ahh! help with b/w processing

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I am newish to LF but not to b&w photography and processing. I've made the big leap of faith to LF but can't get even development with my sheets. I use a daylight tank to process. I know about jobo-type rotary processing but would like to make sure I can't get good results with my tank before I put money into a different processing system. In particular, the sides of my negs(but not top or bottom - that's in the vertical orientation) build up a little more density than the rest, and general uneven blotchiness happens in continuous grey areas like skies. My tank is set up so that sheets slide into grooves on either side of the tank. I've tried agitating both parallel to the sheet faces and perpendicular to the sheets, parallel gives better results but still uneven. Does anyone out there use daylight tanks and get predictable results? Please help! By the way, I'm using 4x5 apx 100 in d-76 1:1. Any thoughts or help other than "use trays" or "use a rotary processor" are much appreciated! Thank you.

-- Paul Frank (pnfrank1234@hotmail.com), April 18, 2002


The problem may be with development. Some daylight tanks require that you pour the chemistry in through a tube, some other such device. That almost guarantees the density problem you indicate. You might try creating a totally blackout situation, removing the top, and pouring in the chemistry, starting the clock and replacing the top. While a hassle, you may find it a sucessful and inexpensive alternative.


-- bob moulton (bobmargaretm@insightbb.com), April 18, 2002.

I agree with Bob, and if you have a combiplan tank, I guess its the only way to get even-developed negs.

-- Peter Koning (pekoni@xs4all.nl), April 19, 2002.

Hi Paul I've been using the CombiPlan and suffered similar problems - however, these have been sorted by using a pre-soak in plain water!! If you are using this tank then feel free to email me off forum for a (long) list of hints and tips on its use!!!!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), April 19, 2002.

Try tray developing. I have never had a problem with uneven development when tray developing.

-- Erik Asgeirsson (erik@erikcellist.com), April 19, 2002.

Paul, I think you're fighting a losing battle with the style of tank that only permits agitation by sloshing side to side. The reason is the edges of the film will always receive more agitation, and thus, build desity faster than the rest of the film. This is also true of tray processing if too small a tray is used. The Combi tanks allow inversion, which would solve that problem. However, the Combi tanks have such a small opening for filling, you have no choice but to fill the tank first, then insert the film holder in the dark. After that, you can turn on the lights and use inversion agitation. This is an improvement, but hardly ideal, since you also have to remove the top in the dark to dump the developer, then stop and fix--all in the dark.

I'm not sure why you've dismissed the rotary option. Jobo drums are excellent, but they are rather expensive. However, you can buy a Unicolor agitating base and Unicolor 8x10 print drum for a total of $25-40 on ebay. This is a very effective combination for processing 4x5 sheets. They are easy and quick to load and processing is about as simple as it gets--reliable, repeatable and quick. Best of all, your negatives will develop perfectly even, and without the risk of scratches shuffle processing in trays invites.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), April 19, 2002.

The Combi tank is designed for inversion agitation. Rotating from top to bottom so the chemistry flows from to the empty portion of the tank. The tank is not designed to be filled to the brim with solution and it is not designed for side to side agitation.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 19, 2002.

I am also new to LF (in fact, new to doing my own B&W processing) - I'm using a CombiPlan, and to my inexperienced eye I've seen none of the issue you describe - perhaps I should try some test sheets, one unexposed, one exposed for 18%.

I'm also using lots of APX100 - in HC-110 Dil-B. As Bob mentioned, I do inversion.

I have had a few problems with the CombiPlan, but they are all physical/mechanical issues.

-- Tundra Slosek (tundras@draconis.com), April 19, 2002.

I use a combiplan, I always invert. With regard to the slow filling time, I use dilute development, with a development time up to 30 mins so 30 secs filling time becomes less significant. Incidentally the company that I bought the tank from (the ezcellent Robert White) recommended using a larger funnel than that supplied.


-- Charlie Skelton (charlieskelton@hotmail.com), April 19, 2002.

The best method with that tank is to pre-wet the film ,dump,go dark with top off,pour in developer,then plug the hole on top so you can invert agitate.

-- Edsel Adams (mrchippy628@aol.com), April 19, 2002.


I develope 4x5 negs in the Unicolor print drum. I figured that if the 4x5 / 8x10 print drum took paper of that size, it could also accommodate 4x5 film. It does. And very well too. No modifications necessary. Insert a sheet with the emulsion facing the interior of the drum, one edge against the "v" on the inside edge and the other against the plain stop. 2 sheets can be loaded side by side on both sides of the "v" to equal 4 sheets. Overlaps during processing have never been a problem. I just fill the drum with as much as it will hold (about 16 oz.) or until it dribbles out. Never a bad neg. . . . . . . . yet. Note: I'm developing 4x5 b & w only . . . no color. For 35mm and 120 film I'm using the same motor base with Patterson tanks and reels. Hope that helps. -Steve Feldman

P.S. The daylite tank can makes great planters. - S.

-- Steve Feldman (steve@toprinting.com), April 19, 2002.


As an alternative to the tank, and to make life easier than traditional tray processing, try Phil Bard's Processing Panel. It is an inexpensive device that holds your 4x5 negatives in place and allows processing of multiple sheets without having to shuffle them. The design is similar to the "Slosher" that John Sexton devised for compensating development using highly dilute developer. The biggest difference is that Bard's design does not require glue to hold the panel together. You can buy everything you need (plexiglass and some stainless steel hardware) at the local hardware store or Home Depot, and it costs less than $12.00. Plans are available on Phil Bard's website www.philbard.com. I have used it, and development is even, with no streaking or mottling. Much less expensive than a rotary processor.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), April 19, 2002.

I use a Nikor SS tank, got off of Ebay for $60. If you find one make sure you get the band that goes around the film cage as it keeps the edges clear from the bars. I have done 12 sheets and no problems as yet. I use HC 110 also with fuji acros. David.

-- David Lazarus (lazman@earthlink.net), April 19, 2002.

I use a Jobo tank and reel but rotate it by hand in a water bath. It works great. It's simple, straightforward (once you learn how to load the reel), and I get nice, even development.


-- Dave Willis (willisd@medicine.wustl.edu), April 19, 2002.

My tank is by "doran." here's a followup - there's just no way I can make this thing work. Looks like unicolor time. Thanks for everyone's help.

-- Paul Frank (pnfrank1234@hotmail.com), April 22, 2002.

You should take a look at the BTZS developing tubes for 4x5. They are easy to use and give even development.

-- jeff schraeder (jeff@circlesofclarity.com), April 27, 2002.

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