processors \ lomo film processing tank instructions by martin w baumgarten

SPIRAL REEL Film Processing Notes

[This applies to any spiral reel processing method, including the LOMO tank instructions which follow.]

by Martin W. Baumgarten (C) 1998

(1). The best way to process Super 8mm movie film on a spiral reel is to make sure that when it's loaded onto the reel that the perforation edge is down in the spirals. This is to ensure that any agitation currents that may move thru these spiral ridges don't impact the image area with uneven processing.

(2). To do this...when you remove the film core with the film from the cartridge...transfer this to a 50ft/15m takeup reel [best to build your own workbench setup with two rewinds and a film core holder on a length of 2" x 4" x 30" long board. THEN, retransfer it to another takeup reel which will up the film into a wind position so that the perforations will be facing downward as you load the film onto the spiral reel with the emulsion edge facing outwards. The slight winding tension onto the reel will keep the base side of the film against the
spirals, and the emulsion edge free. However...should there be any touching problems of the emulsion against the spirals...this will only then affect the preforation area....not the image area.

(3). Always lower a spiral reel into the solution...NEVER pour solution onto a spiral reel as the force of the liquids can easily dislodge the film from sections of the spirals and thus result in ruined sections of film.


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Russian LOMO Film Processing Tank Instructions

[for the earlier Lomo tank...later ones are similar]

by Martin W. Baumgarten (C) 1998

NOTE: On the LOMO tank, the center film agitator has a small drilled hole which is designed to allow the solutions to drain into the tank from the small light trap. Unfortunately this small hole also allows light FOGGING to hit the tape over it with a small piece of black electrical tape. To drain any residue from this light trap...just turn the tank on its side once you have drained a given
solution out.

---> The russian-made LOMO film processing tank is designed to process two 15m/50ft rolls of Super 8mm motion picture film, or one roll of 50ft/15m 16mm width motion picture film. The tank accomplished this by using a narrow diameter double spiral reel design with spacers. In the abscence of instructions...I have devised my own here, which I will eventually improve upon.

---> TANK PARTS Breakdown: (1) Tank chamber body with drain assembly. (2) Tank light-tight lid. (3) Lower Spiral Reel with threaded center. (4) Middle Spiral Reel/Flange with non-threaded center. (5) Top/upper Spoked Flange. (6) 2 - clear plastic threaded spacer rings. (7) 1 - black plastic lipped spacer ring. (8) 1 - threaded Reel Spindle/Film Agitator Shaft [On newer versions, this is now a two-part unit, allowing the smaller lower threaded shaft to hold the bottom Spiral Reel and middle Spiral Reel (or flange) together.]

---> The SPIRAL REEL: The spiral reel consists of a double-axis/double reel design.

~> Super 8mm 2 - Rolls Film Setup <~
(1) To set it up for Super 8mm movie film, place the lower part of the reel with spiral flanges facing upward (the one with the threaded center) on the bottom, add on to the bottom, one of the two clear plastic threaded spacer rings. (2) Now place the second reel flange on top of that reel with the spiral flanges facing upward. [On later models, you now add the lower short threaded shaft to hold these together]. (3) Next add the third non-spiral flange on top of that with the threaded portion facing upwards. (4) Now screw the threaded spindle into the center of all three components and the reel is now set up for two rolls of Super 8mm film. [On later models, you screw the upper threaded spindle shaft into the already in place, lower one.]

NOTE: Film loading will be a bit tricky, so remember the setup pattern so you can put these together in the dark later. Always practice loading until you have the technique down perfectly, BEFORE ever using real film!

~> 16mm/Double Regular 8mm Reel Setup <~
NOTE: You have two variations for this setup:

---> (A). 1 - single reel 50ft/15m 16mm roll of film or Double Regular 8mm film

(1) Place lower threaded spiral reel on bottom, have small clear plastic threaded spacer attached on bottom. (2) Now the spoked flange with its threaded end facing downward (without any spacer screwed onto it). (3) Then place the black plastic lipped spacer with the thinner portion into the center opening of the spoked flange. (4) Screwin the black plastic threaded Spindle/Agitator rod, and the reel is configured for a single roll of 50ft/15mm 16mm width movie film.

---> (B). 1 - roll of 50ft/15m 16mm or Double Regular 8mm film ~ AND ~ 1 - 50ft/15mm roll of Super 8mm film.

