View Full Version : 4x5 Processing

michael Allen
5-Jun-2004, 05:20
Is there any 4x5 processing alternatives to the tray or the dipping method? I'm considering purchasing a JOBO CP-A2 via e-bay. Thanks Mike

Gem Singer
5-Jun-2004, 05:48
Hi Michael,

See my article, "Developing 4X5 Sheet Film- An Alternative Method", under the Developing and Processing section of the home page of this website. (www.largeformatphotography.info/alternative-developing/).

Bob Salomon
5-Jun-2004, 06:28
The Combi-Plan T

Jim Rhoades
5-Jun-2004, 06:33
Depending on how much film you process, you may want to look into BTZS tubes. It's cheap to set yourself up, and cheap to use. 2 oz. of developer per 4x5. With D-76 1+1 that's 128 4x5's for 6 bucks. OK, so really about 100 with spillage. Go beat that. And, the negs are very smooth.

Downside, you can only do six at a time.

John Cook
5-Jun-2004, 07:42
I strongly second Bob and Eugene, from four decades of commercial experience.

In this insane hyper-technical age, where everyone requires a button to push for every phase of life, Jobo-like machines have a certain fascination. Bob Hope used to talk about his car, the dashboard of which was covered with buttons. He even had a button which when you pushed it, pushed you back. It helped make you feel wanted.

Jobo machines’ claim to fame is excellent temperature and agitation consistency, absolute requirements for color work. But (in my professional opinion) overkill for black and white work.

An HP tank or a tank with stainless hangers will never break down, never become obsolete, will never quit in the middle of an important run because of a power failure.

How much do you need to complicate your life?

Read Eugene’s article on the other side of this website. He’s right on.

Chris Gittins
5-Jun-2004, 09:01
I use a Jobo 2521 tank. It has a magnetic base which I presume is for mounting it in a mechanized processor, but I just fill and agitate by hand. I used Yankee tanks and hangers for awhile and didn't particularly care for that method - dinged a few negs by bumping hanger corners and occassionally suffered uneven development around the edges of the hangers. The Jobo tank holds six sheets of 4x5 and requires about 1.4 liters of chemistry to fill. I like it. Never had a problem with uneven development and it allows me to keep the same work flow I got used to processing 35 mm.


Ron Bose
5-Jun-2004, 09:12
After one experience of developing 4x5 negs in trays, I said to myself "there's gotta be a better way".

IMO, Combi-Plan, Doran, Yankee type tanks use a lot of chemistry.

Trays mean a lot of time in pitch darkness and fingers in the soup.

BTZS can have problems clearing the anti-halation layer on the film.

The Jobo uses 500mL of chemistry for ten sheets of 4x5 (in an Expert 3010 drum) and processes them evenly, quickly and cleanly. Transfer of chemistry is very easy with the lift unit.

Using a Jobo CPP or CPA isn't a press a button and walk away operation (the ATL units are like this I believe), so it's not laziness on my part, but it gives me consistent agitation and even dispersal of developer.

Temperature control is excellent, the first time I used my Jobo was the first time I realised that my $60 dollar tray temperature guage was over reading by five degrees ! No wonder my tray development sucked !!!

I have very little room to use as a darkroom and the Jobo system allows me the most efficient use of space. I put mine in the bath when processing. I'm also a klutz in the dark, so the less time I'm in pitch black with open chemicals around the better !!

I should make it clear that I've been developing for a few months, not a few years (or even decades) like the more learned posters above.

Cheers ...

David A. Goldfarb
5-Jun-2004, 09:32
After one experience of developing 4x5 negs in trays, I said to myself "there's gotta be a better way".

Practice. After ten experiences of developing sheet film in trays, it does get better, and it gives you a certain degree of flexibility that you don't have with jobo or daylight tanks (though you do with tank/hangar systems), if you use the zone system and want to process for different processing times all in the same batch.

I use both trays and a Nikor tank, depending on the size of the batch. For 8x10" and larger I only use trays.

Ralph Barker
5-Jun-2004, 09:51
I don't think there is a clear-cut answer to your question, Michael. Some of us prefer to use trays, others swear by BTZS tubes (or homemade equivalents), and others tout the advantages of their Jobos. It depends on what your personal preferences are, your working style, along with what, and how much you process.

There is a lot of good information here in the archives about the different Jobo models, and how to use them. I'd suggest doing your research before purchasing any particular unit.

