FomaPan 200 Tray Development

Ian-Barber

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I want to tray develop some FomaPan 200 sheet film in XTOL. For inversion tank, I am developing it for 7 minutes as per the FomaPan data sheet but I cannot find any information for Tray Development. Would reducing the time by around 15% be a good place to start.
 

David M

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Are you developing one sheet, or interleaving several?
If you are doing several sheets, put them one by one into the first tray, with water, using your left hand to hold a fan of films and your right to put them into the water. They mist be done one by one otherwise the sheets will stick together. You push them under with your right little finger to keep then other finger dry. Do not slide them in as you would a piece of paper but place them on top and push them under. Don't push down too hard.
Although some people differ, both Kodak and Ansel Adams say emulsion up.
Now put your fingers under the stack and slide the bottom sheet forward and out. Place it on the top and do the same with the rest until you have gone through the whole stack. Some people suggest reversing the one sheet top to bottom so that the notch is at the bottom but it seems simple enough to count. Timing is not important with the water bath but a couple of cycles in couple of minutes should be enough.
Now, in the same way, slide the sheets out from the bottom with one hand and plug them in order into the developer. When they are all in, start the timer and shuffle through, taking your time a couple of cycles. This is equivalent to the initial 30 secs agitation in a tank.
Now, every thirty seconds, shuffle through the stack once. Some users suggest rotating the film after each cycle, or turning it end to end, to improve evenness.
When the time is up, transfer the stack to your stop bath or plain water if you don't like acetic acid. Shuffle a chipped pf times again, but exact timing is not vital.
Do the same again into the fix. It's generally important to immerse the sheets one-by-one but in the case of fixer it's vital, because the change in pH shrinks the emulsion and the sheets can stick together. The normal response to precious images sticking together in total darkness is to panic. Try not to panic. Put them back in plain water and do your patient bast.
Shuffle through the pack three or four times in the fix. In two minutes, you can probably turn the light on. Dry your hands before you touch a light switch.
If you are doing one sheet, agitation is by picking up one side and then the other – about half an inch up and then down. Next agitation uses the other two sides.
If agitation of a single sheet is too vigorous it will create standing waves and these will give irregular development.
Alternatively, you can pick up the sheet and turn it over, then turn it back again.
This way, your times should be much the same as tank development. but if you want to use continuous agitation, your suggestion of 15% less time sounds like a good starting point. As manual agitation will differ for each person, experiment will be necessary.
 

Ian-Barber

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If agitation of a single sheet is too vigorous it will create standing waves and these will give irregular development.
Alternatively, you can pick up the sheet and turn it over, then turn it back again.
This way, your times should be much the same as tank development. but if you want to use continuous agitation, your suggestion of 15% less time sounds like a good starting point. As manual agitation will differ for each person, experiment will be necessary.
Thanks, I will be doing a single sheet at a time so will seat with continuous agitation -15% of my normal inversion times and see how it turns out.
 

David M

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OK.
I imagine that if the neg is "ordinary" in the sense of a normal contrast range, you'll find it easy to estimate any changes in timing when you've tried printing it.
I wouldn't expect any of your negs to be ordinary in any other way.
 

David M

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May I add a note on shuffling technique?
If you commonly develop different numbers of sheets, you should not use continuous agitation. In a stack of two films, each sheet might be moved (say) every five seconds, but in a stack of six or eight, each one would only be moved every thirty or forty, so each one would get less agitation and less development. If you always process the same number, this limitation vanishes.
A good alternative is the so-called "Slosher". It's well documented on the web and a bit of simple DIY should be sufficient.
 

Alan9940

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David, not sure exactly what you're saying regarding the shuffle method, but I developed sheet film in trays using the shuffle method for 25 years before I got a Jobo. I could handle a stack of about 8 sheets of 5x4 and 4 sheets of 10x8 which allowed me to shuffle through the stack in 30 secs. If I had only, say, 4 sheets of 5x4 to develop I'd add 4 sheets of blank or old, useless (already processed) film to the stack to maintain that "once through every 30 secs" agitation. I'd be willing to bet that, in a print, you couldn't tell the difference between one of my tray developed films vs in the Jobo.

