A Primer for Choosing a C41 Home Process

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by thelawoffives, Oct 2, 2010.

  1. thelawoffives

    thelawoffives Member

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    There is quite a lot of information in the forum about the pros and cons of using various types of chemistry for processing C41, as well as the difficulties of buying certain types of chemistry. I know that most of what follows is re-hash, but I am hoping to create a thread that compiles a snapshot of whats available now, in 2010, and what is recommended. Please add pros and cons for any of the options below, and correct any false or misleading information I have written. If you are a beginner, please note that I am a beginner, too, and the information I have included is not to be taken as fact. Please, please, please follow the links to read what other, more experienced users have written. Also, I recommend reading the threads that the linked posts are contained in.

    So, here is a list of what I can determine is available right now, and a quick pro/con list:

    1) Unicolor press kit (this information may apply to other "press" kits that use blix instead of separate bleach and fixing steps)
    This is a kit of powders that is mixed into 1 liter working solutions and has an advertised capacity of 8-10 rolls. The instructions has a chart for using different temperatures at various times, using a rotary system, and 102 F for agitation.

    Pros:
    • Cheap overall price
    • Available in small volume
    • Will last indefinitely until mixed
    • All the chemistry can be shipped via regular mail (This goes for the United States, not sure about any other country)
    • Comes with straightforward instructions, if you have developed b+w, you have all the tools and skills necessary to use this (this is true of unicolor kit, which has excellent instructions, not sure about any others)
    • A good jump-in-and-get-started method for beginners
    Cons:
    • Inconsistent results
    • Only available in small volume
    • Color may not be accurate
    • May require wildly different times than the ones listed in the instructions
    • Blix is a non-optimal solution, there is broad consensus that separate bleach and fixer steps yield better results using several measures
    • Once mixed, degrades very rapidly
    • When using inversion tanks, blix tends to spurt out unless tank is depressurised after every inversion cycle
    • May not be archival, color-fastness has been questioned (is there broad consensus on this, or just speculation?)
    • Not a method for ensuring quality

    2) Arista Kit
    This is a kit that comes in 1 gallon and a 1 quart versions. It is a blix based kit. The pros and cons are the same as the powder based kits listed above. The only extra pro is the larger available quantity.

    3) Digibase Kit
    This is a kit of liquid concentrates that is a repackaging of Fuji chemistry. The kit comes in 3 sizes: a 500ml kit that will process 10-12 rolls, a 1 liter kit to process 20-24 rolls and a kit of unknown volume that will process 40-? rolls.

    Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • Can be shipped within U.S. via ground mail for reasonable rates
    • Concentrates should have long shelf life, although this has not been verified, AFIK
    • Repackaging of well-known commercial chemistry
    • Users of APUG report good results, if used at standard temperature of 100 F
    • Kits may have greater capacity than advertised, so per-roll cost might be less (do at own risk). See here and here.
    Cons:
    • Instructions leave out wash steps that many APUG users feel are necessary, so any users are warned to customize the process
    • One member of APUG has reservations about buying any products from this company. See here and here.
    • Some users experienced leaking bottles upon receiving the kits. See here, here, here, and here.
    • Good Information:
    • The "main" thread that discusses this kit has a few great posts including this one, that answers a few questions about C41, in general. Also, these two posts have a good breakdown of one user's experience with this kit.

    4) Kodak Kit from Photographers Foundry
    This is repackaged Kodak chemistry sold in a 1 liter kit. It should yield about 10 rolls (If I am reading the thread correctly) if the process outlined by Photo Engineer is followed. Read these three posts for more information.

    Pros:
    • Photo Engineer endorsement.
    • This is the real deal, and should produce consistent results. To be more precise, the user of this chemistry will have the _chemistry_ necessary to get the same results as what is available from a pro photo lab (results depend on more than the chemistry, however).
    Cons:
    • You have to understand the Kodak process somewhat, or so it seems. From my reading, this is not a jump in and go sort of kit, if you want to process enough rolls to justify its cost.
    • Cost is a bit of a concern, as it is more costly that the other kits, and does fewer rolls. It is worth stating that the conservative user would probably run fewer rolls through the above (#1, #2, #3) chemistry and the more adventurous user could stretch the Kodak chems out. That is just my guess, but I think that this option is still the most expensive per roll of all the options here.

