View Full Version : average amount of mixed developer for 5x7 trays?

13-Feb-2013, 00:28
How much diluted developer would you need to adequately fill a 5x7 paterson tray? First time user and im trying to get an idea how much developer i should have on hand.

Doremus Scudder
13-Feb-2013, 02:49
I take it you are developing film?

I develop 4x5 film in Paterson 5x7 trays (I like the Paterson trays because they are deeper and have grooves on the bottom instead of ridges which tend to scratch the film). I usually use 500ml of developer for up to six sheets. I have, on occasion, used 300-400ml for just one or two sheets, and that works just fine, but is a bit shallow. You only have to cover the film, and it's not very thick :)

If you are developing prints, I'd recommend 500-600ml. 500ml seems an easy amount to mix, but a bit more fills the tray to the halfway mark, which is about optimum in my view.

Hope this helps,


13-Feb-2013, 11:07
yes, film dev. Perfect that's exactly what I needed to know, thank you sir.

Peter Lewin
13-Feb-2013, 11:30
I'm worried, because I have never disagreed with anything Doremus posted until now! I normally tray develop 4 or 6 sheets of 4x5 in a roughly 5x7 deep plastic bin (ref. Ken Lee's suggestion on his site) and like having some depth of developer to work in; too shallow and I find I'm more likely to scratch negatives. I use PMK, which is pretty dilute, and use 1.5 liters for 4 sheets, 2 liters for 6 sheets (for PMK, the 2 liters is only 20ml of "A" and 40ml of "B", the rest being water). The only problem in making this a definite recommendation is that a Patterson tray is shallower than my container, and might only take 1.5 liters or so, you would have to measure with water first. But my basic point is that I personally like having room below my stack to move the bottom negative out, and that requires more developer than Doremus appears to use.

13-Feb-2013, 13:49
For what it matters im using HC-110 for tri-x. That's a pretty big swing between 500ml and 1.5 liters. I'm only planing to do 4 sheets at a time. Anyone else have any thoughts no how much is going into the tray?

Doremus Scudder
14-Feb-2013, 03:48
For what it matters im using HC-110 for tri-x. That's a pretty big swing between 500ml and 1.5 liters. I'm only planing to do 4 sheets at a time. Anyone else have any thoughts no how much is going into the tray?


As I like to say, whatever works for you! However, using 1.5 liters of developer for just a few sheets seems like overkill to me. I learned my tray-developing technique from the Ansel Adams Basic Photography Series roughly 30 years ago and have been doing fine with it since then (once I mastered the shuffling and handling and stopped scratching negs...). I think many use one liter of developer in an 8x10 tray for developing 4x5 film, but I've always used 5x7 trays. I can't seem to keep the stack under control in an 8x10 tray.

And disagreement is hardly disagreeable; that's what makes horse races :)


A bit more about my technique to help you decide. I develop negatives emulsion-side-up. I agitate by pulling a sheet from the bottom and replacing it on the top of the stack. I like to agitiate the negatives along the short axis, i.e., the negatives rest in (for me, since I'm right-handed) the left side of a 5x7 tray oriented with the long side horizontally. I go through the stack of negatives once every 30 seconds regardless of the number of negatives I'm developing to keep the agitation consistent. That means, for four negatives, one shuffle every 7.5 seconds (in reality I just make sure that I get sheet one back on top at the 30 second mark); six negs would be one shuffle every 5 seconds., and so on. I turn the negative 180 every shuffle as well.

Somewhere here I've detailed my technique more thoroughly. A search on my name should turn that up if you're interested.



Peter Lewin
14-Feb-2013, 06:10
I learned my tray-developing technique from the Ansel Adams Basic Photography Series roughly 30 years ago and have been doing fine with it since then (once I mastered the shuffling and handling and stopped scratching negs...).
Doremus: I'm replying, not to keep this discussion going, but rather because I find the slight differences in our technique of interest. I would agree with you in the general sense that the amount of developer I use may be overkill, but I learned long ago that dilute developer is much cheaper than scratched negatives, and for me greater volume eliminated almost all scratches! And as I mentioned earlier, PMK is used in a dilution such that even large volumes of working developer use very little stock solution, and for the OP, when I develop Tri-X in HC-110 (something I've done a lot of recently, using up two outdated boxes I found hidden in a basement drawer), I use dilution "H" (1:63) which again uses little HC-110 stock even for 1.5 liters of working solution.

