DF96 Monobath? Yeah, Baby!

For the first few months after getting my 7000i, I shot only color film because local labs charged more for B&W and only processed it once per week. I wanted to try shooting B&W, and the only workable solution at the time was to use chromogenic film. Ilford XP2 was readily available, so I went with that. I shot a few rolls, and they looked pretty good. But, I still wanted to do real B&W.  

Ultrafine Xtreme 400, Alpha 7, Tamron 28-80mm

While searching online for a lab that would do B&W for a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe, I came across the site for The Photographer’s Studio (TPS). TPS is a community darkroom that also offers a range of informal photography classes. As it happened, there was a B&W darkroom class starting in July, so I signed up. That experience was life-changing. I had never interacted with professional (or even amateur) photographers until then. During that four-week experience, I learned everything needed to get me started developing and making prints. It was wonderful!

The TPS darkroom is only about 15 minutes away, so it’s convenient. All one has to do is sign up for a time slot; conflicts are rare. I was pleased with the arrangement. However, the day arrived when I was testing cameras and lenses, wanted to see the results right away, and didn’t feel like driving across town in rush hour traffic. This was when I got the idea that it might be a good to develop at home and use the TPS darkroom for making prints and scanning. Fortunately, when I began searching for darkroom supplies for home use, I came across a series of articles about monobaths (herehere).

HP5+, XG-M, Minolta MD 28-85mm

As the name implies, a monobath is a one-step develop and fix process, which sounded exactly like what I wanted—no mixing chemicals or storing multiple bottles. After researching various offerings, I settled on Df96 from Cinestill. The solution can be used for up to 16 rolls of film (some say up to 24). So far, I have used it for two rolls of 120 (HP5+) and seven rolls of 35mm (Tri-X and Ultrafine Xtreme 100 and 400).  

The product works as advertised. I have not tried pushing or pulling, and all development has been done at 70F. I have shot mostly 400 ISO film, and the grain looks fine. Contrast seems good as does tonal range. However, I am new at this, so take that into account.

Ultrafine 400, Alpha 7, Maxxum 50mm, 1.7

The only problem I have run into is sediment. After about four rolls of film, there was enough sediment to stick to the negatives, ruining a couple of shots. Other than that, I’m quite pleased with Df96. Now, I can save trips to the studio for when I want to do prints (darkroom or high-quality inkjet printer) or try some fancy push processing.  

What do you think? 

4 Comments

  1. I like all the pictures.

  2. I’ve thought about trying a monobath. I ususally develop in Rodinal 1+50 and it’s fine, but the monobath would be that much easier. Your results are good and encourage me to try.

    1. Author

      Df96 is great. I was worried when I tried it the first time, but it works perfectly. It comes with a list of development times, so no guessing. For Tri-X, HP5+, and Ultrafine the development time is 6 minutes at 70F. Since it is reusable, you add 15sec to dev time for each roll until 8 minutes.

      Dev time can be increased without harm because pushing is temperature based. To push you develop at a higher temp. It comes at a powder or liquid.

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