View Full Version : First time developing 4x5 film: Basic Questions

7-Jul-2016, 17:38
I'm developing 4x5 film for the first time and have some basic questions. For reference, I'm developing 4 sheets of Ilford HP5+ ISO 400. The developer is Ilfosol 3 1+9. I'm using the BTZS tubes, and have and 8x10 tray for the stop and tanks with holders for the fixer and wash aid. Also, I'm using the Massive Dev Chart app to tell me the times.

1. Do the developer, stop, fixer, and wash aid all need to be at 68F (not just the developer)? How long does it take to bring the chemicals up to the correct temperature before using (if I put the bottles in a bin of 68F water)?

2. Should I only used distilled water for the developer, stop, fixer and wash aid? What about rinsing and LFN?

3. For BTZS tubes, it is 60ml or 2oz of developer solution per cap, correct?

4. Massive dev chart says developing time is 6min 30sec. Do I take off 15% since I'm doing continuous agitation? That's 5min 32sec, correct?

5. How much total solution do I mix for the stop, fixer and wash aid per sheet of film? Or do I just fill up the tray/tanks? What about LFN solution? Do you just fill up a tray and add 2 drops?

6. Do you double the fixing time with BTZS tubes? Massive dev chart says 5min, so actual time would be 10 min?

7. What are the steps after fixing? Do you rinse with running water before or after the wash aid (or both)? For how long do you rinse? Or do you just fill up the tank a few times and then dump it out?

8. How long do I put the film in LFN solution? Or do I just run it through once?

9. For how long do you let the film dry? Do you need to periodically tap the bottom corner to shake off the water that accumulates?

Kevin Crisp
7-Jul-2016, 18:10
Since 12 people have looked and nobody has answered your questions, I'll take a stab at them. People here won't agree on all of these.

1. No, they don't. Development time is less the warmer the developer is, try to keep all solutions more or less the same as the developer. Don't shock the film going hot or cold. This includes the rinse water. If the time is right in compensating for the warmth, all solutions can be 80F or warmer and the film will look the same.
2. I never use distilled water for anything but the pre-dry rinse and I use LFN which works fine. Some water is better than others and some here swear by DW for everything.
3. No idea, I use trays.
4. Rotary processing will result in shorter times. The chart is a starting point. Experiment and figure out your time.
5. Check with developer manufacturer for the "capacity" of the volume and dilution of your developer. That is the absolute minimum - again I use trays so others would know better on the ideal total volume.
6. I don't know why tubes would take longer, many modern films seem to require a lot of fixing to get rid of the color cast. It is hard to over fix.
7. Wash film for 15 minutes or so. Or use a wash aid like Perma Wash and wash less. Actually with a good wash of about 10 minutes and no wash aid your negatives will outlive you.
8. About 30 seconds is fine. I'd just put the developed sheets in a tray of the solution then hang up the sheets.
9. Until it is totally dry. How long depends on your relative humidity. Clothes pins on a line takes about 45 minutes or an hour for me most of the year. I do tap a towel on the bottom corner to draw off the glob of water once or twice, but it will still dry if you don't.

Jim Jones
8-Jul-2016, 04:40
I mostly agree with Kevin. With well water loaded with minerals, I use distilled water for all chemicals and the final wash.

8-Jul-2016, 05:26
And in addition to Kevin and your first question: when the stop, fix and rinse water differ a few degrees from the developer temperature you can use them as they are.

The most important thing is that development time, developer dilution and developer temperature should be in balance as this will determine the contrast of the negatives.

8-Jul-2016, 05:32
And in addition to Kevin and your first question: when the stop, fix and rinse water differ a few degrees from the developer temperature you can use them as they are.

The most important thing is that development time, developer dilution and developer temperature should be in balance as this will determine the contrast of the negatives.

Doremus Scudder
8-Jul-2016, 11:15
I'll take a stab at this too.

1. Ideally everything should be the same temperature from start to finish. Plus or minus about 1C is a good tolerance to shoot for. Many films will stand more temperature difference, but there is the risk of grain clumping and micro-reticulation which will increase the apparent graininess of the film. Everything need not be 68F/20C, as long as everything is the same temp, there will be no problem within a range of about 18C-25C. You will, however need to adjust your developing time with different temperatures. There's a nifty chart for that on the Ilford website. Bringing chemicals to temperature can take time if the difference is great, but this need not be an issue; you store them at room temperature so they should not be that far off.

