Ilfochrome / Cibachrome

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by AGagnon, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. AGagnon

    AGagnon Subscriber

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    Hello everyone, long time lurker and first time poster here. I bought my first darkroom setup yesterday, which includes two enlargers (Omega DII and Omega C67 with C700 colorhead), chemicals, lots of accessories and tons of expired paper. Among the stuff is a good quantity of Ilfochrome and Cibachrome paper, plus the chemicals to process it. My only darkroom experience is developing film and my initial goal in purchasing this setup was to do B&W prints.


    I have done some research about the Ilfochrome process and it looks interesting, but I don't do much slides, because the chemicals aren't available here in Canada (I think? I didn't do much research about it) and sending the film to the lab ends up to be quite expensive.


    Space is a bit of an issue, so I'm pondering what I should do with the Ilfochrome stuff...Should I sell it ? Or keep it if I change my mind in the future ? I have read that this stuff doesn't keep that well. As I said, I don't have printing experience and I was planning to do only B&W prints for several months, as my first step in learning. I also just purchased my first Tetenal C41 kit from B&H, so colour work is not out of question.


    Thanks for all the replies!
     
  2. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Ilfochrome = Cibachrome with considerable improvement. The label Cibachrome is many years out of date.

    Neither paper was noted for good keeping unless frozen. The paper(s) and chemicals are no longer manufactured.

    There are some threads in which some users hope to come up with a home brew set of chemicals to use up the last of the existing papers.

    Good luck.

    PE
     
  3. AGagnon

    AGagnon Subscriber

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    Thank you!

    All the Ilfochrome chemicals I have are in powder form, in the original packaging...do they get out of date that way too?

    As for the paper, some of it is 20 years out of date, probably stored at room temperature in the basement.
     
  4. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The chem might be fine, but regarding the paper ... don't even bother. Six months out of cold storage and it develops severe crossover.
    A year old it's worthless. But the polyester sheet is itself useful for various projects. I've saved odds and ends of old Cibachrome for making
    cutout masks for negative carriers, groundglass viewing masks for reduced formats, etc. Or you could use the sheets as a substrate for
    coating some kind of homemade emulsion.
     
  5. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    IIRC the bleach requires a special organic catalyst for it to work in a reasonable length of time.
     
  6. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I have had Ilfochrome paper that was much older than one year old, that was never in a freezer throughout that time and where pictures came out just fine. Before you toss out your stash or repurpose it for non-photographic tasks, I'd highly recommend you give it at least a try. Some time back I wrote an article on APUG where you get instructions for amateur use of this material. The biggest requirement is a color enlarger which you seem to have anyway.

    I have seen all kinds of film scanned or printed on RA4 (negs) and Ilfochrome (slides), but in my opinion you haven't seen colors until you've seen Kodak E100VS or Fuji Astia optically printed on Ilfochrome material, even with the simple means of a small dark room.
     
  7. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The chemistry in powder form should keep well unless you see corrosion or discoloration of the powders when the packets are opened.

    The paper itself has a checkered history of fair and bad keeping so be prepared for the worst.

    Most of the time, some sort of masking is necessary to fix up the image.

    PE
     
  8. AGagnon

    AGagnon Subscriber

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    I saw your thread last night on my quest for some info on the subject. Very interesting read!

    The only thing stopping me from trying it, if I may say so, is my complete lack of experience on the matter of wet printing.

    Thanks for all the replies so far.
     
  9. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    Granted that the OP has an enlarger with a color head, but where on earth did this myth that you need one to print color come from??

    I printed a LOT of color back in the day, Type R, Ciba/Ilfochrome and RA4, and I've never owned a color head enlarger. A filter drawer above the lens, which pretty much all condenser enlargers have, and a set of color printing filters and you're good to go. It's not as convenient, but given all the other inconveniences of exposing and processing color material it's a tiny additional annoyance. The color head is more of an advantage for negative printing than positive because you can make finer adjustments with the color head and need to do so more frequently when printing negatives than slides, but I got by just fine even for RA4 with CP filters down to 2.5 - or .25 or whatever, different makers seem to mark them differently. Ilford made a set specifically for Ilfochrome (I still have them, don't know if they've faded) that only go to half that fine adjustment, 5 units, which was always sufficient for me (Drew might find a print that was only to the closest 5 units totally unacceptable but it was a barely perceptible difference to me!) for printing slides.

    It works fine. No one should let the lack of a color head stop them from getting into color printing, if they want to give it a try.
     
