Developing 4x5 Kodak Super-XX film pack with an SP-445

I wasn't about to let a pack of found film just sit around, so why not explore what else the SP-445 development tank could do.

3 min read Filed in Photography

To say I’ve fallen in love with the Stearman SP-445 compact 4x5 development tank is probably an understatement. I was late to the party to be sure; I had missed the KickStarter back in late 2015 thinking I’d still want to be doing tray development in my darkroom.

It’s not that I don’t like doing tray dev, but that becomes less of an achievable goal when my kids would like in on the action. Darkrooms are dark and with little one’s that may want a quick exit, you can imagine the hilarity the ensues. So, I picked up an SP-445 or three and I’ve never looked back. It’s just such a lovely system for developing 4x5 film that I’ve not felt the need to go back to trays unless under the most specific of circumstances.

When I stumbled upon a yellow and green Kodak Super-XX film pack, my initial thoughts were “I should tray develop this”, but that didn’t seem super fun or potentially useful to future film devs who may themselves stumble across found film with not trays or darkroom around.

Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film

The question was could I actually dev this film in an SP-445? I had never worked with Super-XX in pack film before and knew very little about it’s construction beyond some forum posts and a few old manuals.

Not knowing what I was getting into, I sacrificed a single sheet of the film to get some idea on what I was in for.

Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film single sheet

With no notch on the corner and only an adhesive edge, it was going to be all about memory in making sure the emulsion was up. It was also very thin and very flexible, making it hard to handle. The larger issue was that film was larger than a standard 4x5 sheet of film, both in height and width. This was problematic for the SP-445’s film holder; the film wouldn’t fit.

Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film single sheet bowing in the SP-445 Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film single sheet length in the SP-445

As in the above photos, the film was just too big overall. The width was an 3/32 of an inch (2.4mm) too wide, and nearly 3/8 of inch (9.5mm) too tall.

So…I decided to make it work. Instead of developing four sheets, I’d develop two at a time. I’d also slot the film into the holder with the middle of the emulsion bowing outward. In practice, this became quite easy to load, slotting one side of the film into the film holder and flipping the edge into the other side.

I mixed up some chemistry. I ended up developing with HC-110(b) for 6:30 with a rotation every minute (no pre-wash). The end results were significantly better than I expected; all 11 sheets developed with little to no fog, with only a few poor development marks from the film shifting into places it shouldn’t have.

Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film after development on the light table for review.

All in all, whomever this pack film belonged to, I dig your seascapes and your moving houses. From what little words I could make out, I suspect this is possibly Port Norris in New Jersey as one of the oyster boats in the photos has “port norris” in the back. Which is amazing given the unknown age of this film. Goes to show just how much resolution is in 4x5. ☺️

Kodak Super-XX 4x5 pack film through the loupe, reversed.