Homemade C-41, E6 and RA-4 Formulas -- U Tried?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Kino, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Now that I have the ATL 2300 Jobo plumbed and will be ready to run when I get a new valve kit for my tempering valve (ach, don't ask!), I am exploring self-mixed C-41, E6 and RA-4 chemical formulas.

    Oldbikerpete (in an older thread) graciously reprinted the formula for C-41 he was able to compound with help from several APUG members, so I have that and assurance it works fine, but I only have untried RA-4 formulas.

    Has anyone ever used the RA-4 formula here?

    After getting all the plumbing for the Jobo installed tonight, I reached for my 1 liter Tetenal E6 Kit to read up on the instructions and found it stuck to the shelf. Seems the heat had caused the Color Developer Part 2 foil pouch to rupture inside the sealed clear plastic bag, so I had the rest of the packets swimming in nice black goop and it had leaked out of the clear bag and cemented itself to the shelf! :mad: Kiss $30 goodbye...

    At least the $45 1 liter C-41 kit was still OK, but it drove home the fact that IF I am going to be processing color on a regular basis, I can't afford to buy these Tetenal or even Unicolor kits, but would have to mix myself from scratch.

    Also looking for an E6 formula that uses chemical fogging not bulb exposure...

    All comments and observations welcomed...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 7, 2006
  2. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Have you priced the individual components for making RA4 and C-41. Seems like I did this a few years ago and though the cost was less it was not enough to justify the hassle of stocking and mixing.

    Just my 2 cents,
     
  3. edz

    edz Member

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    Cheaper, I suspect, than mixing together primative but working process chains for C-41, E-6 or RA-4 I'd look to mini-lab chemicals. Lets focus on the 2/3 bath processes:

    C-41:
    - Developer
    - Bleach
    - Fix

    RA-4
    - Developer
    - Bleach
    - Fix.

    Fix:
    Both C-41 and RA-4 are the same neutral rapid fixers. The price of a 5/10 litre of concentrate from a wholesale mini-lab distributor is generally less the price of the ingredients if purchased through a chemical supply house (the raw chemicals get cheaper in significantly larger volumes). Fix is cheap!

    Bleach:
    Bleach is the most expensive part of the process but it can be re-used and re-used and re-used. BLIX (Bleach-Fix) from the reduced bath kits (typical for amateurs) is more expensive as the fix is quickly used up. Bleach has almost unlimited shelf-life.

    Developer:
    Commercial colour developers are not too expensive and well tuned. Its the key to the process and process control is important. Most of the formulas are proprietary. The cost to mix one of the open source developers and the cost to purchase (in quantities of 5/10 litres of concentrate or less) is similar if not even higher. Champion, Calbe and others compete well for the market.
     
  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    On the price issue. I brew my own C-41 developer and buy everything else. The developer is the bit that keeps the least. Mixing my own isn't that expensive. It would likely be cheaper to buy jugs of C-41 minilab developer but if you have waste then the math changes.

    For RA-4 developer life is less of an issue for me. Even if you only develop one roll of 35mm you can easily end up making a bunch of 8x10. That means you use the stuff up. I just mix up small volumes of developer. The stock keeps well enough and the print drums need very little volume.
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    All published formulas for C41, E6 and RA that I have seen are not exactly correct. Some are better than others. The closest to 'real' are a set of RA solutions that I saw published via a link on Photo Net. The furthest away have been all of the E6 formulas I have ever seen published.

    Errors in developer formulation will cause crossover, color shifts, speed changes and in the case of films, worse grain and sharpness.

    If you use CD4 for color print materials as some formulas do, you will get a severe loss in dye stability. This may not show up for years.

    Errors in bleach, fix and blix will have fewer consequences, but many of the solutions contain proprietary ingredients only available from Kodak and Fuji.

    I used to mix my own routinely, but it was a pain (and part of my job in the lab).

    PE
     
  6. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've used both mix-it-yourself and commercial chemistry. Concerning costs, the mix-it-yourself approach can result in cost savings, but only if you use relatively modest quantities; for low-volume users, you're looking at inflated per-roll or per-sheet costs from buying small-quantity packages and/or developer going bad because it sits on the shelf for too long. The mix-it-yourself approach, OTOH, enables you to mix whatever quantity you want, so there'll be less waste, and the dry chemicals keep for a long time compared to the solutions. Most of the cost savings is likely to be in the developer, both just looking at the raw numbers without considering waste and because the developer will go bad quicker than the other chemicals.

