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:
1. 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%;
2. Contrast control with different dilutions of the concentrate;
3. One-shot development leads to stable results;
4. 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 that 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 way shorter than that of Agfa/Adox Rodinal. Fomadon R09 becomes deep red significantly faster than Agfa/Adox Rodinal. I recommend that you increase the developing time multiplying it by ×1.5 if you stored Fomadon R09 in a half-opened bottle for a year.
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|
|Rollei Superpan 200|
|Ilford Pan 400, Kentmere 400|
|Ilford HP5 Plus 400|
|Ilford Delta 400|
Minimum quantity of Rodinal per solution
As I remember, Agfa recommended taking a minimum of 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 minimal 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 that 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.
- Massive Dev Chart — a starting point in your own experiments.
- Film developing with Kodak D-76
Thanks for reading! I would be happy to share my experience of shooting on film, its development, and other practices of using this photographic material. Please, ask me questions in the Leave a reply section below the post. Answers to your questions give me new ideas and allow me to piece better organize my experience.
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 by multiplying it by 1.5 for the first roll.
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.
Do you have any thoughts or observation about FOMA/Arista EDU 400 exposed at EI 200-250 processed in 1:50 Rodinal, vs. the same film/same EI in 1:1 D76? I have just started using the film, and I am trying to find a developer that works well with it.
I had no option to test FOMA/Arista films a lot. It’s quite difficult to find it in a local store. Ordering it from the United States is quite expensive, it’s much easier to buy Foma films instead. But I can say that both developers will be good for Arista films. Kodak D-76 is good for all films, you can’t be afraid to use it with any film. But the films processed in Rodinal look sharper but also more grainy. Rodinal makes film grain more clearly visible. I think the difference between Arista and Foma films developed in D-76 and Rodinal is near the same.
Foma 400 in Rodinal is quite grainy but it is an “honest” grain with nice acutance
Joao Lopes Freitas
Thank you for your clear review.
I have easy access to Adox Adonal, and often use Fomapan 100, both 35 mm and 120 format.
Question: Some recomend exposing Fomapan 100 at ISO 64. If I do it, which development times do you recommend ? The same as for ISO 100 ?? Or should I change them ?? And should they be different for each format ??
Thank you in advance for your reply
Thank you for visiting my site! I do not see any reason to expose Fomapan 100 at ISO 64. But, why not try it? Anyway, I would prefer using dilution 1+100 for pull processing. It gives more control over the process. I think I would use 12-13 min (20°C) as a starting point (!) for ISO 64.
As for different formats — I do not adjust the development time for 35mm and 120 format. But actually, it may depend on your tank. I use Jobo 1520 Unitank for both film types. Using the same tank allows the use of the same agitation. If you use different tanks for each of the film types may require different agitation, and it also may require some adjustment of the development time.
The addition of a bit of Sodium Ascorbate to the Rodinal makes for tighter grain. Rodinal 1:100 w/4g/L sodium ascorbate added should do it. A bit tighter, not major and does not change the “rodinal look”.
Thank you so much, Daniel, for this valuable information! Do you have any examples?
As I’ve pushed Fomapan 100 I used your time for 1 stop push with Rodinal 1+50, but reduce the time, because my solution was 24 degrees, so 15:30 minutes and it look fine to me. Now I’ll try 1+100 for one hour at 24°C.
When I’ve started photography back in 1988, we had only ORWO and East Germany products, which I still consider high quality. I used only ORWO R09 and A49 (which we were making in our school chemistry room :). I’ve tried after D76, Xtol, Tanol, PMK, did not liked it especially the D76 – to my taste awful grain, without any form. I do like the PMK or Tanol developers.
I think the problem of Foma films is que quality control.
I used Orwo films in my childhood but it was quite difficult to get, and Rodinal too 😉 Foma films quite often tend to have scratch/crack-like problems. They admits this problem and claims they solved this issue but the problem still exists.
Thank you for reading the article.
Just getting back to black and white film photography after many years. I have found your article the clearest and most helpful I have read.
I will be putting your advice into practice when the order from Silverprint arrives.
It’s my pleasure! Thank you for visiting my website and for your feedback!
Thank you for your very informative article on Rodinal.
After a break for last couple of years I intend to again get back to processing the films i shoot B/W.
Formery few times i used D-76
But this time i managed to acquire Rodinal here in Brazil but had never used it and now i want to use this developer for the first time on one roll of 35mm. FP4 plus 125 ASA.
Hopefully will be able to produce some positive results and will share the information
Thank you once again bringing clarity on the use of Rodinal. Do not know the other versions but was aware of Adox/ Rodinal, but have not seen here in Brazil
Thank you for reaching my website 😉 It doesn’t matter what kind of Rodinal you will use. These developing times are my own experience and could only be a starting point for others. Because all we need is a personal experience. That’s great if you consider sharing your results with me and other readers of this article.
Great post! I’ve started developing with Rodinal in the late 1990s and I’ve just resumed shooting film regularly with Kodak Tri-X film developed in Adox Rodinal. It’s a great combo for the type of images that I’m looking for.
Nice article Sasha! Thanks for sharing your experiences so thoroughly. Really enjoyed reading this. I love Rodinal.
Thank you! I did my best!
Henri Van den Heuvel
I have very good results using the Foma Rodinal with semi-stand development: I use 6 ml Rodinal in 750 ml of demineralised water for 1 film. I develop in 20degrees Celsius for 90 minutes. I give a gentle turn every 30 minutes. It is a relaxing way of developing for me, giving me the perfect negatives.
Thank you so much Henri for sharing your experience! It seems you are using 1+125 dilution. Why did you choose such dilution, but not 1+150 or 1+200 for instance? Because of 5ml minimum quantity per solution?
