How about a Beseler Drum with Motor base for Developing? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am just about to shoot my first 4x5 sheet of film and was planning or using my print drum which holds 4 4x5's to develop them. It also only uses 4 ounces of chemisry. Will this work ok? I am not sure about development times but was going to use the same times I use for 6x7 roll film development. I also have a yankee and a nikon tank I could use. Your input would be appreciated. Thanks for your help in advance. Doug Theall

-- Doug Theall (, January 19, 2001


Doug: The Beselar motor base and drum works fine. Use the seperators to keep the film from overlapping, or do two sheets at a time. If you don't have the seperators, you can make some from rubber erasers (that tip was from another photographer on this forum). Cut back on the developing time 15-20% due to the constant agitation. I just began using the motor base and drum for roll film last year, and it is the best method I have found. Nice even development and no scratches. Good luck with it. Wait until you see those 4x5 negs!


-- Doug Paramore (, January 19, 2001.

Definitely cut back development time because of constant agitation.

Rotary agitation can be a problem for some B&W films, giving uneven development, so don't do this with priceless shots until you've tested it. Since you have sheets, if you find a subject you like, take a 2nd set of shots, but don't develop the second set till you've run the 1st ones through to see if all is OK and the development time is good.

-- Charlie Strack (, January 19, 2001.

I find that giving my films a 3 or 4 minute water pre soak in the drum helps with even development, prevents problems from wayward water drops spilling out of the lid and spoiling the negative (by slowing development where the water runs down the neg) and lets me use the published times. Supposedly pre soaks need to be at least 3 or 4 minutes long for some reason I can't remember - the emulsion needs that amount of time to soak thoroughly or something.

-- Erik Ryberg (, January 19, 2001.

I also have found that if you take the published development times and subtract them by 15 % it works OK in a print drum. The old unicolour type seems to have just the right spacing with the proper inserts to let you do 4 sheets at a time. 4 X 5 sheets touching is a concern and if you want to put more than 2,one on each side of the drum you have to come up with a way to keep them apart.I'd like to know more about using erasers as spacers or is there another solution.

-- Dave Perry (, January 19, 2001.

I have a Beseler drum. My only problem with it is that, because the inside of the drum is smooth, the fixer sometimes has trouble getting to the backside of the film. With TMAX films, this occasionally leads to bluish blotches remaining on the film -- which can be removed by putting the film in back in fixer.

The bluish cast disappears right away when the film goes back into the fixer, but unless you leave the film in fixer for several minutes, the blue comes back when the film is washed for a minute or so.

I haven't bought a different drum yet, but if I were you, I'd save myself the trouble and but a drum with ridges -- someone said Unicolor makes one.

-- Winston Chang (, January 19, 2001.

I second the notion of doing some tests. I recommend loading a few sheets, aim the camera at an evenly lit blank wall (focus at infinity so you can't possibly get any detail) and expose the film at the appropriate f-stop and shutter speed. You might even over expose one or two of them to be sure you get some density in the neg. Then develop the film in the drum. You would expect a smooth, featureless negative, so any streaking should be obvious.

As for cutting back on development, one of the guys at Jobo told me that at five minute presoak should allow you to use normal development times. Have fun!

-- Kevin Bourque (, January 19, 2001.

Hi Doug,

I am presently using the Unicolor drum system with very good results. Dave asked about the eraser trick. What I have done is go to Wal-Mart and buy a plastic clothes hanger that has 4 plastic clips attached for hanging socks ect. These clips come off and I have used them very successfully to keep the sheets seperate. I had to trim the sides down so that two sheets will fit in on each side. This was very easy to do with a small hacksaw and a bit of sandpaper. The advantage here is twofold. The plastic clips do NOT absorb any liquid and they are very easy to put one in place in the complete dark. I have also discovered that a pre-bath is a must to prevent uneven development.

Dave Perry...if you would like one then send me an email and I'll send you one.

Best of Luck.

-- GreyWolf (, January 20, 2001.

Unicolor print drums work very well; they have ribs that let solutions get around to the backside of the film and remove dyes etc so it isn't necessary to remove the film from the drum to fix it.

Although a drum may require a minimal amount of solution to cover the film (2oz in the Unicolor) that requires the drum to be perfectly level and it most likely exceeds the capacity of many developers. I use 8-10oz per 80 sq in, whether four 4x5 sheets or one 8x10 sheet.

The main reason Jobo recommends a long presoak is the idea that predetermined intermittent-agitation times can be used without compensating for the constant agitation. In an article in Photo Techniques a couple of years ago Phil Davis proved that this assumption can be untrue; he found a variety of higher and lower CIs and EIs with no consistency at all.

If you're concerned about airbells, a quick prerinse for a minute or so will eliminate them and will have pretty much no effect on development characteristics.

I've found that usually a 10 percent reduction in development time is about right when going from intermittent agitation to continuous agitation, while TMX appears to like 5 percent.

As for evenness, it's influenced by the film being developed, drum design and the developer used.

Fred Newman passed along this tidbit from the Mammoth Camera Workshop; he said they had lots of trouble with evenness of development with the huge sheets used, and that they found that the only developer that gave good evenness was D-76 1:3. Also, developers that contain glycin are said to resist unevenness and streaking.

Film-positioning guides of any sort can cause unevenness. Although it may appear that contiuous rotary agitation must eliminate agitation-induced unevenness, what actually happens is that a thin layer of developer is sort of bound to the surface of the emulsion; agitation replenishes the top of this layer with fresh developer and sweeps away byproducts, while that fresh developer _diffuses_ into the emulsion. Anything that disturbs the developer/emulsion interface layer can cause more or less local development; film guides can cause what amounts to a standing wave that disturbs the layer and cause a line or streak of higher or lower density.

The sensitivity of the film being developed to development anomalies can provide fine negs or unusable negs; I've found Delta 100 and HP5+ to have very little if any sensitivity to standing waves or flow patterns while TMX is _very_ sensitive to them.

-- John Hicks (, January 20, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