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plastic tanks vs. metal tanks

Ash Peter , Jan 03, 2009; 01:56 p.m.

Hi everyone,
I'm guessing some of you have more experience than I in this, and perhaps it's been talked about before. What is the advantage of using a plastic (Paterson) tank over a stainless steel tank? And are the films as easy to load in the metal tank systems?
I've always used plastic Paterson's without much of a problem, though the systems I have now are getting pretty trashed, and I'm thinking about trying the metal versions.


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Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Jan 03, 2009; 02:02 p.m.

I like the stainless steel reels and tanks. For me it's easy to load and easy to re-load after using, especially if there is some moisture on the reel as the film won't get hung up while loading.

I understand the Hewes reels are easy to load but I haven't used one yet.

The stainless steel tank will conduct the heat from a container of water to help maintain temp. while using the film developer.

What you can do is sacrifice a roll of film and practice loading the reel in daylight. Then practice with the same roll in the dark until you feel comfortable all is well after loading.

Hope this helps you.

Dennis O'Connor , Jan 03, 2009; 02:17 p.m.

The secret to loading the stainless steel film holder's is to put a 'slight' curvature across the film (by flexing it between finger and thumb) as you feed it into the reel. And maintain this curve as you rotate the holder until all the film is in place. I found 120 stainless reels easier to load that the Jobo plastic type. It takes a bit of practice. Try it with a scrap film while you watch what you are doing. Then try it with your eyes closed. Then for real!
Hope this helps

Ash Peter , Jan 03, 2009; 02:21 p.m.

Thanks for your responses.
The question, I guess, isn't so much how to use the system, which I'm sure I'll work out, it's why would someone prefer to use the metal systems over the plastic ones. So far, it seems to be all about the temperature control, which I've never had an enormous problem with when processing in plastic.


Andrew Gillis , Jan 03, 2009; 02:34 p.m.

After some bad experiences with a GAF plastic tank/reel many years ago, I switched to stainless steel tanks and reels and never looked back. As someone who teaches beginning and advanced photo classes at a community college, I can tell you that students who stick it out and learn how to load the steel reels have better over all processing results--fewer streaks, etc. A further benefit is that the steel tanks and reels generally require less chemistry per roll of film processed.

Nicholas Andre , Jan 03, 2009; 02:38 p.m.

Plastic has less heat transfer which is bad for color work. They're easier to load for most but can crack and give light leaks. I believe they take a little more chemistry per roll. I don't think it's possible to get "stickies" using them.

Lynn Jones , Jan 03, 2009; 03:08 p.m.

The principal reason for the SS tanks (originally Nikor), goes back 60 or more years for ease of white light reversal exposure in chrome processing.

Most of the agitatation systems in SS tanks don't work well, especially from the film manufacturers so called inversion method. The Patterson type tanks with the "spinner" works best for most users. Spin two to the right and two to the left, continuously for 15 seconds to begin with. After that for each cycle, two to the right and two to the left and then leave it alone until the next cycle.

In most cases, there is no advantage to "pre soaking". If you pre soak, be sure to soak with the temperature equivalent to the developer temperature because you could inadvertantly increase or reduce the developing temperature.



Conrad Hoffman , Jan 03, 2009; 04:41 p.m.

Upside is you can clean SS reels and tanks with whatever you want, at whatever temperature you want. After a hot water rinse they can be toweled off and dry for the next load in a minute or two. After years of reading these forums I've reached the totally unsubstantiated opinion that users of SS reels and tanks suffer fewer processing problems in terms of agitation and contamination, than plastic tank users. OTOH, users of plastic tanks would reach the exact opposite conclusion. If you use a water bath, temperature control is excellent, but if you don't, the warmth of your hand and the ambient temperature of the room will quickly change the developer temperature. SS tanks with the small metal caps often bleed a bit of developer or fixer during processing.

Ash Peter , Jan 03, 2009; 05:26 p.m.

Alright. This has been really helpful everyone, thanks a lot.
It really appears that it comes almost entirely down to what you learnt on, and what you prefer to use. I haven't had any problems with Paterson stuff up until now, so with exception of the SS stuff looking much cooler, there's no good reason to switch at this point.

Wendell Kelly , Jan 03, 2009; 06:16 p.m.

I've used both plastic tanks (starting with the Kodak tanks with the plastic "apron" and then to the Patterson-type tanks with the neat self-guiding plastic reels) and Nikor SS tanks since 1963.

I offer these comments:
For 35 mm, nothing, nothing, beats a Nikor tank. Learn how to load the reels (bow the film slightly as you feed it onto the reels), not unlike learning to ride a bicycle, and you you will pleased with your results every time. Stainless steel tanks are the best for temperature control in a water bath, clean readily, and dry in no time for the next load. If you have difficulty loading a Nikor reel, invest the time to get it right - it is worth the effort.

For 120 film - one is probably better off with a plastic, Patterson-type tank. 120 film, due to its greater width, flexes easily, and one winds up with ghastly "half-moons" in the negatives. Flexing the film is all too easy with a Nikor reel. I have plenty of 120 Nikor reels - I use Patterson tanks with 120 negatives. I didn't shoot the film to lose the image in the darkroom. Scrub the plsatic tanks, clean the reels carefully, and be patient while the reels dry or hasten the process with a dunk in ispropyl alcohol.

For sheet film, I only use SS hangers. No scratches, no uneven development. I've tried, at one time or another, FR-type tanks (cheap and as bad as it can get), Nikor sheet film tanks (loading problems for this, not unexperienced guy, at least), and a JOBO tank. SS fim hangers, in plastic food containers as tanks, work every time without fail

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