    Another cost issue is kits vs. individual components. You'll almost certainly pay less if you buy individual components than if you buy a kit. Unfortunately, this complicates buying the stuff, but it's definitely worth looking into the individual components.

    Concerning the RA-4 formula to which you referred, I've used it, but I've not done any side-by-side comparisons with the results from commercial developers. To my eye, though, I'm satisfied with the color from this developer when I've used Kodak, Fuji, or Agfa paper. I've had problems with some Konica-Minolta paper I bought off of eBay, though; unexposed parts of the paper turned out a bit yellow. I could reduce this by underdeveloping a bit, but this required filtration changes and made the colors a bit weak. I suspect the paper was simply old or had been improperly stored; as I said, I bought it from a private seller via eBay. It's also possible that adding the Tonopal SFP would improve matters, but I don't have any to test this hypothesis. FWIW, I did these tests with the room-temperature variant of the formula (with potassium hydroxide). Whatever the cause, the commercial developers I've tried with the Konica-Minolta paper (Paterson and Tetenal) both produce better results. For other papers, I'm happy with that developer -- although again, I've not done any side-by-side comparisons.

    I've not used the C-41 formula described on the same page, but I have used NCF-41. My conclusion is that it's not reliable enough. At its best, it produces negatives that are, to my eye, good, and that print or scan well. At its worst, it produces thin negatives that seem overly grainy. For some reason, NCF-41 is worst with Ilford XP2 Super. I may try the formula on the page you mention in the future, but for now I've got a bottle and a half of Paterson Photocolor II left, so I'm using that.
     
  7. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Is the Bleach the same for both?
     
  8. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Any particular reason for not wanting to use a fogging re-exposure? I have found it to be easier and more reliable than using a chemical foggant. I don't know what Kodak uses now but the E-6 foggant some years ago was a substituted borane which was quite toxic and not something that you wanted to get loose in your darkroom.
     
  9. edz

    edz Member

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    No. The mini-lab bleaches are "similar" but the C-41 is a bit different. One could probably make a dual C-41/RA-4 bleach around Potassium Ferrocyanide. It would, of course, not be suitable to BLIXing.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The three processes use 3 different oxidants in their bleach baths. It is not wise to use a blix for film, as they usually are too weak or are too short lived. Only papers are safe with a blix.

    Do not use Ferrocyanide with color, use Ferricyanide. Also, this strong oxidant has not been tested with current couplers or dyes in color products and so, even though it was used at one time, it is untested now, and the restults on the film or paper is unkown. I suspect that the results will be OK though.

    PE
     
  11. Rob Landry

    Rob Landry Member

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    It would be nice to have a DIY E6 formula 'cause who knows how long Kodak will keep packaging their smaller kits. I use the 5L E6 kit, but have visions of my dealer informing me of its discontinuance the next time I go to place an order. I suppose the large sizes will be around longer but that's a lot of chemistry for home use.
     
  12. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Yes, it would be hell (not to mention stupid on my part and negate all the advantages of a totally automatic process -- it is a 2300 that does everything but pour the vermouth) to stop the JOBO, unthread, expose, restart and finish the process.

    I'd really like to keep it all "in the can" for the duration. IF I had not installed this monster (and I say that with affection), I would be happy to use the British formula I ran across on the web, but I did and I must use ti! :wink:
     
  13. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Just begining to explore that, but the one link I quoted did a price breakdown and it seem to be VERY economical compared to a kit.

    But then again, math was never my strong suit...
     
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  15. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Thanks for the chemical manufacturer's reference; I am attempting to research all possible venues. While Kodak has tons of information, so much it is almost self-defeating and hard to wade through, Champion and Calbe have practically none.

    I should probably just buy Kodak Kits or bulk chemicals until I can wrap my head around all the factors involved.
     
  16. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Thanks for all the helpful info; I didn't realize it would be this complex.

    As a general rule, what is the shelf life of the individual components for mixing (not dry and not kits)? Could you, say, buy individual components to make 5 gallons and slowly use them over the year or will they tank rapidly due to oxidization?
     
  17. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Oh and one more quick question; can you use butane to displace oxygen in color chemistry containers like you can in b&w?
     
