Film Agitation : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm new to 4x5 film processing.I'm considering getting those light tight tank processors so that I don't have to process film in the dark. I'm just wondering how you would agitate the film. Do you need to invert the tank or you can just agitate it with a rocking motion. One of the tanks I saw enable you to invert the whole tank without leakage but is considerably more expensive than the other tanks which do not allow this feature. I normally use Tri X films.

-- Irwin Cua (, January 19, 2001


In my opinion, it would be better if you were to get the Yankee Cut film tanks. They come with a cap and floating lid. All you need to get are some used 4x5 stainless single holders. With these tanks you can develop up to 12 sheets at a time. From my experience, the tanks that you are talkingabout, give inconsistent developing at best. Just my opinion. Cheers, Scott

-- Scott Walton (, January 19, 2001.

I don't mean to argue with the previous contributor but in my experience and in everybodyelse's I've talked about, the Yankee tank proved to be a real pain in the neck, not only getting consistent result is almost impossible, irregular developing is rather the norm than the exeption. It is a messy business as well the tank isn't water tight and therefore the chance you'll end up sloshing chemicals about is very high, the tank which I use now after lots un unfotunate episodes with the Yankee is the Combiplan, very reliable, works like a normal 35mm tank without the Jobo loading aggravations, Jobo id very good as well but I found loading less than easy, infact jobo reccomends a kind of leader machine to do the job for you but I found it clumsy. By the way, loading 12 films in the yankee and getting it right is difficult too. I am sorry to disagree. Combi-plan works the samer way as 35mm , same agitation too!

-- Andrea Milano (, January 19, 2001.

Andrea: Yankee made two types of 4x5 tanks. One is the kind you mentioned. Scott was referring to the second type, a low-cost alternative to a stainless steel tank (no light-tight lid) that you used with standard stainless steel sheet holders in total darkness, for "dunk-and-soak" processing. A bit easier than loose sheets in a tray, but not my idea of a fun time in the darkroom.


I use a Jobo with their loader. It works fine for me with inversion agitation, but needs 1.4 liter to cover the film. I don't have trouble loading the film, but without the loader it would be difficult. Unfortunately Jobo wants an arm and a leg for the kit. Were I buying new today, I would try the Combiplan, since its about 1/3 the cost of the Jobo and looks like a snap to load. Takes less solution, too, about a liter. Both the Jobo and the Combiplan work in daylight after loading in TD (total darkness).

-- Charlie Strack (, January 19, 2001.

I have been using a Job for two years now. I don't use inversion except for compensating development. I just put 270ml in,lay it on the Jobo hand roller and smoothly roll for 20 in each direction until done. My negatives are always consistant. I have zero problems loading six sheets into it without the sheet film loading thingy. It just takes a little practice. Urwin, I would go with some sort of rotary processor for your sheet film, even if its not a jobo. Good luck and have fun.

-- Paul Mongillo (, January 19, 2001.

This is a minority opinon, but I like the stainless steel 4x5 Nikor tank.

-- David Stein (, January 19, 2001.

This is a minority opinion, but I like the stainless steel 4x5 Nikor tank.

-- David Stein (, January 19, 2001.

Thats Jobo, not Job.

-- Paul Mongillo (, January 19, 2001.

FWIW I favour the combiplan tank. However a few things worth noting, When loading ensure that the clip that keeps the sheet film in its runner is properly located - otherwise the sheets have a tendency to escape and stick to the sides of the tank. The clip needs to be lowered a notch or two, too little and they escape...too much and the film "springs" free. Sounds tricky but a few dry runs with dud sheets is a good idea. Another "problem" concerns agitation. I used the traditional inversion technique and found that this resulted in sheets escaping from their rack. I now use a simple and slow side to side rocking motion and have not had any problems. Some users have problems with leaks....this can usually be remedied by fitting the rubber lid and then expelling air by lifting a corner and pressing down on the centre of the lid (in a similar way as the paterson tank). Finally, when filling the tank ensure that the valave is open (a good half to 3/4 turn is required)this prevents splashback and allows the tank to fill quickly. I manage to fill the tank in about 25 seconds. Sounds over-fussy?? But it does the job!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, January 19, 2001.

