Minox 8x11 - developing tanks

introduction | Riga | Riga 'white' | 1950s | 1950s brown box | 1950s grey box | 1960s | 1960s 15/36 rings | 1970s | 1970s 36 spiral | 1980s | 2000

Minox film, as all specialised subminiature film has always cost a premium over standard 35mm film. Until the collapse of many small firm processing laboratories in the early 1990s Minox film was printed by hand. The results, although expensive, where usually excellent.

Minox Processing Laboratories in New York serviced most users needs outside of West Germany and had a long and special relationship with Minox GmbH.

In the United Kingdom the absences of suitable photographic laboratories was taken up by MS Hobbies who, for a modest handling charge posted film to Paarz or Lab811 in Germany. This laboratories did not take credit cards and payment across borders is always a little more complex.

In Germany Minox Laboratories processed Minox and other film including making large prints from Minolta negatives.

In 2005 Minox returned to the issue of supporting users of Minopan and Minocolor film by offering the service of forwarding film to one of the German laboratories and taking payment by credit card. Shops, like Karsarts now process Minox film for similar costs to 35mm.

New mini labs have lowered the cost of processing. However the automated process has also taken the edge of the results. This is more critical with 8x11 than other formats and the majority of people are all too ready to blame their photographic skill without being able to closely examine the negatives.

The alternative, from the very first Minox Riga, has been to process the film at home.

Walter Zapp designed a daylight loading developing tank in the mid-1930s as part of the Minox system. The ingenious aspect of the design is that developing the film is done without the need for a darkroom and with the smallest volume of chemicals. The film is threaded onto a spring clip and the spiral column turned to unwind the film inside the tank.

The Riga tank is made of bakelite. it differs from the post war model in having the upper part held in place by a spring clip at the back of the tank, the edges of the spiral are rounded and it has a volume of 30 ml instead of the later 40 or 53 ml. The first version has a metal spring arm to lock the spiral into place. This was changed to bakelite and  the inside of the spiral, where the chemicals are pour painted white,

In 1957 the groove of the spiral was changed to have a V shaped allowing greater circulation of the chemicals.

Kasemeier in "Small Minox, Big Pictures", first published in German in 57, the English version is date from 59 writes:-

"New types of films have a blue-green protective back coating which is completely dissolved in the developer. For this reason Minox Tanks now have winding drums with grooves that curve inward. This permits the back coating of the film to be washed thoroughly by the developer.

With the older model tanks the back of the film lies flat on the drum during development. In this case the blue-green protective coating remains partly, as the developer had no chance to dissolve it. It can still be removed, however, if you rinse the film (after developing, fixing, and washing) in a solution made of two grams of sodium carbonate in 100 cc of water."

On page 172 he goes on to suggest that owners of the original tank should upgrade by buying the new spiral at one-third the cost of the whole tank.

In 1968/69 shorter length films were introduced; 15 and 36 exposure lengths. Two plastic rings marked 36 and 15 where included with the developing tank. The rings can be used with the previous model as there is no change in the basic design.

When 50 exposure film was discontinued, along with the Minox A and B cameras the spiral of the developing tank was altered so that when fully wound down it was the correct length for the 36 exposure length film. The 36 tank spiral is likely to be a different mould because the top and clip parts are now 8cm and not 9.5cm. The 'ring' on the bottom has all the appearance of being glued, welded or fixed to the spiral (not a seamless mould). Some have signs of 'hand' filing to fit. This final version was sold until 2002 when stocks ran out. The last mould for the tank had broken and the cost of replacement too high for the low volume sales over the last decade.

Dating refers to the decade (roughly) when the packaging was used; the house style at the time. The oldest Minox tank box is a folded over brown cardboard with a diagram of the developing tank on the outside. The silver grey box dates from 63, so not perhaps a true 50s style but matched the packaging of other accessories that where sold in the late 1950s. The 60s style green/blue boxes where made up to 1969.  The 15 and 36 rings where added to the dark blue/green box in the late 60s. The earlier packaging have no space for these rings.  With the introduction of the Minox C the house style changed to bright blue boxes. Unlike the binocular attachment, tripod, tripod attachment and copy stand the bright blue lid of the developing tank has no photograph, only a diagram. The change in the spiral, replacing part of the spiral with a ring was introduced in the bright blue box. The blue green sponge now only accepts the new 15 exposure ring. The introduction of the Minox LX in 1978 saw a change in house style again. The bright blue was replaced with a bright red and the shaped sponge to a reddish pink. The final house style appeared in 2000, perhaps with the introduction of the Minox Classic Range. The cut out space for the developing tank, ring and thermometer was replaced by some loose tissue packaging.

The thermometer is an alcohol type with scales in Fahrenheit or dual scale in Fahrenheit and Centigrade (Celsius). Early post war thermometers are marked Wetzlar.

Early packaging for the thermometer is a cardboard tube, red for Fahrenheit and blue for dual scale (normally).. Some blue tubes have red ends.

*02/06/07 11USD
*02/06/07 14.47USD

The change in house style to the bright blue boxes in 1969 introduced a transparent tube for the thermometer. Later the ends of the tube has small white plastic restraining collars. The 2000 silver grey boxes sees the thermometer in a tube with a rectangular cross section. This tube will push down to clamp the thermometer. For a brief period in 2004 Minox supplied un-marked thermometers in neat plastic cases with a transparent spring clip door.

The Minox tank has always been an expensive luxury. Nikor and Kindermann made 8x11 reels for their standard developing tank. The stainless steel reel of the Nikor has a grove on the base only. The Kindermann reel is similar. It is hard to load and some users have complained that the film slips and contact with the spiral prevents developing of the whole negative area.

With the demise of the Minox tank www.8x11film.com, with support from Jobo and Minox, designed a version of the Jobo 1500 reel. Both top and bottom of the reel have a spiral and the film can be gripped along it's edge making loading easier than with other spirals. The gap between top and bottom allows the film free movement without becoming loose. Modern film, particularly colour, requires developing at higher temperatures. This is a problem with the Minox bakelite tank, which is a poor conductor and hard to raise above ambient temperature.  

Last Updated on 17th October 2005