View Full Version : Drum Processing Advise

Gary Rosenberg
12-Apr-2006, 10:07
I am going to finally try to develop my own B&W 4x5
negatives. I don't shoot alot each month, maybe 4 -8
sheets. I was wondering what would be the route to
take to develop. I am very confuse which way to go. I
don't have a "darkroom" per say, I was thinking about
loading a drum in a dark bag (the same I would use to
load my sheet film). Then develop the negatives with
the lights on. I was reading about Jobo,
Unicolor..etc.. As someone who is 100 a novice in
processing, I am asking for some advice from the pros.
One other thing, I'm not worried about printing just
yet, one thing at a time:)
Any takers?



12-Apr-2006, 10:17
For just a few sheets, I use a Beseler Unicolor drum (intended for processing colour prints). It's completely manual but doesn't need a lot of chemistry (less than 500ml to do an 8x10 negative or four 4x5's). There are rectangular Combi and Yankee daylight tanks, but these use much more chemistry as the negatives hang vertically. For single 4x5 sheets, a large Patterson Multi daylight tank can be used (the inversion kind that hold multiple 35mm spools), but I prefer the Unicolor drum.

Joseph O'Neil
12-Apr-2006, 10:27
Can be done. However, get a changing tent instead of a changing bag, or get a really large bag and make small frame to go inside. Reason is, with a bag, the cloth tends to drape onto whtaever you are trying to change/move inside the bag.

Compounded with Murphy's Law, the bag will always drop and spread dust on the emulsion side first too. :)

For your drum, I don't know how big it is, but see if you can fit a Jobo 4x5 reel inside it. Might be the easiet way to go. I use a motorized base for my Jobo drum, but I used to use a manual, rolled by hand base. Just remember that when rolling by hand, do not do all your development in one direction, reverse and roll backwards every 30 seconds or one minute over the span of your development.


Pat Kearns
12-Apr-2006, 11:19
I use a beseler drum and base for my developing. An 8x10 drum will hold 4 sheets of film. The drums can be found used on the auction sites for very little money. If you purchase a drum make sure it has the spacer clip to keep the film from overlapping and preventing development. When loading remember to place the film with the emulsion facing in and the film base against the sides of the drum. I use a 1 minute presoak and then start development. Without a darkroom you will find drum processing a dream come true.

Bruce Watson
12-Apr-2006, 12:54
You'll clearly want a daylight tank that you can load in a film changing tent and use in room light. You've mentioned the Combi and the Yankee. People report very good results with the Nikor 5x4 cut film daylight tank also. I've seen a number of them go by on the big auction site.

Another way to go would be the Jobo Expert tanks. Jobo also makes a roller base so you can roll the tank by hand.

I can vouch for the quality of processing with a Jobo 3010 tank. I've put thousands of sheets through mine with amazingly consistent top quality results.

So, it comes down to whether or not you want intermittant agititation (Combi, Yankee, Nikor) or continuous agitation (Bessler, Jobo). That's a decision you'll have to make based on your needs.

Scott Davis
12-Apr-2006, 13:39
While the Combiplan and Yankee tanks are ok for starting out and learning, you'll quickly find them problematic if you want to do anything other than enlarging on silver paper, and sometimes problematic for that as well. Tanks like those are prone to developer surge at the edge of the film where the plastic rig holds the film in place. In mild cases, it's not a problem because your negative carrier will probably mask the overdeveloped margins of your negative. In bad cases, this will intrude into your image area regardless and force you to crop more than you want. My recommendation would be as a first choice the Jobo Expert drums and continuous agitation. You can just do the drum without investing in a motor base, as long as you have a flat surface on which to roll the drum. If you do not get a Jobo processor, try to roll the tank in your bathtub which you can fill with appropriate-temperature water to several inches depth, which will help you keep the temperature constant enough for your purposes.

Ed K.
12-Apr-2006, 14:46
Hi Gary,

If you plan to stick with 4x5 and not larger, the HP Combiplan (not a drum) is nice in many ways - 6 sheets at one time, daylight, and it gives you the option to use a reduced agitation routine when needed. It's true that some developers and agitation techniques will give surge or uneven development with the Combiplan. It's also true that it is quite possible to get even, nicely developed negs with it. It is small and doesn't take much space in the cupboard, plus it can be used in a bathroom sink. To top it off, it doubles as a film washer - just don't use photoflo in it! The chemical issue is not too bad either, because you can either opt for more reusable developers, or more dilute one shots, which end up not costing very much.

Jobo does make the CPE processor, which can be had for a fair price new or used, however then you can't use the large Expert drums. The other Jobo models are great, however you'll spend some dough getting the drums and a Jobo healthy enough to turn them. Considering that the Combiplan is about 60-80 bucks, vs. 600 and up for a Jobo, using the Combiplan will let you know just how much you are interested in spending more money and taking more space. If you do get the Jobo, you're going first-class, and probably won't regret it in terms of quality. One thing about the Jobo that is nice is the ability to warm the process up ( or cool it down by freezing a bottle or two then warming to spec ). Tap water can be annoyingly hot in the summer or cold in the winter! All of that said however, you still have to get some good kind of film washer in most cases. A Jobo takes a lot of space.

For so few sheets, you could also use trays on top of a board on the sink or tub in your bathroom at night once in a while. If you use two trays for developer and transfer the stack back and forth a sheet at a time between them while developing, you can get really nice results for little money. Many great images were developed in this manner.

