Developing your own film might be the cheaper (and more amusing) way to go, but with all the preparation and lab space required, that simply hasn't always the best option. Ars-Imago's Lab-Box hopes to solve these problems in a small, light-proof container that enables you to develop your own film at home or even while traveling – yes, it's that easy and compact. The best part: it's not all that expensive, either.
The Lab-Box is exactly as it sounds: a lab-in-a-box. Put your film in one end, wind it around the reel with the knob on the outside, add your chemicals, agitate with the same knob, and you're done. The real magic, of course, is the Lab-Box's ability to wind a roll of film onto the real automatically. It's also dual-format, enabling both 35mm and 120 film development with a small tool-less adjustment to the internal reel. And you can use it anywhere: inside, outside, on-location, etc.
Lab-Box is designed with the intention of providing multiple options for balancing agitation frequency and chemical waste. As little as 250 ml can fill half of the tank, but will require constant agitation through rotation of the outer knob. Alternatively 500 ml of developer will fill the entire tank and submerge the entire roll, requiring less agitation, but using more chemicals per developing session.
To get an understanding for how Lab-Box works, it's best to watch the video below. Those just starting out in developing film will likely agree one of the most difficult parts of proper development for a beginner is loading the film onto the reel properly. Indeed, this was difficult for Ars-Imago as well, given that about half of the entire development budget was spent on engineering a reliable mechanism that would automatically and properly load film onto the internal reel while encased within the box. Veteran at-home developers will also surely appreciate the prospect of never having to do this again, save for some increased nostalgia, perhaps.
In addition to now having access to the dream, compact, daylight-compatible developing box, those looking to use Lab-Box can combine it with simple all-in-one develop-and-fix chemicals such as Ars-Imago's own Monobath or New55's R5 Monobath Developer for black-and-white film. Color shooters should check out CineStill's two-step, "Color Simplified" Cs41 film developing solution for C-41 films. All of these new simplifications of the at-home developing process should allow more people to enjoy the process of shooting and even developing their own film.
Lab-Box can be reserved now on Kickstarter with a planned ship date of September 2017. Prices start at €69 for a single-module configuration and €89 for both modules with various additional options for film, Ars-Imago's Monobath all-in-one developer, and even some rolls of film.
UPDATE: Lab-Box reached its goal in just a few hours. Backers can still reserve single-module (35mm or 120) Lab-Boxes or dual-module kits with film and developer as a package deal.