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Thread: What to Buy for Film Processing

  1. #1
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    What to Buy for Film Processing

    So far just this month I've spent about $100 for film processing. That includes mailing for 4x5 sheets and dry plates. I think the charge was $2.50 per sheet. I think I'm finally at the point where it might be cheaper for me to learn how to do it myself? I've always been a little intimidated by it, but it just can't be that hard. In order of quantity here's what I shoot: FP4 4x5, HP5 4x5, Lane plates 4x5, 5x7 FP4, 5x7 Lane plates, Portra 400 4x5 (will switch to Ektar 4x5), and rolls of FP4 & HP5 in 120, 35mm, 127. Yeah, it's a lot of formats, but 4x5 is probably 90% of it. So, what method? I'm leaning towards the SP445 tank because it's simple and uses small amounts of chemistry. I would do 4x5 sheets in it. I'm aware it can do plates too, but I think I'm better off tray developing those so I can get the best exposure out of them. They're expensive and the exposure isn't so precise so doing them one at a time in a tray seems to me to be the way to go. I have the reels/tanks for 120-35mm--127 but don't do enough of it to mess with it right away. I don't shoot much color film and don't want to mess with it at all. So, I guess I'm looking at processing 4x5 FP4, HP5, and plates only, to start with.

    I have no idea what chemicals to get. I want something simple that's hard to screw up, and repeatable. I'm mostly after a more vintage look but that's secondary to "simple." I sometimes do push HP5 to ISO 800 but if that adds much difficulty I could continue to send it out. This will be done in my bathroom, which is very dark at night. I have a red safe light already for loading the plates. I'm wanting to know what chemicals I need and any other equipment (such as thermometer, timer, etc.) Considering I'm paying $2.50 + shipping for processing now, am I really going to save that much money? My main frustration isn't money, it's the 1 to 2 week turn around on getting my negatives back. Any suggestions? Is there a video on YouTube or somewhere that is really good?

    I think I'll start with film processing with the SP4455, move to dry plates in a tray, then 5x7 sheet film & plates. Is there a chemical that can do both film & plates?


    Kent in SD
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  2. #2
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    The sp445 is probably fine for 4x5, I use a combiplan which is similar idea. Some summer yardsale or c-list you can pick up trays and tanks for rollfilm.

    D-76 or a concentrated liquid equivalent is pretty good developer. Photographers formulary would be a good place to shop for that. If you are feeling adventurous, some pyrocat hd liquid concentrate in glycol.
    Water for stop bath.
    TF4 or TF5 for fixer, no need for fixer remover.
    some people use a dilute photoflo. I use a final rinse in distilled water with a splash of rubbing alcohol. (might skip that for plates)

    I ship out color film for processing and stick to just B&W at home.

  3. #3

    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    There is Ilford's guide to processing your first film at home, and there's a copy of Henry Horenstein's Basic B&W Photography manual online, which goes into some detail about processing film in a later chapter.

    To process your own film you'll need 1) Developer, 2) stop bath, 3) fixer, and (ideally) 4) photo-flo or some other surfactant (to avoid water drops drying on the film). The cost of chemistry is relatively small and you can definitely save money over shipping film out to be labbed for you. the Sp445 will make processing 4x5 sheets easy, but the initial cost of the tank is significant for someone on a budget. It will definitely add the convenience factor of being able to work in daylight (once loaded) but you're going to shell out approximately $96 USD to get one. The film processing chemistry can be had for about 1/3 of that price and it will develop a lot of sheets of film, so the chemistry itself isn't the expensive part. The cost of mailing your film back and forth is a significant expense, and I think you'll find doing it at home is far less costly once you have the tools to do it.

    Finally, its hard to put a price on being able to shoot a few sheets of film, process them at home, and scan or print them in the same day. That alone is worth investing in home processing.

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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by paulbarden View Post

    Finally, its hard to put a price on being able to shoot a few sheets of film, process them at home, and scan or print them in the same day. That alone is worth investing in home processing.
    My main motivation. If I can see whether or not I got the shot, I can sometimes go back the next day and reshoot if I screwed up. The ease of processing (SP445) outweighs its cost. I'm taking a long term view here.


    Kent in SD
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  5. #5

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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    I think the SP445 is the way to go, I have the MOD54, and if I was starting over I would go with the SP445 (the MOD54 is really hard to load in a changing bag). The main advantage of the MOD54 is it fits inside a Paterson 3 reel tank, if you have one laying around.
    I am definitely on the water stop bath and tf4 or 5 for fixing train, it makes the whole process so much simpler. As for developers my stand bys are D-76 and Rodinal. D-76 gives a much flatter image thats ready for tweaking (is your process mostly digital post?). Rodinal is more contrasty, but is usually closer to my vision from the start. Something else that I think is a plus for rodinal is that you mix up just as much as you need fresh every time. Because it's not sitting for a long time reacting with impurities in the water, I usually just mix it up with tap (I know, I'm bad), but I don't do that with D-76, as I'm not sure how it would affect longevity. I also strongly recommend photoflo for anything over 135, as it seems to really reduce spotting on larger formats.
    As for color, it's not quite as hard as everyone makes it out to be with all the kits out there, you just have to keep the chems hot instead of cold. Or you can do it at room temperature with stand development. Something to play with down the line, perhaps.
    There's nothing more exciting than waiting to see your film after your final rinse (or photoflo), you're going to have a lot of fun, and there's something special about an image you did yourself start to finish.

  6. #6

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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    Good advice and links above. To add my two cents...I'm getting good results with Ilfosol 3 (1+9 dilution) processing individual sheets of 4x5 FP4 and HP5 in 5x7 Yankee agitrays using continuous agitation. Using 300ml per sheet, I've got $10 dev cost for 16 sheets. Obviously developing individual sheets means you can only screw up one sheet at a time. If cost really doesn't matter, DDX is an awesome one shot developer...if you shoot the Delta emulsions I'd pay the difference.
    Use hypocheck to make sure your fixer is good and fix as recommended...don't overfix. Follow instructions to the letter. Try to stick with one temp and one dilution and adjust your development time as necessary to get the density you want. Once you get it right, always do it that way. Try to relax. Don't get in a hurry. You'll be fine. :-)

  7. #7

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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    Many of us tray develop our 4x5 negatives, and if you will tray develop your plates, you should at least consider using trays as your universal technique. As for developer, I have never been a fan of D-76 for large format, although it is my go-to for 35mm. I would suggest HC-110 at dilution G, or a bit fancier but also used very diluted and one-shot, Pyrocat HD. I have stopped using Photo-Flo, finding that a good final rinse in distilled water (easy to buy by the gallon at the supermarket) does the trick.

  8. #8
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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    Ilford just introduced a kit with the necessary chemistry, geared to 35mm & 120 film. I'm sure you can figure out the dilutions for the SP445. https://www.ilfordphoto.com/simplicity-starter-pack

  9. #9
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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    Rodinol/Ro9

    Distilled water at any store use it for mixing chems

    TF5

    Tap water wash

    Dry film in the wet shower
    sin eater

  10. #10
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    Re: What to Buy for Film Processing

    So far I'm leaning towards Rodinal & the SP445, plus trays for plates and 5x7. I have been simply scanning negs on a v700 and processing in PS. I have a dandy spot in my basement for a dark room, but that's a project for after I retire. I want to get started getting experience processing first. The Ilford kit looks great but I'm holding off starting with roll film until later.


    Kent in SD
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