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?