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DIY 5x4

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Zou, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Due to the cost of having 5x4 developed by a lab (£2.50 a sheet) I want to do it myself at home. I've been doing 35mm and 120 for a while now with no problems, so I am comfortable with the processes involved. The options seem to be as follows:

    Paterson Orbital
    Cheapest option, but only available used. I could load it in my changing bag and it should be fairly straightforward. Doesn't use much chemistry, so economical too.

    Combiplan tank
    Available new, mid-price. Can do six sheets at once, but uses a lot of chemistry. On the downside I have heard many horror stories with leaks and uneven development caused by the slow filling/draining times.

    Jobo drum
    This is the most expensive option. It doesn't use much chemistry though, and still does six sheets. I haven't heard of any problems, but the cost of the tank, plus spiral, plus spiral loader and guide, plus base (etc) makes it quite an investment.

    Or of course hiring a local darkroom and using trays. This may be worth a try to see if it is practical for me, but in the long run I know it would be more economical to do the developing at home, or I may move away and have no access to a darkroom.

    For someone like myself, starting out with diy 5x4, what do you recommend? I am tempted to just bite the bullet and grab the first good condition Orbital I can find, but I am not really an impulsive guy so I may later regret not having bought the 'right' product.

    Any advice?
  2. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    Like most things it depends on how much use you are going to get out of it. Even agitation seems the main problem.
  3. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    How are you going to keep the Jobo drum at the correct temperature? Or did your comment about expense include the costs of a tempered water bath and agitator?
  4. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    The same way I do with my Paterson tank - start a degree or so up so that over the ten minutes or so it takes to develop it stays close enough to the desired temperature. I mix the chemicals separately, warm/cool them to the right temperature, and take it from there. I was planning on using the Jobo with a roller base and keeping it moving/rotating by hand. I wasn't planning on getting a fully controlled processor (much as I'd love to, although SWMBO would have a fit!).
  5. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    I intend to get a fair bit of use from it. Film can be had very reasonably (£20 for 50 sheets). At a cost of £2.50 a sheet for lab developing, even the Jobo set up (2521 tank, 2509 spiral and 1509 roller base) would pay for itself after about 50-60 sheets.
  6. hhmr

    hhmr Well-Known Member

    Hi Zou,

    I do a bit with a 4x5 (self-assembled Bulldog) and also with 19thC half-plate and quarter-plate camera. My solution to the problem so far has been to use Ilford Ortho Plus which is easily available and can be developed in a dish under a safelight. I also rather like the tonality. On the whole I do prefer it to the paper negs which featured in AP the other week but that was fun too.

    I don't have a darkroom, just a blacked out bathroom with a row of 4 trays in the bottom of the bath and a cheap safelight hanging from a hook over the door. I develop by time rather than inspection with the solutions at room temperature just as I do with 35mm and 120 in daylight tanks. It seems to work but is more convenient at this time of the year than in summer as my temporary blackout probably wouldn't stand up to daylight. Nobody would ever make a living that way!

    I don't feel confident enough yet to try developing pan film yet in the dark and in any case with the old plate sizes I need to cut up larger size film to fit, using a print trimmer, which would probably be a bit frustrating in total darkness. I expect I'll eventually feel bold enough to try some pan in the 4x5 though. Colour would be another story; I don't home process 35mm or 120 colour film anyway.

  7. pilliwinks

    pilliwinks Well-Known Member

    I rarely use anything other than 5x4 these days. You don't say whether you're using colour neg/slide or black and white; I'll assume the latter.

    The first and third options both involve continuous agitation, which does reduce some of the development options that black and white enthusiasts are used to - you might consider that you'll never want to use an acutance developer, but methods 1 and 3 will eliminate the possibility.

    I'll accept that there are stories about uneven development with the Combiplan tanks, but I'm unsure whether this is due to the fill/empty times or to the sheets being so physically close when 6 sheets are developed at once. One person reported problems which disappeared when he switched to just 4 sheets at a time.

    An alternative to this, if you don't mind being in the dark, is to use the film holder and transfer it from one tank to another in the dark - either extra Combiplan bodies, or other containers of the same depth.

    The cost of the chemicals really only applies to the developer (assuming you use one shot developers) as the stop and fixer can be re-used.

    If you don't mind working in the dark, you could use the Combiplan film holder and the actual tank (without lid) holding the developer; put the holder in to start the development, agitate by lifting and dropping, and at the end of the development process tranfer to another container with the stop bath. This needs to be the same depth as the Combi tank, but that's all. The volume is bound to be greater, but the solution can be re-used. Then in to the fixer, again in a different container.

    Alternatively, if colour is in mind, you can buy a set of Combiplan tanks in a thermostatically adjusted waterbath and proceed as above - in the dark. This will also work with colour, of course.
  8. DaveS

    DaveS Well-Known Member

    I used to use a tank, can't remember the name off hand, but it was a yank tank that took 12 sheets. I gave up after ruining I-don't-know-how-many sheets of 5x4 with "curtains" of uneven development over the sheets.
    The last I developed film, I used trays and found I could shuffle up to 8 5x4 or 4 10x8 without too many probs. Timing was by a luminous stop-clock kept shaded from the trays on top of a shelf at eye level.
    The only disaster I had was with my usual home-brew PMK when I forgot to put part b in the dev tray in the dark and ended up with 4 clear 10x8s, ouch

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