  10. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    If you decide to experiment, just remember that the bleach is very corrosive. You need good ventilation and proper disposal. Simple baking soda
    will instantly neutralize it. The powder version is largely sulfamic acid. Processing can be done in simple rotating drums. I think anyone who
    tries this in trays is a bit nuts. The bleach fumes can really mess up your lungs. The developer and fix are similar to ordinary black and white
    chemistry, however, and quite mild. But like I said, I'm extremely skeptical that the paper will be any good this old.
     
  11. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Ron - the Cibachrome name was in use well into the second generation of the medium. Ilfochrome didn't indicate anything other than a change
    in ownership. All the actual product development occurred under Ciba-Geigy. That final owner was Oji paper of Japan, who grandfathered in the
    use of the Ilfochrome label after Ilford England divested itself of involvement in the Swiss color mfg aspect. The RC "Pearl" version of Ciba/Ilfo dropped
    off the map first.
     
  12. Photo Engineer

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    Roger, back in my day there was no such thing as a color enlarger or even an enlarger with filter drawers. :D

    Drew, There were several iterations of Ilfochrome paper and chemistry as they moved from one bleach to another. They went from H2SO4 to Sulfamic acid and changed the type of catalyst. We followed this closely at EK. You might not see the changes, but they were there even if minor. Even the dyes were changed slightly.

    PE
     
  13. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I spent about a year printing b&w before I felt confident enough to try Ilfochrome. Note that you would process Ilfochrome in closed rotary tanks, not in open trays, so the actual process it actually quite different from b&w processing. You should definitely get acquainted with your enlarger before you waste precious Ilfochrome material.

    As preparation steps you can practice in complete darkness all the handling steps from cutting the paper to size, putting it under the enlarger until you have it in the tank after exposure.
     
  14. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Ron - the commercial chemistry was sulfuric from the start. The powder sulfamic version was also from the start, but in low-volume retail
    do-it-yourself kits. There were minor tweaks and temporary options to both. They offered a higher speed version of pro for certain machines.
    I still have quite a bit of the pro chem on hand, more than I need for my remaining stock of frozen paper. Had a friend in here yesterday who
    used to run a process line that required a 200 gal tank of the sulfuric bleach on hand. He gave up on Ciba after to had to have a lung removed.
    I don't do commercial lab work, so even for big prints used just small volumes one-shot, ran the drums outdoors, etc. It was less noxious in this
    mode than RA4 in my opinion. The amateur sulfamic version was slightly less nasty, but icould still mess up someone careless, just like
    any acid.
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Oh yeah... the dyes did change quite a bit between the original Cibachrome and the "self-masking" second version. After that, the main difference was just a lower-contrast tweak on the same thing. Oddly, I think the original dyes were the more permanent of the two. But you
    had those artsy types early on doing going goofy things with it, like developing in Selectol to get ghoulish greens, or exploiting the bright reds.
    Typical adolescent use of a relatively new medium, just like with inkjet today. I can only think of two print I ever made which had a dominant
    red. Ciba had a pretty remarkable gamut if you bludgeoned it to death with enough masking and avoided certain hue categories. It was a lot
    cleaner than the chromogenic prints of the era... but they have since evolve along with color neg film to the point that even if Ciba could be
    affordably reintroduced, I wouldn't switch back, that is, except for that stockpile of chromes I've got. All my new work is being done neg.
     
  16. Photo Engineer

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    Drew, I knew the designer of Cibachrome and have coated my own versions of it for tests. We were working on a heat processed dye bleach print material at the time. The primary researcher gave a very nice talk at RIT during a convention here and I have copies of that work.

    Kodak was working on a version as well, to be called Azochrome. It was coated on a support similar to that of modern Ilfochrome. I have a roll of the support here for my experiments in dye bleach if I ever get around to it. I have already posted single color Magenta here on APUG.

    PE
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    That's sure interesting, Ron. I do recall hearing the term Azochrome being floated around a long time back... but your inside history with it
    is what is so intriguing. I wonder why Kodak backed off? Did Ciba jump the gun first, or was is just another one of those dead-end
    R&D branches which Kodak never fully committed to?
     
  18. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I don't think it will even keep that long in the freezer, so I would not waste time with any that old. I had some in the freezer for less than 10 years and the color shift was uncorrectable. But if some is only a year or so old it may be worth a few test prints. Until then, keep it sealed from moisture and chilled.
     
  19. Photo Engineer

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    Drew, the introduction date for Azochrome was set at Dec 8th 1941, but a certain event intervened, and it was impossible to get some materials from the suppliers as they were used for other purposes.

    I have spent some time looking for the name of the Ciba researcher and some of the data, but have been unable to locate it. It is in a file labeled "Dye Bleach" which is oddly appropriate, but at present, is invisible to my tired old eyes. :wink:

    PE