View Full Version : Tube or Tray Development of 7x17 film?

Robert McClure
18-Mar-2005, 08:44
It would help me a lot to hear from anyone out there about your preferred method for developing 7x17 (or 8x20) film. Tube or tray? Brush development in tray for evenness and chemistry reduction? Tube for ease of process? One consideration: I'm not OCD but I am picky.

Many say the tube works well for them for 7 x 17/8x20. Others insist that the tray is a must for evenness of development. Tubers tout daylight use/minimal chemistry/space savings. I have been comfortable with trays for developing 4x5 and 8x10. Trays to accommodate 7x17 are going to be big and the chemistry weighty. (BTW, what size tray for 7x17?) Looking for the best compromise. Brush development in trays maybe? If I don't act on something soon I'm going to have to join the French Foreign Legion like Laurel and hardy did.

Many Thanks in Advance!

Gem Singer
18-Mar-2005, 09:21
Hi Robert,

I've only seen commercially- made tubes available for up to 8X10 size film. In fact, I'm preparing to use J&C tubes to develope four 8X10 films that were shot yesterday. I prefer tube development to tray development. However, if I had the facility for it, I would use dip-and-dunk development for my 8X10, 5X7, and 4X10 films, the way I do for my 4X5 films.

You would need to fabricate your own tubes for your 7X17 and 8X20 film. For that size film, brush development in trays is probably your best choice. Good luck.

Michael Kadillak
18-Mar-2005, 09:32
No set rules here as each individual must work around there individual parameters. From my perspective I feel that folks that are space limited trend toward the tubes for the obvious reasons.

Since it is likely that you already have 16x20 print trays, already are comfortable with this technique and assuming that you are not space limited I would recommend the tray development route since it is the quickest and most cost effective to evaluate. You can get purple nitrile gloves at Wal Mart for $4.00. As far as the large volume of chemistry goes, these are large sheets of disproportional sized film and it is what it is.

I can comfortably do as many of six sheets of 8x20 in trays without scratching if you take your time and are consistent in your technique. All it takes is a little practice. The size of the tubes I would need to do that many sheets in a run was enough of a disincentive for me to try this technique although many use it with great satisfaction.


Oren Grad
18-Mar-2005, 09:37
The most readily available "tubes" that you can use for processing 7x17 film are Jobo print drums. I hope to start some experiments of my own with 7x17 shortly, and that's what I'm going to use. This has been discussed previously in other threads here - see, for example:

largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501202.html (http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501202.html)

Gem Singer
18-Mar-2005, 15:06

B&H sells a Jobo Drum (tube) for a single sheet of 16X20 film, or paper, for just over $300. Is that what you are referring to?

It seems to me that that is a huge price to pay for a developing tube. Using a little imagination and skill, inexpensive tubes can be fabricated from 4 inch ABS drain piping and caps, available at plumbing supply outlets. A carefully made, simple tube with end caps, should be capable of doing the job.

Oren Grad
18-Mar-2005, 15:28
Eugene -

No. I had in mind something like the Jobo 2850 print drum, which is listed by B&H at $66.95 - Michael Mutmansky mentions it in the linked thread.

The Jobo 3000-series Expert Drums, intended specifically for sheet film, are very expensive, typically in the $250-350 range. But many ULF workers have used one or another of the print drums successfully. These range in price from perhaps $50-150. These will be most convenient if you plan to work with a motor base, or, of course, if you are fortunate to already own a Jobo processor.

But as you point out, for those on an extremely tight budget, who don't mind fussing with pipes, glue and sandpaper, it's possible to make your own tubes for even lower out-of-pocket cost - Phil Davis has instructions in his BTZS book, and probably anyone who's handy can just figure it out for himself anyway.

Michael Kadillak
18-Mar-2005, 19:19
Excellent article in the new View Camera magazine about semi-stand tube development that looks pretty interesting. Give it a look.

I feel that your objectives with the print may very well dictate which technique you want to use.

If you are contacting with Azo, then you clearly need density and if your shooting includes soft light then the need is even more intense to get a usable density range with only grade 2 and grade 3 available.

If you are a conventional silver shooter, then the requirements of the negative are nowhere near as intense.


phil sweeney
19-Mar-2005, 05:26

Like Michael said if you have 16 x 20 trays go for it. I use pyrocat and total water of 100 ozs. The negs with that volume can be shuffled easily. No brush needed as pyrocat is excellent for eveness and the cost is quite low. With the large trays, slide the bottom neg forward and then up, well after it has left the pack. I can develop 7 x 17s with fewer scratches than 8 x 10. First time just try 2 negs.

