E6 Myself vs. Lab

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by David Hall, Mar 14, 2003.

  1. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    This question was sparked by the rotary processing thread...

    I can drop off E6 at A&I in Hollyweird virtually 24/7, and get a three hour turnaround. Is there ANY reason that it would be better for me to do E6 at home in the sink? It doesn't sound easier, and although I have never done the process, it doesn't sound like there is as much variable in the process as I am used to in BW. And A&I is very good at pushes and pulls, etc. Is there something I could do at home as an amateur that would better the work of the lab?

    dgh
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

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    No.
     
  3. Robert

    Robert Member

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    There is a discussion about this some place. It's not cheaper unless you can do a lot of film. But then you'd likely be better off shooting more and paying somebody else to process it. It'll only be better if your lab screws up.

    I'm going to pickup 100feet roll of old film from Freestyle. I'll bulk load it. That will make gettting it processed a little harder. Plus I just want to try it.
     
  4. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  5. DKT

    DKT Member

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    Not if you have a good lab near you to begin with. E6 in the labs near us is about 2 hours turnaround, but we do it in-house now, and the run is about an hour and a half dry to dry. It's probably half that time in actual labor, because the machine is mostly automated. The biggest PIA about E6 is maintaining your process and mixing the chemicals. The actual process isn't flexible like b&w, with little room for error--but if you did do it yourself, you could gain control over certain aspects of your chrome film. Like doing pushes and pulls, even slight ones...you could mess with the sp. gravity and pH of certain steps to tweak the contrast or shift the color balance, but if your aim was a straight process--you would be trying to follow the same rules as the labs do--the std. E6 process run around control strips. And I don't think it's worth the headache if a Q lab or Fuji Oasis lab is nearby. If you ran the film yourself, you could tweak the process around the film you shot the most. This is how we run--geared to Fuji Provia 100, and use control strips for just the most basic part of the process. We actually get more control off the film, than the control strips. labs try to go for a process that will run everyone's film more or the less the same. then there's a limit on top of the aim for the control strips, of just how much speed and color you can be off. It comes down to about 10cc's of color and maybe almost a half stop in speed. If the line is geared toward one type of film--maybe the most popular chrome film in town, or the one the lab owner/studio shoots--then there may be problems with your film, unless you filtered back to their process (assuming it's reasonably consistent--you hope anyways) or adjusted the speed. Alot of people assume it's somehow all automatic--E6--and the films all work the same way, but in a way they don't. They do & they don't.

    If you did use a small processor like a Jobo, you would have to mix up smaller amounts of chemistry--which means you would need to be more careful--and it would take longer to heat up the steps. Then, with any one-shot process, you lose the type of control you get with a replenished system. So, in E6 there's very little recourse, once you've done that run, the chem is gone. In some ways, doing batch runs in tanks makes more sense, because you can control the steps as you go along with your film. You can get really close with a rotary tube processor, but it just takes turning yourself into a robot really. It's a zombie type process. You're not going to get into a mad scientist routine and somehow "discover" your own secret E6 recipe. You need to program yourself for consistency, and basically go off on autopilot for every single run, every time you mix chemistry etc. If you were dealing with a gallon or so of the stock chem, and you dumped part of it with one run. You could go back & try to adjust the remaining amount, if there was a problem with the first run. Buit if you mix up those miniscule amounts like a couple of hundred ml's or whatever, you better make sure you do it right....or, I guess my answer would be you can do it at home, but don't complain about color balance or speed until you can nail the process down. It will almost always be your fault, not the characteristics of the film, not the brand, not Kodak's fault, not Fuji's--it will be you. Your fault. This is what I think anyways when I read posts on these forums complaining about chrome film and E6.

    Then again, you might prove me wrong-- I'm no expert on E6....but I do know that I can't do it any better myself at home, without a considerable investment in time and money.

    KT
     
  6. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (DKT @ Mar 14 2003, 10:16 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>... The biggest PIA about E6 is maintaining your process and mixing the chemicals. The actual process isn't flexible like b&w, with little room for error--but if you did do it yourself, you could gain control over certain aspects of your chrome film. Like doing pushes and pulls, even slight ones...you could mess with the sp. gravity and pH of certain steps to tweak the contrast or shift the color balance,.. .</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I think that you are describing the process for large, automated machines.

    The "Three Step" chemicals are no more trouble to mix than oridinary c-41 chemicals. These chemicals are probably more carefully formulated and controlled in manufacture, recognizing the fact that the average darkroom is not set up to measure Ph and specific gravities.
    All I can say is that whatever variables exist in JOBO temperature control and the process in general, there sems to be more chance for error in the exposure itself. I have been very satisfied with the output from my darkroom.

    E6 chemicals in the JOBO ARE replenishable, according to the Tetenal, etc., data sheets, with the usual modifications: Add time to First and Color developers for the second run: more time for the third, etc.
    However, being a quality freak, I do nearly everything, Black and White, C-41 and E-6 on a one-shot basis. That way, I am continually using fresh chemicals, and from my experience, I can equal or surpass the quality of a Commecial Lab - at least the Commercial Labs I've used.

