Tips & Tricks...

General tips

            Choosing a film
            The film slitter
            The film punch
            The Minox daylight tank
            The Jobo tank & Minox reel
           
            Old VEF Minox film development
    
Tripod adapter alternatives

            The first german adapter
            The "converted" adapter



Choosing a film for the Minox: [So many choices]

The traditional look:

First of all -sadly- we can not achive the traditional VEF Minox look anymore. Photographic films from the early 1940's were no match in sharpness to the later 1950 and 1960s films. Therefore they are no longer manufactured. You could choose a "traditional" film such as the ADOX film. They are 1950/60 films (introduced 1952) and represent a revolution in film sharpness. They were very popular at the time with Minox Users (e.g. ADOX KB14). ADOX films today are available from ADOX Germany and Fotokemika in Croatia (Efke brand). You can choose which ever is cheaper as they are identical. They are made in 25, 50 and 100ASA (KB14/17/25).

ADOX 25Efke KB 25
Production of Efke/Adox has been discontinued (June 2012)


The sharp look:

Minox Users have become obsessed with ultra fine grain and extreme high resolution films. As VEF Minox Users we have to consider that our lens and its sharpness will be a limiting factor. The most famous and successful high resolution combinations are Kodak Imagelink HQ and the Agfa Copex Rapid with Spur developer. Many more microfilms can be used like the Fuji Super HR. However only the Kodak Imageling HQ and Agfa Copex Rapid is available in 135 film canisters (Fotoimpex/Macodirect). This makes these two films an ideal choice, as you can buy only 1 film for home slitting. They are both very very slow (6-12ASA), so you may find that it becomes extremely difficult to have decent shutter speeds. Therefore you may compromise on having the sharpest grain and rather shoot a film that is a bit faster. Here you could pick the Rollei Advanced Technical Pan (ATP 1.1) rated at 32-40 ASA. Its a good compromise between film speed and film grain. It can be developed in its own dedicated developer Rollei ATP DC or SPUR Modular UR A2+B developer.
Agfa Copex RapidAgfa / Rollei ATP 1.1

The userfriendly option:

The most userfriendly films are 100 ASA films. They allow you to take pictures nearly everywhere using decent shutter speeds. It is still tricky indoors but 100 ASA is a good alrounder for Minox. Which film you choose is up to you. Ilford Delta 100, Fuji Neopan Acros 100, Kodak TMax 100 and Rollei Retro 100(same as Agfa APX100) are all superb choices. Each film has something good going for it, so its personal preference which you like. Ilford Delta and Fuji Neopan Acros both give superb results in combination with SPUR HRX3 developer.
Ilford Delta 100Fuji Neopan Acros 100Kodak TMax 100Agfa RPX 100 / Rollei Retro 100




The film slitter:
[Essential must have] Many Minox users have actually made their own film slitters. The one shown is a simple design that you can buy from Goathill camera in USA. It workes beautifully and you can take it appart and change the razor blades. With a film slitter the world of film is your oyster. You basically get 2 minox sized film strips. My preferred film supply comes from Germany (Macodirect). They offer speciality film such as Agfa Copex Rapid Microfilm and Rollei ATP in 135 film canisters for little money. They also offer the complete range of speciality developers such as SPUR developers. If you like more traditional film, they sell amazingly cheap Efke 25ASA bulk film. As I do not live in Germany I have to pay the shipping costs. However if you have a nice larger order, e.g. a few films and developers, it is still cheap.

How accurately do I have to measure film length?
Well this is indeed interesting. This of course only applies to the Minox tank as with the Jobo reel it really doesnt matter how long your film is. The development tank is made to exactly fit either 50, or 36 exposures. Using a specially made adaptor piece you can convert a 50 exposure tank to 36 and a 36 exposure tank to 15 exposures. So do you therefore need to measure exactly 50, 36 or 15 exposures? If you use the Minox tank -in theory- yes you need to! I am certain that this would give you the best results! Full stop! How vital is it? I never made a scientific comparison.  I can only say that when I started Minoxing, with my little B, I bought a used developemnt tank and devloped away my factory loaded 36 exposure films. Little did I know that my tank was actually a 50 exposure tank. So did it matter? I say you get away with it. So if 36 exposures in a 50 exposure tank work, then loading anything inbetween 36 and 50 will work too. Of course this is only for lazy people.




Loading plastic or metal minox canisters?

Plastic canisters sometimes do not fit in your VEF Minox! I have a few VEF Minox and sometimes they fit, sometimes they dont! If you have a relatively unused VEF Minox, the film chamber maybe a too tight fit. If your Minox has seen some action, it may fit. I personally prefer the plastic canisters. You can alter the plastic canisters using sanding paper. That may give you a better fit. In the old metal canisters, the black velvet lining guarding the film against light and scratches is definately not fullfilling its function anymore. It has hardened and become dirty giving you scratchy films. If you put a re-loaded plastic film canister in a VEF Minox you need to take it out in a film changing bag. Even if it was not a tight squeeze. This is because the tiny plastic lids become more and more loose after each re-loading. It is extremely easy to loose the lid when you pull out the canister. If you would do that in daylight you would ruin the whole exposures on your film. If you do happen to loose a lid inside the film chamber, it is a pain in the butt getting it out, trust me.