(1) Threaded spiral reel on bottom with spacer attached to bottom. (2). Center non-threaded spiral reel in center with spiral facing upwards. (3) Spoked flange next with the threaded portion facing downwards (no spacer) (4) Insert threaded black plastic Spindle/Agitator rod, and the double-reel set up is configured for 1 - 50ft/15m roll of Super 8mm film on the bottom, and 1 - 50ft/15m roll of 16mm width film on the top.

~> Super 8mm Single Roll Film Setup <~
NOTE: This is the most basic setup and easiest to use.

(1) Threaded spiral reel on bottom with spacer ring attached (bottom spacer ring is almost always attached). (2) Spoked flange is next, facing with threaded part upwards. (3) Black plastic spacer with narrow portion inserted into center of spoked flange. (4) Black plastic Spindle/Agitator Rod threaded into assembly. [On newer models, insert both combined shafts together.]

~~~> FILM LOADING of the SPIRAL REEL(s) < ~~~

NOTE: This is one of the most difficult parts to learn...but can be mastered quickly with plenty of practice.

~~[Single Reel Set up for either 1 - 50ft/15m Super 8mm or 1 - 50ft/15m 16mm width film]~~
(1) There are two ways to load the reel: (a) Feed film from a small take up reel between the spiral reel and spoked flange...feeling with your fingers from above the flange and thru the spokes to position the film. (b) With the upper flange removed, feed the film into the center film holding slots, and while holding the film down flat to the left (outward direction), turn the reel clockwise slightly to let the film take up a half turn. Now, replace the upper flange and secure the Agitator Spindle shaft to hold them together.

NOTE: The film is ALWAYS loaded clockwise and with the emulsion facing outwards (away from center of spiral). Thread the film into one of the center film holding slots (Make a small bend in film to help hold it there is necessary).

(2) Now turn the reel slowly and carefully with your left hand, while holding the film on the small take up reel in your right hand (or on a loading jig you have configured). Always hold the film at a 45 angle to the LEFT [leaning leftward] as you wind it on, and hold it level with the center of the reel....and it will load on very easily. Take your time...with practice you'll eventually be able to load the real within a couple minutes time.

(3) When you near the end of the film go very slow to be able to make sure that the film all fits onto the reel. Sometimes you may have an overlength roll of film...and will have to break off or cut off a few inches to fit it all onto the reel...however this is the exception. Carefully tuck the last bit of film into the reel with your fingers...and if you desire...tape a small piece of tape (masking or electrical vinyl tape) on the ensure the film doesn't unravel on you while processing.

~~[Double Reel Setup for either 2 - Super 8mm 50ft/15m films or 1 - Super 8mm 50ft/15m Film and 1 - 16mm 50ft/15m Film]~~

(1) NOTE: This method is trickier to learn...and requires that you begin the loading with the reel parts separated. So disassemble the reel from left to right in the correct order that it will go together with all parts facing upwards. Or from right to left if you feel more comfortable with that. PRACTICE this several times..until you learn it...BEFORE using real film!

(2) Insert your film end into the one of the slots provided on the lower spiral reel with your Super 8mm film, and while holding it snuggly in place with your left hand...gently turn the reel at the same time to advance the film just a couple inches past the loading slot. This is variable do whatever works best for you.

(3) While holding the film in place, twist the takeup reel holding your film supply over to the left one time and lay it down on your work table. The film now has a leftward lean to it, and with care will stay in place for the next steps...if not...just begin again until it does.

(4). Now place the second (middle) spiral on top of the lower one with its spirals facing upwards.

(5a). Carefully set the upper spoked flange onto the top of the middle spiral reel with the threaded portion facing DOWNWARDS (for 16mm film setting) OR with the threaded portion facing UPWARDS [for the Super 8mm film setting].

(5b) For NEWER ONLY have to insert the lower threaded spindle shaft, which will hold the lower reel units together.

(6) Insert and attach the threaded black plastic Spindle/Agitator Rod. The unit is now assembled and has only the lower spiral started with your Super 8mm film.

(7) Place the film supply into your right hand (whichever works best for you of course), or onto your loading jig, and rotate the reel carefully and slowly until all of the film is loaded onto it (holding the film again at an approximate 45 angle for ease of loading and to prevent film binding). Once all can attach a small piece of tape to secure film to reel.

(8) Loading the UPPER SPIRAL Reel portion: Now insert the film end (either Super 8mm or 16mm width film depending on how you setup the upper spiral reel), into one of the film slots provided (as outlined earlier in Step 1 if Loading the Spiral Reel).

(9) Working carefully, load your second roll of Super 8mm film or 16mm width film onto this reel, securing it at the end if necessary with a small piece of tape. The double-reel system is now fully loaded with two rolls of movie film ready for processing.

