View Full Version : What film processing method

Dave Saunders
11-Feb-2008, 05:22
I'm just returning to darkroom work after an 18 year gap, I got carried away on the digital bandwagon, and frankly it's rubbish!

When I used to process B/W sheet film for a professional lab we used to use deep tanks, with the film in hangers held in a metal cage and work in the dark. I think they would be a little uneconomical for my own use, with just a few sheets now and again.
What is the method most people use for processing 5x4 film these days?

p.s Iv'e just picked up a De vere 504 for £150, I can't believe how cheap all this stuff is these days.

Thanks in advance

11-Feb-2008, 05:37
Paterson orbital processor with separators - 4 sheets
Job 2509n in Jobo CPE - 4 to 6 sheets

Ben Calwell
11-Feb-2008, 06:08
I process sheet film in trays, shuffling through five at a time. I tried hangers, but had problems with surge.
I've never tried any of the Jobo tanks, which some people like, because they're out of my price range.
If you don't mind standing in total darkness throughout the processing time, trays is the way to go

11-Feb-2008, 07:57
Try the Combi Plan. Robert White sells them. It takes a little time to learn the system but works quite well.

steve simmons
11-Feb-2008, 08:09
In a recent poll here tray processing was one of the most popular methods. In the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site there is a step by step set of instructions on my tray processing procedure.

steve simmons

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Feb-2008, 10:11
If you cannot afford a Jobo, try the BTZS tubes. They are the most reliable way to obtain even negatives without scratches after brush development. I use a Jobo CPP2 with the pro tubes and it works great...I don't know what I am going to do when it craps out.. :)

11-Feb-2008, 10:30
Like the others, I can't say good enough things about the Jobo CPP2 and an expert 3010 drum. Color, black and white, infrared…it does it all very well.

11-Feb-2008, 10:45
I use unicolor drums and motorized roller which are not only cheap but I get better results then with the Jobo 3010 (hand rolled no wonder)?? I used for a while there.

David A. Goldfarb
11-Feb-2008, 11:15
I use trays, the Nikor daylight sheet film tank (only available used these days), and tanks and hangers, depending on what I have to do, what format I'm shooting, etc. If I were only doing a few sheets of 4x5" occasionally, I'd use trays or the Nikor tank.

Glenn Thoreson
11-Feb-2008, 11:29
I use the Unicolor drum and electic roller. They're dirt cheap on ebay and hold 4 sheets of 4X5 with home made spacers or 2 without, 2 of 5X7 or one 8X10. Load it up, fill it, go have a cold one while it does the work. Everything but loading the film is done in daylight. If you go this route, you want the print drum, not the film drum. Sounds weird, but there's a reason.

11-Feb-2008, 12:16
Slosher in a tray is a possibility too

I don't trust myself with not scratching film unprotected in the dark.

Formulary has a couple of items at




Tim Curry
12-Feb-2008, 05:35
Dave, I made some inexpensive development tubes out of 1 1/2" (40mm) black ABS tubing (it is used here in the states for sink drain lines). My preferred method now for most film development is with minimal agitation of semi-stand development. It requires more time, but gives great sharpness and tonality. I'm using a "new" developer called pyrocat-hd which is now comercially available or can be mixed at home.

Currently using efke (adox), tri-x, fp4, foma 200 from time to time and it works well. tim curry, tucson, az.

Michael Kadillak
13-Feb-2008, 16:15
Glad that you had an opportunity to try digital and am happy that you saw the light (no pun intended) and came back to the analog world.

There are many that also are very comfortable recommending JOBO rotary processing for sheet film and while that process works great, I (like many) are concerned that replacement parts to maintain these units are in question going forward.

I feel very strongly that the most viable alternative is what was the industry standard for nearly 40 years - gaseous burst agitation development using inexpensive nitrogen gas. Used parts (plenums, tanks, regulators and interval timers) can be had for a song and it can be accomplished with plentiful Kodak 4A hangers. The process only uses one moving part and you can individually process sheets in one developer run without a hitch.


Ron Marshall
13-Feb-2008, 16:19
I hand-roll a Jobo Expert drum on the $25 Jobo roller-base. It is quick and easy to load film, fill and drain chemistry, and economical in use.

Eric Woodbury
13-Feb-2008, 16:52
I've been using a Jobo expert drum on a non-Jobo base for 13 years. I'm just now trying tubes, similar to BTZS but for 5x7 and from ABS pipe. So far so good.

Maris Rusis
13-Feb-2008, 17:10
Trays. One 8x10 sheet at a time. If there was a slower, more tedious, but better method I would do that instead.

Clay Turtle
13-Feb-2008, 17:46
Trays. One 8x10 sheet at a time. If there was a slower, more tedious, but better method I would do that instead. I have several different means to process but the one I started with was a Jobo universal film dev tank, they are meant for roll film but are alrge enough for (2) 4x5 sheet film just make sure you put the emulsion side toward the center. (emulsion in contact with the container causes streaking) Single sheet is a good way to go especially if you are new & shooting b&w. take both shots (sides) of the film holder then process one sheet if you find you have made an error in exposure then you can adjust by pulling or pushing to the right one. Shooting the same setting twice may seem like a waste but sometimes film may be fogged, etc. If the first one comes out right then you can play with the processing temperature to see how different temperatures effect development.

Paul H
17-Feb-2008, 17:18
You might want to look at the Paterson Orbital (http://www.rogerandfrances.com/photoschool/ps%20how%20orbital.html). Being in the UK, it should be relatively easy to source and at a reasonable price.

It's basically a tray with a light-proof lid. Dead easy to load, & quick fill and empty. You can do four 5x4" or one 10x8" at a time. It only requires minimal chemistry too - 60ml is the stated minimum amount, but I use around 150ml to ensure sufficient develper. You can rotate it by hand, or keep an eye out for the motor base (which some people don't like)

Dave Saunders
18-Feb-2008, 04:10
Thanks all for your help and advice.
I manged to pick up a Dallan stainless steel deep tank that takes 12 sheet at a time. I'm hoping it shouldn't take too much chemical to fill. I'll let you all know how I get on.