Irwin, I would consider the Combiplan tank which holds up to six sheets of 4x5. I agitate by using two inversions every 30 seconds, lift and arch once to the left, return to upright position then lift again and arch once to the right (seems more like a dance then film agitation) then when returning the tank to its standing position I gently tap the base of the tank on the bench to dislodge any air bubbles that could form on the surface of the film. This agitation cycle should take no more then 5 seconds. There are of course variations on a theme and all photographers evolve their own methods, this is my method and is therefore only an example. I hope however it is of some help. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, January 19, 2001.

I like the BTZS tubes for processing sheet film. Even development, and being able to control the development of each negative individually are a couple of their strong points. You can find more information at BTZS Tubes.

-- Jeff White (, January 19, 2001.

While we`re on the subject...What`s a good alternative to tray processing 5x7? Thanks, Steve

-- Steve Clark (, January 19, 2001.

I've used the Yankee adjustable tank, the FR tank, the Fedco tank, and the Nikor tank. With all of them I use a rocking motion for agitation, and I've had equally good results with all of them. The Nikor tank is capable of inversion as well.

I've just started using a rotary processor (Uniroller with Unicolor and Chromega drums) for my 8x10 film, and with the right drums you can do 4x5 and 5x7 also.

-- Dave Brown (, January 20, 2001.

Nice to read all trhe pro's and con's of all the systems. Now that we started talking about this, how about the tubes, a few threads ago someone mentioned developing 8"x10" in , jobo or unirollers, However then the problem arose of the anti-halation staying behind because of lack of contact of the back of the film with the developer, stop, fixer. Hoe is the problem solved in tubes beats me, I've never used them and maybe would like to, can anyone elaborate on this, Thanks.

-- Andrea Milano (, January 20, 2001.

With re to Andrea's question, the problem is not solved in BTZS type tubes. The neg comes out of the tubes looking blotchy because the anti halation backing is not completely removed. It comes off in the fix i.e., the negatives are fixed in a tray. Have also heard a long wash can fix it. Among the drum style processors, the Unidrums are nice because they have ribs which hold the film away from the walls and permit the anti halation backing to removed in normal processing. Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (, January 20, 2001.

Good ole' tray processing works for me. I wear disposable nitrile rubber gloves, have good ventilation, and prewet the film. I develop up to 3 sheets at a time and get even development with no scratches. (Usually) Perhaps most importantly, I don't mind working in the dark.

-- Chris Hawkins (, January 21, 2001.

Hi Irwin,

I am also pretty new at this. For quite a while I was tray processing my Tri X. Probably due to my inexperience my results were okay, but sometimes I got scratches. Very recently I decided to find an alternative that I could do in the light. Here is my solution..

Bought a Unicolor motor base for $20. And a Jobo tank with 2 4x5 reels (6 sheets each reel) for $45.

Unless I were to spend many hundreds more, I could not find a better solution to my needs. These tanks if rotated need much less chemicals. And why not buy a motor base if you can pick it up cheap. Look at ebay there are some good ones going cheap.

I'm glad I spent some time tray processing to learn the basics. But my results are already much better and more consistant.

Good luck,


-- Claudia (, January 21, 2001.

I would like to make a quick comment for the people using the JOBO reels for developing their sheet film. I used that set up for several years and thought that I was pretty good at processing film. During the second John Sexton workshop that I attended I brought my negatives. John made the comment that he had never seen a negative processed on one of those reels that did not have uneven development. I assured him that my negatives didn't suffer from this problem. He proceeded to show me on each negative where the uneven development had occured. I am not saying not to use the reels, they are convenient, but realize when you are making your images that if you place anything important near either of the 5 inch sides that you might not have a useable negative.

-- Jeff White (, January 21, 2001.


I've used the Combi-plan, Doran and BTZS methods for processing sheet film; all three work and all three have +'s & -'s. I now use JOBO 3005 (for 8x10) and 3010 (for 4x5) and nothing I've used is easier and more consistent. These drum are not cheap, but then neither is 8x10 film.


-- Pete Caluori (, January 22, 2001.

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