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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Ilford Pan F Plus 50|
|Ilford Pan 100, Kentmere 100|
|Ilford FP4 Plus 125|
|Ilford Pan 400, Kentmere 400|
|Ilford HP5 Plus 400|
|Ilford Delta 400|
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.