    5) Bulk chemistry by Kodak

    Pros:
    • The real deal
    • Cost per roll, if a user's volume is high enough, is the best of all these options
    Cons:
    • Process is confusing, and even figuring out what to buy is a huge obstacle for beginners
    • You need to have the space to store the stuff
    • Hard to find someone to sell it to you, and customer service at the places it is available is reportedly lacking
    • It is packaged for mini-lab use and adjustments have to be made for small tank/home use.
    • Kodak is no longer interested in supporting the home user of these chems in the same way they do with monochrome processing, so a user will have to go to the forums for help, and this _might_ be a challenge, depending on the question being asked and what the user's expectations are.
    • Initial cost is very high compared to other methods, so a new user must be very committed to shooting C41 film before diving in.

    6) Trebla Filmpac kit
    I have found little information about this kit, but it seems like a good option. This post indicates that it will safely process 112 rolls of film and at the current costs (including haz mat shipping charges) comes in at less than a dollar per roll. I would love to hear any other opinions about this kit.
     
  2. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Error, should be Photographers' Formulary, not Photographers Foundry.
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Bill. this sounds like a very good summary of the kits with the links needed to enable each member to decide on the weight to give to members' comments.

    Many thanks for taking this kind of time and trouble to do a synopsis. It may not be applicable in the U.S. but Fuji-Hunt do a kit as well which several U.K. retailers sell.

    pentaxuser
     
  4. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    The Fuji-hunt kit is a good starting point. However, as I've become more familiar with C-41 processing in the Jobo I have come to realise that a "makes equal volume" kit may not always be the best option, as C-41 developer has relatively low capacity per litre compared to higher capacity for bleach and fix solutions. Therefore I'll probably investigate the Kodak Flexicolor line next time I need to restock. Fujihunt also supplies a range of individual developer, bleach, fix etc. packings.

    Tom
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Good summary! Some comments:

    1. The developer does have a lower capacity than the rest of the process solutions. This is especially true if you use a prewet. IMO, use of a prewet virtually insures that the developer is virtually one-shot due to the added dilution unless you work out a time chart / rolls developed. But, one is already available for used developer anyhow on the Kodak site. So, for the brave using prewets you can either do it one-shot or increase time / roll in a manner to fix dilution. I use one-shot myself. Why take a chance. All things considered I get better quality at lower cost than any pro lab.

    2. Blixes only affect image stability if the Blix does not fix properly! It affects image quality (sharpness, color and grain) if the bleach portion does not work properly. The same is true though of a Bleach then Fix sequence.

    3. Make sure the kit has a Stabilizer or Final Rinse.

    Best wishes to all.

    PE
     
  6. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Good job. I have been looking at this for a while, and was following the other thread about keenly. I'm just about to jump on it in a big (for me) way, and I want to get it right without too much head banging. I don't mind a little head banging, since that seems to be how you get things into my thick skull. But there's no reason to over-do it.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Thanks, Bill.

    I am curious about the Fuji kit's availability in the U.S.A. I will ask Freestyle about it the next time I am in there.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    On this one point I disagree.

    The C-41 process is IMO easier than B&W because it's standard across all C-41 films.

    I do agree that better documentation is needed.
     
  9. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    Kodak chemistry allows you to process one shot due to low cost. I use my developer one shot, fix one or two shot, and bleach 2 or 3 shot. The main issue with kodak chemistry is lack of a low volume, affordable bleach. The developer+starter gives you enough to process a lot of rolls, as long as you can look up complicated mixing instructions or store a large volume of mixed developer.
     
  10. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Please do, and let us know. I stopped at the local Walgreens a few days ago, and the manager did confirm to me that they use Fuji chemicals in their Fuji C-41 processor, but there's no way for him to order extra chemicals for me. The kits are not in the stock system with a for sale SKU, so the accounting would get hosed if he did it. He can only buy the chemicals, not ring them up at the cash register.

