plastic tanks vs. metal tanks

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by ash_peter, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. AJG


    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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. Each and all:
    Thank you so much, and Wendell, that was a great great breakdown. Thanks a lot. I do a little 35mm these days, though most of it is digital now. The majority of my work is 120, so perhaps, after all, I'll stick with the Paterson tanks and just ensure to keep all of it clean.
    Thanks all so much!
  12. I have used both the Honeywell-Nikor tanks when I was in High School in the late 1950's and on to college in the 1960's. They were good tanks; I wish I had bought them.
    For the past ten or so years I have been using the plastic Patterson tank and reels, first at a rental darkroom. When that closed, I bought some of their equipment (including the Patterson tank and reels) and now use it in my darkroom. The tank and reels, which saw much use in the rental darkroom, still work well, although the reels are a bit stained from heavy use. I do not see the stains in the dark. <grin> I have not noticed any problems with temperature control. I mix the developer to the proper temperature before I start. The plastic tank is a semi-insulator and seem to maintain the correct temperature. In my somewhat limited experience, black and white processing only, I have found that temperature is critical only for the developer; the stop bath and fix seem to work well in a broad temperature range
  13. Ash:
    I think most of the differences between stainless steel and plastic tanks have been covered. I wanted to add a couple observations.
    First, you'll find some users, like Wendell, who report that 120 film is easier to load in Paterson tanks. But I've read comments by lots of other users who prefer stainless steel for 120. Like so many other aspects of photography, it comes down to preference.
    Second, the poor heat transfer ability of plastic tanks is a feature, not a bug -- they maintain processing temperatures better than metal tanks. (For b&w, however, I doubt the differences between the two types of tanks matters at all.)
  14. I've used Paterson tanks for the last 25 years. I've never found any difficulty loading the reels - just ensure they are bone dry before use. Paterson tanks fill and empty very quickly.
  15. Alright,
    I've been using Paterson for 17 years now, and with exception of the cosmetic value of how good the Metal tanks look, I really see zero reason to switch. Like I said, the reason I asked was that my tanks are getting a little shabby (My 8 reel is held together with tape, but works great) and I thought it could be a good excuse to try a new system. Thanks everyone for their input and help.
  16. Second, the poor heat transfer ability of plastic tanks is a feature, not a bug​
    Oh, I don't know about that. I use stainless and the higher thermal conducivity is really nice. The key is to use the tanks in conjunction with a large volume tempering bath. This is great for locking the solution to the target development temperature over extended times.
    What it comes down to is that stainless tanks is nicer for the occasional higher volume work. The ability to load film even when the reel is damp is important here as well.
  17. I've used both and do prefer the SS over the plastic. I do keep an ancient Ansco tank with stirring rod/thermometer with an adjustable reel to process the occasional roll of 127 that I come across. With stainless reels take care not to drop them. If one of the guides gets bent the reel will become difficult or even impossible to load. Also, beware of cheap reels. I found some NOS Kalt reels and they didn't load nearly as smoothly as my old Nikor reels, some of which are nearly 40 years old.
  18. I don't know why any one wouldn't use a high quality plastic Joba tank like I do. :) In all honesty it loads like a charm is well made, doesn't crack or leak light and the plastic is a good insulator against temperature change. What more could you want in a tank??
  19. Personally, I much prefer stainless steel, especially for 120. That being said, it's the results that count--use whatever you're most comfortable with. Of course used tanks and reels are so cheap now that ss users can try plastic and visa versa at little cost, if they're so inclined . For myself, I'll stay with what I know works for me--if it ain't broke, don't fix it, whichever type you prefer.
  20. Oh, I don't know about that. I use stainless and the higher thermal conducivity is really nice. The key is to use the tanks in conjunction with a large volume tempering bath. This is great for locking the solution to the target development temperature over extended times.​
    Well, I use a tempering bath with Paterson tanks as well. But it's less critical, because the Paterson tanks maintain temperature better. I suppose if I wanted to change my processing temperature drastically in the middle of developing film I should use tanks with higher thermal conductivity, but why would I want that?
    My point was simply that, as a matter of basic thermodynamics, if you want to preserve the temperature of a system, use a better insulator.
  21. Stainless tanks and reels simply work best for my system. Four 32 oz tanks: presoak, developer, stop and fix. Reason 1 - the multiple tanks enable me to bring my solutions to the desired temperature very quickly using 1/2 gallon container of ice water in the summer or hot water in the winter. Reason 2 - the presoak allows me to quickly temper film and reels before development. Reason 3 - a water bath used with the developer tank allows me to tightly control temperature. Reason 4 - the multiple tank system allows me to tightly control development times by elimating the dump and fill. Reels are pulled from the developing tank and dropped directly into the stop. I shoot little 35mm but the Hughes reels are a huge improvement over my original reels while any SS 120 reel seems to work just fine. Surely most would not want to use my multiple tank setup but hopefully you can understand why stainless works best for me.
  22. rdm