In short, my technique was to slip each neg into a water bath, then agitate through the stack (30 secs) for 5 mins total. Then, I'd pick up the entire stack, drain, and drop into the developer tray (HC-110 B at the time.) After each agitation cycle (30 secs) I'd turn the stack 90 degrees clockwise and continue. Once the total development time was reached, pick up the entire stack, drain, then drop into the stop bath. Etc through the fix stage.

Ian, if you develop one sheet at a time in trays I'd highly recommend using the next size larger tray; for example, 14x11 for 5x4. This will help to mitigate the "wave action" that David mentions. You don't want the film edge up against the edge of the tray as you agitate. FWIW, I know quite a few photographers that do single sheets in trays, but it never worked out for me. I always got uneven development.
 

David M

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Alan,
We seem to have two solutions the same problem. Inserting some extra sheets seems a very good idea. It means that each sheet gets the same number of shuffles.
I have had sheets stick together when transferring a whole stack to the fixer, so I feed them in one by one. At this point, development has been stopped, so timing is not critical. Am I alone?
Your advice about using a tray one size larger is very sensible. If the tray fits exactly, there's a danger of scratching the film as you try to get your fingers under it, as well as the danger of waves from the edge if you tip the tray too enthusiastically. A tray that's too big can mean that you lose control in the dark and it can allow the corners to cause scratches as you get the sheets back together.
People who haven't tried it seem to view shuffling with terror. Certainly the first few times are a bit nerve-wracking, but with practice, it becomes easy. Perhaps a novice grips the sheets too tightly. A little practice in the light helps. For that, you need some spoiled negs. You can work you way up until you can manage a bigger number of sheets.
(What do you mean, you don't have any spoiled negs?)
I suppose there's no reason why a single sheet should not be developed in a single tray, by pouring the solutions in and out in succession as they did with glass plates in the good old days. I seem to recall that the advice was to pour each solution onto the centre of the plate or film. I haven't tried this.
Let's hope we are being helpful.
 

Alan9940

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David,
The only time I've had sheets stick together is when placing dry film into the water bath tray. If I'm not careful to make sure each sheet is fully immersed, they will stick! And, it ain't easy to get 'em back apart. However, once each sheet has been carefully submerged in the water bath I've never had any sticking issue down the line. A subject of tray development that always seems to "raise the ire" of folks is whether has the stack emulsion up or emulsion down. I've always done up, but it's best to experiment and see which method works best for you.

Yes, practice is key. When I started using this method (late 70's), I first practiced with the lights on and eyes open, then I closed my eyes, then I turned the lights off. Once you get a technique that works for you, it all becomes very simple and fairly economical. As with my suggestion for single sheet tray development, I've always used the next larger tray size even with the shuffle method; makes getting the film in/out of the tray, shuffling, and turning the stack easier IMO.

I agree...probably no reason one couldn't develop a single sheet in one tray. One would have to work out a fill/empty technique in the dark, but I'm sure it could be done. As a said earlier in this thread, I tried single sheet development and was never satisfied with the evenness (or lack thereof) of the developed film.
 

Ian Grant

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As you're replenishing the Xtol I'd just use your normal tank, less areial oxidation and much easier.

Ian
 

David M

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Yes, you're right. Film really, really sticks if you put a dry stack into water. Perhaps I've been unfortunate in finding that the fix has a similar effect. Could it be because I use plain water instead of a stop bath?
Emulsion up. If the liquid above your film is more scratchy than the bottom of the tray, you need to filter out the sand and twigs. But it takes all sorts... I'd be interested to know the advantages of emulsion-down processing.
I have tried the single sheet in a single tray method, just as an experiment. You put the chemicals in wide-mouthed jugs instead of graduates, and to be sure, you reach out and put your hand on each of them in succession, just before the light goes off
 

Alan9940

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David,

I doubt that using a plain water stop would cause the film to stick together in the fix, but I certainly don't know for sure because I always used an acid stop when tray developing. Supposedly, with emulsion down one is less likely to scratch the film because the corners cannot come in contact with the soft emulsion. With emulsion up, one can dig a corner into the emulsion if you're not careful. However, I always found it more "natural" somehow with emulsion up since most films tend to "curve" toward the emulsion side; Foma sheet film being, at least, one exception. I always thought it odd how Foma film bends toward the base!
 