FWIW, I use trays for both 4x5 and 8x10 B&W (8x10 trays for 4x5, 11x14 trays for 8x10) and love my time in the dark. But, I'm now fairly spacially-aware in the dark - meaning I can find my way around in total darkness easily. I just think of it as my occasional trip into the world of the blind - something good for the soul. ;-)

5-Jun-2004, 10:44
Unicolor 8x10 (print) tank holds up to 4, 4x5 negs. Used on a Uniroller autoreversing motor base. I use 300ML of d-76 1:1 per four negs. Bought on Epay for around $40.00. Plug it into a Gray Lab timer.

arthur berger
5-Jun-2004, 11:36
Michael: No one mentioned a very simple and consistant method of developing 4x5 sheet film which i call the rack in tray method. I believe photographers formulary as well as others sell a rack or slosher that holds four or six negatives and is used in an 11x14 tray. The advantages of this method are many,including the fact that the negatives are separated and so dont scratch each other,and intermittant agitation can be given, which is important for some of the minus developments. The racks are inexpensive and can be made yourself . I have used this method for the past 25 years and always get very even development.

5-Jun-2004, 12:06
You can make your own tray:


You can buy one also for a good price...


Michael Kadillak
5-Jun-2004, 12:09
The beauty of this country is the ability to chose any means to develop sheet film that works for you. For someone on a shoe string budget, by all means use trays, tubes, tanks or whatever gets it done for you.

However, if you look upon the process with objective eyes, mechanical agitation combined with accurate and calibrated temprature control will inherently be better than anything done manually - period. The qualifier is if you can afford it. Yes, JOBO was designed for color work that has strict criteria for processing, but anyone that says that B&W work will not benefit from these similar conditions has not looked at the results and that is all that matters IMHO. That said, I am still searching for a gaseous burst system that will accomplish what the JOBO CPP2 will not do. Stand agitation, dilute development (contractions) and ULF multiple sheet development.

Until I got a JOBO CPP2, my results were simply inconsistent. Sometimes real good. Sometimes pretty good and other times they just were embarassing. I did the tubes, the trays and the tanks. With the JOBO, they have been fabulous 100% of the time with a minimum of chemistry.Plus I can do it with a minimum of effort in daylight.

Keep you mind open and focus on the results.


Jay DeFehr
5-Jun-2004, 13:37
I enjoy the tactile experience of developing film by inspection, with brush development, one at a time. It's not fast, but why rush something that I enjoy? It might not be as accurate as a mechanized system, but I feel more involved in the process, and for me, that's what it's all about. I am not one of those photographers who are in pursuit of perfection, or consistency, or volume, so I am not tempted to spend money better spent on film and paper, for a gadget that removes me from my process. I find the deviations and inconsistencies of the human hand far more interesting than the perfection of a machine. To each, his own.

5-Jun-2004, 13:53
You don't need a Jobo machine to get your film tanks handled by a machine. Stick them on a motorbase just like those paper tanks. Temp control is the only thing you lose. OTOH the tanks are very good at holding temp. Just temper your chemicals before starting out. Worse case preheat the tank. Easy enough for those that do a pre-wet. Just do that step with tempered water. If you don't then just the whole tank in a tub of water and wait a bit.

Michael Kadillak
5-Jun-2004, 13:56
I can understand completely about what you are saying Jay. If there ever was an expressive medium that afforded personal latitude with the process, this is one of them. Given the fact that I have a family and run my own business (non-photography related) and need to make the best use of all of my resources, I chose to utilize my "descretionary" time with printing.

I would venture to say that this approach would be consistent with alternative processes. Do you work with these? Just curious.

Brian Ellis
5-Jun-2004, 14:03
"BTZS can have problems clearing the anti-halation layer."

I don't think this is a problem if the tubes are properly used. I've processed hundreds of negatives in BTZS tubes without a problem clearing the anti-halation layer. IMHO the only reason to get a Jobo system is if you typically process large numbers of negatives in a single session. Otherwise the BTZS tubes are IMHO better - cost far less, use far less chemicals, take up far less space, and you can process different negatives for different times in a single run which you can't do with a Jobo system. But if you often have fifteen, twenty, or more negatives to process in a single session the ability to do ten at a time in a Jobo system is really nice. Personally I wish I often had fifteen or twenty or more negatives to do at a time but I don't so the BTZS system has worked well for me over the last 8 or 9 years.