    Since i recently finished my engineering sciences Associates and Thermodynamics was a class i took in my last semester ( got an A by the way), I think i can better explain to you what i think everyone saying; but i don't know if i really have to. If your tank is completely submerged under the water of your tempering bath. Then yes the way you explained your " matter of basic thermodynamics, " is correct. If not like most people there are many factors that can fluctuate the temperature, but i don't want to type all of them and explain it all. HOWEVER the one or two degree cycle of variation we are talking about doesn't make a difference unless your processing color so it doesn't matter.
    In 7th grade when we wer all using the plastic tanks and i seen all the mettal ones on the shelf I asked my professor if thos wer any better and wahat was the diffrence. He said they are just smaller, easier to clean and dry faster for when you have to do another roll right away. That the plastic would jam or cause your film to stick if you run a roll through it wet. That drying thing was absolutly correct. I found that to be the main diffrence. I love using my patterson tank, and only use the stainless steel when i develope color slides and need to monotor the temperature constantly
  23. The Hewes reels rock for 35mm. They are well worth the price in my mind.
  24. I have found the Stainless steel tanks a lot easier to load. The multi-reel tanks are slow to fill with developer. I only use palstic tanks for the oddball formats. 127 and 828.
    The most difficult part for me with plastic reels, is getting the film started. Trying to get the film to slide into the "groove". Once that is done, it isn't too difficult.
  25. Both styles are good. Both kinds of tanks, plastic or stainless, in new or used condition, will require some practice loads to get your loading time down and procedures set. If you buy one used, check the seal on the lid; you don't want to spill all the time.
    Overall, the best tank is one you're familiar with, keep clean, and use frequently.
  26. P.S. I learned on plastic, but I like the metal ones better. I find they're smoother on the loading and easier to keep clean. The Patterson design is a good model. I think it's been around for several decades. It's a matter of preference. Blonde or brunette? Elvis or the Beatles? Plastic or stainless tanks. Good luck. J.
  27. Brunette, Beatles, stainless - what's to debate? Gosh people, these kind of things are just self-evident.
  28. rdm


