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Best small fully auto film processor?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by photoewing, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Jobo Atl 1000 or Phototherm sidekick, or Filmomat? or Osiris F1?

    Osiris F1 doesn't seem to be available yet if ever?

    Prices for a used Jobo atl 1000 approach the cost of a new Filmomat.

    Phototherms can still be purchased new but are more than twice the cost of a Filmomat or used Jobo atl 1000. Used models very rare.

    Thoughts ideas? Anyone owned or used or even seen a Filmomat or an Osiris F1 in person?
     
  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I have owned the Jobo series of processors for the last 20 plus years... I now own the new Jobo and I use it in total manual mode and am very happy with it. Automatic Machines
    can fail and if you do not have a plan in place your film will be ruined. nowadays I am happy to watch each step and hang to dry.
     
  3. Tim Stapp

    Tim Stapp Subscriber

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    Bob, thanks for that. I'm currently attempting to resurrect an ancient ATL2+. I've been contemplating peddling it once I have it running to finance the purchase of something along the lines of a CPE2 or CPE2+.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Thanks Bob, I'm willing to accept the risk of occasional failure with the more regular benefit of more efficient and consistent processing. When I shoot film, I tend to shoot a lot of film (maybe 10 rolls a session) and I want to be able to process it quickly while I am doing the other things I need to do to keep my business as a photographer going. I have been hand processing for years but I don't really have time for it now so I tend to talk myself out of shooting film and often opt for digital when shooting personal work. I shoot mostly 35mm and I have a nikon coolscan 5000 which automates the scanning and gives me beautiful scans of a whole roll with minimal babysitting. Looking for a processor to further streamline my film workflow and keep me shooting film. For me a non automatic machine would have no advantage over the hand tank processing that I'm currently using. I'm shooting mostly BW so I process at room temp and adjust my dev times to match room temp. When I shoot color I use a lab.
     
  5. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    I have a photo term super sidekick four. I like it better than any jobo I've tried, there's actually a used one up on eBay right now, starting at $650 I believe. Highly recommended, great support from the factory even if you buy used. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
     
  6. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    The auto machines specifically the alt2300 which I owned and as well the older alts though available are really problematic when the lift arm goes.

    Do yourselves a favour, call Omer at Catlabs ask him the price of a new lift arm and as well recommondations for someone to install .. I think you will be surprised

    I bought the first new Jobo to NA from Omer and it is really a nice unit and he gives incredible service and help.

    If there were no jobos I would set up a small tank for small runs and set up a basket line for large projects.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    This would be a good deal if there is support as Ed says... I considered sidekick.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Thanks Ed!
     
  9. PittP

    PittP Member

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    +1 - since 2007 flawless (off a UPS; 120 -fix the film end!), versatile enough. Was expensive -to me worth it (no I'm not advertising!)
    The Phototherm has no waterbath and thus starts right away with what you want it to do, and gets the temps (ambient or above) just right.
    OP requests "small fully auto" - the automatic Jobos are both big and old and good for large batches of the same job, the smaller ones rather semi: The operator is in charge of dosing and timing.
    A "small fully auto" w/ waterbath was the Durst Filmetta -lovely thing if you are lucky enough to find a good one! (was also sold under a different name).
    Good luck!
     
  10. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Thanks PittP,
    So you've also found the Phototherm to be very reliable (what is "off a UPS"?). Phototherm seems like the way to go though it does offend my aesthetic sensibility slightly, lol. I'll see if I can find one.
    To be clear the Jobo ATL 1000 is very small and fully automatic, but it does depend on a water bath for heating and it may suffer a lift fail eventually. Does the Phototherm not use a lift? I wonder how does it drain the chemistry out of the development tank?
    The Filmomat is a new custom made processor designed and produced by a gentleman in Germany for about $2600 Euros. https://www.filmomat.eu/ It is a beautiful thing but the capacity is a deal killer for me. I want something that can do at least 4 rolls of 135 at a time.
    The Osiris F1 is another new processor out of China but appears to not be available yet if ever? https://petapixel.com/2016/06/15/osiris-f1-affordable-automatic-film-processor/
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    In case you haven't seen it, here is Phototherm's website: http://www.phototherm.com/
    The Sidekick video is wonderfully cheesy!
    As I understand it, the lid for the Phototherm tank includes a "gate" that permits filling and draining the tank while the tank remains horizontal.
    They are designed to be compatible with Paterson reels.
    And "UPS" most likely refers to "Uninteruptable Power Supply".
     
