How To: start with C-41 processing? what brand and what temperature?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by TheToadMen, May 1, 2013.

  1. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    Hi everyone,
    I have developed B&W films for several years now, but never did C-41 color development. I don't have a Jobo Colorprocessor machine.
    I shot some color films for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, but wasn't able to show anything yet since I have to get the films developed in a store. Someone suggested to me that it was really easy to develop color film myself. I always thought it was complicated, very temperature sensitive, ... so I never tried it.
    But: my curiosity was peeked and I read several threads on APUG.
    But before I get myself into it, I would like to ask your advice. I have a simple darkroom, so no Colorprocessor, no fancy heaters for chemicals, etc. I have two standard Jobo tanks for 120 roll film. Is it still doable in these settings?

    What I would like is to develop 1 or 2 films at the time in a simple tank (as I use for B&W film) and develop at lower temperatures (like 20 or 25 degrees Celsius) because this is easier to maintain constant for me.
    I read on this forum that several people find it is not that temperature sensitive and some even develop at 20 degrees Celsius.
    If it all works out I might get me a Joboprocessor, but it seems there aren't that much around 2nd hand over here in Europe.

    These are the kits I can get from Germany (Maco Direct) of France:
    - Rollei Digibase© C41 MINI KIT (kits for 500 ml, 1 ltr, 2.5 ltr of 5 ltr)
    - Fuji C-41 Film X-Press Kit for (5 Liter)
    - TETENAL Colortec© C-41 Negativ Kit Rapid (kits for 1ltr or 5 Ltr)

    Can anyone tell me what kit is easiest to work with or has the best results (at lower temperatures)?
    I'm considering to get me a small kit from Rollei to test first before I get this large bulk kits or anything.

    BTW:
    - negatives will (mostly) be scanned, not printed
    - I use mostly old Fuli Superia 400 and old Konica 400 film with pinhole cameras
    - colors being (slightly) off will be no problem for pinhole
    - I might also try cross processing as well when I'm at it

    Thanks for the help!!
    Bert from Holland
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2013
  2. Mike051

    Mike051 Member

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    I have used Tetenal C-41 kit 1l extensively. Developing colour film is not harder than developing b&w film.
    The only important difference is the working temperature. You got to keep it at 38°C for C-41. Follow the
    instructions to mix chemicals with water and you get Developer, Blix and Stabilizer. After you get the
    chemicals ready and warm them to 38°C do the following:

    1. Rinse for 1 minute
    2. Develop for 3 minutes and 15 seconds
    3. Blix for 6 minutes and 30 seconds
    4. Rinse for 3 minutes
    5. Stabilize for 1 minute
    6. Short rinse and dry

    (Agitate as if you're developing b&w film.)

    and that's it. Take care that not a drop of blix ends in developer as it would spoil it.
     
  3. RPC

    RPC Member

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    Toadmen, C-41 processing isn't hard to do. But it is temperature sensitive and if you develop at low temperatures such as you mention you will get crossover which results in degraded colors but they may be acceptable to you nonetheless. Try it and see.
     
  4. heterolysis

    heterolysis Member

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    I recently started doing it myself with the Tetanal kits. They are pretty easy to make up and work with in my opinion, though I can't say if they are better or worse than the others.

    The developer and blix always need to be tempered as far as I am aware, but the stabilizer can be left at room temp. Here is a picture of my somewhat crude setup for which I used your basic Patterson tank. It takes a while, but just adjust the taps until you get slightly above your developing temp (~5 degrees F for me) and the bath will be pretty close. Keep in mind developing is 3.5 minutes, so even if you turn the tap off once you reach the right temperature, it won't change much.

    132046_10100466845470457_1097209688_o.jpg

    As for how precise temperature control needs to be, I'm sure there is much debate over that. My first kit (Unicolor) said to develop at 108F, my next said 110F. I do my best to keep the bath within 1C. Some people are pickier. I'm really not sure how low you can go with temperature, but keep in mind that C-41 is an established process from which you would be deviating significantly---that is, you may lose a few rolls trying this type of thing.

    I would really suggest just trying it as is first before you commit to it. If you can get a bucket of water at the right temperature, you'll be fine! Personally, I think it's really straightforward. Make sure you wear gloves though.
     
  5. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    Hi Heterolysis,
    This set up could work for me ;-)
    But I was wondering. Do you keep the Patterson tank - while developing - also inside the bath to keep it at the right temperature? Or do you keep only the bottles with chemicals in the bath at the right temperature?

    And how do you go about tilting the tank: continuous or every XX seconds?
     
  6. Muihlinn

    Muihlinn Member

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    Don't fiddle with low-temp process until you know what you're doing.

    There are a number of water jacket temperature controlled processors on the cheap side compared with jobo equipment. Nova did some for patterson tanks, AFAIK.

    If you decide to go with the tub setup [nothing wrong with it] do yourself a favour; buy a calibrated thermometer for such temperatures (true readings are important), and a decent thermostatized heather. Nova had one [novatronic] which althought seems expensive compared with a fish tank one, does its job with enough accuracy for photo processes without headaches out of the box, being somewhat thoughter than fish ones; also, price isn't over the roof. Given current prices of film and chemicals, I find those justified.
     
