View Full Version : Suggestions for 4x5 Development in an Apartment

21-Mar-2010, 08:36
Initially, I had thought about selling off my 4x5 after the demise of Fuji's Quickloads. But decided against it and have gotten my cut film and film holders etc.

But now, with photo labs that develop 4x5's getting harder and harder to find, I'd like to learn how to develop my own B&W 4x5 Negs.

Downside is that I live in an apartment and have limited area to work with.

I have considered something like the Jobo CPE-2 Plus Processor, but it is no longer available at B&H Photo and others.

Another downside is that I've never developed anything before, so I'm in need of suggestions for chemicals, or where I can go to get a list of things needed?

Any suggestions?

Joanna Carter
21-Mar-2010, 08:46
You don't need a processing machine for B&W. The cheapest and easiest way to develop film is to get a CombiPlan tank, which takes 6 sheets at a time. It does take 1 litre of chemistry to fill it but you can reuse most developers about 3-4 times without too much problem.

Chemistry is one of those "personal" things. I use Ilford DD-X developer, along with Ilfostop stop bath (not essential) and Ilford Rapid Fixer.

If you have a totally light-tight room, you can load the tank in there, otherwise, you might like to consider getting a Calumet Changing Room (http://www.calumetphoto.co.uk/item/RM1000/) changing tent.

21-Mar-2010, 08:51
Jobo makes a tank that holds 6 negatives in a spiral, it uses a lot of chemistry (1500ml) but you do not need a processor. I develop them by inversion and it works perfectly. It is the Jobo 2500.

21-Mar-2010, 09:32
What mcfactor said. Also, when diluting the developer for one-shot, the total volume in the tank does not make much difference. You are going to need the same amount of developer concentrate irrespective of inversion or rotary processing.

brian mcweeney
21-Mar-2010, 09:37
Hey Robert, I sent you an e-mail.

21-Mar-2010, 09:55

See this message posted by Eugene some time ago.....


Peter York
21-Mar-2010, 10:30
A cheap and good option is a unicolor drum and roller. See http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/

I found a drum and roller at the local used camera store for a whopping $2.


21-Mar-2010, 11:32
Before you get into rollers and orbitals, try it this way:

21-Mar-2010, 12:07
Christopher - could you give us the specifics of what you have there please?

I also have limited space and would like to keep it simple.



21-Mar-2010, 12:38
Developing film is pretty easy. It just takes some minor attention to detail, sort of like grilling a steak. You have to pay attention to the temperatures and time and flipping to get the results you've visualized.

I use the combiplan tank. You'll also need a non-mercury thermometer, funnel, a couple 1 qt measuring containers for chemicals, 1+ gallon clean plastic bucket for mixing chemicals, some jugs for the chemicals (I use 2&3 qt juice bottles because of the wide neck, just don't leave them where someone might help themselves!)

Developing film in a tray is a valid method, especially if you have unique development requirements for each negative, but I like the efficiency of putting 6 sheets in at the same time for equal development in daylight.

I have a darkroom instead of a changing bag/tent. There are nice guides online already to show how to load film into holders, etc...

Larry Gebhardt
21-Mar-2010, 19:19
I used a changing tent and combiplan for several years in the kitchen sink. Works very well, and needs very little space. Recently I have gone back to the the combiplan from the jobo so I don't wear it out on simple to do black and white.

21-Mar-2010, 20:56
I use the "film taco" method so I can develop 4x5 in my 120 tanks in the bathroom with the lights on, and it is very cost effective (I read about this on a photo.net post a while back). I live in a NY studio apartment with a tiny bathroom.

Here's my take on the taco method and developing in a small apt:

Go a hardware store and got that grey plastic window screen, about a yard or so. Cut it up so that you can make little tubes or "tacos". The key is to make it so that the film rolls up in there but does not overlap. Emulsion side towards the inside. I think the screen cost me almost $4 :) Sew up the tacos with normal thread.

Then, put 4 to 6 loaded "tacos" in a double height 120 tank (what you would normally use for 2 120 reels). I hold all that down under the level of the developer with a 35mm reel, and to keep the reel from crushing the negatives, I made a little "T" out of 2 chopsticks and a rubber band (see the attached pic for all of this).

Develop as you would for the film in 120 (i.e. agitate every minute or whatever you would do for roll film).

To keep temperature, I went to home depot and got a big clear plastic rubbermaid storage bin that fits in the tub. Then I went to an aquarium store and got a fish tank heater. Then just get some plastic beakers for chemicals and a large syringe or two and you are in business.

I think the total for all of the above was less than $100.

