The best format in the whole of photography is 2¼ x 3¼. Call it 2×3, call it 6×8, call it mini, call it 9 frame 120. 2×3 is perfect. Why is it perfect? How could something that sells at just under $1 for a frame of the cheap stuff, or just over $1.50 for Ilford possibly be perfect?
No. 1: Don’t ever buy it as 2×3. Just don’t. Buy you rolls of 120. Buy you 4×5 or if it’s available 5×7 or even 8×10 and cut it down. A roll of 120 cuts down to 9 sheets easy. A 4×5 cuts down to 2 sheets. A 5×7 cuts down to 4 sheets. An 8×10? 9 sheets. Kodak Porta 160 for $1.6 a frame from 8×10, Kodak Ektar 100 at $0.60 a from 120. They don’t make much in 2×3? Cut it; everything medium format or larger cuts to 2×3.
No. 2: Format. Small enough to contact print wallet size, big enough for 8×10 enlargements without bad grain. That, and 2×3 doesn’t mean you need a 4×5 enlarger. Cheap out and throw it in a 35mm enlarger if you don’t mind a serious crop. Drop it into a 6×6 carrier and crop it square in the enlarger. Cut up a bit of card-stock and make your own 2×3 negative carrier; just about every diffusion enlarger and most condenser enlargers that can do 6×6 can stretch to 2×3 if you got the right lens. Store those negatives in a card binder, a playing card, a sport card, about the size of 2×3, no weird negative sleeves to buy.
No. 3: Process it in daylight tanks. That’s right, daylight tanks. No, not an overpriced Jobo Expert drum, not a dis-continued Combiplan, not a BTZS tube. Not some crazy rare cut film holder for a daylight tank either. You don’t need hangers, you don’t need a darkroom, or trays or anything exotic.
What you got to do is go out and grab $5 worth of 1½ or 1¼ OD PVC pipe at the hardware. Cut that into 3¼ lengths. Load that film into those tubes, curled, emulsion side in and drop them into your daylight tank in a dark bag. 3 to 6 frames fit in a 120 reel 500ml tank, 6 to 12 in a 1 liter tank. Picck up a Nikor extra film length tank, no one has the reels so those are cheap 800ml gets you 6 to 12 frames.
When you pack it in the tanks remember that you can save a whole lot of trouble buy being smart with your pipe diameters. If you need to squeeze as many frames as you can into a tank, yeah use the 1¼. If you work with cut down sheet film, you might want to stick with 1½ only. Thin films cut down from rolls or real cheap sheets of lith or hard dot are fine in the narrow tubes. Thick slabs of old Kodak Panchromatic XX, not so much. If you’re in a 500ml tank mix and match to your little hearts content.
Using a 1 liter tank, or a 2 liter monster? It’s better to stick with one size tube ’cause otherwise you’re asking for trouble. The narrow tubes can slip inside the wider and never mind the scratches that’s asking for under development. Slip some rubber bands around the tubes and they won’t slide around in the tank. They won’t shift enough to mention no mater how you agitate. Stack it right and with rubber bands you can use any mix you need.
That’s another thing, what you need. You need to fill the tank. Pack the tubes in there, vertical. Fill it even if you only need to do a couple sheets of C-41. Tubes that fall over, go on there sides, that’s problems; bad agitation and slow draining.