  7. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    There's a C41 howto in the FAQ in my signature that explains the differences between the kits.

    The tub method works fine, especially if you have a big tub with lots of water so that the temperature is stable. Insulated walls help too.
     
  8. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    I shied away from color processing for a long time thinking it was "difficult".

    I don't have room for a dark room so I use film changing bags, a scanner or two, and process my film in my kitchen.

    To do color I actually use a shallow baking pan that fits over my sink and run warm water in to it. I put my developer and blix bottles as well as my processing tank in the baking pan.

    I put a thermometer in the pan and bring the temperature up. I then leave the water on slightly higher than the temperature I need and move the faucet in to our out of place as need be to keep the temperature correct. I can maintain +- 1 degree of my target temperature this way.

    I'm actually beginning to prefer color processing over black & white. It's quicker and I think it's just as easy to do.

    What got me started was I bought a used camera, an old Kodak Signet, and found a roll of color film in in and figured I'd have nothing to loose by processing a roll of film I had not taken myself.

    I find my results to be quite good though my first attempts weren't as good as I'd have liked. DSC00088.JPG

    I took this photo last week using an old Canon 110ED 110 pocket film camera. I think the results are very good.
     
  9. ToddB

    ToddB Member

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    I'm seriuosly looking into developing color too. Just went into Walgreen looking at disposing my fixer. The clerk at the photo dept told me that they got rid of thier film developing part of thier service they provided. So now they ship out any 35mm roll to be developed. So I'm left with the delemia of getting my 120 color processed. The only place I can do it is a place sort of by my work. They charge 7.00 a roll develop only. I think getting on board with Tet kit from Freestyle, I might be the ticket.

    Todd
     
  10. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    I went with the Press Kit Tetenal at B&H Photo. I've been using those chemicals from that kit for maybe five months but fewer than a dozen rolls of film so far. My results so far are pretty good, but don't go by my word, I'm strictly a novice photographer.

    I really do like though how little time it takes me to process color film, it's very quick.

    Time for me to quit hogging this thread, but it's hard to do when I find an interesting subject. :smile:
     
  11. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    May i recomend to do some search here on APUG. There is an extensive thread on the Rollei Digibase C41 kit which is excellent. I have used it the last couple of years and it gives very nice clean negatives.
    As also discussed at lenght here on APUG, avoid kits using blix, go for a kit with separate bleach/fix chemistry.
     
  12. emjo

    emjo Subscriber

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    The scanning also plays an important role here. Try no to use automatic dust removal etc. I find they can reduce the sharpness of the picture. For testing you could rescan in B/W to see what the neg really contains.
     
  13. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    That's an excellent idea. I'll give that a try.

    The photo I showed is from a 110 camera. That's a pretty small negative. In this case I didn't use my scanner, I used my film to digital USB camera. I'm not sure what to call it since it's a 5MP camera in a box that allows me to photograph negatives.

    I don't have a 110 film holder for my scanner but I do for that camera in a box so I used that to capture that roll of film. I'm careful to clean the camera box and blow off the negative with one of those rocket shaped bulbs.

    The image is a bit fuzzy. Green seems a tad blue to me but the colors are vibrant so I love the image.

    Perhaps when I go to buy more C-41 chemicals I'll try separate bleach and fix.
     
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  15. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    BLIX ?? Is that bleach and fix in one?? As in one bath instead of two separate baths?
     
  16. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    Yes.
     
  17. emjo

    emjo Subscriber

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    If you have a flatbed scanner you can put the neg directly on the glass, then perhaps another piece of glass on top if the film is curly. What I noted about the image is that the details are "oil painting"-like, which is probably the scanning in some way.

    Colours are almost always a bit off - but it does give it some personality. "Off-colour scan" is my middle name:D
     
  18. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    Hi everyone,
    Thanks so far for all the replies. I think I'll test the Rollei Digibase 1 Ltr. kit from Maco, see:
    http://www.macodirect.de/digibase-midi-literbrfor-films-40027brfor-films-10021-p-2340.html
    Not too expensive (EURO 29.81 = USD 36) for try outs and enough to test 20 films (= being able to waist the first 19 in my case). This set has also a separate bleach and fix (as recommended).

    I still have questions about the temperatures. All right - I agree - it is best to do my first testing at recommended temperatures. I can tinker something together to make a nice & constant warm bath for the bottles with chemicals.

    1) If I do use the recommended 38 degrees Celsius, I suppose I don't keep the film tank in the bath as well, since I have to agitate/invert the tank almost constantly? Won't it cool down too much? I read that someone started at higher temps to compensate. What do you do?

