View Full Version : Help a Newbie w/Equipment

6-Sep-2009, 18:04
Howdy Folks,

I have been lurking in the shadows trying to piece together some of the information when it comes to developing film.

For the present I would like to get together the hardware for processing 120 film and 4x5 film.

I'm looking for opinions for developing tanks and associated equipment. There seems to be a lot of information on the chemicals and their effects on the medium. However, I can't find much data on equipment and the operational characteristics, pro's/cons, etc.

Thanks for getting me started!


6-Sep-2009, 18:38
Do check the archives here. For processing, people advocate trays, drums, tanks, and every sort of option. It depends on what you are comfortable and consistent with, and can maintain a proper temperature with.

For 120 I have patterson reels. For 4x5 I have done both tray and the HP combiplan tanks (and my preference is for the tanks for 4x5)

In addition the containers, you'll need a measuring container (graduated cylinder), funnel, and a good thermometer (dial or digital), a way to dry the finished work, and a system for storing the processed film.

MIke Sherck
6-Sep-2009, 18:53
For roll film (120, 35mm, etc.) the standard low-volume processor is a suitable tank and reels onto which the film is wound. For 120 (and 220) format film your choices would be stainless steel reels or plastic reels, and stainless steel or plastic tanks. Vintage tanks work exactly the same as new ones, so long as they aren't cracked, and used reels are usually all right, unless they're steel and were dropped at some point in the past, in which case you might have difficulty loading the film onto them. Loading film onto either type of reel takes practice, so as most of us did, sacrifice a roll of out-of-date or otherwise compromised film to practice loading it in daylight, before you try it in the dark.

Sheet film has more options. Right off the top, Jobo semi-automatic processors have lots of fans, but are fairly expensive. Then there are BZTS tubes and several other alternatives for rolling the negatives around, hangers into which you fit your negatives (in the dark) and deep tanks into which you dunk batches of hangers filled with film, and finally the simplest option, open trays. All are various trade-offs between convenience, cost, and risk of scratching of negatives or uneven development. There is no, I repeat NO, concensus on any "best" solution: each one has vocal adherents who swear by dozens of decades of successful use, as well as detractors who, it seems, can't get them to work properly.

My advice? Find someone locally who is willing to "show you the ropes", so to speak, and do what they're happy with. If you want to try alternative methods later, go ahead.

Remember, though, that one of the acknowledged masters of the medium, Edward Weston, processed his 8x10 sheet film one film at a time, in trays, by inspection. A contemporary, Ansel Adams, used completely different methods. Both methods worked for their users.

Personally, I use trays. Cheap, efficient, very easy to give different negatives personalized processing all in the same batch, and it works for me, after a bit of practice. Your mileage may vary. :)

6-Sep-2009, 19:11
Thanks for the quick responses.

Question: Is there any equipment that can do both 120 and 4x5 films?

Please keep the data coming.



6-Sep-2009, 19:19
For rollfilm, the most consistent method is stainless steel tanks and reels; you can also process 35mm with 120/220 in the same tank.
As for 4x5, I've continued in the daylight processing vein, and used a JOBO system of plastic tanks and reels, rolling by hand in a half-full sink of water. Very good and consistent results, much more so than the Yankee or Combi-Plan tanks.
Does JOBO permit processing of 4x5 with other formats in the same tank? I don't know what the configuration would be, but it must surely exist, and someone on this board surely knows that answer.
Good luck.

Brian Ellis
6-Sep-2009, 19:42
For many years I used and liked the BTZS tubes for 4x5 (and 8x10). www.the view camerastore.com. Once the film is loaded everything is done in light, the tubes used only 2 ounces of chemicals per sheet, and I got very even development without ever having a scratch.

For 120 I used Paterson tanks and plastic reels. I found them much easier to load than stainless steel which I also used for quite a long time before a photography instructor suggested the Paterson system.

I don't offhand know of anything that does both 120 and 4x5 but I'm sure there must be something, perhaps one of the Jobo systems or a dip-'n-dunk type tank.

6-Sep-2009, 21:02
Newbie here also.

Try trays at first. I thought about others long and hard.

I can do 1 sheet at a time to develop my skill and technique.
Then I started doing a few more at a time when confidence grew.

Now after about 150 sheets of 4x5 I think i have a decent handle on it.

Yesterday I had some problems, with tray system I was able to do single sheets easy and figure it out.

Then again, experts here will figure problems out with sophisticated setups and have an answer.

I hope to move up to advanced setups, then again I might stick to trays forever.
Try, try try is my moto of the day.

6-Sep-2009, 21:29
Thanks for the quick responses.

Question: Is there any equipment that can do both 120 and 4x5 films?


Yes, the Jobo 2500-series (http://www.jobo.com/web/2500-Series-Tanks.337.0.html) tanks have plastic reels for 35mm, 46mm, 120/220 (same reel, the 2502, for all 3, different click-stops for the distance between the grooved parts) and 4x5"/9x12cm (same idea, two different positions for the ends). I like the 2500's for 4x5, but found the 2502 reel too fiddly for 35mm or 120 to load easily, but with practice I could no doubt get better. I found some 1500-series tanks used at the local camera shop, and got the Hewes stainless steel reels for 35mm or 120, which I found easier to load than the plastic. They don't make the SS reels for the 2500-series.

What bugged me about the 2502 reel is that it doesn't seem to really click and stay in any one position, so the two ends don't stay put while I'm trying to get the film loaded. If I could find enough used 2502 reels cheap enough, I suppose I could super-glue them into the correct position. My local camera store can develop 35mm or 120 B&W quickly and cheaply enough that if I have more than 1 roll to develop and/or am not in a hurry, I'll just drop it off and pay the $5/roll for develop-only.

The 2509N reel (for 4x5 or 9x12) really does click and stay in place for either of the two positions. I think they expect you to never change from one format to another.

Used tanks and reels are plentiful and, unless abused, are as good as new.


David Karp
6-Sep-2009, 22:58
Try the Patterson tanks and reels for 120 and you won't ever want to use anything else. For 4x5, if you have a darkroom or can make a room into one, make a slosher and develop in trays. Search this forum for slosher.

Tray processing is the best (in my opinion) and the slosher allows you to do it without ever scratching a neg.