2. If your tap water is drinkable, it is normally good for mixing working solutions of chemicals. For developer stock solutions I use distilled. With Ilfosol you'll just be mixing working solutions from the concentrate, right? So no worries. Do mix a fresh distilled water and wetting agent final rinse. Soak film in this for a few minutes before hanging to dry if your water is hard or has a high mineral content to prevent drying marks.

3. I don't use tubes, so you'll have to get specific info about amounts of chemicals somewhere else. As mentioned, however, make sure you have enough developer stock for the amount of film you are developing. Ilford's spec sheet will give you this info.

4. It is normal to reduce time for continuous agitation. Your 15% is a good starting point, but you'll have to fine-tune your developing times yourself just like everyone else. Consistently overdeveloped? Reduce time (and vice-versa).

5. From what I understand, stop and fix with the BTZS tubes are done with the caps off and rolling the tubes in a tray of solution. That would mean filling the tray (1 liter for an 8x10" tray). If you use an acetic acid stop, you can save this for later. If you use a citric acid stop, you should discard it after each session (or two if they're on consecutive days) since it can grow bacterial slime. In this case, I'd experiment to see what the minimum amount in the tray would be. Film fixer can be saved and reused until capacity and/or shelf-life has been reached. Check the Ilford spec sheet for this as well; it has a wealth of info about fixing. For the final rinse before drying I recommend distilled water. Dilute your wetting agent as per the instructions, erring on the side of too dilute if anything.

6. I don't know where you got the idea that fixing time has to be increased with tubes; it should be the same as for any kind of agitation. Again, don't trust the Massive Development Chart; go to the horse's mouth and get the right times (the Ilford spec sheet again...).

7. After fixing I give the film a short rinse and then put it in the washer. I don't use a wash-aid for film. If you do, then that would be next after the rinse and then into the washer. Without wash-aid I wash my film for 30 minutes in running water. You can use a dump-and-fill regime as well (Ilford has a nice tech sheet on that as well...). After the wash it's into the wetting agent/distilled water rinse and then hang to dry.

8. Your final rinse with wetting agent/distilled water can and should be longer if you have hard water or water with high mineral content. Otherwise, follow the directions (30-60 seconds I would guess, I give longer).

9. How long it takes for film to dry depends on temp and humidity. 4x5 film will curl while drying and then straighten back up when dry. Don't make the mistake of trying to hurry the drying; you can easily damage a not-quite-dry negative by trying to get it into a negative storage sleeve. My negatives usually hang overnight; at least a few hours. I like to squeegee the negatives between index and middle finger before drying (gently, and I'm good at this, so I never damage the film); others prefer to just hang the film wet (which makes drying a bit longer). In any case, water will run down to the bottom corner and form a drop. This you can wick off with a tissue or a touch of your fingertip. Usually two or three times over 30 minutes or so is all it needs (it doesn't even really need anything, but getting rid of the drop prevents the occasional drying mark in the corner).

Hope this helps,


8-Jul-2016, 12:06
7.5) You didn't specifically ask about washing, but there's a good discussion (http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/film-washing-test.69416/) of the various methods at APUG. It occasionally gets diverted into an argument about theory vs. empirical testing, but if you stick to Greg Davis' and Photo Engineer's* comments, you'll be okay.

I personally use the Ilford invert & dump method, i.e., fill tank, invert 10 times, dump & drain, fill, invert 20 times, dump & drain, fill, invert 40 times, dump & proceed to final rinse. I actually do 20+40+60 just to be on the safe side. Time will tell if I've sufficiently washed my negatives.

*PE a.k.a. Rowland Mowrey is a former Kodak chemical engineer; you would do well to pay attention to anything he says.

Patrick Gauthier
8-Jul-2016, 12:56
A lot of solid advice given above. I've used ilfosol 3 with the Massive Dev Chart timings only for developing (I don't remember there being times for fixing) for tmax 100 tmax 400 and neopan 100 and the negs turned out great (i.e., good timing from the chart). Anyways, as others have suggested above, best to go with the developers instructions, and if they don't include the film you're working with, then consider massive dev chart. As you're using ilford film and ilford developer, there should be developing timings for the combo available.

As far as distilled water, it will not hurt to use it for all your chems, but sometimes thats problematic if you're dissolving powder at > room temp (easier to run hot/warm tap water at the desired temp). But you won't have that issue with ilfosol 3 since it's a liquid concentrate.

Honestly, I just used filtered (i.e., Brita filtered) water instead of purchasing distilled water (which is probably just filtered these days anyways - who distills water anymore?? :P)