Tray developing 4X5 film

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Gerry M, May 5, 2012.

  1. Gerry M

    Gerry M Member

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    Is developing 4X5 b&w film in trays practical? I just got a CG 4X5 and don't want to invest in tanks or tubes until I decide whether or not to stay with LF. Appreciate your input.
    Gerry
     
  2. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Tray processing is seductive.

    You will immediately notice that smooth featureless areas are amazingly evenly developed.

    And soon you will notice you don't scratch the film as much. But I have processed over 500 sheets by tray and still upon close inspection of my best prints you will find some scratch evidence.
     
  3. Gerry M

    Gerry M Member

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    Bill,
    Scratches from film holders or just from handling?
     
  4. Grainy

    Grainy Member

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    I like the workflow better when developing in tank. But so far I have had more even development in tray. However, now I only develop in tank and I think the results are getting better each time. I'm planning to switch to "dip and dunk" developing in tank soon.
     
  5. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I've been doing it in a stainless steel tank. (i.e. "Taco Method.")

    I fold them in half, hold them with an elastic hair band and put four of them in the tank. I fill the tank half full of liquid then, holding it horizontally between my hands, on its side, I turn it continuously.
    As I rotate it in my hands, it naturally sloshes end for end as well. Every minute, I turn the tank over so it rotates in the other direction. The continuous turning coupled with the semi-random sloshing seems to develop the film evenly, as far as I can tell.

    I just finished a batch of T-Max 400, developed in D-76 1:1 for 9 minutes. That's a half minute shy of Kodak's recommendation for T-Max 400 tray development.
    I think they might have come out a little bit "overdone" but I'm still in the process of honing my technique. I'm not sure whether I need to cut the development time by another half minute or cut my exposure by a smidgen. I'll know more when they finish drying and I get a chance to scan them and proof them.

    I tried using homemade tubes, fashioned after the BTZS kit. It works but it's just not practical for me. I don't have a sink in my darkroom so I have to do my "wet work" in the laundry sink which is in the next room. Since there aren't any safe lights in the laundry room, opening the tubes to fill them with chemistry is a pain. I either have to do the deed in the darkroom and carry them to the sink in the other room or I have to turn all the lights out in the laundry room. The tube method is good but, no matter how I slice it, there's just too much fussing around to develop film that way.

    My situation likely requires some type of daylight system be used. I'll probably end up getting a Jobo system or something similar but, for now, I'm going to have to get along by using the Taco Method in a regular stainless tank.
     
  6. Neanderman

    Neanderman Member

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    It's more than practical. It's the only way I process ANY sheet film and I've been doing it for 30+ years.

    Ed
     
  7. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Don't ask - the only way you will find out is to try both systems, make prints and see which way you prefer to work - However, give each way a fair shake of the sauce bottle before deciding

    Many of the answers above are about personal preference and don't take into consideration the length of your finger nails, how stable the temperature of your dishes of dev' are and other things

    Now get thy notebook, go to the darkroom and learn by experience

    John
     
  8. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Agreed. Ask ten different guys and you'll get twenty different answers. Regardless of who recommends what, the best thing to do is experiment until you find the best way for your situation.
     
  9. Gerry M

    Gerry M Member

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    Thank you all. I'll give the trays a go.
    Gerry
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    You can find threads where we talk about it. The scratches are from handling in the trays. I am sure the film makes it into the holders without incident.

    I wear vinyl gloves and work with an ATN Viper IR viewer. So there are no fingernail or fumbling issues. My trays are porcelain so the surfaces are smooth. My film goes in emulsion up. And I am careful to lift/separate the stack from the bottom sheet and pull the bottom sheet out and away. Up and over the top and back down again.

    What works against you is the approximately 200 times that you perform this action. Any one mistake is a scratch because the corners of the sheets are as sharp as razors.

    I attentively perform these actions through dev, stop, fix, and wash too. (I wash by filling a tray with water and cycling the sheets into it... dumping the second tray and filling with fresh water... and cycling the sheets into that tray... and repeat.) I never let a sheet out of my "sight" but invariably there is a fine scratch. And it is maddening when it's in someone's face.
     
