My favourite piece of kit: Paterson Orbital Colour Print Processor


The image above is my slightly doctored and modified Paterson Orbital print processor. It is what I use to develop 4×5 and 8×10 negatives. The modifications were made after extensive research into why I was getting ruined negatives with streaks across them. I originally owned a Paterson Orbital shortly after I bought my first large format camera around six years ago but I found I was getting negatives with inconsistent development across the sheet, streaks and lines across it and it was a problem that saw me put my large format camera away in the cupboard for around a year.

To cut a long story short, I found myself needing a daylight developing tank around 18 months ago after returning back to the UK and moving onto a narrowboat in London. Unfortunately there wasn’t room for a dedicated darkroom on my 52 foot long and 8 foot wide floating home. A quick visit to eBay resulted in me being the new owner of a practically brand new Paterson Orbital.

The first few sheets I put through were reminiscent of my first venture with the Paterson Orbital – inconsistent development and marks. The problem had been some of the negatives (you can develop four 4×5 negatives at once in an Orbital) had stuck to the base of the tray and others had lifted and wandered about the tray as the developer sloshed around.

I modified the Orbital in accordance to a number of different blog and forum posts around the Internet – remove the two fins from the lid and add some bumps to the base. I did that almost immediately I saw a 100% (or more!) improvement on my negatives. I have been getting the most consistent and full negatives I have ever had since reverting to the Orbital and making the modifications.

Previous methods have included using trays, a slosher and BTZS tubes, all of which work perfectly well although BTZS tubes I still found a little inconsistent. My current Paterson Orbital, for me, has had them all beat though. And it has the advantage of not requiring a dedicated darkroom, which was useful in my boating life and in my current Darwin apartment with a somewhat tiny bathroom.

It has given me a lot of confidence in my photography to know that I can come home with a negative that I will be able to develop well and use to print from. If I could give one downside to the Paterson Orbital, it would be that you can only develop a single 8×10 sheet at a time, although you can develop four 4×5 sheets (and two 5×7 perhaps?). Some may say the cost of 8×10 film deem it worthy to only develop a single sheet at a time, no matter what method you use to develop the negatives.

Paterson Orbital, you are my current favourite piece of photography kit! So much so, I have a (brand new, unused) spare.

Over to you, readers! What is your favourite piece of kit that isn’t your camera and why?

Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales, UK

Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales, UK

Regent's Canal, London

Regent’s Canal, London

Woolshed Falls, Beechworth

Woolshed Falls, Beechworth