Good spot, Nige. I'm glad I watched that... and read the comments! I got mine to add 120 capability (I've already got a Rondinax 35), but got the 135 model as well. It was interesting to see him dev the film even though it wasn't cut, just by rocking the film wind knob back and forth for agitation (obviously with a full load of chems).
I once had a film I couldn't cut with the Rondinax guillotine; it was a Rollei film on a polyester base. I had to go into a cupboard, open the tank and cut with scissors (didn't have a dark bag at the time). It'll be interesting to see if the Lab-box will cut a polyester film, though I'll have to get hold of one and shoot it first! (I think it came from a really carp single use camera, back in 2015 or so.)
So today I unwrapped and assembled the Lab-box. It came as a large box with two boxes inside. One had the tank and a 135 module, plus the extra bits for the film guide and 135 spool (plus the very important manual), the other had the 120 module. As well, there is an extra winding handle accessory, and a film retriever. Oh, it appears I chose the All-Black finish rather than the fetching orange. This was probably for camouflage...
Tank with 135 module and other components
120 module and spool
First thoughts on unwrapping: the Rondinax is built like a tank (yeah, I know, it IS one... but metal and all that); the Lab-box is feels a bit less sturdy than some of my grandson's toys. Pretty light-weight moulded plastic. A couple of times when assembling it I was worried about breaking it, though happily I managed to avoid actually doing so.
I thought there was going to be a digital thermometer included (a stretch goal?), but there isn't one.
It takes 300 ml of chems with continuous rotation (ie Rondinax mode), and 490 ml (but <500 ml) of chems for intermittent agitation (which must be done with the handle/knob rather than inversions). So that's 50% to 150% more expensive per film than the Rondinax. But my Rondinax won't do 120 (there is apparently a Rondinax 60 that will).
Oh, I checked the guillotine, and heck, that darn thing is sharp! I couldn't see a mention of avoiding polyester film in the 135 part of the manual, although the 120 section did say something about not using it with P.E.T.-based film. I thought that was a plastic used for making bottles, so I'm confused!
I've assembled it with the 120 module for now, since that was the primary motivation for buying it, though I'm not sure if I should try the 135 module first, being more familiar with that on the Rondinax. In either case I'll have to wait until I've finished a film (Delta 100 in 135, Fomapan 100 in 120).
I processed my first film with the Lab-Box this afternoon, so here are a few random notes...
First, as noted above I had set the Lab-Box up with the 120 module, but I was processing a 135 film. It was easy enough getting the 120 module off and the 135 module on, but I also had to disassemble the 120 reel and re-assemble it as a 135 reel. They use the same spindle, but different "sides" (as it were). I had great difficulty getting the 120 sides off the spindle. It's possible I had put them on wrong, but if not, I'd seriously want to get hold of a second spindle so I could leave the 120 and 135 reels both fully assembled.
I decided to use the supplied handle accessory, rather than the knob that comes fitted. Compared with the Rondinax 35, it was much easier to remove the knob (and attach the handle).
I have occasionally had slight light leaks up through the guillotine slot [EDIT: of the Rondinax] (reflected off the metal sink surface where I do my devving). I had a very good look at the [EDIT: Lab-Box] 135 module, and I think they have fixed that possibility... but I still loaded the film in a more subdued light area!
Loading the 135 film is slightly more complicated in the Lab-Box than the Rondinax. One thing that's easier is trimming the film. The Lab-Box instructions only suggest a straight cut across the film, cutting off the leader. With the Rondinax you also need to trim the corners, and then bend them downwards a little. I confess I did trim the corners, but I didn't bend them, and it didn't seem to cause a problem. However, with the Lab-Box you have to feed the film through under a couple of metal bars where the guillotine comes up.
Because of the curvature of the film, the end immediately disappeared under the loading guide (EDIT: I've added an image here to illustrate how this works, although it doesn't show the end disappearing, as it was actually taken at the end of the dev process, hence the film has been cut off). I had to remove the loading guide to fish out the film. I then made the mistake of attaching the film to the clip on the reel, and then had difficulty getting the loading guide back under the film again!
