Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Brad Bireley, Apr 7, 2006.
What should I look for in buying a tank to process 4x5?
Thanks in advance for any help,
I use the old hard rubber ones that Kodak made and they seem to do just fine. I think that you can use just about anything that is non-porous as long as the hangers do not fall in. I like the Kodak variety becuase they are very sturdy and not overly expensive. There was a set of 3 for sale just recently in the classified ads, and they came with hangers to boot. I have heard the Yankee brand tanks are less desirable, but I don't have personal experience with them so I can't verify this.
If you want a daylight tank, the Combi-plan tank looks nice. I know that many people have stated they had problems with these, but there is some doubt about how well they followed the directions and whether they had used equipment that was not in the greatest shape. The vendor often responds to these posts in a way that suggests user error rather than poor design of the tank. Again, take that for what you will; I can't verify with personal experience, but perhaps someone here can.
LF tanks are not easy to find these days. The HP CombiPlan may be the only tank currently being manufactured.
You will have more success looking at used equipment. There are steel, plastic and rubber options - the classiest is the Nikor steel tank with the spiral that accepts 4x5 sheets, but it's really hard to find.
In my opinion, the choice is not so much between brands of tanks, but between methods. The main choices are:
Jobo system - uniformity, works well with color, but expensive
BTZS tubes - either commercial or DIY, advocates swear by them, seem a little fiddley to me
Open trays - the traditional approach - with a risk of scratching
Unicolor print drums - poor-man's equivalent of Jobo
Sloshers - the best answer for those who want to do it in the dark
Nikor tank - expensive and hard to find, agitation by inversion
Yankee tank - OK if you don't mind wet elbows - they leak!
CombiPlan tank - supposed to be OK, a bit expensive for me
Rubber tanks and hangers - OK, but have to work in the dark
Unless you are looking to do extreme localized-starvation type processing, stay away from the FR bakelite tanks.
While I like the design and feel of them and their 12 sheet capacity, it makes for near impossible agitation and you get very flat negatives as a general rule.
Of course, if you are shooting extremely contrasty subjects and need the effect of flattening out the image, it might do you well.
I won't throw mine out because of the cool press photog in a fedora molded into the surface of the bakelite, but I won't be using it unless the scene contrast is sky-high.
I could see where this design would be very helpful in flashgun/bulb press photography; which is what it appears to have been designed for...
Depends on what else you need.
The 2500 Jobo series can handle everything from 35mm to 4x5. If this matters then I think this is the only choice.
Then you've got the more expensive Jobo Expert tanks.
All the choices seem to have a different set of issues. Everybody thinks thier choice is perfect
Could someone explain these please?
Try here http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/search.asp?search=photo they have a number of products.
I made my own tanks out of clear acrylic so i could watch them develop with nvg's
having tried just about every method listed here, my preference is for the Jobo with Expert drums. All of the other multi-sheet processing methods leave something to be desired.
Yankee Tanks are still available I believe, but I don't use mine anymore even though it will do up to 12 sheets at a time. Because of the design of the sheet rack, it is quite possible to get developer surge near the edges of the frame. This may not be a problem when you're enlarging, since between the negative carrier masking some of the edge and the contrast response of silver-based enlarging paper, much of the localized over-development won't show, or can be cropped out. If you want to make contact prints, with alternative processes, or on AZO, however, you're SOL.
CombiPlan tanks may have the same problem- I can't really tell, because mine always leaked from the drain valve. It was too expensive to go out and replace it, with the possibility of getting another leaky one.
Trays- they're great if you're on a budget. There's no problem with developer surge, but they are the most prone to scratching of any developing method. The other downside of trays is that you have to get your hands in the chemicals (Wear gloves!), and then you have the largest surface area of exposed chemistry of any method around which you have to work. This method is most likely to stain clothes and/or burn nasal membranes from the fumes.
Sloshers are a multi-frame insert that sits in a tray and lets you gently agitate four or more sheets of film at a time. They reduce the amount of contact you have to have with your chemistry versus a straight up open tray, and they keep each sheet separate, reducing the chances of scratching. See trays for more downsides.
old Bakelite/hard rubber tanks have the advantage of being able to process large amounts of film at one time. If you can get the hang of working with stainless steel hangers, this can be a good way to go. However, until you get good at working the hangers, they will be prone to developer surge around the edges like the Yankee tank is. If you are doing some kind of stand, semi-stand or EMA development, this is the way to go. I keep a set of tanks and hangers around for when I want to do EMA development with 8x10 film. They also require a LOT of chemistry- an 8x10 tank takes over a gallon of developer. If you are using a pyro type developer or other developer that oxidizes rapidly, you are looking at 1 or at most 2 uses of that batch before you have to dump it, which is not good if you only have small batches to process.
Unicolor drums are a pain to fill, and the unicolor drum base only has one rotation speed, which seems best suited for doing color print development. They also do not have any good method for temperature control if you are processing on a unicolor motor base.
The Jobo expert drums allow you to use a reduced amount of chemistry, keep each sheet well separated, and provide very even development. The downside, other than expense, is the size. Expert drums are not small. They can be hand-rolled in a sink or on a counter, because the lids are designed well and dont protrude unevenly.
Lachlan, Summitek calls these devices Cradles, Photographer's Formulary calls them Sloshers. PF make an 8x10 version (Red Acrylic plastic - I have one).
Here is a good description, courtesy of Summitek (with prices):
The Cradle is a developing tray insert that separates sheet film for tray development. It can be used for normal or compensating development including Pyro. It is hand made of 1/8 black Acrylic plastic and is warranted for 5 years against defects in manufacture and materials. Please note that the tray is not included. The Cradle comes in two sizes: The CR45 holds 6 sheets of 4X5 film, fits an 11X14 tray and costs $45 + shipping. The CR57 holds 6 sheets of 5X7 film, and fits a 16X20 tray and costs $55 + shipping.
For a photo:
Probably the easiest and cheapest way to get started is to proceess your 4x5 sheet film one-at-a-time in the Patterson System 4 (or other tank that'll do two 35mm reels) tank without any reels. Use the top and make sure the center thingy is in there - it is part of the light trap. Put the film in emulsion side toward the center and process as if it were a really big reel. The Patterson tank need 750-800ml of chems like this though.
After that, I'd go for the Jobo 2500 series of tanks and reels. You can get a whole kit with everything you need: tank, reel, and a fancy stand to help load the film onto the reel. I think the Jobo part number for the whole kit is 4341 (or maybe, 4143). I got mine at Calumet for something like $140.
FR tanks run cheep on FEEbay ( mine were given to me ) and you can find instructions at here. i have used them just for stand processing and i was 1/2-sucessful at best.
I use Jobo 2500 series tanks on a Unicolour base for all my B&W 4x5 negatives. I don't process colour myself. I've tried tray and SS hanger development, but in terms of consistancy of developemnt, the Jobo has worked best for me.
I am just getting back into 4x5 and I have an FR tank that I have not used in over 30 years; back when I used to use it I was not sophisticated enough to look for uneven development. I recently tested it and found it requires about 1.5 liters of solution for 4x5, and requires 20 seconds to fill and another 20 seconds to drain. It seems that if there is any hope for it at all, I'll have to find a developer with a long developing time.
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