Tray or Tank for 4x5?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Thomas Bertilsson, Aug 19, 2004.

  1. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Hello,

    I have recently acquired a 4x5 outfit, a Crown Graphic with an Ektar lens, a few film holders for both sheet and roll (6x9) and a tripod (waiting for a better one).

    As you can imagine, I am itching to get out there to make some images, but don't have a darkroom set up yet. My question is:
    Should I finish my darkroom and develop the film in trays, or should I buy a sheet film tank and use that? I guess I'm asking which gives the best results.

    Info: I am planning on using Ilford FP4+ film with either Rodinal or FA1027 developer - if that makes a difference.
    It is also my desire to use the negatives for contact printing in some cases, and enlarging in other cases.

    Grateful for some insight in this matter,

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, Minnesota
     
  2. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    This is quick because I'm running late and no time to elaborate. I don't think anyone can conclusivley say one method gives consistently better results than the other. It depends on the individual and what works best for you.

    I'll put in the plug for tray development. Tanks for LF can get expensive. Trays are cheap and once you get the technique down, pretty easy. Many of the Greats, both past and present, use tray development, even for ULF sizes. I was scared of it at first but quickly became comfortable with it. Flubs can happen, like dropping a sheet, but flubs happen no matter what technique is used.

    I can elaborate a little more tomorrow.
     
  3. Deckled Edge

    Deckled Edge Member

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    Regardless of the workaround you come up with because you have no darkroom, in the end, you'll just have negatives. It will require a darkroom to convert them to prints. I don't see any way around finishing the darkroom, and then it will be a no-brainer: trays are cheapest, easiest and best intro into 4x5. Eventually you will get into tubes and then all your problems with negatives will be solved and you can devote the rest of your life to the problems of GOOD negatives and better prints. :cool:
    Meantime, ditch the Ektar ;-)
     
  4. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Really, tubes are the best do you think DE? No more scratches, even development, economical use of chems etc,etc.?

    John
    (current'y commited tray user - but very willing to be converted).
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have been processing film in trays for about 10 years, and even though i have a unicolor drum &C i can't get myself to acutally use it for sheet film. trays are easy to deal with 'cept when you can't remember which one is the dev and which one is the fix ... the only problem with tanks ( daylight ) and trays is that it is hard to use a replenishing developer like dk50 or harvey's 777 --- you always have to pour it back into the big-jug which is messy and a pain ... i guess everything has its trade offs
     
  6. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    In commercial labs, the only manual sheet processing that I did was in sinklines, racks and tanks. HC110 w. replenishment for B&W. I never even see this method mentioned anymore.

    In my recent attempts at 4x5, I'm using an old JOBO 4x5 tank and reels because... well... I already had one and I can't afford enough of that precious dark to tray process. (Except late at night). Seems to work fine.
     
  7. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    I have been using the HP Combi Tank successfully for several years now. Am quite paranoid about scratching the negs with tray development.
    gene
     
  8. DrPhil

    DrPhil Member

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    Trays certainly are the cheapest; however, you run the risk of scratching you negatives. Furthermore, my skin gets irritated by keeping my hands in the chemicals for a long time. Tanks also work quite well. The best I have seen is the HP Combi tank. A Jobo is also an option; however, they are expensive. Furthermore, with more moving parts they are more likely to break. My ATL is again non-functional. Thus, I would suggest that you try tubes. You can purchase the BTZS setup for not much more than a combi tank; or, you could build your own for a few bucks at the local hardware store. Tubes are not truly a daylight process. They require darkness for loading; however, you could use a changing bag easily enough. After that you just need dim room light.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I use both trays and a Nikor SS tank for 4x5". The Nikor tank can handle up to 12 sheets and uses 1200ml of solution, so if I have six or more sheets with the same development time, I tend to use the tank. If I have a small mixed batch of sheets with different development times in the same developer, then I use trays.

    If you have a darkroom, you'll have trays anyway, so you might as well start with what you have, and then add a tank when you want.

    Tanklines and hangars are a good method if you have a lot of film to develop on a regular basis, prefer a replenishable developer, and have room for the tankline.
     
  10. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I always seem to get scratches on film in trays, so I would go for a tank such as the Combi-Plan. I used to use a Combi-Plan, but switched to a Jobo so I could run sheet and roll film with the same times.

    As far as dumping the Ektar - I would first try it out. I have one and it has a very nice look to it, though it also has it's problems with coverage and flare. I don't use it much anymore because I need to remount for my new camera - but I still like it.
     
  11. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    The best negatives I have made were with tray development and single sheets. I will qualify this statement by saying that I use a lot of Efke 25 film which comes pre-scratched at times. I also use PMK pyro a lot, so staining properties are important and evenly developed negatives are demanding consistency.