At this point the lid goes on, and you wind the film in until it stops, press the guillotine button up, and the film cut very easily. That blade is sharp! Because of the metal bars holding the film down tight, and the blade's sharpness, I'm guessing it could even deal with a polyester film base, which my Rondinax guillotine couldn't.
Now ready to dev. As noted above it takes 300 ml to dev with the Lab-Box, compared to 200 ml for the Rondinax. Luckily, I have 750 ml of Stop and Fixer mixed up for use with 4x5 negatives, so it was a case of measuring 300 ml of each of those off for use, and making up the 300 ml of HC 110 B (not in that order, I hasten to say).
The videa referenced above said the chems went in rather slowly, and I agree, although I did find later that it was better pouring the chems from beyond the end towards the tank, rather than across the tank. I used the handle; in practice, I'm not sure I would use the handle again; it's set rather low and it's a little difficult to turn as it gets to the bottom of its travel. I also felt it was too easy to turn it rapidly, risking bromide drag (at this point, I haven't scanned the negatives to see if this was a problem). OTOH I found it awkward to turn the handle with my left hand. With the Rondinax, I keep the tank and all the chems on the left hand side of the sink, turn the knob with my left hand, and use my right hand for taps, moving containers about, and for keeping the timer alive (I just use a smart phone timer rather than the MDC app for timing, as I haven't worked out how to adapt the timings for the continuous rotation approach). The Lab-Box is also much lighter than the Rondinax, and I found I had to use the other hand to hold the Lab-Box still while turning the handle. This was considerably more awkward.
I also felt it would be easy, if I needed to briefly pause turning (eg to turn a tap on or off), to always leave the handle in the same position, which could easily lead to more development on some parts of the film than others. I had to make a conscious decision to leave the handle in a different position each time. This would be less of an issue with the knob.
From this point the process is pretty much the same as with the Rondinax. I'm going to have to work out how long it takes to load and dump the tank, and adjust my timings accordingly; I think both are slower than the Rondinax, but this may just be unfamiliarity.
I decided to follow my previous approach and wash the film in the Lab-Box. I was going to take it out and use running water, but then I couldn't work out how I'd be able to use the wetting agent for the final wash. Another plus for the Lab-Box, by the way: no leakage from where the handle goes through the side of the tank. My Rondinax tends to leak at that point. It doesn't matter in normal use, as the chems are only just level with the spindle, but when washing in the tank there's always leakage (which would also preclude using the Rondinax for stand dev).
By the way, I usually do a short first wash with a half full tank and turning the reel, for a couple of minutes, then do 4 further washes for 5 minutes each, with the lid off and the reel fully submerged (turning the handle at the start to get any trapped bubbles out). The last wash is de-ionised water and wetting agent.
After the last wash, lid back on (to keep the dust out), and upstairs to the bathroom where a bulldog clip is already hanging on the top rail. Here the last difficulty occurred. I just grabbed the end of the film and pulled it out... this is easy to do with the Rondinax as the reel turns very easily, but was quite hard with the Lab-Box. At one point I had my right arm fully extended, and still some film would on the reel. I didn't want to grab the film with my left hand for fear of leaving fingerprints all over the film. I had to put the Lab-Box on the floor in the end, then I could pull the film fully out. (The solution to this, I think, is to take the reel out first!) Unclipping the film one-handed is just as hard as with the Rondinax.
So anyway, job done with the first film. I shouldn't rush to judgement, but my overall feeling is it was easier with the Rondinax for a number of small reasons, as more or less described above. Next time, use the knob rather than the handle, and take the reel out before attempting to get the film off it!
Next time, I think, will probably be 120. I have a roll of Fomapan 100 in the Autocord that I could probably finish up in an afternoon easily enough. Does that film need a pre-wash in 120 (it does in 4x5)?
That’s really useful, thanks Chris. I’m hoping to have a chance to use mine soon, your experience makes it sound mostly simple. I’m tempted to try a monobath developer as I think that might be the perfect combination.