~~~> FILM PROCESSING with the LOMO Tank <~~~

NOTE: The LOMO tank is a daylight film processing tank...similar to daylight tanks made for still roll films, except that it has a bottom drain. Water and chemicals are premeasured in a graduate and when at the correct temperature are meant to be added to the top filling orafice. However, as with still photographic films, the most even and best processing results are achieved IF you ADD the film to the solutions...NOT by adding the solutions to the film. This requires using the tank a bit differently than outlined in the original instructions or just by looking at the way it's designed. I speak from years of film processing follow these steps wisely and you'll achieve professional results.

~~~> SOLUTION Requirements <~~~

The LOMO tank requires approximately 1 - liter (or quart) of chemistry to process one roll of Super 8mm or one roll of 16mm width film. In order to process two rolls of Super 8 film at the same time, approximately 1400ml (or 43 ounces) of solution quantity is required. In order to process 1 - roll of Super 8mm and 1 - roll of 16mm width film, approximately 1600ml (50 ounces) of solution quantity is required. You may be able to use slightly less or more solution volume depending on your chemistry kits and working methods. These volumes stated are minimum levels from my experience.

~~~> BLACK & WHITE Reversal or Negative Processing <~~~

(1) Make sure all solutions are to the correct and same temperature as each other. Use a holding container to warm up or cool down your solutions.

(2) Now, once everything is set up (including your timer clock)...go dark, then remove the tank cover, then remove the film and place it safely to one side away from any solutions.

(3) Carefully pour the first solution, usually a water wash/rinse into the tank. Then slowly but deliberately add the spiral reel assembly rotating it to the right (clockwise) while lowering it. Agitate it up and down a few times, and then rotate it to the right again letting it come to a stop. Your Pre-Wash Step is about one minute, so then drain via using the drain on the tank...or remove the spiral reel assembly and place it into a photo print tray or similar sized pan to contain any drips from it. Then dump the wash water, and fill the tank with your first solution (you are still in total darkness all this time...if you need to turn the lights on to orientate yourself...just place the film back into the tank, close the cover and turn it to clockwise to seal it, and then turn your lights on.

(4) When ready to proceed with your First Developer Step, turn off the lights, remove the film spiral reel assembly, setting it aside safely. Add your chemistry to the tank carefully to prevent any splashing upward to your face or onto your counter or worktable.

(5) While watching your timer...hold the film spiral reel assembly and wait to lower it into the solution...about 10 to 15 seconds before the exact start time is reached...lower the film into the tank and solution carefully but deliberately and rotating it clockwise while doing so. Once in the tank...raise and lower the reel(s) about an inch and then turn them clockwise slowly, come to a stop, then raise and lower it again, rotate to the right again, come to a stop, and at the end of doing this for the initial 20 to 30 seconds...rock the reel to the north-south and then east west positions. Replace the tank cover...and continue your operations in roomlight.

(6) Continue your agitation sequence in either a 5 second every 30 seconds cycle or for the more convenient 10 seconds every minute cycle. When you agitate...first lift and lower the reel by using the Agitator Rod gently, and then rotate the reel one full rotation slowly coming to a stop and then gently agitate the Rod north-south and then east west for a couple seconds. This will ensure even film processing agitation. DO NOT SPIN the agitator it may seem tempting to do so! But this will create swirls of uneven density on your films.

(7) When you come near the end of your processing step...allow sufficient drain time for the tank, and INCLUDE this drain time in your timing of that processing step. To allow for a quick and exact timing...turn off the lights, remove the spiral reel assembly from the tank setting it into another tank or large pan for rinsing or holding...and drain the LOMO tank, fill it with the rinse water or next chemical, and then insert the film again into it for that step. If you are going to a wash/rinse step...then include the time it takes for you to remove the film from the tank, drain the tank, and fill it with wash water...into your process timing of that step. For example...if it takes you 45 seconds to do all this...then begin this procedure during the final 45 seconds of the step up to the point where the film actually enters the wash water or next chemical.

