This week I took on the challenge of developing my own 4×5 sheet film for the first time. I did a lot of research into different types of tanks and knew I wanted a sturdy, reliable, daylight developing tank. Although the Yankee 4×5 tank is cheaper, I decided on the MOD54 invented by London-based photographer Morgan O’Donovan. I heard a lot of positive reviews from photographers who use the MOD54 and liked the familiarity of the Paterson tank for developing.
The MOD54 took a few weeks to arrive at my doorstep so I used the time to prepare. I bought the Patterson 3 reel tank, fixer and print files at Glazers Camera then bought some pants hangers at Target. The hangers are perfect for holding the film while it dries.
When the MOD54 arrived I practiced loading some film in the light a few times before watching this video from the inventor.
Then I jumped right in. I setup my bathroom for loading the sheets and turned out the lights. I made many mistakes. First I dropped a sheet on the bathtub mat while unloading the film, then I loaded two sheets into the same slot. Just when I thought I had successfully loaded my first batch of sheet film in the tank, I remembered the center column and had to pull the contraption out to load it correctly.
Once I got the tank into the daylight I was more confident about the developing process. I poured in the developer and processed like normal. After the final wash I pulled the insert from the tank and saw images on the film. I was ecstatic. I love that feeling of success when I pull film when the wash and see a properly developed negative.
Now that I have the means to develop 4×5 at home I’ll be shooting more large format and have more control over the quality of the negatives for darkroom printing. I’m really looking forward to this. 4×5′s are the gateway drug.
Here are a few scans from my first batch of sheet film.