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Developing 120/620 film

Nancy Bueler , Jun 20, 2005; 02:57 p.m.

This may be a silly question, but can I use my 35mm developing tank, with the plastic reels, to develop 120/620 film? I've decided that I just can't justify the cost of developing any longer, and would like to start developing my own film again.

Thanks, Nancy


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Bruce Karnopp , Jun 20, 2005; 03:10 p.m.

If your tank is wide enough to accomodate 120 film then the reel should adjust to the 120 width. If your tank is dedicated to 35mm, then I suggest a Paterson tank (and if you have trouble loading the Paterson reels, get an Ultra Reel (with wide flanges) to use in the Paterson tank.

Don't get discouraged. THe Ultra reels are a god-send for loading 120 sized film.

Jim Appleyard , Jun 20, 2005; 03:44 p.m.

Even if you can't use what you've got, used darkroom gear is pretty cheap. Check the classifieds here and go to ebay.

Nancy Bueler , Jun 20, 2005; 04:38 p.m.

Thanks Bruce; I do have the Paterson tanks, but wasn't sure how you would adjust the reels so you could load the 120 film. Maybe I'll just look into the Ultra reels like you suggested, Jim. There's plenty of used equipment stores in Toronto! Is there a particular brand of Ultra reels (or is Ultra the brand?).

Donald Qualls , Jun 20, 2005; 05:19 p.m.

Take the Paterson reel, and do the following:

Grasp each spiral plate firmly in one hand; twist (pretty hard -- you'll think you're going to break it) your right hand toward yourself and left hand away, as if unscrewing a very tight jar lid; you'll hear a "snap" and possibly a creak, and the two reel halves will rotate about 30 degrees past the end of the usual "walking" angle for loading. You can then slide them to 35 mm, 127, or 120/620/220 (and if the reel is old enough, you might have a 16 mm setting for 110 film, too; newer ones might have a 24 mm for APS, but I wouldn't bet on it) and twist back the other way to lock them at the new setting.

Really. Twist HARD. Unless you're a body builder, you will *not* break the reel.

Jorn Ake , Jun 20, 2005; 06:48 p.m.


I have gone entirely to metal reels & metal tanks. Hewes makes the reels and Kinderman the tank. These are daylight safe, so you can develop like you would with the Patterson equipment. I used to have Patterson reels, but I gave up on them after one too many wrestling matches trying to get 120mm film to load smoothly. The metal reels take a few moments of practice, but once you get them down, you can load quickly and very effectively. Chemical flow is better and without binding, you don't run the risk of crimping a negative or other damage. 35mm on metal reels is trivially easy. Loading wet is no problem - something you can't do with plastic. You can even load two rolls back to back per metal reel if you are really pressed for time. Temperature control with the metal tank is also much easier. Highly recommended switch.

Dean Williams , Jun 20, 2005; 10:31 p.m.

Try this...

H. P. , Jun 21, 2005; 03:52 a.m.

"I used to have Patterson reels, but I gave up on them after one too many wrestling matches trying to get 120mm film to load smoothly."

I've used Paterson reels for 35 years and the simple secret is to dry them thoroughly before use. I just chuck them in the airing cupboard after processing. I also reverse wind 120 as I open the roll and the film slides smoothly in with no trouble. The whole thing takes less than a minute.

Works for me....

Processed in a Paterson tank.

Eric Johnson , Jun 21, 2005; 12:25 p.m.

Nancy: I have used Patterson tanks and reels, but I much prefer JOBO, since the reels make it easy to process two rolls of 120 on one reel, as they have a little red spacer tab.

Graham Patterson , Jun 21, 2005; 03:42 p.m.

I recommend sacrificing a roll of film for practice. If you do not tear it from the backing you can rewind it. 120 is not as stiff as 35mm, and being wider the extra flex can take some experience to control. I like to put a slight reverse cripm in the end of the film to stiffen it slightly. Other people won't bother. 'Concensus' and 'photographer' can rarely be used in the same sentence 8-)

Do resist the temptation to look at the film before you hang it to dry - it is more prone to kinks than 35mm getting it to lie back in the spiral. And check your development time - not all 120 emulsions use the same times as the 35mm equivalent. Otherwise it is much the same as any other roll of film.

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