(8) NOTE: The above procedures are most critical with the developers, and for other solutions you can safely just use the tank pouring spout and drain if necessary for your convenience. If you encounter any technical problems...then just do ALL processing steps as are outlined above for the developers.

~~~> BLACK & WHITE Film Processing Control <~~~

(1) The best way to maintain control of your processing for any process type, is to keep track of how many films you have processed in a given solution and either replenish the solutions so they maintain full-strength and/or adjust your processing time. A Liter of chemistry will process about 6 to 8 rolls of Super 8mm film. After each roll of film if processing separately, add approximately 15 seconds to each Developer time only. Or after processing two rolls of Super 8mm film, add 30 seconds to the next film batch. These are approximations intended to quide you to correct final film density.

(2) Your best way to control the process is to use Process Control Strips and use a densitometer to measure them out, and then adjust times and solutions as needed.

(3) You can make your own control strips by filming an entire fresh roll with alternating shots of a given scene with a good brightness range and that of a gray card. This roll should then be cut up into strips of about 5 inches each as you need then and kept frozen.

(4) Pull out one strip about an hour before use, and attach to the end of a roll by stapling it to it. If you are careful, and shoot the film alternating every few will have both informational images on your test strips reguardless of where you cut the filmup (since you can't see the film when you're cutting it up in total darkness). Then attach it to one of your rolls about to be processed.

(5) After processing read out the gray card density on a densitometer....or visually determine if the film is too dark or too light and adjust your processing times accordingly.

~~~> COLOR REVERSAL or NEGATIVE Film Processing <~~~

(1) NOTE: Color film processing depends on a few factors. If you are processing EM-26 type films, or FujiChrome Single-8 films, or Agfa MovieChrome will have to remove the jet-black anti-halation backing. This is an involved procedure which will require removing the film from the reels to take up reels...and then while transferring the film from one takeup reel to another, having a tray with warm wash water or borax bath beneath the film into which you immerse the film and wipe the coating off...foot by foot with a clean soft cotton cloth that is kept fully saturated with the wash water or borax solution. The EM-26 type films are the easiest to use...since their backing is a powdery dye. However...the Fuji and Agfa films have tough rubbery coatings...that make a terrific mess! You will have to rinse the reels off fully and wipe them down...and change your wiping tray solution many well as continually rinsing your wiping cloth. So be warned! Film is then wound back onto the clean reels for continuation of processing. This entire procedure is extremely time consuming!

(2) EM-26 type films can be wiped down after the final wash you don't have to remove them after you get to the first light stage as you do with the Agfa and Fuji films. Their dye dissolves in solution and won't affect other films processed thereafter. HOWEVER, this is not the case with Fuji and Agfa films...which will shed a massive amount of their rubbery it's best to remove it before continuing after the first wash and/or reversal bath steps. The solutions that you first used however...have to be CAREFULLY FILTERED BEFORE reuse, in order to remove any traces of the jet-black coating.

(3) Make sure all your solutions are up to temperature. Pre-wash your film at 105F to 110F for 2 to 5 minutes...this will also pre-heat the tank interior, reels, and film surfaces to prevent a rapid cooling down of the First Developer solution. Also, it will remove most of the film dye, and some of the anti-halation backing on EM-26 type films and Color Negative films (ECN-2 via using C-41 chemistry). Drain your tank and reel completely. Rinse film another time with warm water if you should be delayed...this will ensure interior tank temperature is still warm.

(4) Follow similar fill and drain procedures as outline in B&W film processing, always making sure that your temperatures are correct. Keep developers about 4 or 5 degrees higher than where they should be...since a full reel of film (two films) will lower the solution temperature by 2 or 3 degrees initially upon lowering it into the solution. The heavy bakelite construction of the LOMO tank will hold processing temperature quite is advisable to have a rubber or plastic Tupperware/Rubbermaid type container filled with a water jacker of about 102F to 108F into which the LOMO tank is placed. This will ensure that the tank's interior chemical temperature doesn't drop below the recommended processing temperature. This type of critical temperature is only necessary for the Developers...not the other solutions. The First Developer determines the density of the film (speed control), and the Color Developer determines the final positive image density and color (or negative color) of your films. If the temperature is too high or too low, it will affect your density and color results.