  12. PittP

    PittP Member

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    Sorry for late reply. Yes, thanks, Matt, for clarifying.
    I stand corrected for the ATL 1000. A bit similar to the Filmetta, which only has 3 containers for chemicals.
    To add: The drum is stationary (like a bath tub with a cover), and solution is pumped in/drains out at the bottom, the governing valve is inside the machine. The film in the reels rotates - in and out of the solution (in the Jobo I assume its similar, though turbulence should be different as both drum and reels rotate). Thus, the film will be in the air for about 50% of the time, consider the effect of slow RPM.
    All the best!
     
  13. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Thanks Matt and PittP, So I'm the proud new owner of a used Photo-Therm Sidekick! It looks to be in very good condition. It came with some new hose but no chem. bottles. Do need to use the specific Photo Therm bottles special bottles or can I use more ordinary chemical bottles?
    Also any tips on setup appreciated, thanks!
    -James
     
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  15. foc

    foc Member

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    Hi James , I have been following this thread with interest. Congrats on your new Photo - Therm. I look forward to hearing your first impressions and seeing some of your results. Best of luck with it.
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I believe that you can use any bottle you want. But contact Phototherm and ask them!
    Hope you have as much success with yours as the people I've known who have had them.
     
  17. PittP

    PittP Member

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    Photoewing, congrats!
    Bottles: Anything clean is good, make sure the clean water reservoir (tube 5) is big (and full) enough to allow for the machine's wash cycle at the end of each run.
    Other topics: Check that the inside is clean, notably the heat tank and tubing, and the in/out pipe where the drum attaches (small round brush w/ bent tip). You may consider replacing the tubing all together to avoid risk of contamination, its cheap and easy.
    Before running film check the liquid levels (plain water) in the open drum for the different settings and verify 38°C with a fever thermometer.
    I assume you have the manual (its on the website); its concise, so read and follow carefully.
    With 120-film make sure the end is well secured, otherwise the film can (eventually will!) come off the spool and will get badly damaged (sorry for repetition).
    Times (starting points): For B/W @ 20°C use 20rpm and small tank 60sec agitation times, X-tol 30rpm and standard Kodak times for small tanks. For colour and slides, 40rpm and standard times.
    Good luck and all the best!
    Pitt
    PS: Let's know of your experiences!
     
  18. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    I use generic 5L containers from walmart for the phototherm chemistry bottles, and a 5G carboy for water supply (which will cover 3 complete runs of 4 rolls of c41.).

    Agreed about securing the 120 film, phototherm supplies pieces of plastic that I think are just cut from some plastic venetian blinds, so get one of those and cut some of your own for the purpose. Use 2 to wedge under the trailing edge of the 120 film at the end of the reel.
     
  19. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    Thanks everyone for the tips. My first impressions are wow, it works. I ran new lines and everything seemed pretty clean so I decided to go ahead and test a roll. I shoot BW Tri-X 135. I use Rodinal and have been processing by hand in steel tanks for years ( I like the sharpness, big grain, and dynamic depth of tones ). But I wanted to automate the process so I can shoot more and take care of other chores while processing is going on. One thing I'm not sure of is exactly which model I have. This is not a Super Sidekick so I don't think it is programable? I believe I have a SK-4. It processes Tri-X at 4:40min at 75 degrees F with constant agitation. I used Rodinal at 1+25 which has a similar suggested dev time at 75 degrees.

    First run I developed one roll w/ the spacer in the tank. The film looked fine except uneven processing/underdevelopment on first three frames. I noticed the spacer leaks and may have old chemistry in it which could contaminate developer during processing, it could also drop the level of the chemistry by absorbing fluid in tank. This is a problem I need to fix. ideas?

    Second run I developed on roll w/ spacer in tank. The film looked fine but again there was one frame, this time near the middle of the roll where I saw uneven processing. weird, eh?