I can't comment on the Unicolor or BTZ solutions, although I have friends who report good results with them, however one thing I can tell you is that I would forget about using Expert drums without a CPA or higher Jobo and some room to work. Not only a pain to roll by hand, but a hassle to fill and empty correctly, even with a transmission oil funnel or other odd rig. Expert drums are not cheap either. The Expert drums depend upon reversing rotation, which makes many non-Jobo bases unsuitable unless you want to constantly flip the drum around.

While a drum processor on a motor is convenient and consistent for the most part, developing a correct agitation technique for what one uses makes a big difference. It is quite possible to have a correct technique that works with Combiplan or tray, and the general mistake one makes is to agitate too much or too violently, which usually causes problems. To test the waters, try a Combiplan for a bit, and use D76 1:1 , Rodinal 1:50, DDX 1:4 or some very typical developer and the recommended times. Chances are good that you'll have some pleasing negs that will tell you what you really want.

12-Apr-2006, 15:08
I've been using the HP Combiplan for 4x5 with excellent results: evenly developed negs, very easy to use and doubles as a washer.

Walter Foscari
12-Apr-2006, 15:26
Do you like simple or complicated?

If the first then all you need is here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/

Done thousands of sheets, never a screw-up.

Paul Ewins
12-Apr-2006, 17:17
Gary, the first thing to consider is how many sheets you want to process at once. A Yankee tank will do 12, a Jobo 3010 drum will do 10 while a Jobo 2509n drum will do 6 (but is better with 4). The print drums will probably get you 2 or 4 at a time.

I find the 3010 easy to load in a change bag, while the 2509n is more fiddly especially if you are trying to load six sheets (which is why I got the 3010). The Yankee tank would require a bigger tent, you really need a bit of space to lay out all of the components. I haven't used print drums for developing but I would expect them to be relatively easy to load in a change bag.

You don't need the Jobo processor to use their drums (although it makes controlling the process easier) and can run them on a roller base or by hand.

Personally, if you are going to be processing more than 4 sheets at a time I would recommend the 3010, otherwise look at the print drums. I have used the Yankee tank successfully but others have had troubles and they do need a lot of chemistry.

If you don't want to spend a lot of money (a 3010 will be around $150 - 200 on eBay) then the print drum and roller base will probably be the easiest and cheapest solution.

John Kasaian
12-Apr-2006, 17:23
For loading drums, you don't need a "dark room" but a room thats dark would be nice. I put a piece of cardboard over the bathroom window, a towel across the crack at the bottom of the door and load my Unicolor drum in the bathroom/darkroom (at night---I might as well stack the deck in my favor!) You could certainly use a bag or tent if thats what you've got. You could even build a little box like a bead cabinet with armholes and load your drum in there. The noted irish photographer Fr. Frank Browne S.J. actually built a collapsable box for processing film 'on the road' back in the 1920's

Steve Feldman
12-Apr-2006, 17:24
Go with the Unicolor Paper Drum and Motor Base. Fast. cheap. Easy.

~Walter - Never. Come on.

Brian Ellis
12-Apr-2006, 20:51
I'm surprised at the many suggestions for a drum given the minimal number of negatives you'll be processing. The problem with a drum for people who only process a few negatives at a time is that every negative in the drum obviously has to be developed for the same length of time. That's fine if you never use plus or minus development and always develop everything for the same time but if you do that you're losing one of the biggest advantages of doing your own processing. And if you don't do that then drums are a real pain, with six images a month if one was minus developed, one plus developed, and four normal (or any other combination of plus, minus, and normal development) then you'd have to do three entire runs. Very time consuming, very wasteful of chemicals. Drums and Jobo are good for people who do a lot of processing, not very good IMHO for people like you (and me) who process only a few sheets a month and who develop for different times.

IMHO the ideal method for you is tubes, either the BTZS tubes or make your own. With tubes you can do six negatives at a time, use one ounce of developer per negative, and process for as many different times as you like all in the same run. Everything is done in daylight once the tubes are loaded and to load the tubes you can use a bathroom, closet at night, any place that can be made dark for a few minutes. There have been many posts here explaining in detail how the tubes are used, if you're interested do a search of the archives and then post here again if you still have questions.

13-Apr-2006, 04:28
Actually drums use very little chemicals.

Lets say a Jobo 2551 drum and the 2509N reel. That's just under 600ml of chemicals per run. Using the smaller 2521 tank then it's under 300ml. Same reel. 1 to 6 sheets. But the small tank won't fit a motor base so you need a processor.

The 2830 print drum [8x10] needs 60ml of chemicals. I use one for 8x10 and 5x7. It'll handle 2 8x10 sheets. I've never used it for 4x5. The problem is it needs too little chemicals.

I use a dilute developer so I need more developer then somebody running a different developer. But still the drums are hardly wastefull of chemicals.

Gary Rosenberg
13-Apr-2006, 09:12
Can I use the Jobo Expert 3010 with the unicolor 352 base?

Ed Richards
13-Apr-2006, 12:19
The Jobo only needs about 250ml, unless your developer is so dilute that you need more just to have enough active chemical.

I bought the 3006 figuring 6 sheets would be plenty at a time. Now I want the 3010 - even if you use + and -, they add up, and most shots are normal anyway. When I come back from a shoot with 60 sheets, 6 tanks instead of 10 is very attractive.

Gary Rosenberg
14-Apr-2006, 06:51
I just want to thank everyone who took time helping me understand what I might need. I'm thinking it might be wise to get my "feet wet" by just getting a used unicolor #352 base and a 8x10 print drum and see how things go.