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Thread: So what do I need in a film processor?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Northern lower Michigan, USA

    So what do I need in a film processor?

    After a couple decades of absence, I am returning to 4x5 film. I have enough experience to know that if I want any sort of consistency, I need an automated film processor. And Jobo seems to be the only realistic game in town.

    But even within the Jobo line, I have no idea what each model does, what pieces are mandatory and optional, how much chemistry is used per run by each model, etc. Also there are often pieces (like an inlet water temperature controller) that don't come with the processor, but are actually a requirement for a practical setup.

    As far as I know, there are the ATL 1000 and 1500 models as well as CPA, CPE, CPP and who knows what other models/options (and how important is the "lift"?).

    I intend to process only for myself and may produce only a few sheets to a couple dozen sheets of film per week. The primary chemistry will be E6. From time to time, some B&W work plus some 35mm E6/B&W will sneak in there. Is it fair to assume that I need one processing drum per chemistry and suitable inserts/holders for each film format?
    Although this level of activity may seem like something that I may simply want to send away to someone else for processing, there will be times when I really need to zero in on exposure and immediately turn around to produce properly exposed images (working with an Ultraphot microscope). Waiting a week for test shots to come back to me is not an option.

    So there it is. I want a film processor despite the cost. I just don't know which of the little beasties it is that I need. and how to be sure that I order all the pieces necessary to have a functioning setup when it finally arrives.

    Can someone provide some guidance for me?



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: So what do I need in a film processor?

    There are other possibilities, but the following is a popular setup for 4x5 that works nicely in a home or modest institutional darkroom:

    CPA-2 or CPP-2 (or wait for forthcoming CPP-3, which may be available late this year). If you buy used, look for a processor with a late serial number or evidence of the necessary motor upgrade for Expert drums - search the threads here, you'll find information on the serial number range.

    Expert drum 3006 or 3010. No inserts available or needed. You can use the drum for all different processes so long as you keep it clean, which you should be doing anyway.

    For use with Expert drums, the Lift is mandatory.

    EDIT: Oops, saw your mention of 35mm. For that, you'll want to add a 1500 or 2500 series tank plus reels. But I actually don't bother doing B&W roll film in my Jobo - it's just as easy to do it with traditional tanks and reels. The Expert drums are superb for sheet film.

  3. #3
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

    Re: So what do I need in a film processor?

    OK, I use Jobo, and I work with B&W and color.

    I use a CPP-2. It doesn't have the latest motor, so I can't use the expert drums.
    Jobo tanks, reels, and fluid capacities
    The 2551/2553 tank takes two 2509N reels. The development is superb. This is what I use on the CPE-2 and CPP-3.
    There is a smaller tank, the 2521/2523, which holds one 2509N reel.
    The 2509N reel has slots for six sheets of film. The tank printing says load a reel with four sheets, and the Jobo site says six. Test and find out which works best for you. I use four, with the non-emulsion sides facing each other.

    The amount of chemistry is dependent on the volume of film you have loaded, and the minimum volume of the tank. You need to have at least the minimum volume of fluid to cover the film. You may need more, depending on how much film you have put into the tank, and what is recommended by the chemistry. If the chemistry recommends more, then use more. (Xtol can "getcha" on this when it's diluted.)

    I have developed B&W, C41, and E6 in my Jobo. It's a really good system.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2007
    New York City & Pontremoli, Italy

    Re: So what do I need in a film processor?

    I will only add that if you want fully automated processing, the Jobo ATL1500 has worked very well for me. Maximum film format is 4x5.
    It is more expensive than the CPP and it does not accept the bigger Expert drums.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: So what do I need in a film processor?

    I use a Unicolor processor---the poor man's Jobo---and I'm happy with it. Check out the article by Gray Wolf Phillips on the Large Format Home Page (click on the blue banner at the top of this page) Unicolor uses print drums for sheet film and film drums for roll film, all available cheap on ebay.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

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