View Full Version : roll film processing

Richard Schlesinger
20-May-2005, 12:00
This may be a bit 'off topic' but roll film gets used a lot in view cameras. So . . . I have reached an age where a certain amount of arthritis in my hands makes the loading of Nikor reels less than a piece of cake, so I am thinking of switching to what sounds like an easier system; either Jobo or Paterson. Jobo with their way of enlarging their tanks sounds a bit more versatile. I don't quite know how their 120 reels work (two rolls end to end?) and if so, if that is a good thing. Washing sounds easy with their $12.95 washer. I would very much appreciate advice/information on Jobo vs Paterson (or any other system). I should add I am not interested in machine/roller or whatever agitation so that is not a factor. I have pretty much standardized on PMK for whatever difference that might make. Thanks in advance for the help.

Oren Grad
20-May-2005, 12:30
I've used Paterson reels for 35 and 120 for more than 20 years, and am very pleased with them overall. When I bought my Jobo CPA-2 - primarily so I could process sheet film in the 3000-series Expert drums - I also picked up a 2800-series drum and some reels for roll film, figuring I might as well take advantage of the processor for that as well. But I found the Jobo reels much more fiddly to load than the Paterson reels, and never did get comfortable with them. So although I'm delighted with my Jobo for sheet film processing, I went back to the Paterson reels and manual processing for roll film.

20-May-2005, 12:34
I've got the 2500 type Jobo tanks. I actually have some old 1500 type tanks to but never use them. For that matter I've got a couple Patterson tanks to. I think I have too many tanks. The Jobo reels don't use ball bearings. You need to walk the film. They will take two rolls of 120 or 1 roll of 220. IMHO they are fairly easy to load. It's nice you can start with the smallest tank and then add an extension. But I'm not sure it's a big deal. If you need to process a lot of 120 often then you'd just start out with the bigger tank. If you're only do it rarely then you could just run multiple batches.

I was given two of the Jobo washers. Never use them. Instead I use the Ilford wash method.

The main advantage of the 2500 tanks is you can run anything from 35mm to 4x5 in one tank. That works really well on a motorbase but you don't care for that. Inversion mode the 2500 tanks use alot of chemicals. Not the best choice for people using stock developer but nice for people using high dilution and stand development. Change the lid on this tank and you've basically got a print tank.

The 1500 tanks use much less chemical in inversion mode. They won't handle sheet film. Plus they're too small to use on the motorbase.

The Pattersons use more chemicals then the 1500 but much less then the 2500. In my use they leak more often then either Jobo type. The reels use a ball bearing to help walk the film in. That's great when the reel is new. But if the bearing gets stuck it'll make loading harder.

The 2500 tank and reels are the most expensive new. I think the 1500 and the Pattersons are pretty close in price. Used 2500 tanks are much cheaper then new.

Not sure what else you'd need to know.

David A. Goldfarb
20-May-2005, 13:13
I used to use Paterson tanks, but they need to be completely dry to work, so I find stainless easier. However, now that used darkroom equipment is so cheap, you could easily afford to have plenty of spare reels if you go with the Patersons. There are lots out there.

Oren Grad
20-May-2005, 13:23
Sorry, it was a 2500-series tank, not 2800-series, that I bought for the Jobo.

To follow up on some of Nick's points -

I've never had a ball-bearing stick on my Paterson reels in all the time I've used them. I have Paterson reels bought in 1979-80 that still work fine.

In my experience, the Paterson tanks do leak a bit if you use them as designed, agitating by inversion.

The Paterson tanks require a minimum of 17.5 ounces (500 ml) of fluid to just cover a reel that's set up for 120. I don't remember off the top of my head what the Jobo 2500 tanks need - I could check that later if nobody else has the information handy.

When I got started, I used a Paterson hose attachment that fits over the center core, pushing running water from the faucet down through the core and up from the bottom of the tank. I'm not sure if that accessory is still available, but in any case I gave up using it a long time ago. I now do my washing just by several exchanges of water from a big pitcher brought to temperature, as though the water were just another series of chemicals - basically, the Ilford wash method.

I'm sure I'm forgetting other details - do let us know if you have other specific questions.

Eric Biggerstaff
20-May-2005, 13:31
I've used Patterson reels and tanks for years with no problems, although they do have to be dry to load the film so the suggestion of getting several off eBay is a great one. When I use them, I use the Patterson tank as well and do inversion. The lid on the tank will leak a bit if you don't "burp" it to get some air out. Just like you do with Tupperware.

John Flavell
20-May-2005, 13:41
A dirty little secret of roll film processing is that you can laod two rolls of film BACK TO BACK, emulsion out, and double your developing capacity.

jose angel
20-May-2005, 13:43
I process with a Jobo processor, usually six 120 rolls at once. I have my own method calibrated to use APX400 and Rodinal or other few combinations.

