127 Developing

While most good labs should be able to handle 127 film, they may charge extra - simply because you're asking for something a bit different. Usually you'll need to go there in person, and smile nicely to persuede them to do it. Mail order (in the UK) Photosupplies UK offer a complete 127 dev and print service, while Retrophotographic offer a more limited dev and contact service. Fortunatly - at least if you're working in black and white, dev'ing your own 127 is easy.

To develop 127 film you'll need a spiral and a tank. Fortunatly standard Patterson tanks use an adjustable spiral that is specifically designed to work with 127. They can be picked up cheaply online, and are available in all good photo-surply shops. Efke R100 dev's easily, and times for various chemicals are listed here. If you haven't dev'ed before, then give it a go - it required no skill, about 10 pounds of equipment, and after that you can dev a film at virtually no cost. Ask someone to show you how, and after a couple of goes you'll be able to do it without thinking.

Developing colour is a bit more tricky, so unless you've got a bit more experience you'll need to send them to a lab. Macochrome requires an "E6" process which is standard for slide film, while MacoColor print film is "C41". The only difference between these and any other film is the physical size. However if you find some REALLY old film it might be marked as some other process - C22 for example. In that case you've got a realy problem, and unless its got something very special on it, then its simply not worth it. Only a very small number of places are set up to handle this kind of processing, and you'll have to pay handsomely to get the job done. If you absolutly have to get one of these films processed then Rocky Mountain are a good place to start looking. Alternativly you could have a go yourself - any ROOM TEMPERATURE C41 kit should work, though the results from developing old colour film are usually poor.

To print you'll need an enlarger - something of an investment, but as more fools move to digital, many of these are available second hand. If an enlarger can handle 120 (6x6) then it will work for 127 too, and it's pretty easy to improvise a negative carrier. 35mm enlarger's may not be able to illuminate a full 4x4 (or 4x6) negative, so go for the medioum format option. Enlargers don't always come with lenses - Ideally 127 needs a lens of about 60mm, but once again lenses designed for 120 film (70-80mm) work better than those for 35mm file (50mm), as 50mm lenses don't always have the coverage to project he whole 127 negative. You'll also need a couple of trays, and a safelight, but if you buy your enlarger second hand then these will probably be thrown in.

You'll also need to be able to black out a room, with running water - a bathroom is ideal, and a couple of sheets of hardboard over the window should do the trick. Putting a dark bed sheet over the hardboard helps fill any gaps, and if you work in the evenings this can achieve total blackout - if you can't quite get there don't worry too much, as paper is a little forgiving provided you don't leave it lying around. Once again get someone to show you how to use all of this stuff, and within a few weeks you'll be up and running.

An alternative is to scan the negatives, and print them digitally. While I've had good sucess scanning 35mm negatives, I've yet to find a good way to scan 127 - sugguestions are welcome. If you can't scan negatives, and don't want to set up a full darkroom you could make contact prints, and scan them on a flatbed scanner - while this is less than ideal, it's a good option if you just want to create index prints.

Back to Articles