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Film processing for large-format film - part 1 of 1 2 3

by Paul Gallagher Published

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As mentioned in other articles, I moved through the formats to achieve an increase in image quality along with taking full advantage of image control that the movements of a large-format camera can offer. The general principles of using my usual film in a larger format and mastering the craft of large-format processing was something that I had read about and mentally planned. In a way I knew roughly which problems I could encounter using the larger format camera and how I might overcome them. The one problem that did catch me out was trying to obtain perfectly even development of a sheet of film, which I did not regard as being vast leap from my previous 6cmx7cm format. In roll-film many of the processing tank systems look pretty similar and offer the same results, and, having used many of them over the years, I had confidence in them. When I began to look into the ways of obtaining the same reliability and consistency of results with 5x4 sheet film, things began to go wrong and I soon realised you could not take for granted what manufacturers declared in their blurb


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Firstly I embarked on the cheap "cutting corners" approach and followed some dodgy advice given to me by trying to modify an old Paterson roll-film processing tank so it could accommodate sheet film. I rather ridiculously filled the tank in the same way I had always done with roll-film with the daylight lid on and happily agitated away to find the resulting negatives to be fantastically streaky and unprintable. Back to the drawing board for Mr Scrooge! Still clinging onto the comfort of loading the sheet film in darkness and processing as I always had done in daylight, I bought another processing tank whereby after you loaded the film in the dark you could then fill and empty the tank with your series of chemicals, agitate at will and finally open the tank to see the end results. Although these results were a vast improvement on my home-made effort they came nowhere close to what I was used to with my roll-film. I had no option but to accept that I had to complete the entire sheet-film development process in total darkness and after some simple research there were two main options available to me - a dedicated Dip & Dunk processing unit or using small darkroom trays. The latter conjured up visions of soft emulsion being scratched by fingernails, and film edges and sheets sticking together along with not knowing were I was with agitation and temperature control problems. Although this was very much the cheaper option Mr Scrooge had now joined Jacob Marley and I was willing to pay money to save the cost of wasted film, time and lost images.


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Updated 25/03/2020 12:33:27 Last Modified: Wednesday, 25 March 2020