(1) Control of your color processing can be done by using Process Control Strips...ones that your purchase and use and then read out on a densitometer to know which way your processing is shifting to, so you can correct it. OR by making you own using fresh film, shooting a test chart of color patches and a gray card. Then you remove the film from the cartridge freeze it in a lighttight and air proof container, and cut up the film into small approximate 5 inch sections, just before you need them. You can cut up several from the main roll and place these into used lightproof 35mm film canisters, label them and then freeze them. Remove a strip about an hour prior to use, and place it immediately into a spare lightproof 35mm film canister. When you have loaded up your film...attach this strip to the very end of your film by stapling it via a small overlap. After processing you can evaluate this small strip by using a 5400K light source that is daylight balanced (some flourescent lights are 5000K daylight balanced which is close enough) and then decide if your color is off or not.

(2) If you read these strips out on a densitometer, you will have a better idea of which way your process is leaning towards. The Super 8mm frames and Regular 8mm frames are very it is best to shoot your Control Strips just a few frames at a time...filling the frame with your gray card and alternating between that and a color chart. Provided that your exposures are exactly correct (use a good light meter etc) will be able to determine if you have over or under processed your films, by how much, and which way the color is shifting, if there is a shift. You will have to have a basic understanding of densitometry/sensitometry to be able to do this. That least this will provide a visual indicator of which way things are going, and hopefully you'll be able to correct the problem.

(3) If you are processing Color Negative film which is to be telecined to video...minor variations can be corrected upon transfer. will still want to be able to control any major changes, especially density. If your color is way off...and you have a color cross-over problem...then the film may not be able to be corrected properly on the telecine machine. This is since if you correct for white, for example...flesh tones will be incorrect, or some other color. You may still be able to live with some variations like this...however it is best to keep as accurate control of your processing as possible.


(1) It is best to remove film for drying, after first treating it with a wetting/drying agent such as Photo-Flo (Eastman Kodak Co.), and either gently squeegeing or not squeegeing the film as you hang it onto a Film Drying Rack. It may be quite possible to dry the film on the reel and remove it after it is dry. I don't prefer this method myself...but if it works fine for you...then by all means do so. It may take much longer for the film to dry on the reel, probably overnight due to small moisture pockets trapped between the film spirals and film surfaces. Shake the reel out very remove these pockets of moisture.

(2) Alternatively you may be able to use a chemical Film Drying Agent such as Rapid-Dry or similar. These may have alcohol or similar rapid evaporating products in them to render your film and reel dry within 30 minutes or so (see manufacturer's instructions). Make sure this sustance doesn't harm your reel a couple drops of it onto a part of the reel plastic and observe it over several minutes to make sure it doesn't harm the reel...if it doesn'tthen proceed with using it.

(3) Carefully remove the film from the spiral reel, by holding it at a similar 45 or 90 angle upon removal as when you loaded it...this will prevent it from binding or nagging on the reel edges. You can set the LOMO reel on top of the tank cover (cover only on table top) and carefully pull the film off at an angle while winding it onto a takeup reel on your two-rewinder film-holder 2" x 4" x 30" portable setup. I always fasten this to a table top in darkness via a large C-Clamp, to prevent it from moving around. This affords greater control and you're less likely to have an accident. Pull the film off gently and wind up the slack onto the take up reel.

(4) You will have to transfer the processed film back to another takeup reel to make sure the film is in the correct position (sprocket holes on edge of reel as it faces you) and also that he end of the film is in the center of the reel.

(5) Now just make sure you attach a leader (head) and trailer (tail) to protect your film, and also lubricate it prior to ever projecting it.

(6) Wind the film nice and snug onto the take up reel....adding a little pressure to the supply reel so that the film windsup evenly and neatly along one side of the take up reel. Wrap a medium rubberband around the film and allow to set overnight if possible. If you used a Film Drying Rack...there will be some indentations in the film base about every foot or so, and this nice snug wind will help the film to slacken out out nice and smooth. Always wind it up nice and snug like this the first help the film develop a nice curved shape and also to prevent any cinching when handling it.


With care and professionalism, you will be rewarded with high quality film processing that you did yourself. Also make sure your projector is clean, and that the filmpath is clean...wipe some film lubricant all thru the accessable filmpath areas on the projector...and blow out any dust using canned air or dust-off type products.

Any questions or problems, please contact me and I'll gladly try to help if I can.

Best wishes,

Martin W. Baumgarten

Plattsburgh Photographic Services