First, the trivial differences. I'm one of the "emulsion face down" school, although AA and many instructors favor emulsion up. This is a subject that engenders long and never-finalized debates (Gordon Hutchings is of the face down school...) so this is a matter of choice. For PMK, Hutchings recommends periodically rotating the stack 90 degrees to keep agitation even, so at two minute intervals I re-orient the stack around the points of the compass (normal PMK times are in the 12 minute range). I don't know if this is specifically recommended for PMK as opposed to other developers, but since I'm in the habit, that's also how I use HC-110. So in my case the negatives get agitated along every axis or edge.

But the big difference, and I believe the reason I like more solution in a deeper tray, is our agitation. Since you mentioned AA, I looked in my copy of "The Negative." The photos show only one hand being used in agitation, to slide the lowest negative out of the stack. I guess I learned to agitate "two handed," using my left hand to more-or-less cradle the stack, right hand to slide negatives out. When I slide out the bottom negative, the left hand raises the stack slightly, the right hand moves the bottom negative down (away from the others) and out. The extra liquid both gives me a bigger "gap" when I remove the bottom negative, and more liquid above the stack when I drop that negative back in the developer on top. So while perhaps overkill for many, the extra solution gives me an extra "cushion" both under and over the stack. As they say, depending on technique, "your mileage may vary."

14-Feb-2013, 10:51
The minimum amount of developer concentrate required in any developing regimen is based on the surface area of film being developed, i.e. ml per square inch of film. You can always use more, but you should not use less than the manufacturer specifies.

- Leigh

14-Feb-2013, 20:06
@Leigh, the ratio was not so much what I was worried about as the total volume going into the tray. Trying to get an idea how much dev I need on hand to dev say 100 sheets.

As for the dev method, I honestly i have never developed a sheet of film in my life nor have I ever taken a coarse. I have however spent the last two months reading everything I could find related to shooting LF. From camera types, lens types, film types, history and a great deal on developing. I do have all 3 of AA books but I found these videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqm8e7gUvxY&list=PLBE7770A1485C3981) very valuable and made me feel like it was possible to do without using tanks since I could not afford them yet. I expect to scratch some film along the way and I have not quite figured out how im going to do the water bath temps yet but I think im going to look into a used CPA II next month anyway. Its just at this point I have bought everything from a LF camera, lens, all the darkroom stuff, decent scanner and a bunch of film. Bank account is getting empty but I really want to do E6 so that jobo is going to be required pretty soon. Both of your comments have been helpful since I see both points of view.

Thanks for the input!

14-Feb-2013, 20:12
Hi Ryan,

Yes, I understood your original question.
I was just pointing out that you don't have totally free choice of the diluted developer volume.

In all cases you must have the required amount of concentrate for the number of sheets being developed.
If that is not possible, for whatever reason (tray too small, etc), then you must either reduce the number of sheets
in each group or use a different dilution (i.e. less water).

This minimum volume thing is often overlooked, and then folks don't understand why their film doesn't develop properly.

- Leigh

15-Feb-2013, 10:22
I use 150mL of HC5 @ dilution H in a Besseler drum for one sheet of 5x7 HP5, and have not had issues I can see.

17-Feb-2013, 06:46
Friend has a set of 4x5 hangers cut down to the film frame. That protects the film from tray abrasion and suits tray processing quite well. Steady flow rocking motion for agitation

sun of sand
18-Feb-2013, 23:45
I mostly develop one sheet at a time
I used to develop up to 8 at a time without issue but find 1 easier with develpment by inspection

I will use only 250mm with a developer that oxidizes rapidly like diluted rodinol or ABC pyro
enough of needed developer concentrate and enough solution to feel comfortable swishing around
develop 2 sheets and start fresh or do more sheets the next day
I liked the ridges as well but I also now put a sheet of glass in the tray

xtol etc you can develop a bunch at one time easily and basically just keep reusing it with extended development so long as you dont overdilute it
if youre just starting I'd suggest xtol
simple, clean, friendly