Also, get yourself a Calumet changing tent; I think they are the best for the money (at least that I found). I found that a changing bag just droops over your hands while you are trying to unload holders and load the tacos.

The only downside to this method is that it uses a lot of chemical (where you could develop 20 6x7 frames, you are only getting 4 to 6 4x5 frames.) Maybe the Jobo is better on low chem usage, I don't know. Overall, however, development has been perfectly even and no scratches.

Oh yeah: I put my supplies and chemical concentrates in one of those pet food holders that seals so the food stays fresh (I think I have a 10 gallon one). That keeps my cats out of it and keeps the stop concentrate from smelling up my place.

I also use a piece of string from my shower head to the opposite end of the shower curtain rod to dry film on, and I use those black metal office clips to hang the film with... haven't had any problems (the film is thoroughly washed by then anyhow).

FWIW, I also saw a post a while back where someone built themselves a platform that straddles their tub out of an old door or piece of plywood. It's wide enough for 3 11x14 trays so they could develop 8x10. I think he hung a thick curtain over the door frame so it was totally dark in there (with the tank + changing tent, I never have to have a "dark room").

I am just getting into 8x10, so I am watching this thread to see what other ideas pop up. I think that an 8x10 taco would overlap too much and or use too much chemical. Maybe it's time to finally learn how to tray develop, or bite the bullet for a jobo that can do 8x10 :) I am kind of proud of my ghetto setup, however...

Jim Graves
22-Mar-2010, 00:49
I also have very little space. You do not need one of the Jobo machines ... only a hand or electric roller and a Jobo drum.

For a year I used a "Yankee" tank in the laundry sink. Too messy, too much chemistry, and uneven development on the edges.

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Jobo 3005 drum and Beseler electric roller ... I couldn't be happier. It sits on my washing machine next to the sink. The Jobo 3005 develops everything from 4x5 to 8x10 ... 5 negs at a time. And, before you say I only do 4x5 ... just remember, that's exactly what I said and thousands before me. I still shoot mostly 4x5 but also do whole plate and 8x10 now for contact printing and alternative processes ... the Jobo 3005 with roller does them all.

The rotary process also reduces the amount of chemistry you use (over the tanks) and is very convenient. Tank and tray processing is much more fiddly. And while the Jobo 3005 seems expensive ... when you get one and see it you will understand why they charge what they do ... and you really can't beat the convenience ... I would never go back.

22-Mar-2010, 03:55
I can heartily recommend trying to source a Paterson Orbital. It takes up very
little room and uses very little chemicals. I develop with 8ml of developer and 142ml of water and that will work for four sheets. I use similar quantities of stop and fixer. I love it! Have had a couple of developing malfunctions but I'm to blame on those occasions.

I actually love the development process. It just feels like I'm creating a piece of art more so than downloading images from a memory card. I think for me this is the big difference between shooting digital and shooting film. The actual end product - something physical in your hands you can show off and say that you actually made. Love it!

Doremus Scudder
22-Mar-2010, 06:14
I am an advocate of tray processing, especially if space is at a premium.

My tiny (fortunately windowless) bathroom in my Vienna apartment still has just enough counter space for three 5x7 trays. I use a fourth tray sitting somewhere else for the presoak and keep the sink full of tempered water for rinsing after fixing.

Despite the bad press tray developing gets, it is still, in my opinion, the simplest, most flexible, most even, and most reliable method of developing sheet film. However, like all simple tools, it requires greater skill than an automated method. You need to develop your film-handling skills to ensure you don't scratch negatives; this is the biggest risk in tray processing.

Once you have practiced with scrap film in the light and then with your eyes closed a few times, however, you should be able to tray develop without a problem. There are lots of posts here and elsewhere on agitation and shuffling methods (some from me :-)), so you should have no trouble researching the topic.

What I like about tray developing is that the required equipment is small in both size and number, has no moving parts and works for any film, any developer, any time, etc. The trays take up little room processing and even less stored.

As for chemicals, you will need developer, stop, and fix as well as a wetting agent. There are liquid concentrates of all of these that come in relatively small containers, which minimizes space needed for chemical storage. I use PMK, but would recommend HC-110 or another liquid concentrate developer to start, used one-shot. You can mix the working solution straight from the concentrate, thus saving chemical storage space as well. I use graduated syringes for measuring small amounts of developer concentrate. For stop I use a standard indicator stop bath and mix 500ml at a time. This lives in a 500ml brown storage bottle (the only solution that has a separate storage bottle) till it begins to change color, at which time a new batch is mixed. For fix, I usually use a liquid rapid fix (Ilford Rapid Fix is my current). I usually mix just enough for a given batch of film, so I don't have to store it (no extra bottle to store, although, you could save 500ml of fix and use it till its capacity was reached). I save up at least 12 sheets of film and develop in batches, so I can mix 500ml of fix and not be wasting too much capacity by tossing the fix.