  18. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've only seen one E-6 formula on the Web. I've never used it, and I seem to recall Photo Engineer saying it wasn't "correct" in a thread a few months ago. Still, the formula is "out there" and so could be used in a situation such as you mention, albeit with results that might or might not be acceptable to you. OTOH, even if Kodak discontinues its smaller-sized kits, it's likely you could buy smaller kits from others, so mixing it yourself might not become necessary.
     
  19. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    A while ago I put together a spreadsheet to help with calculating such things. It's turned into a bit of a monster, and I've actually just done some updating to the RA-4 pages because of this thread. If you're interested, you can get it from my Web site:

    http://www.rodsbooks.com/formulas.zip

    That's a direct link with no HTML page. It's got both the original OpenOffice.org file and a Microsoft Excel export. You'll need to tab over to the C-41 and RA-4 pages for the relevant numbers. The first page includes raw chemistry prices, which you can check and update if you like, particularly if you think you'd buy in different quantities or from different suppliers than I specify.

    This thread has made me very aware of the fact that I really know very little about the capacities of RA-4 chemistry. Kodak claims 16 8x10 sheets per liter of working solution, but their document goes on to say it can handle up to 40 sheets for "noncritical" applications, and I don't know what sorts of problems would appear between sheets 17 and 40. I've seen posts elsewhere that suggest blix capacity is generally higher than for developer. Some of the RA-4 kits claim higher capacities than Kodak does -- 38 sheets for Tetenal and 58 sheets for Fotospeed. I don't know if they're just being less conservative than Kodak or if their products' capacities really are that much higher.

    This probably depends on the chemistry. I've had Paterson Photocolor II C-41 developer go bad after much less than a year -- but it's delivered as a single-bottle solution that's diluted for use, vs. the multi-bottle solution used by (for instance) Kodak. The latter would probably last longer, but I don't know if it'd last a year once opened.
     
  20. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    It all depends on which kit you compare to and how much you pay for your dry chemicals.

    If you have the volume the big mini-lab chemicals are VERY cheap. They get cheaper with every step up in size. OTOH so do the dry chemicals.

    The big cost problem with home C-41 etc is the small kits. Avoid the kits and costs are much closer.
     
  21. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    You could look at the Fuji Hunt website to.
     
  22. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    When I used color reversal films it was on SS reels. The film does not have to be removed from the reels. Each reel was held about 30 inches from a 250 watt bulb and slowly wobbled around to make sure that light got to all of the film. This took about a minute for each reel, 30 seconds on each side.

    I believe that Kodak now uses dimethylamine borane as their fogging agent. This appears to be somewhat less toxic than the tertiary butylamine borane (RA-1) used previous. Both are neurotoxins and suspected carcinogens and require the use of a respirator when being used. Carefully read the MSDS for both these compounds before deciding to use either of them. I personally would prefer the little inconvenience of light reversal to poisoning myself.
     
  23. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    E6 chemical reversal now uses an acidic solution of stannous chloride. This solution is not particularly stable itself, and can decompose through aerial oxidation.

    As for the E6 first developer, all of the formulas that I have seen except one published one time in the 90s, have used the wrong developing agents and even though they can give an acceptable color image result in degraded interimage, sharpness and grain. The E6 first developer is a slow acting High Acutance developer with a fogging agent, which is quite different than all B&W and most other color first developers.

    The E6 bleach and fix are adjusted for use with the E6 pre-bleach, while the C41 bleach and fix don't require one. RA blix is entirely different.

    The RA color developer uses a variety of 'odd' salts such as Lithium salts used nowhere else, and it also contains polymers and a unique stabilizing agent.

    I have worked on all of these processes back years ago, and I know what a pain it is to mix them all up from scratch, and how difficult it is to get some of the chemicals. Shelf life of many of them is not good.

    Just to name some odd chemisty, how about citrazinic acid, hydroquinone monosulfonate, ethylenediamine, propionic acid, stannous chloride, Ferric Nitrilotriacetate, and that is just a small percentage of the oddball things you will need.

    PE
     
  24. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I forgot to add that if you are going to mix your own, you need a good pH meter, as any deviation over 0.2 at 20 deg C (IIRC) will lead to color shifts, especially in E6.

    PE
     
  25. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    I'm glad that Kodak has finally eliminated the use of a very nasty chemical. Do you happen to remember when they made this change?
     
  26. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Yes, when they changed from E4 to E6! That was years ago.

    PE