David M

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Alan,
I've certainly noticed a difference when putting film into the fix. Something happens to the emulsion. I may have another go at moving the whole stack.
This is the first time I've heard that film has corners on one side only, but it does explain things. It does mean that you put your fingers onto the emulsion every time you move a sheet. One man's meat and all that.
I remember that when I moved to sheet film, my reflex action was to slide the sheets of film into the solutions as I did with paper – that is, leading edge first and the rest of the paper slid in after. The corners of paper are not dangerous and print emulsions may be more robust. I think we do this because pushing downwards on the surface risks kinking the paper.
I had to discipline myself at first, when developing film. The novice film-developer has too much to remember all at once, so it's easy to fall into established habits. I now place the film as flat as possible on the surface and push it under with my little finger. An alternative is to put the nearside edge under the surface first and roll the sheet forward, as though laying a carpet. (...or as a chef puts a steak into the pan.)
Because my skin now reacts to the chemicals I use a Combiplan for 5x4 and gloves for 10x8.

One small thing I learned for myself. Don't close your eyes in the dark. You will not spot any light leaks, a door not quite closed, or any lights accidentally left on.
 

Alan9940

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David,

I was referring to each corner of the film; quite sharp. With emulsion up, you learn a "feel" for the shuffle to avoid digging the corners into the emulsion. FWIW, my technique for placing dry film into the water pre-soak tray is to hold the stack of film in my left hand, with a slight "fan" to it (not particularly easy with 10x8), carefully place each sheet flat on top of the water, then using my right hand with all fingers splayed out as far as possible I push the film under the surface...gently. When all films are in, I start the clock (5 mins) and begin the shuffle. It might be worth noting that for the pre-soak, stop, and fix trays I don't rotate the film and I shuffle with the long edge of the film perpendicular to the short edge of the tray; figuring shorter distance film movement for the shuffle resulting in less likelihood of damage.

But, this is simply my technique and each has to work out what works best for him/her.
 

David M

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I do something very similar. Presumably the first information we receive will influence each one of us. I only use my little finger to submerge in the water bath. This keeps my other fingers dry, to avoid accidentally putting wet fingerprints onto the dry stack. For other baths, I do much the same as you and worry that the heat of my fingertips is overdeveloping where they touch. I've never seen any such effect, so this thought must be a by-product of the state of mind that a repetitive task in darkness induces.
Would you agree that there's nothing to fear in the shuffle method? It does seem to frighten beginners.
 

Alan9940

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I forgot to mention another tip that you may find useful... I place a long 15mm square rod of plexiglass under the far end of the trays which helps to keep the film located down in the end of the tray where I'm working; I never liked the thought of a sheet of film "migrating" off to somewhere else in the tray (remember I use next size up trays.)

I like your "pinky method" to keep the other fingers dry. I rarely tray develop nowadays, but I'm going to give your method a go the next time I do. Since I keep my fingertips just along the side of the film stack, other than when pushing under, I've never worried about the heat of my fingers causing any changes in development. And, I've never noticed any issues during the 25 years that tray development was my only method of developing sheet film.

Yes, I agree that there is nothing to fear in the shuffle method. It does require a bit of practice to get the hang of, but once you've got it it's surely a simple way to develop film. It does require darkness, but it's likely to be the most inexpensive way to develop sheet film.
 

David M

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Yes, I have a batten under the far edge to give a gentle slope towards me. It helps the sheets to self-organise. Nothing is more disconcerting than an over-sized tray with the film stampeding all over. Mine is only an offcet of MDF rather than plexiglas, but the film doesn't seem to mind.
And yes, one size up for the tray. Not an exact fit and not too big either.

And, of course, a Happy New Year.
 
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