Preferred Methods of Processing 8x10 Film : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm just curious to see how some of you prefer to process B&W 8x10 sheet film. Frankly, I'm not exactly enthralled with open trays and I'd like to hear about some other options. Rotary processors seem to have a good reputation, but they're a little out of my range. BTZS film tubes look like they might be a good idea, but I haven't heard much feedback from people who have actually used them. Any ideas or suggested would be greatly appreciated.

-- Dave Munson (, October 21, 2000



I started with open trays and 4 X 5 and fortunately stumbled upon the poorman's JOBO - the old Besseler and Unicolor print drums, originally intended for home processing color prints. I was very happy with that set-up. Agitation is constant, and usually quite even. Small amounts of chemistry are used and you aren't standing there in the dark with your hands in the soup. You can do four 4 x 5's in an 8 X 10 drum, and, if you have the room for a 16 X 20 drum, you could do four 8 X 10's at a shot.


I kept hearing and reading about development by inspection and Boy Howdee! I am a total convert! Get yourself a 15 watt bulb, a #3 green safelight, and go to town! Jump in, the PMK is fine! (wear gloves though, eh?) Seriously, I am no chemistry mayven, no darkroom alchemist - but this is easier than I thought and I am getting what I want. I will have to switch to PMK though as the D-76 1:1 uses a lot of chemistry at one throw.

-- Sean yates (, October 21, 2000.

I use open trays for 8x10". What sorts of problems are you having with that method?

I thought of trying tanks and hangers, but that adds the step of loading the hangers, and brings in the possibility of agitation problems (or at least different ones than the ones I've overcome with the tray method).

Tubes are a possibility, but I can do more sheets in a batch with trays.

-- David Goldfarb (, October 21, 2000.

Dave, I have also been getting tired of processing 8x10 in trays. I have been thinking of switching to JOBO as well, but it's a bit too pricey yet. Sean brought up a good point with processing by inspection. I haven't tried it yet. S. Yates, if you have any info on this process, please do share!

Sorry, i guess this doesn't really answer anything.


-- Dave Anton (, October 21, 2000.

Michael A. Smith has written an article on development by inspection that you can read here:

-- Sean yates (, October 22, 2000.

There is also an article on it in the latest incarnation of Steve Anchell's "The Darkroom Cookbook". Definately a tome worth owning!

-- Sean yates (, October 22, 2000.

It's hard to beat the Unicolor drums and agitators for simplicity. You can do two 8x10 sheets in the 11x14 drum and the equipment can be had almost daily on ebay.

The 16x20 drum is a little unwieldy in my opinion. It is really long, prone to tipping over, and if you use dilute developer it gets so heavy that it makes the agitator strain & groan.

The 11x14 will hold 1.6 liters of developer, enough for Rodinal 1:100 at two sheets with 8 ml Rodinal per sheet, which is enough.

I'm gonna have to try development by inspection one of these days but everything is working so well now I'm hesitant to change anything. The nice thing about the drums is you can set the timer and let them roll while you do something else.

One tip: give your films a water bath first when using this method. There will always be a stray drop of water in the drums that will run down your film and if you don't give a water bath the sheet will be ruined, with a line down it where the water ran prior to development.

One other thing: the 8x10 BZTS tubes are hugely expensive and also just huge. I made my own out of pvc. There is no way you could use more than two at one time. I found it easier to just roll the thing on the ground. Glad I'm not doing that anymore.

-- Erik Ryberg (, October 22, 2000.

I use Unicolor print drums, 8x10 for one sheet and 11x14 for two sheets. The 16x20 drum will hold four sheets but I never had the nerve to try it for film.

I don't use a prerinse, but my drums are always dry. The drums are pretty common on the used-gear market so it's easy to accumulate several.

Unicolor drums _always_ leak at least a little. There's a plastic gasket on top of a rubber ring, and if the gasket's badly worn or the rubber ring's too compressed the drum will leak way too much; since parts aren't readily available you should test any used drum before you buy it. I've heard of a truck oil-filter gasket being used to replace the rubber ring but I know nothing about it.

I've found that internal ribs in the drums are necessary because otherwise the solutions can't get onto the base side of the film and that can cause mottling; a test of a Jobo print drum was a disaster for that reason.

Fred Newman mentioned a while back that at the Mammoth Camera Workshop they'd had some trouble with streaking and that the use of D-76 1:3 cured the problem.

I use Rodinal 1:50, D-76 1:1 or D-76 1:3 with 4x5 and 8x10 and haven't had any trouble with streaks.

-- John Hicks (, October 22, 2000.

I am very happy with my Jobo for 8x10 negatives. I tried the drum on a motor base before I bought processors. It worked okay, but I found my developing temperatures drifting too much. In the summer, I put the developer in at 68, and it came out at 75, even with air conditioning. Now, that it has gotten colder here in NY, I am sure the temperature would drift the other way. Yesterday, the heater in my Jobo was coming on to maintain 68. I did not feel I could use the zone system with consistency without the Jobo.

Sure a Jobo cost a lot, but once you have it, you are all set. And a used one will hold its value. I bought a used CPA-2 and sold it six months later at a small profit. So much for the high expense.

-- William Marderness (, October 22, 2000.

You've got to be able to afford JOBO in the first place William. A Unicolor drum cost me $7.00 and a Besseler motor base $25.00.

-- Sean yates (, October 22, 2000.

hi dave, i've processed 8x10 in many ways and by far the best is using the jobo processor in the series 3000 tank. the set-up is worth the investment.

call me if you wish 612 338 7172

rich silha

-- rich silha (, October 23, 2000.

I bought several cheap plastic storage containers, about 8 inches deep to process with Pyro. The high sides prevent splashing the Pyro. I only use 1 sheet per container and I end up with few or no scratches and quite even development. I built my sink large enough to hold several trays. I have a CPA Jobo that I got from a newspaper when it went digital, and I haven't been able to figure out how to use the durned thing. I'll probably sell it and stick with trays.

-- Bruce Schultz (, October 26, 2000.

If you like drums but temperature control really bothers you, here's an option. Instead of using the motor base, get the Jobo hand roller (its pretty cheap). You can set it in a tempering bath, place the drum (Unicolor, Beseler, Jobo, whatever) on it and roll it manually. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, October 26, 2000.

I've used and really liked the 4x5 BTZS tubes for about five years. One of the nice things about them is that you can do your N-1s, Ns, and N+1s simultaneously. You don't have to do a separate run for each development time as you do with the Jobo system. The other nice thing is the fact that they take up very little space. And finally, it's simple to get repeatable results. I just started using 8x10 and haven't yet bought the BTZS 8x10 tubes because of their cost ($70 per tube). I've been using trays and it's been going o.k. but I'm concerned about how I'll use the trays with a bunch of negatives having a bunch of different developing times. So far I've "solved" the problem by batching similar development time negatives together and doing only two at a time, but that takes a while. I'd like to use the BTZS tubes but the cost really puts me off. To get six 8x10 tubes, I'd be spending around $450. I tried making my own 5x7 tubes but never could get it right - one kind leaked light, another had a rough interior that scratched the negatives, another couldn't be balanced right and so one end dipped in the water and all the developer shifted to that end. So I haven't tried to make my own 8x10 tubes.

-- Brian Ellis (, October 26, 2000.

Hi Brian:

You asked how can you control so many negatives in a tray with so many N's times? Well, very easy, Developing by inspection.


-- Alejandro López de Haro (, May 04, 2001.

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