    Since I don't really know the guy, I didn't bother to press it. He seemed honest about it, and he has helped me out with other unrelated requests in the past. So it probably would really put him in a bind to explain the missing chemicals.

    I'm suspecting this is going to be the same story with any "corporate" chain which still has a C-41 machine in a store.

    I only know one commercial lab left in the county, and I may ask him. But his location isn't very convenient for me.
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Non RA Kodak C41 process - repost

    For everyone here, I am reposting the Kodak C41 instructions along with capacity of the developer.

    PE
     

    Attached Files:

  12. thelawoffives

    thelawoffives Member

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    I am trying to come up with the most economical system that does not skimp on quality, so I would like to run a combination past the group:

    If a user were to purchase 1 Photographers' Formulary kit along with a 10 liter bottle of developer/replenisher, the rough total at late 2010 prices (including estimates of tax and shipping) would be about $70. With this combination, I think that there would be enough developer to process about 44 rolls, single shot. This combo would run about $1.60 per roll, if the other process solutions could be stretched to process that entire load. If a user had to buy another kit, 4 more rolls could be processed and the total would rise to about $100 - about $2 a roll. This seems pretty economical for a system that would be based on Kodak chemistry. Based on Photo Engineer posts, it is my understanding that even with basic care, a user should expect the developer concentrate to last at least 6 months, so in order for this system to work, one would have to shoot about 50 rolls in 6 months, or about 2 per week. If someone shot a lot more than 50 rolls in that time, buying the 5 gallon replenisher would greatly reduce the per-roll cost.

    A few questions:
    1) Do you have to buy starter, as well, or can the PF kit's developer be replenished directly?
    2) What is a conservative estimate of the capacity of a liter the other Kodak process solutions aside from the developer?
    3) What is the flaw in my plan?
    4) How long can a mixed liter of developer sit, realistically? Does a shooter have to process a roll a week? Every two weeks?
    5) The per roll cost of the Trebla Filmpac kit is significantly lower than this system, so what is the catch there? There seems to be no strong opinion either way about that kit, even though it seems like what people are looking for. I am suspicious, and am leaning toward a Kodak system, but I am really interested to hear about people's opinions about that.

    Thanks, everyone, for reading my initial post, and thanks for your responses.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    No catch, works great. I have used them a year or more.

    The same chemicals are used reliably by many mini labs everyday, if they were problematic the likes of Liberty, Pakor, and other mini lab supplies would not be offering them.

    Kodak's and Trebla's kits are both professional quality chemical packs.
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Trebla chemicals (Albert backwards) is made by a group of former Kodak engineers from the Photographic Technology Division. The chemistry is good, but IDK the capacity of the new RA chemistry, nor do I know the capacity of the new Bleach III. If you use these or the Trebla equivalent, I cannot help.

    You do not need replenisher for Bleach and Fix, provided you run them to completion.

    PE
     
  16. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    more thoughts

    What about the liquid tetnal kit from B&H? Is that still available? I used it and it worked well.

    Now I use the kodak chemsitry. I agree with most all that's posted about it except that storing it is no problem - it's not *that* bulky. Finding places that will ship the bleach is the hardest part. Expect hazmat shipping charges on at least the bleach and possibly the dev and fix also. Following the instructions to use it is no worse than any other C-41 chemsitry, IMO.

    ThelawofFives: I can run 44 rolls+ of film in 5L (not 10L) of chemistry, using a Phototherm SSK-4, with one-shot developer. So if you need to use 10L to do that many rolls, you may want to investigate some other methods perhaps.

    I figured out my per-roll cost at well under $1/roll, using the kodak chemsitry.

    Also useful in this list would be a list of places (mailorder), what they sell, and what they will ship.

    I bought what I have from Pakor.com, they shipped it all fine (hazmat charges apply on top of normal shipping charges). Adorama will ship all except the bleach, I think. B&H wont' ship much - possibly dev starter, dev (?) and final rinse (?).

