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  1. #1
    Gerry M's Avatar
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    Tray developing 4X5 film

    Is developing 4X5 b&w film in trays practical? I just got a CG 4X5 and don't want to invest in tanks or tubes until I decide whether or not to stay with LF. Appreciate your input.
    Gerry

  2. #2
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Tray processing is seductive.

    You will immediately notice that smooth featureless areas are amazingly evenly developed.

    And soon you will notice you don't scratch the film as much. But I have processed over 500 sheets by tray and still upon close inspection of my best prints you will find some scratch evidence.

  3. #3
    Gerry M's Avatar
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    Bill,
    Scratches from film holders or just from handling?

  4. #4

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    I like the workflow better when developing in tank. But so far I have had more even development in tray. However, now I only develop in tank and I think the results are getting better each time. I'm planning to switch to "dip and dunk" developing in tank soon.

  5. #5
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    I've been doing it in a stainless steel tank. (i.e. "Taco Method.")

    I fold them in half, hold them with an elastic hair band and put four of them in the tank. I fill the tank half full of liquid then, holding it horizontally between my hands, on its side, I turn it continuously.
    As I rotate it in my hands, it naturally sloshes end for end as well. Every minute, I turn the tank over so it rotates in the other direction. The continuous turning coupled with the semi-random sloshing seems to develop the film evenly, as far as I can tell.

    I just finished a batch of T-Max 400, developed in D-76 1:1 for 9 minutes. That's a half minute shy of Kodak's recommendation for T-Max 400 tray development.
    I think they might have come out a little bit "overdone" but I'm still in the process of honing my technique. I'm not sure whether I need to cut the development time by another half minute or cut my exposure by a smidgen. I'll know more when they finish drying and I get a chance to scan them and proof them.

    I tried using homemade tubes, fashioned after the BTZS kit. It works but it's just not practical for me. I don't have a sink in my darkroom so I have to do my "wet work" in the laundry sink which is in the next room. Since there aren't any safe lights in the laundry room, opening the tubes to fill them with chemistry is a pain. I either have to do the deed in the darkroom and carry them to the sink in the other room or I have to turn all the lights out in the laundry room. The tube method is good but, no matter how I slice it, there's just too much fussing around to develop film that way.

    My situation likely requires some type of daylight system be used. I'll probably end up getting a Jobo system or something similar but, for now, I'm going to have to get along by using the Taco Method in a regular stainless tank.
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

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    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

  6. #6
    Neanderman's Avatar
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    It's more than practical. It's the only way I process ANY sheet film and I've been doing it for 30+ years.

    Ed
    "I only wanted Uncle Vern standing by his new car (a Hudson) on a clear day. I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary's laundry, and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on a fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch and 78 trees and a million pebbles in the driveway and more. It's a generous medium, photography." -- Lee Friedlander

  7. #7
    John Austin's Avatar
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    Don't ask - the only way you will find out is to try both systems, make prints and see which way you prefer to work - However, give each way a fair shake of the sauce bottle before deciding

    Many of the answers above are about personal preference and don't take into consideration the length of your finger nails, how stable the temperature of your dishes of dev' are and other things

    Now get thy notebook, go to the darkroom and learn by experience

    John

  8. #8
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    Agreed. Ask ten different guys and you'll get twenty different answers. Regardless of who recommends what, the best thing to do is experiment until you find the best way for your situation.
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

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    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

  9. #9
    Gerry M's Avatar
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    Thank you all. I'll give the trays a go.
    Gerry

  10. #10
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry M View Post
    Bill,
    Scratches from film holders or just from handling?
    You can find threads where we talk about it. The scratches are from handling in the trays. I am sure the film makes it into the holders without incident.

    I wear vinyl gloves and work with an ATN Viper IR viewer. So there are no fingernail or fumbling issues. My trays are porcelain so the surfaces are smooth. My film goes in emulsion up. And I am careful to lift/separate the stack from the bottom sheet and pull the bottom sheet out and away. Up and over the top and back down again.

    What works against you is the approximately 200 times that you perform this action. Any one mistake is a scratch because the corners of the sheets are as sharp as razors.

    I attentively perform these actions through dev, stop, fix, and wash too. (I wash by filling a tray with water and cycling the sheets into it... dumping the second tray and filling with fresh water... and cycling the sheets into that tray... and repeat.) I never let a sheet out of my "sight" but invariably there is a fine scratch. And it is maddening when it's in someone's face.

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