5-Jun-2004, 14:24
Polaroid, Type 55.

5-Jun-2004, 14:25
"Otherwise the BTZS tubes are IMHO better - cost far less, use far less chemicals,"

Do you mean with home made tubes or the ones from the View Camera store? Those from View Camera are expensive enough you could buy a big Jobo tank and three 4x5 reels [almost] Or you could buy a smaller tank,two reels and a motorbase for the same money. I can see how the BTZS uses less chemicals if you're only doing one sheet at a time with concentrated developer. Personally I'm doing more then one and using a lot of developer. BTZS won't save me any chemicals. Plus the same tanks can handle prints or smaller film formats. I'm assuming buying everything but the motorbase new.

5-Jun-2004, 15:00
I've heard the BTZS tubes are not manufactured anymore. But Donald Miller as a post at APUG.ORG on making your own:


5-Jun-2004, 15:28

And you won't have to buy three Combi-plans... got my Unicolor and motor for $15.

Ron Bose
5-Jun-2004, 15:32
All of the different means of sheet film processing have their pros and their cons.

The BTZS method looks pretty good as does the Unicolor print tube on a motorised base.

The consistency that the Jobo provides gives me the control I need over the development process. If I wanted to change the temperature and keep everything else the same, I can. If I want to change development time and keep everything else the same, I can. The Jobo helps me do that.

Tray developing is a very flexible process and if I had a tempered bath to keep my trays at temperature and a method to consistently agitate the correct amount then I might have stuck with it. But my tray development experience wasn't the greatest. I had uneven development (due to, in one case, too much agitation and in another, too little). My developer exhausted due to being exposed to the air too long (it was Rodinal), the temperature between the first sheet and the last differed by five degrees, I was all over the place. As a control engineer with a chemical engineering background I couldn't handle it, I needed automation to help me control this process !!

Also, the question of convenience is an important consideration. For instance, the only time I can count on a completely dark darkroom is at night. So the only limitation that I have now is that I must load the tank with the exposed film at night, I can run the Jobo anytime after that.

The Jobo works very well for me, others have their own favorite methods, good luck with your choice Michael !!

michael Allen
5-Jun-2004, 15:37
Thanks for all the input everyone, I think I'll start off with the JOBO 3010 and go from there considering I mainly work in B&W. Nice to here from you Brian, the Ebony is working beautifully thanks again. Michael

Calamity Jane
5-Jun-2004, 16:30
I'm a rank novice (at LF) and didn't want to spend too much $$ right off, so I bought a Combi-Plan. It takes 1L of chemistry and holds up to 6 sheets.

I have run a half a dozen batches of HP5 and just finished my first batch of E100G - no complaints.

Jay DeFehr
5-Jun-2004, 21:51
"I would venture to say that this approach would be consistent with alternative processes. Do you work with these? Just curious."

Michael, I am new to LF and contact printing, but one of the reasons that I bought my 8x10 was for the opportunity it affords for alternative processes. I have a batch of albumen ripening in the refrigerator as I type, and as soon as I secure an appropriate paper, I'll make my first POP prints on albumen and plain salted paper. I'm also gathering the additional chemicals necessary for Kallitype printing, and eventually hope to be able to afford Platinum printing. I'm really loving the 8x10 format, and it has inspired me to continue onward and upward in my steady format growth. I'm rebuilding a couple of 10x12 holders I picked up cheap to use with an adapter for my Deardorff, and building a 14X17 camera, very slowly, as I can afford the time and materials. Probably more than you care to know, and I appologize for rambling, but if I can't babble to you guys, who can I babble to? Thanks for the interest.

Michael Kadillak
6-Jun-2004, 09:23
Jay. I was just making the connection from my observation of an individual that is perfectly content to develop individual sheets of film to the patience and dedication mandated for participating in the alternative processes. Sounds like I was on the right track.

Off to make some images!

Bob Salomon
6-Jun-2004, 10:17
" It takes 1L of chemistry and holds up to 6 sheets."

No Jane, the Combi-Plan can do 12 sheets of black and white - back to back. But you can not do color back to back so 6 sheets for color film.

E. U. Eichhorn
8-Jun-2004, 07:38
I'll second the BTZS tubes. Being able to do most of the processing with the safelight on is a big plus. These are on ebay right now: