#anovaFILMnerd Hai Tran

#anovaFILMnerd Hai Tran


Hello! My name is Hai Tran and I’m the face behind @TheUpperLeftUSA. I’m a photographer and videographer based in Washington, USA. Over the past few years, I’ve been doing more and more film photography. Today, film photography is in the minority for some very obvious reasons. It’s unforgiving, time consuming, and can be quite expensive. As someone who essentially only shoots film now, I can completely understand why digital has completely taken over. That being said, I don’t think that film is going anywhere. It may not be in the mainstream, but there is definitely a resurgence of interest.

For those who are interested in shooting film, they will no doubt come to the crossroads of deciding between getting their photos developed at a professional lab and developing at home. I personally develop my own film. This is largely due to the cost of getting film developed at a lab. Prices can fluctuate quite a bit between different labs. I’ve seen prices as low as $7 per roll and as high as $20 per roll. That’s just ridiculous!

The cost of development through a lab alone can cost more than the camera that you took the pictures with. I just can’t justify paying someone to develop my film when the process is rather simple. One option is to buy a film processor to help with development. Having a processor is great, but modern options are very expensive. A new processor starts around $1700 and can cost as much as $3800. This of course is the price of just the processor, not including other essential equipment that you’ll need to actually use with the processor to develop film. Enter, my Anova Precision Cooker.


One reason why many people don’t develop their own film is because certain film development processes require chemicals to be maintained at very specific temperatures. This isn’t as big of a deal with black and white film development but more so with color. Some chemicals only give you 2% leeway when it comes to the temperature. If the temperature shifts too much, you may experience over/under development, color shifts, and various other side effects.

Film processors generally do two things, temper water and agitate the chemicals. Agitation is a topic of it’s own so we will not get into that here. Tempering water is the real tricky part when it comes to development without a film processor and this is where the Anova comes in for very obvious reasons as it allows us to pick a temperature and maintain it with little effort.

I’ve been using the Unicolor C-41 Powder Kit to develop my color film. The process to mix this kit is similar to many other brands and that is not necessarily a good thing as the chemicals require rather specific temperatures. To mix two of the three chemicals, you first need to heat water up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The tempered water is mixed with the powder of the kit. In the past I’ve been a bit lax about this and have to admit that I’ve been left with powder that was not fully dissolved. This of course is not a good thing and just ended up requiring more work to get everything mixed correctly.

Getting to actual development, the chemicals then need to be maintained at 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). This is the tricky part without the Anova. I’ve previously tried many different methods to get the job done but nothing really cuts it. I always ran into one problem or another and could never get temperatures accurate. This would lead to colors shifts in the final film.

The Anova has completely changed my workflow for the better. It allows me to dial in the exact temperature that I need without second guessing anything. I can even connect it to my home wifi network and get the chemicals tempered when I’m away. I no longer have to stand around periodically checking the temperature of my chemicals to make sure that everything is as it should be. I can’t be any happier with the Anova when it comes to aiding me in my film development and if you’re interested in developing your own film, definitely give it a try with your Anova!

If you are interested in my work or would like more information about film photography/development, feel free to contact me via my various social media outlets. Thank you for reading!

Hải Hoàng Trần

Photographer | Videographer

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