    Thoughts: I'm using Delta 1 Gallon chemistry bottles because that's what I had on hand but they are opaque so its hard to read chemistry level. Also I just dropped the hoses into the open neck of the bottles but I'm worried that evaporation will change the dilution strength (developer critical). Any specific suggestions for bottles, and lid fittings to see levels of chemistry and prevent evaporation?
     

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  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    About the model, what does the serial number plate say, and what do Phototherm tell you?
    And what do they say about the uneven development and the spacer?
     
  21. Tim Stapp

    Tim Stapp Subscriber

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    Depending upon the size of the bottle's neck, maybe a brewer supply. I believe they have rubber stoppers with holes for venting, etc. that you could possibly use.
     
  22. OP
    OP
    photoewing

    photoewing Member

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    I spoke with Jerry at Photo Therm today. He was very friendly and helpful. Ordered a new spacer ($70). It turns out I have a SK-8G manufactured in 1996. He suggested I reset the fluid level sensors in the heat tank and explained how to do it. He said this would fix my uneven development problems on first few frames.
    I'm excited to learn that I have an 8 reel model, unfortunately they no longer stock the 8 reel tanks. Anyone have one they'd be willing to sell me? For bottles he suggested buying them from US Plastics.com and just drilling a hole in the lid for the tubing with a second pin hole for pressure equalization.
     
  23. GDI

    GDI Subscriber

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    Congrats on the phototherm - they are really great machines.

    I have been using an Sidekick (actually labeled as FP-1Mini Automatic, so likely a very early one) for about 8 years. It really has been bullet proof, and I never had any problems with it. I did want to go from a blix E6 process to a separate bleach and fix, so Jerry sold me a new chip with the programs I wanted on it - I also bought a 4 sheet 4x5 reel from him and it is great.

    Regarding bottles, I would recommend buying bottles that are similar shaped to the originals because they are 1) easy to fill and mix with due to the large mouth cap, and 2) very space efficient and can be secured in a smallish rectangular box for each process. Also Photo-therm can supply the fittings for the hoses, that keep things neat and avoids spills. You insert small diameter black tubing into the inside of the clear tubing for a nice fit and the black tubing goes into the fitting which is compression type.

    Anyway, I liked the processor so much that I sought out a backup for it, and was looking for an SSK8r. But a nice SK4 came along and I bought it. Wouldn't you know a few weeks later an SSK8r came up and I am waiting for delivery today! So, I have become the accidental Sidekick collector with three of them. Now, I need to decide which to sell!

    Enjoy it!
     
  24. ozmoose

    ozmoose Member

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    Obviously this is somewhat late in the piece now, but what about the Jobo Duolab?

    Duolabs are the little sleepers of the Jobo line - I bought two in 2003-2004 when they were (I believe) discounted in AUS to around the A$300.00 mark. Both have served me well since and regular testing indicates they are simple to use, all but impossible to wear out, small parts such as water lines and plugs can (usually) be home made, and in operation they are 99.99% reliable in temperature control and operating.

    Occasionally you find one on Ebay or in secondhand camera shops. One turned up recently in Melbourne for A$395 and was snapped up in days.

    Quite a lot of useful information on Duolabs still floating around on the web.

    Worth checking out. KISS is the way to go...
     
  25. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    I have a Duolab, I made a modified roller so I could use longer 1500 series tanks, I once developed 5 rolls of 35mm. It is also a great slot processor. 8x10 film hangers will fit in the slots. 4 thermostated 1 liter slot tanks. I got mine from a local shop with a bunch of tanks. I offered him 100 USD, he thought I was crazy and said Sold! . Size of a typewriter. Works great. I have a CPP2 with a lift, but if it's just a couple rolls, the Duolab can be ready to go in 5 minutes.

    The CPP3 is built like a tank, I will have one when I retire. The time you save with a phototherm seems pretty miniscule on black and white? Loading Paterson reels is easier, at least for me. That's a plus.
    Mike
     
  26. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    The video reminds me of film strips we watched in high school auto mechanics class. This thing looks way to complicated for me to trust. I guess to each it's own, I know people love them. I could of had two of them for cheap, I saw all those tubes and it scared me off. :surprised: