air bubbles from the film scroll I tap the bottom of my Jobo UniTank 1520 sealed tank a few times immediately after the developer is poured into it.

I also have to note that this chart reflects only my own experience with Fomadon R09 developer. You may refer to the Massive Dev Chart for other films and times.

ISO/Dilution 1+25 1+50 1+100
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
25 8 15
50 6 11 21
100 11 17
Fomapan 100
50 4 9
100 4 9 21
200 9 21
Ilford Pan 100, Kentmere 100
50 9 15
100 9 15 33
200 13 20
Ilford FP4 Plus 125
64 9 15
125 9 15 26
250 15 26
Ilford Pan 400, Kentmere 400
400 6 11
800 8 17
1600 12 27
Ilford HP5 Plus 400
400 6 11
800 8 17
1600 12 27
Ilford Delta 400
400 9 15
800 19 43
1600 43
All developing times in the table are given for Fomadon R09 developer.

Minimum quantity of Rodinal per solution

As I remember, Agfa recommended to take minimum 10ml of the developer concentrate for each 35mm or type 120 film because this quantity contains the necessary amount of chemicals to process the film correctly and with reproducible results.

The absolute minimum is 5ml of the concentrate for each 35mm or type 120 film. This should be remembered if you plan to develop films using higher dilutions, 1+100 and up to 1+500, for instance for stand development. This 5ml minimum quantity of concentrate is recommended by Adox.

However, in practice, the actual minimum quantity of the concentrate necessary for developing a specific film depends on the emulsion type. Some films may come out well with less than 5ml of the concentrate for each film.

The minimum quantity also directly depends on the scenes you were shooting. If there are many bright-lit areas which should become near black on negatives, then using less than 5ml of the concentrate may result in too thin negatives because there won’t be enough chemicals to develop the film with proper density.

I never use less than 5ml of Rodinal for each film. It means that to develop a film with the dilution 1+100 I add 5ml of the concentrate into 500ml of water and process only one 35mm or type 120 film in the solution.

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// Sasha Krasnov
Liquid emulsion prints - The City of New York (c) Sasha Krasnov

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  1. Great write!

    Do you know any approximate shelf life for opened R09? I have one opened from maybe 4 months ago and I wouldn’t like to spoil a single roll of film. The foma bottles are crap, not airtight at all.

    • Thanks for reading!

      I used Fomadon R09 stored in a half-opened airtight bottle stored for a year without a problem. It is quite difficult to answer your question. Sure, Foma bottle has a paper gasket in the cap but it tightens the bottle well enough. Anyway, it’s known the shelf life of Fomadon R09 is worse than Adox Rodinal. Try to increase the developing time multiplying it by 1.5 for the first roll.

  2. Tuyen Au

    A very good and helpful article, sir.
    I also experienced with Rodinal & find this developer quite suitable for Fomapan negatives , it tend to give more contrast compare with Tmax or TriX 400, might Fomapan’ base is quite thinner?
    I also tried stand dev pushing 3 stop with Fomapan 100 (120 film) with dilution 1+200 in 2.5 hours, the result is amazing.

    • Thank you for sharing this important information. It is well known that Foma emulsion gives more contrasty images over Kodak, Fuji among others. And it doesn’t depend on the developer. I processed Fomapans in Kodak D-76 and Fomadon R09 — the images always were more contrasty than Ilford HP5 Plus shot in near the same conditions for example. Considering your question about the base, Fomapan 100 type 120 film has polyester base 0.1mm thick, and 35mm film 35 mm film has cellulose triacetate base 0.125mm thick. Kodak T-Max 100 type 120 has base 4.7mil (~0.12mm ) thick. I think the difference is not significant. By the way, Kodak claims that the base for T-Max 100 type 120 is thicker than other black-and-white roll films. Most likely, the contrast is a feature of Foma’s film emulsions.

      Personally, I quite rarely use stand development. But it is a great way for shadow development. Did you use agitation every 30 minutes or only in the beginning. It would be great if you will provide more detailed information. I plan to write a separate article about stand development with R09/Rodinal.

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