Tray development of 5 x 4"

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by blockend, Dec 30, 2010.

  1. blockend

    blockend Member

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    I've just ordered some sheet film to run through my sorely under-used MPP and realise I'm very rusty on the development side of large format. Last time I used it, about fifteen years ago I had access to a lab - now I have only the bathroom and some trays.

    Can anyone advise on tray development? Is film scratching a problem? How many sheets can I put it at one time? How much developer is needed, what sort of agitation and how do I know when it's exhausted? Any tips on drying sheet film? All advice gratefully received.
     
  2. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    In reverse order:
    Drying - I hang 5x4 sheets by the corner using freezer bag clips (Found some at Morrisons for 99p).
    Development - Single shot in D76/ID11 or 510-pyro is the norm for me.
    Trays - I use a Paterson Orbital (these sometimes appear on ebay at inflated prices). I did try tray processing once, but found it to be a pain the rear.

    Which model of MPP do you have ?
     
  3. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Thanks Paul, I think we have some of those clips lying around. ID-11 is my poison of choice for 35mm so there's plenty of stock solution at home. I have dev'd sheet film in trays long ago and far away but have downloaded the pain and trauma and frankly, everything else associated with the practice so for the moment I'll persevere with slopping about in darkness.

    The MPP is in my son's bedroom and he's asleep so I'll check the model tomorrow. I gave it a clean and strip down a few months ago and all appeared to be in order. Thanks again.
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi blockend

    the way i process my films in trays is as follows ..
    1 tray is water
    1 tray is developer ( i use about 1L / 5x7 tray when processing 4x5 film )
    1 tray is water ( no stop )
    1 tray is fixer

    some folks do as few as 2 sheets at a time, some do 8 ...
    i often times do between 8 and 12 and have done as many as 36 at the same time ..
    the most important thing is to be consistent the way you shuffle your film

    i take the film out of the holders and orient them all the same way ...
    then 1 sheet at a time into the water bath
    i shuffle them in the water bath and make sure they aren't stuck together
    sheet film gets stuck together and is a real PITA that way.
    once the film is separated i count them to make sure ...
    and then the whole stack goes into the developer.
    i count them again to make sure they aren't stuck together ...
    and keep the stack together with my left hand while i pull the bottom sheet up and flop it on the top.
    my hand pushes the top sheet down and i grab the next sheet .. again and again ..
    from time to time i stop and look at my graylab timer,
    it is too dim and i have trouble reading it where i process sink-side ...then i go back to the shuffle ...
    i take the stack of film and drain the developer off of it, and put them all in the 2nd water bath.
    the film is slippery and i shuffle through them a few times until they go into the fixer.
    i shuffle them in the fixer just like i did with the developer and water bath,
    and after a few min i put the light on ...

    some people have trouble with scratches when they pull the bottom sheet out
    because a corner may catch the film, or because they push the film to the bottom of the tray,
    or they are too rough with it ...

    before you process some film, if you have blank sheets or negatives you can just practice
    (in a water bath) with it might be helpful ... first with the lights on, then eyes shut then light out ...
    nothing is worse than the first time you process film in a tray
    being nervous because you think you are going to scratch the film ..

    good luck
     
  5. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Thanks for the advice, I shall follow it to the letter, especially remembering not to process too many sheets at one time. Is the first water bath to ensure all sheets develop at the same rate? I shall probably use ID-11 1:3 with quite long dev times initially.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi again

    i think the water bath is just to hydrate the emulsion, some people and some developers don't like it
    but i find it to be helpful, because it also removes the anti halation layer on the film ...

    - john
     
  7. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    The best developer tray..
    http://www.pyrexware.com/index.asp?pageId=11&CatID=388&SubCatID=393&upc=71160046825
    the size that is used for baking a loaf of bread. It tapers to the bottom to be just less than the 4" width of a sheet of 4x5 film. So the film never rests on the bottom. It stays in a nice straight stack that is easy to get your finger under. Is also the perfect size for one of those syphon washers. Nicely holds a liter of developer and makes shuffling sheets easy to do.
    Dennis
     
  8. Brian Bilgere

    Brian Bilgere Member

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    Tom Johnston, who is on this site, did a nice set of tray development videos on youtube. I have them in one of my blog posts. http://365cameras.com/blog/?p=1014

    Brian
     
  9. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Lots of good advice here, so there isn't really much I can add. Patience. Be sure and methodical. I have disappointed myself more than once by scratching a difficult to replace negative. I don't doubt John can process a stack of 36 sheets. He is experienced and knows what he is doing. I have gone as high as 8 or 10, and have occasionally paid for my rashness. Consequently, I approach processing with the attitude of paying my time. With 8x10, I work with one sheet at at time. The sheets are expensive and I don't shoot that much, so mistakes are costly. With 4x5, I consider how badly I want to get through the stack, and generally divide my run into smaller batches.

    By the way, I generally work primarily by temperature and time, though occasionally I will develop by inspection. There are excellent articles on the process, so I won't try to duplicate them here. I will say this, though... even when I develop by inspection, 90% of the time the values are right when the timer runs out, so maybe it is just a little bit of impatience on my part to have visual feedback during my processing.

