View Full Version : 8x10 film - tray developing questions

3-Dec-2009, 11:40
Please bear with me, I'm 'almost a virgin' in the darkroom.
When kodak says Xtol diluted 1:1 is for one time use what does that mean? I tray develop 4 sheets at a time typically. This time I have quite a few sheets of film to process so the question is this: since Kodak recommends 100ml of full strength developer per 80 square inches (one sheet) and assuming I use 3L of 1:1 solution in an 11x14 tray I should be able to develop up to 15 sheets (I figure 12 to be safe) - but does Kodak's 'one time use' mean I have to trash the developer after the first four sheets - or does it just mean that the solution can't be stored for re-use at a later date? Does the 1:1 solution stay viable over a three to four hour period?
Is 3L in an 11x14 tray enough? Previously I've used 1 gallon (as recommended by Simmons) but I've seen where others mention 2.5 to 3L for an 11X14 tray. I agitate bottom to top with up to four sheets.
I seem to take about five seconds to move a sheet from the bottom of the stack to the top - is this about right for a stack of four sheets with continuous agitation for the duration of the development time?
At some point in the future I will probably look at drum development because of the apparent frugality of chemical use, but for now I'm concentrating on improving my tray developing techniques.
I appreciate any input from you all. This forum has been a gold mine of information and encouragement in getting me started with large format photography
-- an itch I finally scratched after many years.

MIke Sherck
3-Dec-2009, 12:32
A. "One time use" means that you use the developer once, then dispose of it. In your case, process as many sheets of film as you believe the developer has capacity for, then dump the developer: it's all used up. If you don't have enough film to use the developer to capacity, dump what's left over when you're done and don't try to save it. With some developers at some dilutions you can add fresh developer to the used and keep on working, but this isn't one of those cases.

B. I'm having trouble visualizing the volume of fluid 3 liters in an 11x14 tray would be. I like to have at least an inch of fluid in the tray when I'm processing film, and more is better. Too little fluid promotes scratches. I realize that everyone and their brother recommends using a tray one size larger than your film and I'm no one to say otherwise, but I use 8x10 trays for all of 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 developing and don't notice any issues, especially edge effects, for which I inspect specifically. Must be my good luck!

C. The time it takes to move a sheet of film isn't really critical but with 8x10 film I tend to take about 30 seconds to go through a stack of four sheets and rotate the stack 90 degrees. So long as you aren't rushing things (and thereby promoting scratches,) you should be fine.

Good luck!

tom north
3-Dec-2009, 12:52

As a basic rule I never reuse developer, it's cheap. What is important is to develope a consistant method that works and stick to it, every time. This is also true for tray developing. I use the A.Adams technique outlined in "The Negative" and get consistant results with no damage.


3-Dec-2009, 14:33
Thanks for the input guys. It sounds like as long as I stay within the maximum number of sheets a given quantity of developer is rated for I can run multiple sets of four sheets through it in one session in the darkroom - then what's left over gets tossed regardless of whether it's capacity is used up or not. I filled an 11x14 tray with 3L and 1 gallon as soon as I read your post Mike and interestingly the depths were 1" and 1 1/4" respectively so I guess I'm in the ballpark. A. Adams' recommendation is "a reasonably large volume of developer" which becomes obvious after a certain level of experience is attained but it sure helps having a hard number to start with. I must say you are the first I have heard to admit to using an 8x10 tray for 8x10 film - if I had any trays that size I would try it - sure would reduce the amount of solution used - though I suppose it would also reduce the quantity of film you could process....Jeez, I'm getting a headache!

3-Dec-2009, 14:44
I think 3000 ml is plenty. XTOL comes in a bag to make 5 liters of stock solutions. If you could get away with 2500 ml of working solution then you could get 4 batches out of the 5 liters of stock solution and be more economical. Experiment with water and scrap film to see if 2500 ml is enough for your methods. That would give you enough developer to do 12 sheets in a batch which is quite a bit of 8x10 film.

Doremus Scudder
4-Dec-2009, 06:05

My experience is with 4x5 only, but the principles should still apply :-)

Reusing developer in the way you suggest will likely result in the last batch receiving less development than the first, since the developer is approaching "exhaustion." I would shoot a couple identical negatives and include one in the first and one in the last batch through your developer as a test.

Maybe you will get lucky and the two negatives will match (then you are home free). What you will probably find, I suspect, is that there the negative from the last batch will be weaker than its twin from the first batch. This can be corrected by progressively adding time for successive batches in order to maintain the level of development attained with fresh developer. This you could test out with a little work. As long as you don't exceed the capacity, this method, once calibrated, should work well.

Alternatively, you could use your developer at a higher dilution and at a correspondingly longer developing time in a truly one-shot fashion and have easy consistency and repeatability while still being thrifty with chemicals. I'm not sure if Xtol works well when diluted at, say 1+3 or more, however, so you'll have to research that a bit if you are considering this.

Another possibility would be to develop more sheets, say 6 instead of four, and increase efficiency that way. It depends on how dexterous you are...

As for agitation, I try for once through the stack every 30 seconds for the first half of the developing time and once through every minute for the last half. With four sheets that means one "flop" every 7.5 seconds for the first half. If you are comfortable agitating at 5 seconds a flop, you could probably easily do 6 sheets at a time. (BTW, it is more consistent to agitate once through the stack in a given time and adjust the time between shuffles depending on the number of negatives you are developing.)

Hope this helps,


Doremus Scudder

Maris Rusis
4-Dec-2009, 15:47
Having to throw away diluted Xtol is a waste. That's why I always use the stock solution neat and replenish at the rate of 90ml per 8x10 sheet.

Seven years since I first mixed it the "original" one litre bottle is still going strong and it has done hundreds of sheets/rolls in that time.

Diluting Xtol is a death sentence for it whether it is used or not.