Robert McClure
19-Mar-2005, 08:44
Wow! Great feedback and info. Thanks, guys.

BTW, I spoke at length yesterday to Rick at Jobo customer service (734-205-9421). He was helpful, articulate, and knowledgeable. He said:

1. Yes, I can use 2850 (2830+2870) with chemistry on 1509 roller base ($28.00 locally for base) if I don't need built-in temp control or motorization.

2. Smaller Jobo tubes can handle film quite well (up to 8x10). No promises with larger (17x17). He said 2850 will work if "not too picky."

3. He said three problems with 2850 and film:

(a) improper processing of antihalation backing due to tendency of sticking; however, not to difficult to work around.

(b) problems with chemistry relative to eddies/currents within tube --> unevenness in processing. He said this was insurmountable (but if I can live with it, then not a big problem). Can you imagine what Howard Bond would say? Whew!

(c) Problems with pouring chemistry in with tube first vertical, then horizontal for processing. Evenness problems again. He suggested a siphon (like from the automotive supply store) with a gooseneck/flexible neck. This could be used, he said, to pour in chemistry into drum while drum was already in horizontal position. Mitigates against evenness problems.

(d) He said the "3000" series can be fitted with a special membrane (for 7 x 17) which holds film from contact with tank side (sticking) plus encourages, I think he said, more even developing.

I guess it's all a compromise and I'd just have to try it. And that's about what he said. The 3000 version of 2850 is bigger and fitted with membrane, etc. is a custom deal and is around, he said, 400.00. Lot of dough for something that may still be just a compromise.

My photo retailer in Atlanta has a number of Jobo items, he says, at half-price. But even if it's $150.00 to get things going, I don't want to turn around and have to get rid of it.

21-Mar-2005, 11:37

For developing 7X17" film my advice would be to buy one of the Beseler or Unicolor print drums and a motor base. The 16X20 Beseler drum, *if it has the internal spacer tubes", will allow you to process two sheets of 7X17" film at a time, as will at least one of the Unicolor 16X20" drums. All 16X20 Beseler drums I have seen are alike so all will work, assuming you have the spaceer tubes, but some Unicolor drums are different. The one that will allow two sheets of 7X17" at a time has internal spacers built in, and it measures about 25" long by 5.5" ID.

The drums work perfectly and are widely available for very little money as they were sold in great quantity for color printing and are rarely used any more for that purpose. The motor bases that were sold to be used with these drums are also very inexpensive. Using two drums at a time on their separate motor base you can process up to four sheets of 7X17" at a time for equipment that should cost you much less than $100.

You could also use the drums with the semi-stand type of development described in the current issue of View Camera magazine, a procedure I highly recommend for certain kinds of subjects.

21-Mar-2005, 12:11
alan brubaker will make custom trays for tray development. He is currently making me 11x 22 trays for 8x 20 film. I figure the savings in developer over the course of a few years will pay for themselves...www.filmholders .com.....this along with the fact I can get 5 of the custom trays in my small sink as opposed to only 3 16x20 makes it rather nice

21-Mar-2005, 16:26
I don't want to be misunderstood on this so let me state at the outset that some of my best friends develop large sheet film in trays!

And I don't recommend using drums, tubes and Jobo for developing ULF sheet film because these methods takes up less space. I recommend them because rotary development in tubes and drums simply can not be beat for evenness of development. Using good technique with tray development can give even development close to what you can get with rotary development, but it can not beat it.

Many years ago when Phil Davis developed the BTZS system he found that tray development, regardless of technique, did not provide sufficient evenness of illumination to match the precision of his system. That is why he developed and promoted the concept of rotary development in tubes.

There are other more mundane considerations that lead me to prefer rotary development (I hate standing there in the dark shuffling film,) but the main reason is that I am convinced that it gives better results in terms of even development.

21-Mar-2005, 17:21
I can not comment on rotary development for the simple fact I've never tried it. I was mostly shooting tmax 400 in 8x10.. when I moved up to ULF it required me to find another film. Up until this point I was shuffling negs and was quite confident in not scratching the neg. Then I grabbed some efke pl 100 and the first time i shuffled I no longer could brag about not scratching a neg as this softer emulsion film humbled me as far as my shuffling abilities. ( scratches everywhere) The quickest fix was to just grab a brush and give it a try since the trays were right in front of me. Now I was little leary about dragging a brush across the emulsion side of a neg but from the very first neg there was not a single scratch and these negs are some of the most evenly developed negs I've produced. I'm sure Sandy is right about the quality you get in rotary development, he has run enough tests to know what works well and what don't. My intro to brush development came out of seeking a fix right at that moment and it has worked so well I do all my 8x20 film with it.

Robert McClure
21-Mar-2005, 18:05
Thanks to all! I sincerely appreciate each and every response!

Sandy: I have a few questions.

1. When using a drum like what you mention above, can I get away easily without temp control if I keep my temps within a decent window?

2. Which pyro lends itself to drum development?

3. Any problem doing film and paper in the same drum?

4. What about this? The Jobo tech guy recently told me how the bigger Jobo paper tubes (2850, for example) weren't really designed for film unless I wasn't "too picky." He said that even the "3000 Series" with the "custom membrane," etc. did not overcome remaining/inherent evenness problems for film. What is it about your Unicolor and Bessler drums (in conj. with motor base) that overcomes problems Jobo does not resolve?

5. What do you personally use for developing 717/820?

I don't mean to ask so many questions. I'm just trying to find out what the hell might work best for me. I hate (HATE) standing in the dark rocking trays. Plus, my space is rather tight. Many thanks in advance!!!

Robert McClure
21-Mar-2005, 18:15
BTW, Sandy - my wife just now happened to bring me my March/April View Cam Mag. I will read the article you mention. Looks interesting and helpful. Thanks!

21-Mar-2005, 19:16

In answer to your questions.

"1. When using a drum like what you mention above, can I get away easily without temp control if I keep my temps within a decent window? "

IMO a temperature variation of up to about 2-5 degrees in ambient temperature will not make much difference in results as the drum will tend to retain the beginning temperature.

2. Which pyro lends itself to drum development?

I would recommend either Pyrocat-HD or Rollo Pyro for drum processing.

3. Any problem doing film and paper in the same drum?

Not sure. I reserve my drums for film processing.

4. What about this? The Jobo tech guy recently told me how the bigger Jobo paper tubes (2850, for example) weren't really designed for film unless I wasn't "too picky." He said that even the "3000 Series" with the "custom membrane," etc. did not overcome remaining/inherent evenness problems for film. What is it about your Unicolor and Beseler drums (in conj. with motor base) that overcomes problems Jobo does not resolve?

I don't understand what he is talking about so can not comment. But I know that many, many people are using drums like the Beseler and Unicolor for developing sheet film with good success.

5. What do you personally use for developing 717/820?

I use Pyrocat-HD almost exclusively for tube and drum processing of sheet film. In fact, I developed Pyrocat-HD for rotary processing after experiencing a number of problems with another staining developer with this type of development

Michael Kadillak
21-Mar-2005, 19:48
I have used the polycarbonate inserts that I got from JOBO for developing ULF sheet films in the JOBO prints drums and they do in fact work great. You just roll them up with the film inside the plastic buttons and insert it in the drum and put on the lid. The only downside that I find with drums is that it is single sheet processing just takes a lot of time. If you have plenty of time, you are better than me.

With some practice, I have been able to easily manage six ULF sheets of film without a hitch. From a time management standpoint, it is very effective and while I recognize that some "evenness" might be sacrificed over drum processing, I can pull sheets along the journey at various development times from the trays and it accomplishes my objective.

However saying that, I find that each development technique (trays, drums, JOBO, brush and stand development) is but another tool in the tool box and there are times and specific instances where I would want to use any at my descretion. Depends upon what you want to accomplish in the final result.

Over time I will probably migrate to a particular developing style, but for right now I am learning and growing and enjoying the journey.


Robert McClure
22-Mar-2005, 07:52
Thanks, guys. This gives me a good sense of direction to go in. Thanks!

Oren Grad
22-Mar-2005, 10:55
Robert -

Good luck! Can you report back on what you end up doing and your results, once you get to that point?


Robert McClure
23-Mar-2005, 10:52

Yes, I will let you know how I do with this. And I really do value the help and support. Thanks again and you'll hear back from me.

14-Apr-2005, 05:06
I think your website is a pile of shit.

14-Apr-2005, 09:35
I bought 2 Unicolor drums big enough for 2 7x17's (each) or 1 12x20, one for 30-something, and one for 20 dollars, on ePay. At these prices you could buy one just to try it out.