    It is really important to have fun when you are doing the work. I love the discipline and calm, step by step flow of working in the complete dark. Unless I royally screw something up, I leave the darkroom a lot more relaxed than when I went in.

    Cheers,
     
  10. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Thank you gentlemen, much appreciated.
     
  11. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    There are a few of us that use the MPP cameras lurking here (myself included). Mine is an ex-mil S92 with an international back from a Series VI/VII and stripped of the range finder. One day I'm going to butcher the casing and try to reduce the weight further...
     
  12. premo

    premo Member

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    The only pan sheet film I've ever used was agfa apx 100. I had been developing ortho (and still do) in 1-50 Rodinal for about 12 min @ 65 degrees. Anyway, I pre-rinse in water for a couple of minutes to cool the film from room temperature, then slip it into 6 oz. of developer mix ( 5X7 tray) one or two at a time. Next into an 8X10 tray for 2 min rinse then into the hypo, and then 6 changes of water in the fourth tray, 5 minutes each, then dry. If you use Ilford Ortho, you can develope under a red safelight, which will be a little easier.
     
  13. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    Great thread. And great answer, John
     
  14. erikg

    erikg Member

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    My process is pretty much like John's but there are a couple of things I would offer. When you transfer the film to the water tray, keep one hand dry, maybe it seems obvious, but I had a heck of a time with film sticking together until I figured that out. When shuffling a stack I turn the first sheet into the developer around so the code notch is at the opposite end from all of the other sheets, that way I can keep track of the order without having to count the whole time, something I always mess up.
     
  15. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    I recommend an 8x10 tray, flat bottom, no dimples or grooves. ( no edge groove either, think gold toner cost later) You want the film to be able glide a little. It's all too easy to get too much edge development from wave kickback in a 5x7 tray. Being able to experience a differing wave pattern leads to, not necessarily better negs, but less of a chance of getting bit by Murphy's law on the great one.
     
  16. goodfood

    goodfood Member

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    I agree with vet173, use the tray with flat bottom. I dev 8X10 on Paterson tray, it has under dev mark on the dimples area. Try to avoid my mistake.
     
  17. mjs

    mjs Member

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    You asked about scratches: I develop up to a dozen 4x5 negatives at a time in 8x10 trays; I found that having the film emulsion side down is one important factor to avoid scratching, and having sufficient fluid volume is also important. For me, a quart of solution (32 US oz., or just about 1 liter,) in an 8x10 tray is about the minimum volume of solution to avoid scratching. With straight D76, this volume will process 16 4x5 negatives, so I normally process film 8 sheets at a time, if I have more than a dozen sheets.

    Remember that there's no need to hurry frantically when shuffling through the negatives: find a pace which allows you to be careful and set the negative you've removed from the bottom of the stack onto the top flat, without digging a corner into the negative below. You might want to process the first half dozen or dozen negatives one at a time, just so you get the times and agitation down and have some practice, then gradually build up the number of negatives you process at a time until you find what's comfortable for you. This will also provide you with some error-free negatives, so you know that you can do it! :smile:

    Good luck!

    Mike
     
  18. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    I'd like to throw another variable into the mix here...

    I don't generally pre-soak my film, but I wonder to what extent it helps in the tray developing process. The reason I mention it is I generally slide the whole sheet into the developer in one smooth motion, but the other night, I must have left a sheet of 8x10 lying on top of the liquid for all of two or three seconds while I placed the empty holder on a table. As far as I can tell, I did everything else in my process exactly by the book, (certainly exactly the same as the other negatives I processed that night) but this one negative has definite dark lines where the developer first contacted the sheet. This, despite the fact that my overall developing time was 20 min. It appears that the interstice between developer and air for those three seconds was enough to create a zone of hyper-active development that resulted in the lines on my negatives.

    I wonder if pre-soaking my negatives would be of any help in avoiding this problem in the future. If nothing else, I guess it would give me time to put down my film holders before immersing the film in the processing bath.

    Opinions? Have I just learned something that you have all known all along and I was just too dense to pick up on it?

    Cheers,
     
  19. erikg

    erikg Member

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    I think you've got it, the presoak would certainly take care of that problem. I don't presoak roll films any more, but I always do it with sheet film in trays for precisely this reason. You then can work at a more methodical pace. As for sheet film holders, I usually unload my film into a box prior to developing, separating them into various groups for development variations or just for safety sake, not putting all the eggs in one tray... I often am wanting the holders for use between developing sessions as well.
     
  20. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Thanks, Erik. I suspected that was the problem. I seem to recall a debate some time ago as to whether pre-soaking helped or impaired the flow of developer on the emulsion, but I'm going to give it a shot.

    Cheers,
     
  21. blockend

    blockend Member

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    There's no model designation on the camera. The only title is on the fold out baseboard: "5 x 4 MPP, England, Micro Technical Camera".

    The lens is by Wray, London, 184mm Lustrar f 4.5.

    Thanks for all the additional info, I'm expecting a box of film tomorrow. Putting the film face down in the tray to avoiding scratching is counter-intuitive but I'll go with it and see what happens.
    Pre-soaking makes sense, I recall the first few seconds of immersion are vital for even development.
     
  22. blockend

    blockend Member

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    It's a MkV11 according to the MPP users club site.