Industrial design student Thomas Müller aims to make film developing easier with Kanton DX35, a portable device that allows photographers to process films in daylight even without a dark room. Aside from its compact design, the Kanton DX35 offers precise chemical heating and automated film agitation ̶ making it suitable even for beginners in film photography. Learn more about this fascinating project in this interview with Thomas Müller.
Hello Thomas! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I am an industrial design student from Germany, currently pursuing my master’s degree in advanced product design at Umeå University in Sweden. As an industrial designer, I am constantly looking for smart and innovative solutions that can improve, for example, the usability, safety or ergonomics of a product. The range includes everything from bathroom faucets to surgical equipment. In my free time, I spent a lot of time outdoors with my camera, capturing landscapes and stills.
How did your interest in film photography started? What made you pursue it?
About 12 years ago I found an old Nikon FE in my parents’ basement and instantly fell in love with its haptic and the minimalistic functionality of analogue cameras. The lack of a display and the limited amount of images you can take with a single film forces you to take time before pressing the shutter. This itself made me a better photographer and it’s also the reason I keep sticking using it whenever I can.
Let’s jump into your fascinating project. What’s the inspiration behind the portable film lab, Kanton DX35?
It didn’t take too long before I got into home developing my films. The process for black and white films itself is fairly easy. You set up the tank, prepare the chemicals and you are good to go. When it comes to color films however it gets more complicated as the chemicals have to be heated and maintained with an accuracy of ± 0,1°C. A slight variation can already have a big impact on the outcome.
There were three main aspects I wanted to improve with my design: simplicity, usability, and reliability.
Briefly explain to us how it works.
A big drawback to home development, in general, is the space you need for your equipment and the setup time. I combined everything in a device as small as possible which could fit just inside your home office or living room. The chemicals, as well as the tank, are heated and stirred automatically. Simply turn it on, wait about 20 minutes for the liquids to reach the desired temperature and you are ready to go.
To ease the process further I used a similar technique as the daylight tanks by Agfa which were available some decades ago. This way you can put the film inside the tank without the need of a bag or darkroom. Once the lid is closed a motor powered reel winds up the film automatically. The user is guided through the whole process via a minimalist interface. It provides a database with times and temperatures for different films and tells you when to pour in which chemical.
The result is a very steady outcome of your films and as the risk of mistakes is minimized it makes the process also usable for beginners.
What’s the greatest challenge you encounter while working on the design of the Kanton DX35?
A big challenge I face at the moment is finding a suitable investor to continue working on it. Unfortunately, the amount of companies in the field of analogue photography is very small and even though I got emails and messages from over thousand of excited photographers all over the world it is hard to convince the industry of a new solution. However, I am still looking for possibilities to make it come alive and got invited to exhibit the concept during the Dubai Design Week mid of November.
Any projects that you’re looking forward to working on in the future?
What inspires and excites me is to find simple solutions to problems people are facing in their everyday lives. Right now I am working on a new and way to conveniently carry and switch lenses on the go, but also have some photography projects ahead in northern Scandinavia which I am looking forward to.
All information on this article were provided by Thomas Müller to Lomography and were used with permission. To see more of his work, visit his portfolio or follow him on Instagram. Learn more about the Kanton DX35 on Behance.