The largest thing I have is a homemade film washer which consists of a plastic tub in which I have installed dividers to hold 12 sheets. This has holes drilled in the bottom and simply sits in a larger tub. Water enters from the top, exits throught the bottom of the small tub and out over the edge of the larger tub. This keeps water on the film when the water is off. Washing is done in the sink or in the tub. While the film is washing, I wash the fixer tray and fill it with distilled water and a wetting agent. The film goes here after washing and is then hung on clothespins from a line over the tub.

Of course, you can wash film in trays by shuffling and changing water, but I find this tedious.

All my film-developing things take up very little room when "deployed" and need only one shelf for storage.

Hope this helps,

Doremus Scudder

Robert Hughes
22-Mar-2010, 09:39
Tray processing works for me. :)

22-Mar-2010, 10:28
Film Depot in Richardson has a Paterson Orbital with the manual base for sale. I picked up the other one they had and the motor base a couple weeks back. The one they have is missing the little red pins, but you could improvise easily enough.

Robbie Shymanski
22-Mar-2010, 11:10
Tray processing is the way. It's cheap. Very old school. And I have to say, very relaxing. You just need a bathtub. Trays are a couple bucks. Turn on some music. Pour yourself a whisky and sit in the dark for 15 minutes.

22-Mar-2010, 12:24
Pour yourself a whisky and sit in the dark for 15 minutes.

Just make sure you can tell the difference between the glass of whisky and the developer! :D

Robbie Shymanski
22-Mar-2010, 12:41
The condensation around the glass is usually the giveaway.

Ken Lee
22-Mar-2010, 13:08
Plastic Containers for Sheet Film Development: http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/devtray.html (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/devtray.html)

With Christopher's method, one container is all you need. You pour out one solution, and pour in another.

Dish Rack Film Washer: http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/dishrack.html

22-Mar-2010, 14:14
... one container is all you need. You pour out one solution, and pour in another...
The freezer containers have a depression round the bottom edge which lets you pour out the bath-water and not the baby - with dry fingers. They come in all the right formats. There should be a third cup for plain water no-stop rinse if you don't trust holding the thing under the tap in the dark. One sheet at a time though - which makes for pondered shooting. All my recent 4x5's are done this way.

Joanna Carter
22-Mar-2010, 14:28
The condensation around the glass is usually the giveaway.
Only if you spoil a good whiskey with ice. :rolleyes:

Ken Lee
22-Mar-2010, 17:27
Oh - I almost forgot: an Infra Red Viewing Device. Good bye darkness, Hello... everything.

See http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/index.html#Monocular

It's amazing how much easier it is when you can see everything you do. No risk of knocking things over in cramped quarters.

I used mine for years in my tiny spare bathroom "darkroom". You can pour chemistry, read instructions, even pick up dropped items (or better still, not drop them in the first place) in the dark.

Jim Graves
22-Mar-2010, 22:02
That's the trouble with tray processing ... it has to be dark ... I have no where to do that ... thus the Jobo 3005 and Beseler roller.

25-Mar-2010, 19:34
Thanks to all who have assisted me with 4x5 Development in my Apartment. I took all into consideration and my Darkroom equipment is expected to arrive tomorrow! (Whooohooo!)

25-Mar-2010, 21:09
Yeah? What's ya gettin? Let's hear it!

26-Mar-2010, 21:06
I received:
HP Combi 4 x 5" Sheet Film Developing Tank
Ilford tec DD-X Developer
Ilford stop Stop Bath (Liquid) for Black & White
Ilford Rapid Fixer (Liquid) 1 Liter
Ilford tol Wetting Agent (Liquid)
Bamboo Print Tongs

and other odd's and ends for developing etc.

1000ml Bottles
Mixing Cups of various sizes
Film clips for hanging/drying
Plastic Graduate - 1.7oz(50ml)

Anything I miss?

Gem Singer
27-Mar-2010, 03:11
Hi Rm,

Looks like you have the right stuff to get started.

You can even use the bamboo print tongs in case you want to eat sushi in the


30-Mar-2010, 10:34
I've been processing 4x5" E-6 in a cibachrome print drum on an ilford motor base for the last couple weeks, and it works pretty well for daylight processing. However, I'd like a bit more flexibility, and I've wanted some NVGs, so I took Ken's advice and just ordered some. I'll report back on the results when they arrive :)