    -Ed
     
  17. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

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    PE, you beat me to the punch about "Trebla" being "Albert" spelled backwards. As a little bit of historical trivia, a key person in the startup of Trebla was named Albert. There was a non-compete clause which prevented him from using his name in a business competitive with Kodak. Consequently, they called the company "Trebla" which is "Albert" spelled backward.

    Trebla chemicals are marketed mainly to the mini-lab business.
     
  18. Tony-S

    Tony-S Member

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    Any update on your experiences so far? I'm thinking about doing my own 120 C-41 processing.
     
  19. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    Corrections, additions

    Only the not mentioned Tetenal kit is called a "press kit." Unicolor identifies theirs as K2. The latter is available in a 2L size from Freestyle that with shipping puts it at $39 or so. That's about the most economical for easy to get/ship products.

    The Digibase kit IS Fuji-Hunt. I wonder why they use "digi" in the product name, eh? Anyway, it appears to be the most economical short of large Kodak offerings, but it's not available until March. Maco in Germany has it in stock, I wonder what the US problem is?

    I can't recall if the Tetenal kit uses a stabilizer or not, and I'm too lazy to look it up. I sorta recall that it doesn't, which if true, is a big negative. No pun intended. The old Paterson kit didn't.

    I question why you claim the Unicolor kit can give "Inconsistent results" and "Inaccurate color." With so many processing variables as color work has, any product might be inconsistent or inaccurate. The dry powder chemicals are probably exactly what the liquid kits originally start with, no less. Fortunately for those of us scanning instead of printing, most variances are probably not so critical, either.
     
  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I don't use the Tetanol or Unicolor kits so I can't answer for them but for the Kodak and Trebla Chemicals the only reason I can see for inconsistent results is truly sloppy processing.

    Even when I was just learning and working with a water bath heated with a fish tank heater and a hot pad and a microwave oven to control temp the results were very consistent.

    If you follow the directions consistently C-41 is incredibly consistent and reliable and easy and more tolerant than most people imagine.
     
  21. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The dry powder kits are not exactly the same chemistry as the liquid kits due to the difficulty in packing Formalin, Photo Flo and Ammonium Hypo as solids. Therefore, they either omit them or use substitutes. This changes the action of the dry powder kits when mixed. Close, but no cigar!

    PE
     
  22. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    "If you follow the directions consistently C-41 is incredibly consistent and reliable and easy and more tolerant than most people imagine."

    Exactly! Say, howz old Senator Nighthorse-Campbell doing there in Ignacio? (Ex-Colorado citizen, here.)

    "The dry powder kits are not exactly the same chemistry as the liquid kits due to the difficulty in packing Formalin, Photo Flo and Ammonium Hypo as solids. Therefore, they either omit them or use substitutes. This changes the action of the dry powder kits when mixed. Close, but no cigar!"

    I can't speak to Formalin, but Photo-Flo dries to a powder, albeit not much. I'm sure there are other solid wetting agents. And you should know that Ammonium Hypo is definitely to be had as a solid, I have some. True, not stable, and hard to find, but it exists. Or, as you say, substitutes.
     
  23. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Haven't heard of or about him lately.

    How's FL compared to Ignacio? We're considering a move south or west in a couple years.
     
  25. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Paul;

    Have you ever tried to keep powdered Ammonium Hypo? In Florida? :D Not an easy task. Also, the blix contains Sodium Ferric EDTA which decreases capacity and activity by a huge amount.

    As for the Hexamine stabilzer, well, there is no surfactant and the presence of the Ammonia formed (if it does indeed decompose into formalin and ammonia, which is not assured) would not be good for the dyes.

    So, the blix contains solid Ammonium Hypo which will absorb water from the air and also oxidize more rapidly as a solid. It contains Sodium Ferric EDTA making it low in capacity and slower in action, and the stabilizer is better off used with the dioxane as a heating pellet rather than as a stabilizer IMHO. I worked on this type of stabilizer for a few years, as well as on film blixes remember!

    PE
     
  26. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    All true, I'm sure, but..........it works. And has for decades. I'm an empiricist. The bumblebee that can't fly does. (Although I recently read that those old theories were wrong even in theory, let alone reality.)

    "Perfection is the enemy of good enough."