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Thread: Tray vs. tank/hanger development

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Feb 1998

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    I'd like to start developing 4x5 b&w film on my own. Can anyone who has experie nce in this area provide me with the pro's and con's of tray vs. tank developmen t with hangers? Is one method clearly easier than another? Is one a bigger pai n in the neck than the other? Any major pitfalls I should be aware of right off the bat with either method?

    Also, if I choose to go the tank development route, will I have to purchase offi cial development tanks to hold the chemicals, or will any plastic container larg e enough to allow complete submersion of the hangers in the chemicals suffice?

    Thanks for any insight you b&w masters can provide.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 1998
    Fairfield County, CT (near NYC)

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    I would never claim to be a B&W master, but will answer anyway, because I am probably in the distinct minority in that I use hangers. I like them because it's easy to make sure all negs get just the right time in developer (they all go in at once, and it's easy to keep track of which is which, in case you want to take some out early or leave longer for N- and N+). It is also easier to maintain the developer at right temperature, since your 98.6 hands are not in the soup. It is also easy for me to avoid scratches, since the negs never touch each other or my hands. Proper agitation is important...and will avoid what some people view as disadvantage of hangers...streaking along the edges. I lift the hangers all at once, tilt to the right, drop back in the soup, lift and tilt to the left, drop back in soup, etc. This is described in detail in Bruce Barnbaum's book...I think title is "The Art of Photography." Special tanks are not necessary. You just want to be sure the neg is covered, and it is helpful to be able to cover several negs without using a huge quantity of liquid, so you don't have to waste developer. I use small plastic paint buckets from Home Depot. I have a number of them...I can leave one set of negs washing in one while I do more, have one for wash aid, etc. Just get plenty of hangers so you are not tempted to reuse them while they are wet...getting a dry negative into a wet hanger is not much fun. Hope this helps.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Out of personal preference i'd go for daylight tray processing - the paterson orbital thing used for colour print developing. it is, however not suitable for bulk runs as you have to rinse and dry it after each use (unless you have the luxury of a light tight room in which to load it, as in the confines of a changing bag it is a horror when wet). One thing to note though it is advisable to roughen oe score the bottom inside of the tray prior to use, else the film can stick to the base, potentially leading to uneaven development.

  4. #4

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Dan: I am in the process of changing over to the drum and motor base developing system after years of using tank and hangers and occasionally tray development. I got tired of streaking caused by the drain holes in the hangers. I have tried every agitation method known to mankind, and a few I made up myself, and I still get streaking occasionally. It usually shows up in the sky areas of scenic shots, and only on shots with great cloud formations. I know there are many photographers who use the system, but I am tired of streaks. As for tray development, unless you do a few sheets at a time, it is the best way ever invented to scratch negatives, regardless of what Saint Ansel said (he didn't say he never got a scratch...he said he seldom got one). The tank and hangers are a good way to develop a lot of negs at once, but watch how you agitate and insert and remove the film from the tank during agitation. I have been developing LF film for more years than I care to admit and I am tired of streaks and scratches. I don't get either with the drum system.

    Regards, Doug.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Having done both off and on for many years, I would say that I don't believe one method has any overwhelming advantage over the other, but here are some thoughts. For years one of the advantages of tanks was that they stayed full of solutions and were replenished from time to time according to volume and were always ready for a batch to be processed (floating lids prevented evaporation and/or oxidation when not in use). More space is needed to keep the tanks ready. Lately, many favorite developers are mixed and used immediately on a "one-shot" basis, so for time savings there isn't much difference between tray and tank. Two big concerns (pitfalls) are scratching and agitation and, with practice, both methods produce good, problem-free negatives. Consistent and thorough agitation needs to be coordinated to the characteristics of the solutions, especially developer. The tray shuffle method provides more or less constant agitation while the "dip & dunk" hanger method is less constant but certainly can be as consistent, I have never had the incomplete development around the holes syndrome and have processed many thousands of negatives on hangers. With 12 or more negatives in a batch, I believe the hanger method is more convenient, under 12 it's a toss up. Washing large batches is certainly more convenient on hangers. The tanks can be anything that fits, I like the plastic paint buckets as well but the sized hard rubber tanks usually hold less solution. The daylight Combi tank for 6 or less is another good option. Having said all this, I presently use the tray shuffle method mostly because I don't do large batches any more.

  6. #6

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Why don't you save yourself a whole lot of agrivation and use a Jobo drum on a hand roller for starts. No scratching or uneven developement, plus you get to do it in the light with minimal amounts of chemicals. If you don't get all the bells and whistles they are not that expensive. I have the smallest drum made for 4x5 and can do 6 sheets at a time or you can get bigger drums and do more. You can also add on until your hearts content and have temperature control and motor rotation. The only disadvantage is that you can't mix different develpment times in the same drum. The advantages of the system have outwayed that minor inconvenience for me.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 1999

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    I use hangers and tanks. I have a couple of Kodak hard rubber tanks and a couple of plastic yankee tanks, I also use a few tupperware style containers which hold about 2 quarts. I mix fresh developer each session, the developer I use is Kodak Dektol print developer, mixed at a 1:10 ratio. Six oz. develooper to 60 oz. water. Believe it or not, this developer works fine, it is fast working and cheap to use. By dumping each time I make sure the developer is fresh. I adgitate the standard way, lifting and tilting the hangers slowly, first to the left, then to right. That makes one cycle. I presoak the film for about a minute, place in the developer and agitate 3 cycles. Then I agitate one cycle about every 45 seconds, lift, tilt left, lower, lift and tilt right, lower. Adverage times are about 5 1/2 minutes for normal development. This gives surprisingly good results. Mostly I use Arista 125 and 400 films. Using Dektol makes tank development practical for me.

  8. #8

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Agrivate, outwayed......Sorry. This thing could use a spell checker.

  9. #9

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Dan, I'm new also, but so far have tried a few ways. First was the daylight tank. I got uneven development most of the time no matter how I agitated it. Second was rolling PVC tubes in trays. It worked great, but more than 3 tubes was difficult. Temp was easy to maintain because of the small amt. of chemical. Now I'm working with tanks & hangers. So far this works best. Development has been even. I also have not given up roll films. I process them in the tanks also. Only problem is adjusting temp. if it gets too high or low. Cooling down a gallon of liquid takes time. Open trays are easier to maintain temp. I have not tried Jobo processors.


  10. #10

    Tray vs. tank/hanger development

    Go with rotary processing. It costs more to get started, but you will save yourself many headaches.


    It is no surprise that Dektol works for film. A 1946 Kodak publication lists Dektol as a developer for "films, plates and papers." Strong developers appear to have been more popular than.

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