  11. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I tried tanks and tacos and came back to trays, because

    1. I can develop like 10 sheets at a time
    2. I can vary development time easily, from sheet-to-sheet
    3. I can develop by inspection if I want
    4. I can develop any format
    5. Trays are cheap
    6. Using proper technique, trays always give me 100% even development.

    I use a tray that is larger than the film (8x10 trays for 4x5 film) and I use plenty of developer.
     
  12. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    I, too, tray develop. Six sheets at a time is my preferred maximum. I use deep Paterson 5x7 trays for 4x5 film and rarely have a scratch. 25+ years of doing it this way. Maybe my experience will help you decide.

    Tray developing requires little in the way of expense and materials, but as a tradeoff needs skill and dexterity. You need to practice with scrap sheets for a while with lights on and then with lights off (eyes closed) to get used to it. Scratches when beginning are more common, but the learning curve is fairly quick. Practice with real solutions; water, developer, stop and fix all have slightly different feels, and shuffling in the respective solutions is somewhat different.

    Avoiding damage also requires that you pay attention during the entire processing, from pre-soak to the washer. If you let down, you're liable to scratch a neg.

    I have found that keeping the stack neatly stacked so corners are not sticking out helps a lot to avoid damage. I also try not to drag the film I am shuffling from the bottom to the top of the stack across the bottom of the tray. This will result in small scratches on the base side of the film if the bottom of the tray is at all rough.

    I develop emulsion-side-up. Step one is a pre-soak. If you don't pre-soak, the sheets will stick together and be very difficult to soak apart. I immerse each sheet in the pre-soak and wait 15 seconds or so before adding the next to avoid this. If sheets do stick together, just be patient, they will soak apart in 5-10 minutes. At this point I turn one sheet with the code notches the opposite orientation of the other sheets and make this "sheet one."

    After the pre-soak, I gather the films and fan them in one hand like a hand of cards, with sheet one on one side. I immerse them in the developer one-at-a-time, over 30 seconds, beginning with sheet one. I then agitate by moving films from the bottom to the top of the stack, going through the stack once every 30 seconds during the first half of development and once every minute for the second half. I turn each sheet 180° when shuffling. I keep track of sheet one so I can immerse the sheets in the stop the same way I did in the developer.

    When agitating the film, be careful to lay the film down flat on the surface of the solution so as to not dig in a corner. It is also important to not push the film down into the developer solution too quickly. Gently push one side down and guide the sheet slowly to the stack. Too fast causes turbulence around the edges and results in denser edges.

    Stop and Fix, same procedure. I turn on the white light after two minutes in Rapid Fixer and continue with the lights on.

    Everyone develops their own idiosyncrasies when tray developing; you will too.

    Best,

    Doremus

    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  13. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Doremus gives a good description , similar to my process. I scratched a neg the very first time I did this, never again. I have done as many as 10 at a time, but stop at 8 ideally. If you search for tray processing in this forum, you'll find more personal methods. Your time and temperature will be different from tank methods also, as your hands will heat up the developer, as well as due to continuous agitation. One good thing to do is measure the temperature at the beginning and end, just to track things, at least for a while. And, as might be obvious, room temperature has a bigger effect on development than tank processing.
    Just jump in with some tests, after practicing with old film. Start with 2 or 4 sheets.
     
  14. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    .. have tanks, and never have an easy time loading them .. ( i even have the little slotted thingy to aid me )
    .. have used hangers ( originally learned LF processing using them ), but had a few bad ones i could never ID so i gave up
    ... bought a rotary processor, but never warmed up to it ...

    i have been using trays steadily since 94' and don't usually stray from that ...
    maybe i have scratched 3 sheets out of thousands and i can process upto 35 at a time ...
    it really can't be beaten ..

    tray processing isn't for everyone, but it works for me ..
     
  15. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    Mostly the scratchs come from the corners of the film sheet scraping the emulsion of another sheet. The trick is to learn not to let the corner of one film to touch anything but the edge of the other sheets. It is sort of like shuffling cards, it takes awhile to get the hang of it. I would suggest taking a half dozen sheets of film and an empty tray and practice in the light for a bit before trying it with important negatives. Or you can just do one sheet at a time.
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    John! 35 at a time?? :laugh: