Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Why I prefer Paterson developing reel

Why I prefer Paterson developing reel

It is not because I am old-fashioned, although I am that, up to a certain degree. And it is not because the Paterson reels and tanks are going for lower prices than others, no. Prices and such, were not primarily considered when I was writing this small piece; however, I did considered the ease of loading, reliability of processes and above all, the solidity of this reel. So, without any further ado.

When I started into film photography, the developing tanks I had at my disposal were Soviet-made ones, very simple, usually not so reliable, and what they lack was the grooved spiral on both halves of the reel, as the grooves were only on the bottom half. It was basically made from soft injected plastic, which deformed easily and therefore, rather annoying to use. Many a film negative was ruined by the film going out of the reel inside the tank during agitation. OK, not all of the Russian-made dev tanks were made like that, but this is what I had to use.

However, when it came to developing medium format negative, the 120 film was rolled between two plastic sheets, same width as the film. The two sheets then connected via small buttons on their both edges, and that went into the tank. Pretty time consuming, never understood the real need for that type of developing procedure. It was said it provides better access of the solution to the emulsion, so there you go. I only hope this makes sense to those who never saw or used this sort of loading technique. Lucky you.

Anyways, soon after the 90s, I wanted to try my hand at developing film in the stainless steel tanks, of the Nikor or Honeywell types. Clean design, no non-sense loading, and so forth; I though this is the best thing. Well, it was not, for I never got used to loading the film on the steel reels. It always slipped, got tangled, and try as much as I did, I never got used to it. So, I kept looking for other types of dev tanks.

At some point during the late 90s, more on the spur of the moment, I purchased a used Paterson tank, one reel type, and I was surprised at how easy was to load the film onto the reel. The two ball-bearings on the loading gate made the difference for me, rotating and loading was a breeze. I took to this reel instantly, and I am still using the tank, after 20+ years. The reel is the original one, haven’t changed it. After a year or so, I bought another one, this time a 2-reel tank, Paterson of course, which I use every now and then, for two rolls at the same time.

Last year I thought to have a go at the Jobo dev tank, as it was a lot of talking on how easy can be loaded, smaller quantities of solution, better materials and such. I bought one, the Jobo 1510, and gave it a go.

What I like about this tank is the lid closing method; pretty simple and reliable. No more fear that the lid will come loose while agitating or inverting the tank. The solution quantity is indeed smaller: while the Paterson requires 350 ml of working solution, the Jobo 1510 takes only 245 ml, and this translates into economies. This is really nice, especially with the prices for everything photo related nowadays. On the other hand, the cost of a Job tank is higher than that of a Paterson. Not much, but there is a difference.

That said, the reel is not what I have expected from such a hyped product. Of course, I am comparing it with the Paterson one, my favourite. The Jobo reel seems to be flimsier, prone to blockages, which more than probable I am guilty of anyways, but with Paterson reel I never encountered such issues. I am certain it is solidly made, but to my eyes and hand it looks fragile. The plastic probably is better than the Paterson one, but I do not feel it. Lack of the ball bearings did it for me, to be honest; too long I have been accustomed to this feature.

I fully understand and agree that the Jobo tank system is entirely a new game. It is an excellent modular system with its extension modules available sizes and capacities, and because of the rotational options, it is highly valued by many photographers out there. Cost wise, when developing multiple rolls in a Jobo system, the cost of processing goes down in a surprizing fashion. I know of all these and more, so I am not heckling the Jobo at all, you understand. It is just that I am more happy in using the Paterson’s reel and tank. Besides, I am not a professional photographer or anything, just an amateur with some 4-5 rolls of film per month.

I am still using the Jobo every now and then, although it went to my daughter who is starting in 35mm photography. Probably if she is to learn on Jobo from step 1, she will become accustomed to it as I am with Paterson. She has good results, even if she is still in the first days, when she confused by so many terms, dilutions, effects of this dev on that film, temps, times, and so forth. But she is getting there. Here two photographs of her making, from shooting them to processing and scanning, Canon AV1 with Fomapan 100 @50.

As you can see, she is happy with the Jobo. I am not so ok with it, as already said. But let me be honest, both tanks are doing the same thing and serve the same purpose. They are both all right and some will swear on one or the other. From where I stand, I do not see any notable differences between the two, unless of course you start talking about the processor, multiple components, which are Jobo’s strong argument. I kind of like that I can handle it with one hand, whereas the Paterson is slightly too large to keep it in the palm of my hand.

Me? I’ll just stick with the Paterson for now. I’m stubborn, I know. Tomorrow? Who is to say what tomorrow will bring? Who is to say that in the future I’ll not buy an entire Jobo system, complete with the rotary mechanism and all the trimmings ?