    2) But is there anyone who has decent results with lower temps? Are colours going a bit off in an acceptable (= artistic?) range, or not at all? The original instruction manual even gives times for developer at 20, 25, 37.8 and even 45 degrees Celsius.
    See: http://www.macodirect.de/download/C41_InstructionManual.pdf

    Thanks,
    Bert from Holland
     
  19. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    I use a Paterson tank and tempered water bath (in a small portable cooler). I keep the water bath at about 118F, give or take a few degrees. I pour the developer (at about 101F) into the tank and immediately put the tank into the water bath. The level of the water bath should be about the same as the full tank, so that it won't float. Anyway, I do twirl stick agitation for the first 30 seconds, then put the lid on the tank. I invert every fifteen seconds -- quickly. That is, the tank comes out and gets two very quick inversions (with about a quarter turn between) before going back into the water bath. This goes on for the duration of the developing time. Every fourth inversion stop or so, I might end with a quick tap to release any air bubbles on the film (as in black and white), though things happen so fast with C-41 developing, I'm not sure how necessary this is.

    118F might sound hot, but with inversions taking between two and three seconds, the tank is out of the water bath about 20% of the time. In any case, it's after regular and repeated test runs (with water) that I came up with this process. I'm measureing the temperature in the middle and at the end of the developing time. This is with 500ml of developer and an ambient temperature of about 68F.
     
  20. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    I can get a small sheet of glass at my local hardware store, they custom cut. I'll give it a try.

    Yeah, my negative to digital camera isn't the best way to get film to computer so I bought the scanner. I can get a 16mm film holder but they're $75 so I've been dragging my feet on that purchase.
     
  21. dotyj

    dotyj Member

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    Like I said, and others have their own methods, I use a shallow baking pan suspended over the sink, the sides are just wide enough with my sink to strattle the sink.

    I use a Peterson film tank when developing color film, it has an agitation stick and I can leave the film tank in the baking pan during processing. Though I do remove the film tank from the pan long enough to tap out bubbles.

    My Yankee Clipper tank I use for 16mm film doesn't allow for inversion so it has to be agitated using the agitater/thermometer it came with.

    My baking pan is maybe two and half inches deep.

    I've gotten good results using this method.
     
  22. heterolysis

    heterolysis Member

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    I keep the tank in the water bath during all tempered steps. I fill it until the chemicals are about halfway up the funnel so that the film is submerged but there's still some room. With the rubber lid on it will float upright, which I like, and I take it out briefly for inversions every 30s. Better temperature control can be achieved by filling it all the way up so that the tank sinks, but my tanks are leaky at times so I avoid this.
    If you're going to have the tank float you also have the option of using the little spindle to agitate it so that you don't even have to take the tank out. Entirely up to you.

    The tetanal kit is three baths and uses blix, but as other people have pointed out you're better using separate bleach/fix solutions. Any colour film that's particularly important to me I have done at a professional lab, but for my fun snapshots these kits are more than enough (and are just as good if not better than your typical grocery store processing).

    Regardless, have a go with it. There's so much lore around about how tricky C-41 can be, but it really isn't any more complicated than doing B&W. Pay attention to what you're doing and have fun---I had a great feeling of accomplishment when I saw my first roll come out.
     
  23. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I went the tub of water route at first, but I found I was always so nervous about the temperature being "just right" that it sort of spoiled the fun of the process. (I never liked fighting the off-temperature crossover effects.) So, I engineered a simple and cheap tempered water bath out of stuff you can get easily on eb*y and local stores. Here's a link to a post I made on APUG that describes this: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum40/116501-macgyvering-tempering-bath-color-development.html

    While some will say this is overkill, I feel it really helps me relax and enjoy the process, not worrying about temperatures. Also, it gives me enough space so I can do processes like dip and dunk with lights out, not having to worry about monitoring temperatures.

    That said, the tub of hot water did work fine for me until I built this. Color processing is sensitive to temperature, but it ain't brain surgery. Go for it!
     
  24. cooltouch

    cooltouch Member

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    I'm about to begin my own c-41 and E6 processing. Just ordered kits from Freestyle. So I'm reading this thread and others with interest. To regulate temp with my setup, I have a terrarium heater -- used to keep reptiles warm -- that is waterproof. It has no temperature control, just on/off. But I have built a dimmer switch into an outlet box and I will use it to regulate the heater's temp. The terrarium heater is actually a flat, flexible pad, about 10" square. I plan to set it in the bottom of the tub I'll be using. I have a selection of thermometers to choose from. One of them is bound to do a good enough job for monitoring temperature.

    Ideally, I should use the mixed chems to exhaustion when I'm developing, but this won't always be the case. So to store my chems, I have several brown glass 500ml sample bottles. I was thinking I could pour the chemicals into these bottles and then remove any remaining air spaces by adding marbles to each jar, a la Aesop's "The Crow and the Pitcher." I'm hoping to maximize storage life this way.
     
  25. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    I read somewhere that someone fills the bottles with buthan gass. I'm not a chemist, does anyone know if the buthan gass won't react with the developer, bleach, fix, etc.?
    Should work nicely, I'm guessing - besides flammable problems maybe, so don't smoke (ever!).
     
  26. Muihlinn

    Muihlinn Member

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    read the msds from tetenal protectan. it's mainly buthane, propane and isobuthane.