    Well all i have to say is, brunette, and ofcourse Elvis
  29. Metal tanks make you look like a Pro !
  30. When using plastic submerge the empty tank in a bath the same temperature as your developing temp for 4 minutes & you will have no(imperceptible at least) temp shift unless you are developing in a very cold environment. P.d. Foote
  31. One thing not discussed is the drain/fill time: I learned on a plastic Ansco tank and the fill/empty times were not condusive to good color work. So I temporarily switched to SS which was an improvement over the Ansco. But then I bought Patterson and noted that the empty fill times are faster. But now my daughter has the Patterson ( she left/donated it to the high school). But I note that the SS tank uses less chemistry per roll. Since I do one-shot development B&W or color I appreciate getting more rolls out of a liter of developer.
  32. Terence Spross , Jan 07, 2009; 11:42 p.m. (edit | delete )
    One thing not discussed is the drain/fill time...​
    Note this earlier comment:
    Chris Waller [​IMG] [​IMG] , Jan 04, 2009; 04:39 a.m. (edit | delete )
    I've used Paterson tanks for the last 25 years. I've never found any difficulty loading the reels - just ensure they are bone dry before use. Paterson tanks fill and empty very quickly.​
    Pour times are much quicker with the Paterson system, due to the generous funnel/light baffle system. That's the main reason I got a Paterson multi-reel tank. However, I never actually used it for developing film. Turned out I never needed to develop more than a couple of rolls at a time, so I stuck with metal tanks/reels for most processing. I wound up using the large Paterson tank to hold selenium toner for toning prints. The tank will hold prints up to 8x10 in size, which grip the walls of the tank and remain submerged. I got tired of continually poking prints under the toner in open trays. Less odor too.
  33. Does anybody make a SS tank that can empty and fill as fast as the Patterson system?
  34. Not that I know of. It's the lid, and they all look to be of the same design.
    The longer fill time with stainless becomes only an issue with deep tanks. The first way to deal with this is to load the tank in the dark. Fill it up with solution, load the reels onto the dip stick thing'ee that came with the tank, then dunk all the reels into the tank at once.
    Alternatively, change your development so that the fill time becomes a smaller fraction of the total. With HC-110, for example, many film develops in 4 to 5 minutes in dilution B. I tend to end up using dilution H because of this; development time basically doubles.
  35. I just bought a SS tank with two reels for $26 from the local pro shop (these people are the BEST). Reading this thread with interest as I'll have two rolls for the soup tomorrow.
    One plastic tank has cracked om me since last year, and, with the lower temps in my basement, I'm looking for the thermal benefits of SS for tempering!
  36. With a stainless Nikor one can load TWO rollers per single 35mm reel in a pinch; one has the emulsions out; the backs touching. Thus with a 2 reel 16oz tank and ran 2 reels; oen can load up 4 36 exposure rolls. Do not do this if you are are not already at ease with loading reels blindfolded :) and behind your back; or for a wedding shoot of a mafia bosses daughter.:)
  37. With a stainless reel for 35mm; say a Nikor it might be 75 years old or just a decade. It might be jsut one of the no name imports from the 1960's and 1970's. It might be a nice reel thats not been bent; or one sort of stepped on; warped; sides not paralel. If its a surplus school one it it might horrible; bent; used as a hockey puck.
  38. First, I have to say that this wealth of info is tremendous. Though, I agree that this topic is like /Mac vs PC/boxers vs briefs/Ford vs Chevy/etc. :)
    But, some questions came to mind after reading the posts:
    1. I haven't done this stuff for many years, but I recently kinda got back into B&W processing. I have both plastic and metal. I have used both and I have to say that the plastic stuff is easier to use. I learned on metal gear in high school and I gravitate to that, but I seem to get a lot more with debris in the metal tanks. Any ideas? I go through a pretty thorough anti-dust ritual in my bathroom before every lab event (vacuum, wait, wipe-down, close door, wait, wipe-down).
    2. What do you folks recommend for cleaning tanks and reels (plastic and metal)? Just rinse thoroughly (pretty much all that I am doing)? Can you put them in the dishwasher? Do you use soap?
    3. If chemicals stick to plastic, how many cycles before you shouldn't use them?
  39. I see that nobody has responded yet -
    Answers for Terry Williams -
    1. more debris in metal than plastic? I don't know the source - the tank is clean and darkroom clean according to your post. But was the film clean when you started? So I don't think the tank was your problem. You say the plastic was easier for you - then go for it.
    2. Cleaning tanks is usually just rinse thouroughly and dry before next use. There is no problem with running them through the dishwasher, but I have used dish washing detergent and an old toothbrush to get scum off. Alcohol could also be used. Rinse after using any chemical cleaning agen. Some solvents like acetone could be used on the metal but definatly not on plastic - but I don't know why you would need to.
    3. Plastic reels will wear out eventually, but not before metal reels will probalby be accidently bent.:) An residue buildup shuld be cleaned by the toothbrush method. I had that happen many years ago when a medical emergency caused me to leave a rolll of B&W in the tank with developer for - as it turned out -a month or so. Pieces of emulsion everywhere - but it still cleaned up.

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