Nicely written. I started with analog photography two years ago and since Fomadon is easily available here and cheap (I´m living in Czech), it was the first choice – and your article also helped a heap. 🙂
Until now I always tried semistand development with 1:100 dilution (while using HP5 and Foma 400), but next time I think about trying more concentrated solution and decrease development times.
Cheers and thank you for the writing.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the feedback. I would also recommend you split Fomadon R09 into some smaller bottles after the original bottle is opened, or replace the seal in the cap. That’s because Foma’s bottles tend to be not completely airtight.
I´m back with some notes. I did developing with 1:50 and it came out nicely, but next time I will probably opt again for 1:100 – I do like to have a time for doing other things and not needing to agitate every minute. In fact last time when I developed the film using stand development, I agitated only at the begining and then I didn´t touch the tank for the whole hour. (120 film)
And – my R09 is already two years old, deep amber-red-brown liquid, still in that original Foma bottle, with some crystals or whatever it is rattling inside – but it works. 🙂
It is good news about the shelf life of Fomadon R09. Anyway, I guess it does not really matter how long you stored R09 when using it for stand development. You may increase development time by 10-15 minutes easily. All black areas on negative should be already black enough even using slightly deteriorated concentrate with 60-70 min of development time.
Recently I decided to shoot with a half frame camera. I wonder if Rodinal will be a good developer. Logically I should have used the D76 because of the fine grain, but the sharpness Rodinal brings is very tempting …
Why not try both developers and compare? I think you won’t notice a big difference when printing 18x24cm.
Daniel Pete Rainwater Rainwater
Very good write up! It is informative and an enjoyable read as well.
I am new to film developing. At this time I have used DF96 to develop a total of 4 rolls of film (one = 135, 3 = 120). I am already “hooked”. I do plan to use one of the Rodinal’s that you describe above.
I do have a question though. I have a “found roll” of 616 Verichrome from a very old camera (bellows vest pocket with a shutter from around 1908). The film is not Verichrome “pan”. Would Rodinal be a good choice to try on this old film? Are there any extra precautions that I should take with this old film?
Thank you again for this very informative write up. I will appreciate any suggestions for the Verichrome as well.
Thank you for the question. I would recommend using Rodinal for relatively fresh films, not older than 20 years. It is because Rodinal does not yield film speed a lot. It is more suitable for nominal film speed development, pull processing, and stand development. Of course, push processing with Rodinal is also possible but it is not a strong point of Rodinal. Every 10 years film speed drops by half approximately, 100 iso film from the 50s becomes about 1 iso film now. So, to develop a really old film you would need a developer with good yielding power for film speed. I would recommend using a stock solution of Kodak D-76 developer for films from 50-60-70s or might be diluted 1+1 for films from the 80s or earlier.
But is a personal experience only.
That was very helpfull for me as a starter in developing film. Thanks a great deal!
When I have a question or new experiences, I will contact you.
Thank you Hans for visiting my website and for the feedback. Do not hesitate to ask me more questions and share your own experience.
Thank you for your exceptionally clear and well thought out article. It is the first really good description of the differences between the Rodinal-type developers that I have seen. I have used both the Ro 9 and the more traditional Rodinal variants. I too have found the Ro 9 to keep less well than Rodinal. Like many other people, I usually get which ever version is available and I consider them all to be superb developers with a lovely tonality. Because I am a hobbyist who develops film at less than regular intervals the single-use dilution helps with maintaining consistent results. Thank you also for the invitation to ask further questions : )
I grew up with film and home processing many years ago and have stayed with it as I do like the look of film-based images. Needless to say, I actively enjoy the process as well.
thank you so much for visiting my website and for the feedback. Yes, sure, more questions are more information for all readers. Do not hesitate to ask me further questions, I would like to answer and help you 😉
Please help me to distinct my exposed 35 mm negative films. The question is: B&W or Color? I few years ago I started to refill my empty old color 35mm film canister with B&W negative. Now it is time to developed them. I have my own lab, chemical etc.
Problem is I did not pay attention to mark of the two kind of film. Because all of it exposed I can not determine which one is B&W and which one is color.
Could you help me to do it? Even if it needs some chemical, I do not want to “cross processing” any film.
Or better to develop both type of films as C-41?? I know it’ll little amber and not black and white (or gray) but maybe this is more economical solution for my problem.
Thank you very much for your answer.
1) You must NOT develop B&W film in the C-41 chemistry because you will get a completely transparent film! So, you will get just a film base.
2) You can determine film type by the emulsion color. Typically, the emulsion of unprocessed color negative film is a bit orangey. So, you may use a film picker to pull out the beginning of the film or disassemble the canister in the darkroom changing bag, cut a piece of film, and put the rest of the film into the developing tank for further development.
Unfortunately I cross-processed one of my color negative in Rodinal. You know the result, right? So I see some image, but most of the frame is quite dark amber. My question is: what can I do to improve the usefulness of this? Any method to make it lighter, or just trash it?
I had the same issue some years ago with one roll of Fujicolor. So, I scanned it and did further lightening in Photoshop. I have no other idea what to do with such kinds of negatives. Anyway, I did not throw it in a trash can.
Thank you. I do not use Photoshop, I have Lightroom 5. Do you think it’ll success with LT also? My scanner quite old (Program: Cyberview 5.6) can not see thru the negative. So I’ll find a much stronger light source to “scanning” via digital camera.
Thanks again for your help.
I use tone curves in Photoshop. As far as I know, Lightroom also has tonal curves tool. Scanning with a digital camera is a great idea. I think you may also try using a flash as a strong light source.