    The economy of it all is another matter. Off-shore processing is probably cheaper (neglecting transportation and time to get to-) in a GOOD Commercial Lab - and neglecting the trouble to FIND a GOOD lab.
     
  7. baronfoxx

    baronfoxx Member

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    I use a local high quality local lab sometimes and also do my own E6 in a Jobo processer.
    I have learned that there are two main causes of failure with self processing
    1, colour shift due to temperature varyations

    2, colour casts due to cross contamination of the chemicals, the slightest amount of contaminatiom will ruin the whole film.
     
  8. lee

    lee Member

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    I would let the pro lab do it. LIke someone said you need to do a lot of film because the chems don't last long and are somewhat expensive.

    lee\c
     
  9. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Aggie @ Mar 14 2003, 02:05 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> You can screw up just as easily as a lab can. but they tend to, (high end ones) do it quicker, and more reliably. It is the grocery store drop off ones you avoid. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    They screw up quicker and more reliably? [​IMG]
    I thought I had that covered myself.
     
  10. docholliday

    docholliday Member

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    I run my E-6 myself because it is more convenient. Many of my shoots don't finish until some 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and I just don't like to wait until the next day to get some of my film back. So, I'll run the rolls in my Jobos so I can get them done and ready. Plus, I can run my own C-41 for the same reason. I'll do the film here, then do a contact sheet, evaluate, crop and send the carded negs off to the pro-lab for final printing.

    I do my own Ciba's, so I can keep my work in house instead of having to rely on some lab for a time schedule. The only time I send everything off to the prolab is for critical work, ie, weddings, etc.

    If you've ever been non-methodical in your life, then you'd wanna be careful if you run your own colour film, sometimes, the absent-mindedness can get to you during a 6 minute segment of the processing cycle!
     
  11. Robert

    Robert Member

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    I take back the cost part. I called one of the local photographic stores. The price for the 500ml Agfa kit sounds fairly cheap. Now maybe he misread the price. I'll drive by next week to see. Is the Agfa AP44 kit any good? 5 steps. How long do the closed kits keep?
     
  12. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    Thanks for the input. It still sounds like it's easier to take it to the lab. I don't really do that much E6 anyway, and honestly I am doing more and more C41 when I do color, because my goal is always something for the wall instead of the printed page.

    Doc, I'm with you...when I shoot something I want to see it quickly, so I am usually up all night after a day of photography processing. BW, in my case.

    And DKT, thank you for that very well thought out and comprehensive post. Part of the reason I love this place so much.

    dgh
     
  13. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    One more thing...

    Someone, Doc I think mentioned self-processing C41. How does THAT compare to E6 at home and BW? Especially since C41 labs are both MUCH more common but MUCH more prone to less that quality work?

    dgh
     
  14. b.e.wilson

    b.e.wilson Member

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    I do my own E6, mostly because of cost. I shoot 4x5 transparencies, and developing lab costs are just too high.

    DKT mentions above the need for absoute consistency, and he's right. Small changes in temp and times, if they are uncompensated (and compensating is more an art than a science, I use time and color dev pH) will give less than ideal images. But then, I'm an enzymologists, and copared to enzyme activity assays, E6 is quick and sloppy, so it's easy for me.

    In the end, we do our own color development because we like doing it, not because it's easier or better than a lab.

    I've done C41, and it's very easy. Since the color balance gets adjusted on the enlarger, temp isn't as exacting as E6. But printing RA4 is hard, as one step is just so dang short (45 sec developer!), it's awkward to do in a rotary processor.
     
  15. docholliday

    docholliday Member

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    Agh, C-41 is easy! AND, so is RA-4, just get a color analyzer and a modified roller-transport processor. I modified a Ilford CAP-40. I can run my Cibas and my RA-4's in the same machine.

    My main problem is the wait of getting a lab to do your prints. For weddings, yep, it goes to lab. Too much work, and I can always use my lab as an excuse when something goes south.

    For my competition and personal/travel work, I do my own. I hate having to make time to get to lab or mail to the lab (and overnight ain't cheap). And, I hate the wait to get your stuff back. Especially when you only need a few prints of one or two negs, that's what got me started doing my own work.

    Many times, I'll shoot C-41/BW AND E-6. The C-41 goes to lab or the BW get processed when I get time. The E-6's I process almost immediately. They give me a heads-up on what the final output'll be. (If you screw up the E-6, you can be a bit more relieved when you think about the latitude of C-41/BW.)

    Plus, sometimes, a shoot will be "normal", but a Ciba makes the right color/contrast for what you saw when you pressed the shutter.
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A very interesting thread...

    I will probably start doing my own E6 soon. The main reason is the lack of labs able to handle 5x7" chromes in Norway - not just locally, but the whole country! There are a few who can do 4x5", and one that gave me back a yellow sheet of 5x7" film with a footprint on it. I'm not giving them any more of my film to play with.
     
