Developing 4x5 film. which way to go : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all, I develop my own 35mm and 120 b&w film now. I just got a 4x5 camera (in mail) and had a question about how to develop 4x5 sheet film. I have a rotoary drum available as one option. I can buy a fill and drain tank for 4x5 and I can buy a 3 tank SS tank with tempered water jacket with hangers and lids. Which would you think would do the best job for 4x5. Keep in mind I might want to do slide film at some point. I appreciate all the great feedback I have gotten since finding this forum a few days ago. I will try to contribute back when I can and thanks for the help. Doug

-- Douglas P. Theall (, January 02, 2001


What kind of drum do you have?

-- John Hicks (, January 02, 2001.

I've always developed (my own personal film) with hangers, tried the tray method a few times and just wasn't crazy about it. I have also used Jobos at previous jobs and still like the hands on of racks... yes, go ahead and call me old school but it has never let me down...! Cheers

-- Scott Walton (, January 02, 2001.

Like Scott I used the tray method for some time but got the odd uneven developed neg. so switched to the Combi-Plan tank. This will take six 4x5 sheets but I only use it with four. I use two tanks to dunk the film rather then fill/empty them through the caps. I fill one tank with water for the pre-soak and the other with developer. While the film is in the dev. I empty the water and replace with stop bath and so on. I now get very consistent negs.

Hope this is of some help,

-- Trevor Crone (, January 02, 2001.

I'll second the Combi Plan, although I use it as a "fill then pour" tank as per a standard roll film daylight tank. I used to only dev 4 sheets at a time but I now dev 6 and have found that as long as I ensure they are seated correctly under the top clip, and that I do not agitate too vigorously, I get sound results. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, January 02, 2001.

Doug: As you can see from the above posts, we all use different methods to arrive at the same place...a good negative that prints well. After many years of using film hangers I finally changed this year to the Uniroller drums which take four sheets of film per drum. I am quite satisfied with the evenness of development with the drums. I was getting too many negs with uneven density where developer folwed through the holes in the hangers. I have been using them for many years, so I went back and tried various methods of agitation to see if I was developing some bad habits. After changing to the drums, the problems disappeared and I get great negs. I have two bases and drums which I got from a fellow LF photographer on this forum. I can do eight sheets at a time with the two units. I have developed transparencies at work with a Jobo with water bath using Jobo drums with good results. I don't think the Uniroller drums give enough temperature control for transparencies. Welcome to the LF forum. Ain't it great!!



-- Doug Paramore (, January 02, 2001.


I have tried the tank dip method and also the tray method without a great deal of success. I then tried the Unidrum for B&W film with 4 negs in a drum and got some very good and more importantly repeatable results. I then took it a bit further and challenged myself with Velvia using the Agfachrome 0.5 liter kit. The first couple of tries had a strong blue overcast but eventually I worked out a system that seems to work. Hold on to your hat because this takes a bit of patience. I bought a small drink cooler which I use to keep the temperature of the small jars (which hold 500ml of each chemical required the developer. reversal ect.)warm enough. I then preheat the OUTSIDE ONLY of the drum by holding it in a pail of 110 degree hot water for about three minutes.(DO NOT let the water go over the top and in the spout) This way the drum does not cool the first developer, reversal bath, and color developer down and the temperature stays relatively constant within plus or minus 2 degrees. Also when I begin the procedure I have a gooseneck lamp with a 100 watt light bulb right over top of the drum (within 2 inches) on the roller while the drum is rolling. This also stabilizes the temperature in the drum. Believe it or not...this works and the results are repeatable. I did a bit of tweaking along the way to obtain good color and density. Of course after reading the above you would realize that I would have to be a dedicated hobbyist to try such foolishness. If I was not so determined and also had a bigger hobby budget I would probably go for a Jobo unit. As for B&W the Unidrum is definetly the easy way with to go for a newcomer and you can do all the steps with the lights on.

Good Luck and let us know how you make out.

-- GreyWolf (, January 02, 2001.

There was a discussion of this just a few weeks ago. I've tried most things in the last year or so.

Trays - take a lot of chemicals so you don't normally want to go one-shot, so you have to adjust times for depletion, etc.. Hands are in the chemicals, so poor temperature control and you get the stuff on your hands. Messy pouring things back into bottles. Working in the dark.

Combiplan inversion tank - couldn't get the thing to not leak - made a big mess. Very slow pouring chemicals into and out of tank so times were a big question mark. But I could work in the light.

4x5 rubber tanks and hangers - Back in the dark, but time control is best, and wasn't as messy as the combiplan. Back to large amount of chemicals so no one-shot processing, unless you have the money to spend. The Kodak tanks run $20-25 each on eBay and I got 7 hangers for $9.

Unicolor drum and base - For the cost of the tanks and hangers, you can get these used (I don't think they're available new anyway.) None of the disadvantages of the other methods, plus agitation is consistent, and you can do something else while developing.

I only switched to a Jobo, which adds a water tempering bath for temperature control, because I found one used for $50 in my local photo store. Someone commented on that in the old thread. I did had to get ther refurb kit from Jobo (not in their catalog - have to dig around on their web site to find it, but includes all the bottles, a package of cleaner and some miscellaneous parts). I don't usually find very good deals in my local shop, but once in a while.... I won't tell you about the $175 Contax IIA that I sold on eBay for $624....

-- John H. Henderson (, January 03, 2001.

I use the Jobo tank with sheet film reels, hand inversion agitation. I use the 2 reel tank, but only fill the lower one with film.

Results are very consistent, but it's very heavy and takes 1400 ml to fill to cover the film.

Today, I'd try the Combiplan approach with 2 tanks & dip. Reason: 1) the Jobo 4x5 tanks have doubled in cost since I bought mine. 2) the Combiplan takes less solution, saving money.

-- Charlie Strack (, January 03, 2001.

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