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Thread: If you had to start new...

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Gig Harbor, WA

    If you had to start new...

    The local custom lab that processes b&w and transparency films has announced they're not processing b&w and will stop transparency film later this year when they move. That leaves two choice, 2 Seattle labs, one-plus hour drive on a good day, and at home. The last time I processed film was about 30 years ago (35mm) and still have the equipment (daylight tank, one half E-3 kit - and still have 400+ feet of Ektachrome-X (64) film too). Anyone know a source of E-3 chemicals?

    Get on with the question! Ok. If you had to start new processing b&w sheet film, what would you recommend? I don't particularly like the tray idea but I have a second, windowless bath that would work for a darkroom. I'm open to suggestions and plan a trip to Seattle (Glazer's) to get the prices on things, so a checklist would be cool. And yes, I'm researching and books too.

    And yes Frank, I've taken some shots already with the Horseman to learn processing if that's the reality, realizing the advantages of that for variability of exposure, developement and testing, but it's also why I quit darkroom work 30+ years ago too.

    Scott M. Knowles, MS-Geography

    "All things merge into one, and a river flows through it."
    - Norman MacLean

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: If you had to start new...

    A Unicolor processor is what I've been using for B&W. Costs anywhere between $30-60 on ebay and can handle 4x5, 8x10, 11x14 & 12x20 formats depending on the paper drum (use the paper, not film drum for sheet film) Check out Graywolf's article via the Large Format homepage. If I had the bucks, I'd get a Jobo but really, the Unicolor does everything I need , take up less space and uses less chemicals to boot.
    "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for men if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority"---EB White

  3. #3
    MIke Sherck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Elkhart, IN

    Re: If you had to start new...

    Well, tray processing certainly has the virtue of being easy and inexpensive! There is some skill involved but it isn't rocket science and practice will take care of most of the learning curve.

    I've been processing in trays for... um... ten? years now. More or less. I've seen and used tubes in rollers and Jobo and never felt the urge to "upgrade" to another process. Some folks wax poetic about not having to work in the dark; just ask my wife, I've been in the dark for almost 30 years at least! Besides, my other hobby is astronomy: if I were afraid of the dark I'd know it by now. If I had to do it over, I'd do the same thing.

    Trays. It's how film is processed!


  4. #4
    Ted Harris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    New Hampshire

    Re: If you had to start new...

    Scott, depends on how much film you process and much you like it. I consider processing pure drudgery but since I frequently have a lot of film to process and no B&W, no C41 and only one E6 lab nearby I do my own in a JOBO ATL 2300 which is easy and painless but not cost effective if your clients aren't paying the freight or you find oen real cheap. Other options are a less expensive, less automated Jobo unit or Phototherm or Wing Lynch (both of which often show up on the used market for ony a few pennies on the dollar. Next, I would consider the HP Marketing Combiplan, a neat daylight device (some love 'em and others hate'em). Others will have other recommendations but mine are the "I hate to process film" suggestions.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Re: If you had to start new...

    What format? Or should that be formats?

    4x5 and smaller a Jobo 2500 type tank. Volume would decide tank size. Only B&W so you could live without the processor. A unicolor motorbase will spin the 2551 or bigger. Reels to match.

    If you want the processor then a smaller tank could be used.

    Larger formats. Jobo 2800 type print drums. Spin them like above.

    If you buy used both choices aren't that bad. New the processor is the main pain.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Olalla, WA

    Re: If you had to start new...

    For black and white I use a JOBO CPP2 processor, the 3010 and 3005 expert series drums for 4X5 and 8X10 and the 2500 series for med format. For color transpariences I send the film out for processing. Calypso Imaging is one source that is very inexpensive and does a good job.

    Good luck from down the road in Olalla,


  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: If you had to start new...

    I hand roll a Jobo Expert drum on the $20 Jobo roller base. The tanks are simple to load, use a small volume of chemicals, and development is consistent and easy. It is simple to hand roll. I have seen them for about $150 on ebay.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2001

    Re: If you had to start new...


    I use a Unicolor Uniroller, model 352. (autoreversing). With an 8x10 paper drum which works perfect for 4x5. One to four sheets at a time. Total cost maybe 40.00 online auction. It's reliable, It does the same thing the same way every time. I like it.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Pasadena, CA

    Re: If you had to start new...

    2 cents -

    Thumbs up for the Jobo stuff, but didn't they announce that they stopped making Jobo analog completely now? There are other rotary processors, and fortunately still some stock of Jobo around. If you want Jobo, you'd best hurry up. (someone correct me if I'm wrong)

    Personally, I found the Jobo roller base to be a real pain. Filling with a transmission funnel, vigorously rolling for 7-12 minutes - a royal pain in fact, but that's using the 3000 series "Expert" drums for 4x5 and 8x10. If you plan to do more than a few sheets a year with a Jobo, by all means just spend the money on some kind of motorized base. Also, if it's cold in your neck of the woods ( or hot for that matter ), the water bath with heater in the Jobo processor is a very welcome thing - you can cool with ice, or heat up. Good, consistent results are easy to get.

    For color - I confess, if I had to start new, with no local labs, I'd be considering a couple of those expensive digital backs for an alternative to 4x5 and under, because the shipping costs and delays for processing E6 out of town would be tough to live with. With film and scanning costs, I'm already considering going all digital in place of 4x5. Medium format, well, my stuff is collecting more dust than images lately. It's not just the costs, it's the time both in hours spent and calendar time to completed work. 8x10 still seems worth it though.

    For B&W, nothing ever seems to beat doing it yourself, so maybe the closing of the lab is good in that sense.

    PS - Ted - I too hate to process film these days. It seems like all the prestige of being a laundry machine operator, and possibly less pay per hour to do it. If one values one's own time at over a couple bucks an hour, the lab is a great deal.
    Last edited by Ed K.; 29-Jan-2007 at 18:54. Reason: p.s.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: If you had to start new...

    If you can afford it, a Jobo. I've been using a CPA-2 with 3000-series Expert drums for almost ten years now, and I'm really happy with it.

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