  17. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    My very first darkroom experience as a mere lad was processing Ektachrome-X in E4 and even doing a bit of E3 (with it's manual re-exposure to to a lightbulb step) in my Dad's home darkroom. Since then, many years of working in studios, labs and freelancing in multi-image production houses gave me the opportunity to work with, and the responsibility to maintain process control for dozens of E6 processing machines of all types and makes.

    E6 was really designed to work best in a Dip and Dunk processor or a sink line with seasoned, replenished chemistry. A couple of of the steps are intended to occur without agitation, which is obviously impossible in a rotary or roller transport process. Even then it takes constant plotting of each color with a densitometer and chemical and process adjustments to keep a line in control. Keeping a commercial E6 line within Kodak's specs is two parts science, one part art and one part voodoo. I would guess that the footprint on OleTj's film is a pretty good hint that his lab isn't particularly scrupulous about fine process control.
    It may seem that one-shot processing would be at the very least the most repeatable process, especially if you mix your stock solutions in quantity but I've run Colenta and Wing-Lynch rotary lines and found them infuriatingly difficult to maintain consistency on, run to run.

    All that being said, I wouldn't hesitate to process E6 at home, tanks and hangers or invertable tanks is best but if you are doing rotary, follow any recommendations and adjustments that the manufacturer publishes and use your most disciplined and practiced processing techniques. It is a critical process. Also, use all safety precautions when handling the chemistry. Good ventilation, rubber gloves, I recommend a stylin' Black plastic Kodak darkroom apron and by all means protect your eyes. They eventually got rid of the formaldehyde stabilizer but there are some truly nasty acids, bases and bleach involved. I've run both 3 and 6 step E6 in my Jobo. I was pleased with the results visually but I have an uneasy feeling that if I had run a control strip and plotted it, I would have been horrified.

    Bottom line, If you have specific needs, like a lack of access to a decent local lab (becoming a common problem) or strict turn-around requirements, and can justify the extra expense and effort or you just enjoy relaxing evenings in the darkroom and "doing it yourself", home E6 processing is certainly worthwhile , _But_ if you can hook up with a good lab that has a dip and dunk processor, runs scads of film every day and maintains critical process control (yeah, right), that is where you will get the ultimate in quality and consistency.

    -Neal
     
  18. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    If you have a good pro lab, stick to it they can do it better and more consistently. I was recently given a tour of a pro lab who have done my E6 films for years by the companys sales manager, I was Very impressed, if you walk near a E6 machine it can detect
    your body heat, and a motor kicks in to adjust the processing temperature to compensate. I don't think it's worth the trouble when you can drop them off and collect them in three hours.
     
  19. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I have an ordinary turn-around of 5-7 days so home processing may be for me. But if need to get it fast I can have it done in 4 hours for 2½ times the price.
     
  20. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    The lab I use most have the films ready in the afternoon if you leave it at around
    8 am. they are rather expensive no matter turn-around time and the only way to keep prices down is to buy alot development cheques at a time. Both labs I use does a great job and delivers a clean scratch- and stainfree roll of positives. I couldn't do it better my self.
    Søren
     
  21. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    Me too. I use Mai Color in Århus and buy 10 devs at the time for 440 kr ($80). Normal price for this would be 65 kr. ($12).

    I can't normally afford buying more at a time because paying for 25 or 50 devs will crack the budget.

    When I am having slides developed that I do not need fast I use Bingo Foto (who also does my negative color films). They charge 25 kr. ($4) for E6 (turn-around is 5 days as they don't do this themselves). Colour negative is 55 kr. ($9) for dev an printing in 4x6 inches.

    Which lab do you use, Søren?
     
  22. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Do you know the old Foto C ? The lab has been taken over by it's employees and they are doing the labwork for foto C. I.t quite cheap. They charge 45 kr for C41 and E6, 33 kr for B&W. As i remember turn-around is 2-3 days. The other lad is called Xposure (former Black&White) they are expensive and only reach reasonable prices when buying 50 at a time (43.75kr) Now that The "cheap" lab is up and running and when I have used my last dev (3 to go) I will be using Foto C more and probably try to get some rebate :smile:
    I have had some bad experience using Photocare (Gabs). They couldn't roll the films properly, they glued the film, and when they came back cut they were full of scratches
    Søren
     
  23. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    What Aggie said.
     
  24. Jordan

    Jordan Member

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    Wow, this is an old thread that got resurrected. You Danes are lucky! The least expensive E6 processing I have access to costs about $7 per roll, unmounted. I have done E6 processing myself in the past but am moving toward more C-41 films and B&W.
     
  25. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Shameless plug for my favorite lab in Montreal, Dafo Eclair, which has an E6 2-3h turnaround time for a mere 6 CDN$ and they use a dip-and-dunk machine, so I could give them 127 film if I wanted. Actually, they're so kind that when I asked them if they can process that format, they brought me in the lab and showed me the machine, so I could ponder upon its adequacy to my request. Very cool.