Film punch (for daylight dev. tank):

If you would like to use the Minox daylight development tank, you need to punch a hole into your selfmade film. The little metal screw within the modern Minox tank may differ? So please check your tank. The top of the screw in my 50s tank has a diameter of 4mm. Therefore you need to punch a hole of 4.5-6mm. I looked around and found that you can get very cheap pliers made for punching little paper shapes. This one you can buy on amazon and it punches a hole of 4.8mm (3/16'') diameter.



CarlaCraft range made by Carl Mfg Co Ltd Tokyo Japan. I am sure there are millions of alternatives.

Minox Film development:

The daylight devlopment tank: [timeless classic] The daylight development tank is the prefered option for the VEF Minox user. As the tank itself is quite rare you can easily substitute it with an early german Minox tank. A benefit of using a German tank is that they re-designed the tank! Yes, they did. Even though the tank looks identical, the way they designed the circulation pattern is quite different between the Latvian and German tank (see here). In addition the German tank introduced V-shaped grooves in the spiral which should allow the devloper to reach all parts of the film. The early tanks had a flat spiral and thus the developer did not properly reach all of the film. Buying a german tank is cheap. The early tanks still have the 50 exposure core and are an ideal substitute. Of course you can also just buy one of the thousands of modern 36 exposure core tanks. You either are a fan of having 50 exposures (re-loaded casettes) or a fan of 36 exposures. Many people actually prefer 36, as it can take quite a while to shoot 50 exposures. If you just shot 10 pictures on a recent trip for example, developing a 36 exposure film may feel not as bad as developing 10 pictures on a 50 exposure film. The minority like me on the other hand like longer film strips. I rather snap snap snap the film full as I think not every exposure will come out right. So having more pictures to choose from, makes developing and enlarging more worth while.

It is very straight forward to load the film into the tank. First, take it apart like the picture. Then scew the core into the lid (inside out).  Turn turn turn until the silver metal spring is near the top of the lid. Now put the minox film canister into the bottom of the lid. Fasten the Minox film to the metal clip of the core. Now but the lid with the core back onto the tank and slowly wind the core down into the tank until you feel resistance (end of film).Now the tank is loaded.

The JOBO devlopment tank: [the modern way] The reason for using a Minox sized JOBO reel is quite simple, you usally have a Jobo tank lying around your home anyway. So its straight forward to also use it for Minox. Markus-Michael Dunkmann made (or is still making?) these Jobo Minox reels in Solingen Germany. I bought mine when the 8x11film.com website was still online. I know Markus now supplies other film shops rather than selling himself. I think Fotoimpex in Berlin is one of them. According to Markus you can with skill even load two Minox films (2x 36 exp) on 1 reel but that seems to be for advanced users!  

Markus extensively tested developing Minox film with the JOBO tank and here are his recommendations:

So when you load he recommends cutting of the end of the film so that it does not get stuck in the spiral whilst loading. pushing the film completely into the spiral is also recommended. Developing is done using the normal 35mm film instructions and using a minimum of 150ml (much more as the 53ml for the Minox tank). Tilting agitation is not sufficient! He rather recommends rotation accompanied by tilting. This is because on the Minox film you have no tollerance between the picture area and the spiral (e.g. the picture and spiral may overlap). Hence proper movement of developer is required to develop all of the picture area. Follow through with Stop bath, fixer and wash+wetting agent as normal.

Markus also tested the Rotation processor and it can be used when the speed is drastically lowered.




        

Development of old VEF Minox Film today

So far I only came across one source describing VEF Minox film development. In the Miniature camera magazine (Octover 1939) the slow DIN 10/10 VEF Minox film was developed using MCM 100 for seven minutes  (MCM 100 is common fine grain devleoper, still available today from www.photoformulary.com). The Type of film is unknown but the authors drew similarities of the VEF film to Agfa's Isopan FF and F.

As VEF Minox film is very very old now in theory no images should have survived. It is particular difficult as Minox film is such a small film and should be completely fogged. However despite all this, examples of successful film develoment can be found on the internet. For minox film Steve Uhrig has shown us what can be possible if you just try (here).

[by Steve Uhrig]

On the internet Emir Shabashvili has become a little bit of an expert on how to develop old film. He tried many film developer and finally settled on Kodak's HC-110. He uses it at strong concentration of " A dilution" or even higher and developes the film in cold temperature 2-12 C for prolonged time.

