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Thread: Stark SST4 Universal Film & paper Processor Review

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Collinsville, CT USA

    Stark SST4 Universal Film & paper Processor Review

    So the Stark SST4 Universal Film & paper Processor finally arrived on my doorstep via the USPS. Very well packed and with three heavy duty straps around the box. It was shipped in a new box that now looked like it had had a very rough voyage from Germany to Connecticut. Opened up the box and lifted out the unit. Not the JOBO plastic that I expected but heavy duty painted metal... was very pleased. Overall construction more like the old world "built to last", and this is much appreciated by me. At first looked like the shorter model, but when I placed on the processor my largest JOBO 3000 series (11x14 film) tank, it comfortably fit. Moveable rollers and a stop roller to prevent a tank from possibly tracking off the processor on the two rods seem to be a bit a bit of a pain to move to accommodate my 11x14 tank and my 4x5 tanks, but will have to see how they work in practice.

    Upon close inspection the plastic cover had a crack in, 99% sure from it's voyage over here. Little bit of Gorilla Super Glue which cured enough to not hold in place in about 2 minutes. Extra glue easily was removed with the finest steel wool I had. Now even looking at the former crack area close up, looks like 99.9% as new. The free wheeling rod had slipped out of its guide hole. Trip to ACE hardware to get a locking thick washer solved the problem and the free wheeling rod now can't slip out.

    From Amazon bought a uxcell AC-800 Step Up/Down Voltage Converter Transformer 110/120 Volt - 220/240 Volt - 800 Watts(Ring Transformer). 4 5 star reviews. The SST4 consumes 550 watts, so no problem there. All plugs with grounds. The SST4 is rated at 230v, so will first see if it runs OK on the 220v output (was told it would).

    So now where to place the Processor... decided to construct a raised platform which resides inside the sink end opposite the faucet. Usually not in the way 98% of the time when I am using the sink, but when I want to use the whole sink (a row of 16x20 trays), will only take me a minute to remove the Processor and the platform.

    Instruction booklet for the SST4 printed on letter size paper (with a desktop inkjet printer I'd postulate) and only 9!!!! pages long but covers everything. I'd rate it excellent and very consumer friendly. SST4s I assume are hand built and modifications made as production proceeds which are not be noted in the IB... no problem. Green lever unlabeled and not covered in the IB. Was 90% sure the green knob was for the drain but with firm pressure couldn't move/turn it. Finally just carefully applied a lot of pressure and it turned for probably the first time. Had this happen to me with valves sticking the first time the are opened, but after that turn easily and such was the case with this valve.

    Checked the ground in the Step Up transformer and in the body of the SST4 and both checked out OK. The circuit as all the circuits in the darkroom are on GFI circuit breakers.

    Before turning the processor on, you have to adjust 4 rubber rollers that reside on two rods: one rotates the tank and the other rotates freely. Moving them for the first time and they seemed to stick. Moved them a few times and now they can be easily moved and adjusted. Have to figure out what the optimal positions are for my 4x5, 8x10, and 11x14 JOBO expert tanks. Previously using a couple of Unicolor rotating "stands". the tanks could easily creep off the rollers. Not possible with the SST4 as far as I can tell. My darkroom stays between 62 degrees in the winter and 72 degrees in the summer. Using a 68 degree F (20 degree C) water bath may be a bit of an overkill at times but with the cost of a sheet of 11x14" film and processing it, the term "overkill" becomes nil.

    Filled up the processor with the recommended amount of water (I have the longer sized version that requires 30% more water). Turned it on but water did not seem to be coming out of the water bath exit outlet. Had an air lock?. Went back to the IB... sure enough it described a procedure for filling up the pump which I found a bit confusing (in translation?). I just took the hose from my faucet and held it in front of the exit outlet. Turned the water on and pump filled up almost immediately. Then the water circulator worked fine. Seems as though the pump and heater have a safety feature of turning off if there is no water in the pump. Nice safety feature to have.

    So now for actually using the SST4.... Processed B&W sheet film with the SST4 over the past few weeks with zero complications. All controls easy to use. Still have to determine the rotation speed that works best for me. For now am running at the midway setting. Added a long drain hose that stretches along most of the sink and then directly into the sink's drain, instead of using the short hose that came with the SST4 which meant having the water travel spread out for pretty much the full length of the sink. Was a bit worried at first that when the SST4 was drained, because there still was some water left in the pump & heater. But each time I fill up the bath and use the processor, and drain it, the water left there has been replaced. Have decided to drain the pump and heater in the SST4 if it is not going to be used for a few weeks.

    Is the SST4 worth the price?.... hard question for me to answer. Always personally thought that the full size (plastic) JOBOs were way overpriced, but then two fellow photographers bought them, use them, and love them. After using it for a few weeks, well I would buy the SST4 over again in a heartbeat. I do miss tray development in the dark, but now using the SST4 with daylight development banks, I am blessed with free time to read a book or magazine or do something else.

    To keep my chemistry at the correct temperature pre-using it, have constructed a small temp controlled water bath unit which easily accommodates my JOBO chemical bottles.

    Excellent "heavy duty" construction, really impressed
    Simple controls
    Takes a wide variety of processing tanks
    Water bath temperature very accurate, to 1/10 degree C
    No creeping of the tanks, I mean none at all
    SST4 takes up a relatively small footprint
    Adjustable rotation speed from very slow to faster than I would want use.

    Unlabeled drain valve and reset button (neither is shown in Instruction manual)
    120 volt model not available at the time of my purchase
    Setting the temperature of the water bath is done only in (slowly changed) 1/10 degree increments, but for me not a problem since am only processing B&W at a constant 20 degrees C. Wish there was a way to switch from C to F readings.

    Additional comments:

    In the 1980s till around 2000 used a King Concept Image Maker automatic rotary processor for processing E-6. Roll B&W film always processed by hand with SS reels and SS tanks. Only roll film I now use is 120 B&W and mostly in the winter. Now intend on using the SST4 to process my B&W rolls in SS Kindermann tanks.

    Bought the SST4 from CatLABS in Massachusetts (from Omer). Total transaction was done over probably a dozen Emails (I had a lot of questions about the SST4). I can totally recommend dealing with him at CatLAABS. 100% total satisfaction.

    Caveat Comment: Years ago would have definitely went the way of buying a Stark Universal manual processing roller base for $95.00, rigging up a variable speed roller mechanism, constructing a PVC water bath, get a Kodak Precision thermometer, and use my Brinkmann IC-2 water temperature controller. But now to the present... To justify purchasing the SST4, I went through all the Photographic equipment that I have accumulated over the years and sold the items that I hadn't used in many years. Sales covered the purchase of the SST4. So I was able to "transform" the photo equipment that I really didn't use any more into a SST4 which I now use on a weekly basis. This easily justified paying what I did for the SST4.

    If anyone has any questions, please post them, and I will try to answer them in this thread.

    Would appreciate what users of 3000 series tanks are using for rotation speeds. Did a search and recommended tank RPM were all over the place. My developers are Diafine A+B (for scanning to make digital negatives from), Rodinal (for conventional printing), and Ifford PQ developer (print developer) for getting negatives with high enough D-maxs to print Salt prints from.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails SST4.jpg  

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