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Thread: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2017

    Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    Hi All,

    I'm evaluating my options for developing film at home because it's so expensive to have done professionally. I have been shooting 9x12cm sheet film and don't have access to a completely dark room. I do have a changing bag to that I use to load the film. I've been looking at the options, and this tank seems like a good option:

    Anybody have advice about using tanks like that? Or advice in getting started with developing in general?



  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2013

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    In my experience, those tanks are hard to load, very cumbersome to use or agitate, and use a lot of chemistry. They work but will turn you off of home developing. For a beginner who wants to develop multiple sheets, I'd recommend getting a beseler motor base and tube with appropriate inserts for your size sheet film. You can use it in the daylight and they use considerably less chemistry--so little that you can use your chemicals as "one shot" and not think you're throwing good chemicals down the drain. The tubes are just as messy, but much easier and more consistent, in my experience. A small 8x10 tube will hold at least 4 of your sheets and will use maybe 4 oz--maybe 3--it's been a while since I've used an 8x10 tube.

    or you can lightproof the bathroom with cardboard, tinfoil, tape, whatever, and tray develop. Very cheapest option. Or even try to tray develop in the changing bag. It's possible but will probably give you a big a mess problem inside the bag. Perhaps build a large plastic tray bottomed cardboard topped "processing box" to tray develop in daylight. You can use a cut up changing bag to make the arm sleeves for daylight processing.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    South Bend, Indiana, USA

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    Try using an interior room at night with the door closed and all the lights in the house off. If there is a window, cover it. Maybe hang a blanket over the inside of the bathroom door and put plywood over the tub for a work surface. I was able to lay out four 8x10 trays on mine. I do one sheet at a time, continuous agitation by gently rocking the tray - alternating tipping up the front edge then the side edge 20 times each, repeating until the timer beeps.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon and Austria

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    Tray processing is cheapest and the most low-tech. Years ago I built a small plywood sink that stood on legs over the tub in my bathroom. I could set it up and darken the window and door in just a few minutes. I still tray develop in 5x7 trays just like then in my U.S. darkroom and in my makeshift darkroom/bathroom in Vienna.
    Really, setting out four or five 5x7 trays doesn't take much room. There is a learning curve to tray developing, but if you are moderately dexterous, you can master that with a little practice. The challenge, it seems to me, is finding a dark place to work.

    If you really can't make a dark space to work in, you'll have to load a tank or tube in the changing bag and develop in daylight. There are lots of options, from the Beseler tubes mentioned above to the more expensive Jobo as well as tanks in all kinds of sizes. Many here have had success for small-volume processing with the SP-445 tank. The first generation had some problems with the filmholder-inserts, but I believe this has been corrected in the second generation.
    Here's a link:



  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    I also consider tray development the straightest way, for that I use xtol 1:1 so it covers well the sheets without wasting developer (and one shot usage), I do development in darkness, then I move sheets to another tray with stop bath. Once sheets are in the stop bath for some 15 seconds you can open lights because development is stopped and later you can also fix also with lights open. By viewing the time fixer takes to clear the sheet you know how fresh fixer remains...

    You can do that with 4x5 sized trays or use a 8x10 able tray to process 4 sheets at a time, in that case just use hot glue to place some sticks working as separators .

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Of course if you want you can develop each of the 4 sheets with different time by dipping each particular sheet soon or later.

    This would give you time to explore what daylight tank system you want (SP-445 looks nice), still that tray development is very flexible because you can process one sheet with N time and another one with N-2 time, because that I often use it, this is amazing ! Also you can process a TMX sheet at same time than an HP5 sheet because you may take off each sheet at the right time.

    A problem with that is controlling times without throwing light on the sheets, I was using an old watch with phosphorescent clock hands.

    A big improvement is using a "Doran" like "paper safe" as a tray, you can also glue the separator sticks there, and when you close the door you can open lights if you want.
    Last edited by Pere Casals; 5-Dec-2017 at 08:57. Reason: typo

  6. #6
    baro-nite's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Durham, NC USA

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    I use the SP-445 daylight tank mentioned above. It's easy to load, somewhat like loading film holders, it develops four sheets with half a liter of solution, and it also works as a film washer, which is a significant bonus in my view. It's not perfect; I did have a problem with one side of one of the holders, but I've got that worked out now (and I didn't lose any negatives because of it; I would occasionally get streaks of anti-halation coating remaining on non-emulsion side of the film, and this could be removed by re-fixing).

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    Having developed a dozen 4x5's I consider myself a beginner as well. I choose to go with a Jobo 2509n because it only uses 260ml of chemistry for 6 sheets IF you use a roller. Loading it is rather easy but in a changing bag it can get cramped with 3 holders, the 2509 and the tank. So far I'm happy.
    Expert in non-working solutions.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    IMHO, the easiest and cheapest is trays.
    If don't have the room for trays in a dark room, then rotary processing.
    For 5x7 and smaller I've used a stainless daylight tank(the kind that hold multiple reels of medium format film) and simply rolled it around on a counter top for agitation.
    I've also used a Unicolor processor---use the print(paper) drum for sheet film. This is described in Graywolf Phillips article on the LF home page---click on the light blue banner
    ^^^^up there^^^^
    Last edited by John Kasaian; 5-Dec-2017 at 10:47.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  9. #9

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    I agree with others who advocate either tray or open tank processing with hangers. I prefer the latter. Find a way to darken the room.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Seattle Area

    Re: Developing B&W sheet film at home for a total beginner!

    I too have the Stearman Press SP-445 daylight developing tank for 4x5 sheet film. You can develop your sheet film like 120 roll film. It's pretty easy to use.

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