    With a Yankee type daylight tank, I had problems with uneven skies and finally gave up on it. This may have been more due to my abilities and technique with PMK.
     
  12. mark

    mark Member

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    for 4x5 I have tray developed, have a combiplan tank I use if I can fill it up with negs. I have and do not like tubes. I find them a hassel. If you do not mind being in the complete dark trays and two to three negs are great. I have done as much as five without problem but that was only once and I won't try it again. Read my last processing problem for a hazzard with tray processing.

    The Yankee daylight tank sucks. I never got an even development. I have had no problem at all with the combiplan.
     
  13. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning,

    Decades ago, when I first started shooting 4 x 5, I tried the Yankee tank. Results were not very satisfactory and a large volume of solution is needed.

    Then I tried shuffling a few sheets in a tray and had problems with scratches, sheets sticking together, etc. Admittedly, most of this was probably due to my beginner status, but just couldn't see much future in the tray method. With hindsight, I think that if I'd just had the sense to subdivide the tray into several sections so that simple rocking could have substituted for shuffling the sheets, it might have worked out.

    Around the same time, I had been working a little with the then-new Cibachrome, using a Cibachrome drum and a Beseler motor base. A rare flash of intuition gave me the idea of processing black and white sheet film in similar fashion. At the time I had never read of any else doing that, although I now assume that I was hardly the first. The Cibachrome drum wouldn't work, because it is internally smooth and has no spacers or dividers. But I acquired a Chromega 8 x 10 drum which neatly holds four sheets of 4 x 5. Bingo! Processing problem solved! Almost thirty years later, I still use the same drum and motor base; I've never had scratches, leaks, or uneven development. Since I don't do heavy-volume processing, the four-sheet capacity is fine. The only problem I recall is that I once had a sheet of thin-base film (Tech Pan) come loose during rotation.

    Drum processing involves very low-cost equipment, small chemical volumes, minimal skin contact with chemicals,full-light working conditions, and highly consistent results. I strongly suggest than any LF beginner try this method first.

    Konical
     
  14. DrPhil

    DrPhil Member

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    Tray processing with a "slosher" also works well. Summitek sells one; however, phil bard has directions on how to make one at his website http://philbard.com
     
  15. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    I have tried various tanks- I like trays. I don't know how people scratch their film, with their fingernails?the bottom of the tray?
    If you have good touch, you can develop multiple sheets of film, or singles for those really important shots- vary development, agitation, mix sizes, different film stock- all without having to fool around with any gizmos. I would suspect that even great photogs we admire (most of whom used trays) that do use a JOBO have the skill to develop a sheet or two in a tray occasionally, for testing, special neg, stand dev, etc.
    Just my $0.02...
    OTOH, people like the JOBOs for the consistency, but it's not very hands-on that way. To me fooling around with putting each sheet of film in it's own little length of PVC, taking it out wet, putting screen behind it, just to stand there for the whole time anyway is nuts, (here come the flames) but people love the BTZS tubes, so they must like the results. The only thing that I think everyone will agree on is stay away from the cheap "Yankee" tanks. (If you MUST try one, the key is to agitate like a washing machine, otherwise kiss your skies goodbye).

    Good luck, whichever way you go-

    Matt
     
  16. lee

    lee Member

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    trays for PMK and Pyrocat-HD no scratching. I think most of the scratching comes from too the wash and it being too forceful.

    lee\c
     
  17. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Thanks for the link DrPhil.
     
  18. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Yankee daylight tank has given me mixed results depending on film. When APX100 4X5 was available, I had fairly consistent results. But since then I've become very frustrated with the tank & am switching to trays. Still use the 4X5 tank for 2X3 size film with good results - guess it sloshes around better for sizes smaller than max size of tank thereby giving more even development.
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thank you everybody who contributed to helping me with this.

    It seems like there are basically two alternatives:
    1. Invest in additional equipment and get a tube.
    2. Go with finishing my darkroom and use the trays I already have.

    To me it seems like there are pros and cons with both, but I've always been known for handling all kinds of things very gently, so I think trays is the way for me to go.

    I suppose I have to get my butt in gear and start finishing my darkroom.

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, Minnesota
     
  20. mwtroxell

    mwtroxell Member

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    One other option is a slosher tray. It divides the tray into 4 compartments that each take 1 4x5 negative. I've had very good luck with a slosher tray for 4x5 negatives and I will be using one for 8x10 starting next month. You can see the 4x5 negative version at http://www.summitek.com/cradle.html
    Photographers Formulary also sells both the 4x5 negative and 8x10 negative versions.