But for other adventures, when manual processing in a must, I prefer the Paterson 3 reel drum (even if I process one roll only). Mine has this little ball bearings. Also, reel material seems to be the same than the Jobo ones, but the Paterson reels have a better finishing that makes it easier to load. I never use the Paterson by hand invesion, I prefer to roll the reels with the supplied stick.

Richard Schlesinger
20-May-2005, 13:55
Are the paterson and Jobo reels interchangable? Sounds like Jobo tanks with Paterson reels would be the best arrangement.

20-May-2005, 14:14
No not really. The 2500 tanks are much bigger so I guess you could stuff a Paterson reel inside but you'd have to rig it up some how. Personally I find the Jobo reels much nicer to load once I got over my Paterson habits. You need to spend some time with both to figure out which you like best.

John Cook
20-May-2005, 15:59
And now for something completely different! ;0)

I have never had much luck with plastic reels and tanks. Always found stainless superior for several reasons.

Any difficulty with stainless reels, in my experience, has always been due entirely to poor quality reels or ones which have become bent over the years from rough handling.

By far, the best stainless reels available today are the Hewes brand. Here they are on the B&H website:


Every bit as well made and easy to load as the old Nikkor brand which were made a couple of miles from here in West Springfield, Massachusetts. You really should be able to manage them.

With regards to your arthritis, I have recently obtained almost total relief in my hands with the use of Methotrexate (a very old chemotherapy drug) combined with Salsalate (a derivative of aspirin without the heart attack side effects of Aleve, etc.). Both require about 90 days to take effect. And both are by prescription only. Perhaps you might run these past your physician.

Gene Crumpler
20-May-2005, 17:42
I'd be careful about processing film back to back. I tried this the other day with 2 sheets of Tmax-100 and got a mess! Totally unusable.

I've always used steel reels, but this year, I voluntered at the local elementary school. They use Patterson tanks and reels. I found the Patterson reels hard to deal with. May be I'm just set in my ways, but I'd never abandon my nikkor reels after struggling with the Paterson reels for most of the school year! YMMV.

Richard Schlesinger
22-May-2005, 10:53
Thanks for the suggestions. I think I may try something for the arthritis - perhaps that is a better answer. And maybe some stainless reels are easier than others. Mine are, I think, Nikkor. I don't know what the differences are with all the other brands I see on the B&H site. If anyone knows about this part of the processing question I would like to hear.

Roger Scott
22-May-2005, 16:21
I recently purchased a new Paterson tank and reels and found the reels quite difficult to use. The bearings are small and rough and have a habit of sticking in the reel so that the film won't initially load properly. Once started it works fine but it takes a lot of cursing. The older Paterson reels with the larger, smooth bearings work fine as do the Jobo reels which apart from processing sheet and 127 film I now use exclusively. The Jobo reels are easier to get apart which helps to get the film off the reels after processing or if you change film sizes often.


17-Aug-2005, 08:20
I've used Paterson (and look-a-likes) since 1977 without problems. I still have my first Paterson two reel tank with the original plastic reels that still work fine although for many years I used mostly the 8-reel tanks for all the 120, 220, and 35mm I was shooting. I don't know if the policy is still in effect, but Paterson (and their vendors) would cheerfully exchange any of their tanks or reels that chipped, leaked or cracked for "as long as you owned the tanks"! I've just switched over to a Jobo processor and have yet to load one of their plastic roll film reels as I switched to the Jobo system mainly to run sheet film and color paper in the "Expert Tanks". Jobo plastic reels do look a bit more difficult to use than Paterson.

Brian C. Miller
17-Aug-2005, 15:15
The best reel I have for Patterson is one which has a very wide loading "platform" on it, and the film goes over the platform and into the reel slots. I don't know the brand name, and the dealer had them in stock for a limited time. (I think they were made in Spain) The reel has steel bearings, and they have never jammed.

Another set of reels has metal bearings which jam a lot, and the reel has tiny protrusions from the molding which have to be trimmed or they will catch the film during loading.

For some reason nobody marks their brand name name on the reels, yet there is more than enough space on the plastic reels for a name.

The Jobo reels have a little plastic stop which snaps in to seperate one roll of 120 from the next in a single reel. The reels are a slightly different size from the Patterson, so one won't work with the other's system. When loading the Jobo reels I just press down on the film with my thumbs while turning the opposite half of the reel. I have never had a problem loading with the Jobo reels.

I have had problems with the SS reels sometimes to initially get the film straight on the reel. If the film is not initially straight, then you'll be unable to load the film.