The REEL Truth About MONOBATHS (Part I) – 35mm

New55 FILM’s R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER is easy to use and works nicely with just about all black and white films.

We are making extensive tests with medium- and large-format films, too, but in July we took the chance to try R5 with a few of our favorite 35mm films, including Kodak T-MAX 100, Kodak T-MAX 400, Ilford Delta 100, Ilford Delta 400, Kodak TRI-X 400, Ilford HP5 Plus and Rollei Retro 80s.



All the films worked superbly with R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER. If it’s possible to draw a broad conclusion from this variety of subjects, settings and lighting conditions, it would be that these films behave very much like themselves with R5.

Their salient characteristics are easy for the experienced eye to pick out: the tabular-grain emulsions (the T-MAX’s and the DELTA’s) are tonally smooth with lovely mid-tones and delicious grayscale transitions, while the classic cubic-grain emulsions (TRI-X and HP5) are high in contrast and, in muted light with underexposure, can display their grain unabashedly. The Rollei Retro 80s examples (these are flash portraits with this adaptation of an old red-sensitive AGFA aero film) show fine grain and good contrast without sacrificing mid-tonality; a very interesting combination of traits. In all cases, R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER brings out the unique qualities that experienced photographers have come to enjoy in these popular films.


The method used when developing 35mm films with R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER in a reel tank is straight-forward.  We use the Paterson Universal 2-Reel (Super System 4) daylight tank for 35mm films.  Our 1-Liter bottle of R5 completely covers the two loaded reels in this tank and the extra solution — which can be used again and again — serves the key purpose to maintain the solution’s temperature.

After warming the R5 solution in a water jacket to 85°F, pour the R5 smoothly and quickly into the daylight tank, swirling the tank while you pour.  A familiar agitation procedure begins immediately: rotate the tank’s stem consistently throughout the first minute; then, agitate for 5-second intervals at each 30-second mark.  Total development time is 6 minutes.  Replace your solution in the bottle, rinse the negatives under a room-temperature tap for 5 minutes and hang them to dry.  (Rinsing warm negatives in very cold water can cause the emulsion to reticulate; this effect can be used creatively along with the enhanced grain of pushed cubic-grain emulsions.)


Temperature matters with R5 and serves as a potential control.  A well-exposed negative will develop with ideal density at 85°F; to achieve a higher-contrast Push effect, higher temperatures can be used (though development time is always 6 minutes).  Higher than 95°F can lead to over-development, and lower than 80°F can yield under-development.


R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER is so easy to use with 35mm black and white film.  Choosing from the variety of available films, you can dial in the tone and grain characteristics to suit your creative intentions.  Control in rendering the negative is a key feature of the enhanced palette of the analog photographer.  R5 adds convenience without sacrificing variety.

Photography and testing for this article was provided by Charles Fendrock, Jen Scovern and Sam Hiser.

Related article: “R5 Monobath exposure and temperature array” by Bob Crowley.


post scriptum

Angel Rivera, up in Anchorage, did something nice with some aging Kodak Technical Pan 2415 in R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER. I believe I’m heading up to Alaska to get some of Angel’s Houston Bar-B-Cue. -SH

2 Comments on “The REEL Truth About MONOBATHS (Part I) – 35mm

  1. I have a noob question. Please forgive me. If I understand correctly, I would break the film itself, out of the exposed film roll, and throw it in that funky bottle along with the liquid solution?

    Please pardon my ignorance, but how might one go about getting the film back out of the roll? Once it is rewound, the film is securely up inside the roll. Would a hammer work? 😉 Seriously though, for the clueless amongst us, I would love to see a video of a 35mm roll, an example of how to extract the film, and exactly how it sits in the solution.

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