View Full Version : Processing advice for newbie

25-May-2006, 02:42
I am kitting myself out for LF and now have the camera, lens, dark slides, etc, etc. I even have some film and I'm just about to start using it!

My camera is a 5x7 Gandolfi, but I'll probably use the 4x5 back to start with so that my mistakes cost me less .

I don't yet have any way of processing the film (B&W) so I've been thinking of using a local lab - do I just hand over exposed film in dark slides or will they expect me to unload the dark slides myself?

I am setting up my darkroom and I've been trying to figure out the best way to process the film myself - I need a system that will be quick to set up and use due to limited time and a Jobo CPA with an Expert drum seems the best way to go. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

All advice gratefully received.

Michael Heald
25-May-2006, 03:52
Hello! I'm a newbie myself. I first started with an old tank that would develop 12 sheets at a time. It was cheap and worked fine. Trouble was, it took 51 ounces of chemicals per shot, so there was no such thing as a one shot developer and I had lots of jugs standing around

I read about the Unicolor developing here on the thread. I bought an 8x10 drum and a roller base. It's wonderful. I now use one shot developing and get I can develop 4 negatives at a time. Everything is very repeatable. I'll be starting to experiment with temperature control using a single incandescent bulb, since temps vary from 68 to 72 degrees depending on the outside temperature, but even without constant temperature control, with B&W, that is hardly an issue (or so I've read!)
Anyway, Unicolor drums and rollerbases pop up on E-bay frequently and are very inexpensive. Best regards.


Ralph Barker
25-May-2006, 06:13
Talk to the lab you plan to use regarding film handling. Most will expect the film to be delivered in a spare film box, but many will be willing to unload your film holders for you, possibly at additional expense. If you go that route, make sure your holders are marked with your name and phone number.

As to processing, I still use trays, and handle the film with care. Many, however, use the Jobo system with great success, too.

MIke Sherck
25-May-2006, 06:54
If your lab is used to processing 4x5 film they might possibly have spare empty 4x5 film boxes laying around. Mine was happy to give me a few when I was starting out (color films; I do B&W myself.) Now, of course, I have stacks of empty film boxes... :)


Brian Ellis
25-May-2006, 08:52
BTZS tubes, available from The View Camera Store and occasionally used on ebay (or make your own tubes from materials available at Home Depot, Lowes, etc.). Advantages vis a vis Jobo: cost less, take up less space, use far less chemicals (1 ounce of developer per sheet with D76 1-1), allow you to process different sheets for different times in the same run. Disadvantages: since the Jobo drums hold up to 10 sheets of 4x5 film and it's not easy to process more than 6 sheets at a time with the tubes (though it cetainly can be done), Jobo is probably better if you typically process a high volume in a single session as long as the film in each run is developed for the same time.

I'd encourage you to learn to process your own film. One of the major advantages of using sheet film is the ability to process different sheets at different times so you can always choose the optimum development time for each photograph. Unlike printing with an enlarger, where you need space for the enlarger, multiple trays, easels, safelights, etc. etc., and also extended periods of darkness, you can load film into a tube or canister while sitting on the floor of a closet at night or you can close off a bathroom for a few minutes. All you need with Jobo or BTZS or a similar system is about five or ten minutes of complete darkness to load the film. After that everything can be done in light.

Brian Ellis
25-May-2006, 09:16
Sorry, in listing advantages of Jobo I should have mentioned the fact that the machine will do the rotation for you, with tubes you rotate by hand. There perhaps are others that I've forgotten since I haven't used a Jobo system in quite a while. My real point wasn't so much to convince you or anyone else that tubes are better than Jobo, only that there are alternatives to Jobo and that whatever method you choose, it isn't difficult to process your own film.

steve simmons
25-May-2006, 09:30
Tray processing has many advantages

cheap, you may already own the trays
you can process several sheets simultaneoulsy but for different times

There is a detailed set of how-to instructions on the View Camera web site.


and then go to Free Articles

steve simmons

Pete Watkins
25-May-2006, 10:33
I started with a roll film back and it saved me a small fortune in film.

Jim Noel
25-May-2006, 16:12
There is no method which approaches the Expert Drum for consistent and very clean results.
SInce you are thinking in this direction, go for it. You will not be sorry.

Ron Marshall
25-May-2006, 16:55
Welcome to LF.

I handroll the Jobo 3010 expert drum on the $20 Jobo roller base for both 4x5 and 5x7. 50 RPM, reverse direction every two turns.

It is simple to load. It is economical with chemicals, development is even and consistent, it is quick to fill and empty. I don't do a presoak with TMX or FP4+ and never have had uneven development. I fill it with 300ml in 7 seconds and drain in 10. I fill it with an ordinary funnel while it is set at an angle.

For 5x7 the 3006 is probably a better choice, but I have never had any 5x7 negs shift. They are often found for reasonable prices on Ebay. I also have the pump to facilitate removal of the tight-fitting lid.

Good luck with whatever system you choose.

Brian Ellis
25-May-2006, 19:58
There is no method which approaches the Expert Drum for consistent and very clean results.

Would you briefly outline the various tests you performed with the Expert drum, tanks, tubes, and trays that form the basis for this statement? Also, an explanation of what "clean" means in this context? Thanks.

26-May-2006, 02:08
Thanks very much to everyone who has replied so far - I'm slightly taken aback at the number of people who have bothered to offer advice!

My previous experience with processing and printing is limited to 35mm hand processing with daylight drums and a makeshift bathroom darkroom.

Now much older with limited time I can afford to spend some money on a system that will be consistent and easy to use but most importantly quick to set up and get going. Until I have more experience I don't think that I'll be experimenting much.

The Jobo Expert drums sound like a good option and it hadn't crossed my mind that you didn't need a Jobo processor to use them! Does anyone else use the Expert drums with a hand roller or with a different motorised roller?

It's not the cost of a Jobo CPA or CPP that is the issue, just that they seem like overkill for B&W and they take up a lot of room.

Thanks again.

26-May-2006, 12:48

I started doing my own 5x4 about a year ago and had the same question initially of where/how to to develop my negs. Picked up a Combi Plan Tank for very cheap which takes 6 sheets of 5x4 film and after putting the lid on you work it like a typical 35mm daylight tank.

So far I haven't had any problems with development, no streaks, marks or uneven development whatsoever.

Got mine second hand from online site secondhanddarkroom or silverprint, but then again if you are going to move on to 5x7 anyway, prob best get something that will do both.


Ron Marshall
26-May-2006, 14:18
If you search the archived postings there are many by people who use the Jobo Expert drums on either the roller base or one of the motorised bases.

Originally I had planned to buy a used motorised base, but turning the drum by hand is so easy that I never bothered. I use D76 1:1, the minimum requirement per sheet at that dilution, from Kodak, is 125 ml, so the most I ever do at a time is seven sheets of 4x5, or three sheets of 5x7. Even with 900 ml it is not difficult to turn. For the other chemicals I use 50 ml/4x5 sheet, with 300 ml minimum.

Ole Tjugen
26-May-2006, 14:23
It's not the cost of a Jobo CPA or CPP that is the issue, just that they seem like overkill for B&W and they take up a lot of room.
I use a CPE-2 with print drums for processing anything from 5x7" to 12x16". Print drums work just fine for film, even slides! It's a special feeling unloading your first self-processed 5x7" slides from the drum...