View Full Version : Stoopid question? Tray developing & timing

Calamity Jane
3-May-2004, 06:37
Ok, I don't see nuthin in the archives 'n' I'm still waiting for my large format books to arrive but my curiosity is killing me.

My 4x5 home-made camera is coming along fine and should be done in a few more days. I made the trip into the city for film (E100G & HP5, no 100 Delta available) and chemicals (E-6 is out of stock, but got developer for B&W), and I've been cleaning the junk out of the darkroom (which hasn't been used in a few years and became a convenient place to park stuff).

Now, being from a medium format background (120), I've only ever processed films in daylight tanks, which works good because you can use a tempering bath with E-6 and not use up the whole counter space. You can also have all the chemicals lined up and tempered and YOU CAN READ the process sheet, the thermometer and the timer.

If'n yer processing sheet film in open trays, #1 - you can't read the process sheet so you have to remember where you are and which step is next. #2 - you can't read a timer in the dark, #3 - you can't read a thermometer in the dark

Am I missing something here or have LF darkroom folks got fantastic memories and a great sense of time and temperature?

puzzled newbie

Garry Teeple
3-May-2004, 06:41
When I started tray developing I used a radio tuned to WWV (the time station) in Colorado, it got very annoying. I then built a cover for a kitchen timer that is lit by a dimmed green LED. I can read the timer but there is no light in the room that can be seen by me or the film.

3-May-2004, 06:51
You're not going to try E-6 in trays are you? You're a better person then me.

Timer? Electronic kitchen timer that beeps? No need to worry about temperture when the lights go out for B&W. It's not like the temperture is going to wildly change during the course of the processing. Steps? Just move from left to right the same way you do with paper. You can get kitchen timers that are so cheap that three won't cost that much. Or you could use a glow in the dark Gralab 300. Stand between it and the trays and I doubt it's going to reach the film.

It's always Developer,stop,fix. No real worry about getting lost.

Leonard Evens
3-May-2004, 06:55
I wouldn't advise doing E-6 or any color processing in open trays. The chemicals will get to you, and it will be difficult if not impossible to control temperature and standardize on timing. You would be better off using tubes. Inexpensive ones made by Unicolor or Beseler can be found regularly on ebay, and you can buy specially made ones from BTZS (Beyond the Zone System). There are also the various Jobo systems. You should also be able to find descriptions of home made tubes on the web.

Steve Simmons in Using the View Camera gives a pretty good description of how to process sheet film in trays.

Darkroom timers designed for processing, such as the Gralab, have phosphorescent markings. You can also buy magnetic tape with a phosphorescent layer and cut it to indicate timing points on the timer. The amount of light produced this way is insignificant. It won't affect your film or paper, and it is quite easy to read in the dark. I did color processing using such tools for many years. I haven't bought such things for many years, but I would be surprised if they were not available from one of the big suppliers of darkroom equipment. I also used the phosphorescent tape to mark tables and stools and to prevent bumping into them in the dark.

steve simmons
3-May-2004, 07:04
There is a step by step description of tray processing in the Free Articles section of our web site


steve simmons

Donald Miller
3-May-2004, 07:34
I have found that tube development has afforded more even development and less film damage then tray processing on black and white. I have used both shuffling of sheets of film and brush development of single sheets in trays but tubes seem to work better for me. I use a Zone VI compensating timer (calumet) this timer has a probe that compensates for fluctuations in developer temperature for both film and paper. It also has a "real time" selection that I use when toning prints.

There has been information posted on the Azo forum about various development techniques including tubes. (www.michaelandpaula.com)

Jim Ewins
3-May-2004, 10:21
I use a tape recording, on which I have recorded the minutes, 10 seconds after the minute for agitation and 45 secs so I'm ready to start agitation on the minute mark. Tray placement in my sink indicates which solution is there. I do set my graylab (covered with a box) to ensure I don't exceed the time if there is a malfunction with my recorder. Its all in the mind anyway. Enjoy.

Calamity Jane
3-May-2004, 13:27
A tape recorder? BRILLIANT! (Why didn't I think of that?)

Michael Veit
3-May-2004, 13:59
I use my watch. It's got tiny little glow in the dark ends on the hands and I just stick it close to the light bulb and pump those suckers up 'til they're ready to pop before turning off the lights -- good enough for 20 minutes or longer.

3-May-2004, 15:03
I did my first two sheets in open trays. That got old pretty quick. The solution? A Jobo CPE processor. Handles temperature control and agitation, and can be run with the lights on. Brilliant.

If you're only doing 4x5, you can get a "daylight" tank for 4x5, I believe Yankee makes one. SOme have complained of the drain time, and suggest dousing the lights, removing the top, and then pouring out and in, replacing the top, and turning the lights back on. A foot-switch for the lights would be good in this case.

3-May-2004, 19:35

i think i lub yew. marry me?

nope, i'm not moving to canada,


Steve Feldman
4-May-2004, 14:48

As a matter of fact, you're not missing anything here. LF darkroom folks do have fantastic memories and a great sense of time and temperature.

As always, your mileage may vary.


Darin Cozine
4-May-2004, 17:37
If tray processing works for you, thats fine. If you can controll the temp of your darkroom, then set the thermostat to a few degrees higher than the chemistry. You can test this with trays of water and adjust so that the 'room temp' of the water is the correct temp for developing.

Stay away from the yankee/fr tanks. Most people have good luck with the combiplan or nikkor tanks, but E-6 may be inconsistant. Another good choice is the uniroller system.

If you want to do E-6 and have the money for a jobo, dont hesitate to get one.

Christopher Nisperos
5-May-2004, 15:18
I agree with Darin. Get an HP CombiTank or the Jobo system. If you can afford 4x5 Ektachrome, you can afford these tanks. Why go through the hassle of "blind" tray processing, sticking your hands into nasty chemicals, counting one-potatoe/two-potatoe till a million, etc. Relax and enjoy your hobby!

Calamity Jane
6-May-2004, 10:05
Thanks fellas - I bought a HP Combi and it's somewhere en route now.

Even if it isn't the best option, I am comfortable with daylight tanks and figured it's a good place to start.