The taco method has kept me shooting 4x5. Not that it does anything above and beyond normal processing, but it allows me to process sheet film in my kitchen...without becoming drunk on rage-ohol.
Let me back up a bit. I was lucky enough to score my 4x5 camera off of craigslist on the cheap. But I lacked the infrastructure to support a sheet film workflow. I had a variety of tanks for roll film but was struggling with sheet film options. The purists will tell you that the only way to develop 4x5 is tray developing. It's great that you can either do a whole stack at once or individual sheets to n+1 if you're into the whole zone thing. The biggest requirement is a darkroom. Sad face. I have no darkroom or any significant space that can be totally blacked out. If I tried hard enough, I could probably get my bathroom dark enough, but I'm not huge on the idea developing on my hands and knees with a bunch of trays in my bathtub.
So I opted for a 4x5 daylight tank. The cheap one. Extra sad face. Yeah, it was the Yankee 4x5 Agitank. Notorious for being a shitbox and proven first hand. Where to begin...build construction, awkwardness of loading sheets, less-than-attached lid, ridiculous amount of chemistry to fill? No, lets go with horrific uneven development. Sheet after sheet showed the same streak down the left side.
|Uneven development from the Yankee Agitank.|
Since I didn't want to spend about $75 on an HP Combi-Plan tank, which is supposed to work fine, I was open to suggestion. Thankfully, I found this post on Flickr. I already had a 2-reel tank, so why not give it a try. Many many sheets later and I've yet to encounter a single problem.
The film is curled emulsion side in, so that it doesn't come into contact with anything. It's perfectly fine for the base material to touch the sides of the tank.
|Found at Target, Walmart, etc.|
|4x5 taco'ed - emulsion side in.|
|No film was harmed in the making of this.|
Before trying this for real in my changing bag, I practiced a few times with my experimentin' sheets (I have yet to buy a film holder that hasn't coming with at least one random sheet) in daylight. Then I tried loading them in the dark. The first few attempts were not pretty, so I definitely recommend getting a feel for it.
The other thing to note is how much chemistry it takes to fill the tank. You need to figure out a volume that makes certain the film is covered. For my tank it takes 32 oz. I imagine most other tanks are similar.
I've now processed dozens of sheets of both black and white and E6 with the taco method without a single problem. A huge improvement over the 100% failure rate of the Yankee tank. There are other tanks out there for 4x5 that probably work fine. There's also this neat contraption that I've heard good things about and may try in the future, since I already have the proper size Patterson tank for it. And if I ever get a proper darkroom I might rock some tray developing, but for now taco does it for me.