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  1. #1

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    Processing Sheet Film: Deep Tank, Tray, Daylight Tank?

    How do you process your sheet film? In school we used stainless steel tanks that held a gallon of chemistry IIRC. We ran replenished D-76.

    Now that I have a 4x5 camera, obviously how I'll process the film has crossed my mind. I'm inclined to get deep tanks since I'm used to that method, but I was wondering what others use. Obviously that requires a darkroom, which I have access to at the local art gallery. I have emailed the darkroom manager to ask if they have any 4x5 processing equipment, but I'm thinking the answer is no. The stainless deep tanks are expensive and I can't even find the hangers.

    I've heard of the Taco method of processing 4x5 film in a Patterson tank, but I don't own a Patterson tank (my professor in photo 1 said plastic tanks are not compatible with professional darkroom procedures so I gave it away). Not really interested in buying another one either; I have 1, 2, and 4 roll stainless tanks (Nikor style with 35mm and 120 reels).

    I've seen daylight tanks, the Combi Plan and Yankee. Are they any better or worse than deep-tank dip and dunk? How about tray processing; that seems to be a good option as well. I feel sure the communal darkroom has 5x7 trays.

    Any preferred methods? Anything I should steer clear of?

  2. #2

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    A good an inexpensive alternative is find a Unicolor 8x10 drum as you can process 4x5 film in it.

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/

    I'd stay away from the Yankee tanks they use a lot of chemistry and it is not easy to agitate the film.

    I'm sure you will gets lots of other worthwhile answers such as use trays, Jobo tanks etc.

    Interesting what your professor said, maybe that is why he is a professor. Too bad I have been using plastic tanks for 40 years but I'm not a professional.

  3. #3

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    Professors are very good at turning their opinion into fact. Whether or not plastic tanks are compatible with a professional darkroom I can't say for sure, but I know a lot of people use them and love them.

    I am perfectly happy with my stainless steel tanks. I suppose my professor said that because of the belief (perhaps unfounded) that plastic tanks can leech chemistry and ruin film after some time. They also fall and crack (and leak when they crack) so maybe that's the reason, especially in a high-volume university setting. We went through at least 5 gallons of D-76 a week.

  4. #4

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    plastic tanks are plenty professional,
    they don't transfer the heat from your hands into
    the developer as much ... maybe your prof
    had a bad experience with plastic and he is not
    really telling you the real "why ...

    i learned large format processing with deep tanks
    they held 3.5 gallons ( i think ) we used dk50 + replenished with dk50R.
    i used to process 15-20 5x7 sheets at once ... fun times.
    later i bought armloads of hangers ( 4x5 ) and little stainless tanks
    ( i think i got them from columbus camera group back in like 1989 )
    shutterbug was king back then ... i later used 3.5 quart tupperware containers
    they fit 4x5 hanger perfectly ... and they were cheap !
    i fell out of love with hangers when i had a bad one or 3 that messed with my film.
    i couldn't ID which one was which ( maybe they took turns ? ) so i became a tray process convert.
    it takes a little practice but tray processing is the simplest way there is.
    some only process 1 or 2 or 4 or 8 sheets at at time, but i regularly process between 15 and 40 sheets of film
    and have had trouble ( a scratch ? ) maybe 4 times in thousands of sheets.
    the downside is that it is a constant shuffle, but it is worth the trouble.

    good luck !
    john
    im empty, good luck

  5. #5

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    I posted this on another thread once upon a time:

    After unsuccessfully trying shuffling negatives in a tray, I modified an 8x10 tray by cutting 2x2"x1/8" ABS pipe cut in half (I'm sure 1 1/2" pipe would work just as well) using a miter saw to produce 4x1/8" half rings and gluing them to the bottom of the tray using Superglue to create 4 "chambers."

    Cost me nothing but my time and works like a charm. The same tray can be used for each step, and I never handle the negatives. I set out all my chemicals in order on my right including water for a water bath; tray sits in a water jacket (room temperature is too high) in front of me pouring spout at top left; I empty the chemicals to my left: water bath & developer down the drain and the others into the containers I poured them from. 450-500ml of developer ensures that the sheets are covered. I use intermittent agitation: 60 seconds agitation and 10 out of every 60 seconds until the time is up.

    Let me add that the "dots" you see are tiny drops from a hot-glue gun; just enough to keep the sheets off the bottom of the tray (the hot glue also works for the dividers). I never have to worry about the sheets falling out of the tray; just be careful (read: don't turn the damn thing upside down). I also use different shaped containers for the reusable chemicals (stop, fix, & hca) so I don't get mixed up, although by the time I get to the hca, I can turn the lights on. I suppose a larger tray would allow more sheets, but 4 at a time is good for me. I tested sheets exposed for Zones II, V, & VII (part of my film testing procedure) and found very little difference in density (as measured by a densitometer) around the edges as compared to the middle. It didn't matter if I was processing 2, 3, or 4 sheets at a time. Conclusion: even development across the film.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Bob Walberg

    The fix is in!

  6. #6

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    any chance of a bigger picture?

  7. #7
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I got a couple of Unicolor motor driven drum rollers, for five bucks and both are in good working order.

    8x10 drums can be had for chop change, and voila - you have a perfect continuous motor driven system. I used to do four sheets of 4x5, and now do two sheets of 5x7 at a time. Perfectly even results every time. I love this method.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  8. #8
    Ken Nadvornick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nige View Post
    any chance of a bigger picture?
    Click on the image in this post...

    Ken
    "They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."

    — Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    I got a couple of Unicolor motor driven drum rollers, for five bucks and both are in good working order.

    8x10 drums can be had for chop change, and voila - you have a perfect continuous motor driven system. I used to do four sheets of 4x5, and now do two sheets of 5x7 at a time. Perfectly even results every time. I love this method.
    thomas

    i also have a unicolor drums and the little rubber thing to process multiple sheets ( and a handful of replacement gaskets )
    but even with the drum working correctly, and putting the correct amount of developer &c in the drum .. unless you
    seal he ends with caulk the drums leaks chemistry out.

    i know the vasoline on the gasket thing, and i have read greywolf's article on the large format site but never had the heart to fully seal mine ...

    how do you get yours not to leak ?


    thanks !
    john
    im empty, good luck

  10. #10
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Hi John,

    A couple of my tanks don't leak at all, and I have one that leaks marginally. The one that leaks a bit I just fold up a paper towel and lay it on the counter top underneath the cap of the tank. Just to be extra safe I put the roller base in a tray; I don't want chemistry all over the darkroom.

    The best tanks I have tried for rotary are the Chromega ones. Those never leak. The Unicolor proprietary ones are nowhere near as good.

    Once I did receive a Unicolor tank that has electric tape wrapped around the opening of the tank in hope of improving the seal, but it didn't work. I've heard of some people using wide electric tape, and wrapping it around the tank right where the tank and the cap come together, after the tank is closed, and that works pretty well.
    In an 8x10 tank I've also noticed that anything more than 400ml of chemistry will overflow the tank and leak back out where chemistry is poured in.

    Not much help, but I hope you can find some of those Chromega tanks for a buck or two. Those are great.

    - Thomas

    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    thomas

    i also have a unicolor drums and the little rubber thing to process multiple sheets ( and a handful of replacement gaskets )
    but even with the drum working correctly, and putting the correct amount of developer &c in the drum .. unless you
    seal he ends with caulk the drums leaks chemistry out.

    i know the vasoline on the gasket thing, and i have read greywolf's article on the large format site but never had the heart to fully seal mine ...

    how do you get yours not to leak ?


    thanks !
    john
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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