Emir Shabashvili: I develop the old still film exposed long time ago. I do it almost every week. This is my hobby. How old is the film? The age of the (succesfully developed) rolls ranges from relatively new (say, 20 years) and back up to 70 years. This page briefly summarizes my experience -- i.e. how one can develop film rolls exposed decades ago and stored under unknown conditions in some garage, basement or attic. Of course, since the area is so complex and every roll is so special none of the recommendations below can be considered and used as direct "how-to". Nevertheless, one can

         Pre-soaking?

o   I started pre-soaking all the rolls from the beginning and it helped to get rid of anti-halation on some of the rolls. I do not pre-soak now and I see no difference. No traces of anti-halation layer on any of the developed rolls. So my recommendation: don't bother with pre-soaking.

         Film Loading

o   We need a few pieces of the film for the development tests and this time is the best opportunity to cut it from the roll before loading

o   Task number one is to get the film properly loaded in the spiral inside the developing tank. Be persistent. Take your time. And always load the film in the complete darkness.

         Development test

o   I recommend HC-110 at the concentrations higher then usual at very low temperature (2-12 C). Start from "A" dilution and I often use higher concentrated dilutions). HC-110 is very good, low fog developer and the contrast can be regulated by dilution (the more concentrated the developer, the more contrast you are going to get

o   Now, set your timer to 6 or 7 minutes and in a full room light start developing small pieces of film with different times. Now I usually do this by lowering a stripe of film into the developer with one minute intervals while finally it is fully submerged in the developer. Now wash it and fix.  

o   Analyzing the results. We supposed to have a stripe of film with pieces of different density, from almost transparent to very dark: Each of these represents development time: the darker the piece, the longer the time. Judging by the density, we have to pick the right time. There is a delicate balance between developing the film to a desired density and keeping the fog under control. The general recommendation is to pick not the darkest point but somewhat lower density.

o   Example: As one can see there is no difference in density between 6 and 7 min and the difference between 4 and 5 min is much less compared to 2 and 3 minutes. Here is the graph of average densities/development times (I took 7 min as 100%)

The development time has to be somewhere around 4 min, where the curve's saturation starts. Pick longer time and fog will eat the image; shorter time and image will be too weak. I chose 4min 15sec and developed the roll in 10% HC-110 at 44F/6C.

 

         Development

o   Now it is time for the actual development. It is done the same way as a regular fresh film development. The difference is in time/temperature/concentration as discussed above. Don't forget to agitate; I tend to do very active agitation to boost the contrast.

         Fixation

o   As you will use cold temperature, the fixing time will increase up to 15 minutes in Kodak hardening fixer

         Final Wash

o   fill the tank with water, invert it 5 times, drain. Then repeat few times (usually 3 times), increeasing the number of inversions 10-20-30. Fill the tank with PhotoFlo solution, let the film sit there for one minute, quickly drain and hang the film to dry.

 


The VEF Minox is too heavy for the german Minox tripod! as it can not be fixed in position!

This is no problem for german Minox cameras as their  plastic body and alminium shell makes them super lightweight. For the VEF Minox, you need a proper mini-tripod.  

The early adapter: [Elegant alternative] I adore the 3rd Type VEF Minox tripod adapter (rotating ball adapter) It is just gorgeous looking. A style icon in its own right. However, when it comes to shooting pictures, all VEF tripod adapters are inadequate. When you use a VEF tripod head, the cable release bends the little arm prior to releasing the shutter button. Thus when the button responds, the build-up pressure of the bend arm is released, sending tiny vibrations through the camera, giving you shaky images. Walter Zapp and his team knew this, and the first thing they did when they re-started production in Germany was to give the adapter a design makeover. The solved the design flaw by simply introducing a counter pressure point. This simple adjustment removed the pressure build-up and thus eliminated shaky images. So, if you want to use a tripod head, buy an early german adapter without camera lock. These are rare in their own right, as Minox quickly introduced the camera locking mechanism to the adapter. Despite being rare these early german minox adapters whithout locking meachanism are still cheap (ca. 50USD).




OR

Any normal adapter: [simplest solution] I admit that the first german adapter may be a good alternative (considering its low price) but it is equally difficult to obtain. So if you dont mind the optics, use any normal Minox adapter, remove the locking mechanism and add extra leather padding in the bottom to align the shutter button to the cable release. Simple & perfect.


The converted adapter:[sturdy alternative]  So, one sunday evening I rumaged through my spare minox parts and I found a copy stand adapter. Probably the most unused item these days, especially if the legs have gone missing. So I thought this actually is a very stable tripod adapter. I actually prefer the closed design! I never warmed up to the foldable design and for that reason always used the binocular adapter for my Minox B. So the copy stand adapter looks ideal for me to be used as sturdy tripod adapter.

So, I quickly diassembled it. To make it VEF-friendly you need to modify it. The german Minox is slighly different having the shutter button at a slightly higher position. So I added extra leather padding to align my Riga shutter button perfectly to the cable release. In doing so the window of the adapter becomes slightly misaligned to the lens window. I fixed that by enlarging the window. Aluminium is very soft so be careful not to remove too much. The last step is to add a cover plate using the original three screws. That should not only hide the screws but also any inperfection of the the new lens window.