I happened to come across a bag of ORWO A03 developer for black and white films. Since I have a load of Orwo films I am currently doing experiments on and trying out, it felt like I should try to do a Orwo + Orwo combo of film and dev.

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Information about this developer is hard to come by, with very little facts. But here is what I have gathered from various internet sources.

A03 is a phenidone hydroquinone developer designed for tank development. 

A03 was designed as a gamma constant developer, which means all films had the same development time. 

It used to also be available as Calbe A03 and Argenti A03, after Orwo "closed down".

It seems that Orwo A03 is the equivalent of Agfa Refinal. (The history of Orwo and Agfa is complicated and suitable for another blogpost). People say that overall, A03/Refinal is similar to Ilford Microphen, which is however a developer I am yet to try out.

From an official Agfa document I found, this can be read about Agfa Refinal:

"Allround very high yield balancing developer in powder form which, as drum, small tank or tray developer and – with proper replenishment – as deep tank developer, will ensure a consistently high speed yield and uniform gradation over particularly long periods. Refinal produces fine grain and sharp contours.


With replenished processes – approx. 14 ml replenisher per 135-36 film: 71 films 135-36 with 1 litre replenisher. Yield without replenishment: • 10 – 12 films 135-36 or rollfilms 120 per litre • 50 – 60 sheet films 9 × 12 cm per litre (= 0.5 – 0.65 m²) Replenishment: see page 11.


The developer can be kept dry in the original pack at room temperature for at least two years. Unused fresh solution will keep in brimful tightly capped bottles for about six months. Used developer should be stored separately from fresh. The life of used developer is reduced to about three months. The life of replenished developer in tanks with floating lids is at least twelve months."


The safety data sheet for Agfa Refinal show it to be a borate buffered P.Q. (phenidone and hydroquinone) fine-grain developer, which matches pretty well with what I have found about Orwo A03.

The Agfa Rezepte book I have does not contain any information about Refinal and there are no recipes that use Phenidone at all. All the recipies seem to use Metol, or as they call it Agfa Orwo Metatyl. This book is from 1960. Information I found online points at Phenidone recipies from Agfa/Orwo showing up between 1960-1964.

Here are some sample pics. 135 is NP22 and 120 is NP20. Both developed for 8 minutes in 20c. I developed three rolls of the 500ml batch I mixed up before discarding it.

And here is a 100% crop from one of the 35mm images. Shot with a Lomo LC-A so I recommend looking at the grain more than judging image sharpness of this picture.


ORWO NP22 in HC110 dil. E

Here are some shots from a roll of 35mm ORWO NP22, expired in -91. Shot it at ISO32, down from original ISO125.

This roll has been well preserved, it wouldn't have needed this much overexposure. Almost no fogging, no weirdness. A little grainy for such a slow film but, otherwise just fine.

Don't have that much else to say about this right now, here are some sample shots.

Orwo NP27 in D76 1+1

Another old film from the other side of the iron curtain. The famous Orwo films are not that unknown, they are not bad films either.

First impression, it curls a lot, but not longways as usually, but the short side is U shaped.. makes scanning a bit of a hassle since it's difficult to get it into the neg holder.

I exposed this one at ISO100 even though it's a ISO400 film originally, but this particular roll was 2 decades out of date. One stop per decade really seems to work well. I'd say D76 1+1 works just fine for this film too, the grain is pretty harsh but not in a bad way. There is this grimey look that I usually like. I wouldn't recommend this film for portraits though, at least this old. On the other hand I don't like much grain in my portraits.

I have a couple of rolls left, next time I'll try HC110. Here's some shots!

D76, 1+1, 20c, 12min. normal agitation.