In threads like this often one model out of a group is taken to form an opinion.
Seen the variety of models and the different applications (see above), it would need either a lot of experience or a reguled test to come some decent conclusion.
Futhermore there seems some bias simply due to spread of types in the local market.
For 120 and 220 I use plastic reels from Freestyle. For most 35mm I use Hewes. The cheap steel reels are terrible. After I bought Hewes reels I couldn't believe how easy they are to load.
You have to experiment and use what works for you.
Instead of preferences, let's just lay out a few characteristics. They can be seen as pros and cons, but really there are ways to work around each.
1. Sometimes the lids leak a little ("burping" the lid seems to help)
2. Much faster fill/dump times than SS - ideal for uniformity
3. More parts to break/crack
4. Plastic reels are often cited as being more prone to air bubbles
5. Plastic reels can be difficult to load wet (remedy - dry them)
6. Assuming all parts are plastic, no problems using selenium toner etc.
1. Durability (the older Kinderman stuff at least) - I'm still using the same one my father bought in the early 70s. This may not apply to current systems. The cheapo Chinese tanks are thinner, often with the bottom being a separate piece of metal, and the lids do not seem to fit as tight.
2. No leak problems (subject to quality of lid)
3. Relatively slow fill/dump times through the daylight lid. It's ok for small tanks, but particularly for a tank any bigger than two-reel capacity I would strongly suggest filling the tank first, dropping the reels in and then putting the lid on.
4. Good reels (Hewes, Kinderman) are a breeze to load - even wet. Although I still don't know why anyone would load dry film onto wet equipment.
5. SS will conduct heat from hands more efficiently than plastic. Several easy remedies - tempering bath, wet hands in cold water before agitation cycles, grasp the tank with balled up paper towel between hands and tank, gloves etc.
6. SS may or may not cause problems for things like selenium toning of negatives. I don't have a definitive answer on this. But worth thinking about particularly with cheaper, lower quality SS.
So, obviously you can use either and get the same results in the end. They just work a little differently.
"But worth thinking about particularly with cheaper, lower quality SS, or if chrome flakes off the reels - I've seen this happen."
SS does not flake off, chrome is not SS. Maybe made to look and or sold as SS?
Well I saw the shiny stuff flake off some supposedly stainless steel film clips so I don't know what the deal was there.
I've edited my post to remove that part so there's no confusion.
Michael R 1974, thanks for the excellent posting of pros and cons. I would add two more, and these are the two reasons I switched from Paterson to SS:
1. SS uses less chemistry. For one roll of 35mm, it's 210 ml versus 325 ml.
2. Paterson has more parts to clean and dry when you're done.
Regarding loading: After practicing a few times, SS has become just as easy for me to load as Paterson.
But plastic may be better for this: If you have a plastic 220 reel, then you can load two 120 rolls onto a single reel. Push the first roll as far into the spiral as possible, then load the second roll. OTOH, I haven't actually tried this and I don't know if my adjustable reels can handle the length of a 220.
Chromed surfaces are more bluish, SS is more yellowish.
Originally Posted by fotch
Fought with plastic when I learned developing, fought with plastic last week (after a decades long gap from darkroom)/
Took all my plastic reels and traded them for steel.
Steel reels forever, as far as I'm concerned.
What plastic reels did you trade for what steel reels...?
see post #12
Originally Posted by albada
This works fine with either Paterson or the Samigon/AP/Arista Premium reels and Kodak 120 films (I do it with Plus-X and TMax 400).
There is at least a bit of space between the end of the first roll and the beginning of the next.
I wouldn't suggest doing it with rotary processing - in my experience films are more likely to wander with rotary, and may end up overlapping.