Liquid vs. powder for C-41 economy?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Donald Qualls, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I've been looking at starting to process C-41 at home; local processing is inconvenient and getting expensive for 120, and I really prefer medium format over 35 mm -- and there are some things that just don't work in black and white.

    I see that Freestyle has their Arista C-41 chemistry available as powder (pint or half-gallon sizes) or liquid (quarts and gallons). The powder is quite a bit cheaper, and will be cheaper to ship (because no shipping water, which is heavy), but I won't have the option to mix a partial kit to extend the life of the chemicals, which means buying smaller kits and giving up some of the saving.

    If I mix the stuff a pint at a time, I can do 4+ rolls in that pint (depending how much I'm willing to extend dev time and how many reuses won't visibly affect negative quality), which makes it cheaper than local 120 processing -- as long as I buy the gallon, and only unless the concentrates go off before I use them up. I don't shoot *that* much color; a gallon kit would probably take me six months or more to use up the capacity (and I'd be surprised if the opened concentrates would last that long). Quart kits are much less economical, but I could probably use a quart kit fast enough to go the powder route (that's only 8 rolls official capacity), and the powder is less than half the price of a liquid quart kit (so comparable economics to the gallon liquid kit). So, the question is how long would the concentrates last after opening?

    Same question would apply to E-6, I suppose, though on that one I'd guess the color dev has a similar life to C-41 developer, while the first dev would be similar to D-76 for storage life -- and the E-6 doesn't come as a powder kit, but does come in a pint size...

    (FWIW, I think the Arista is rebranded Tetanal; their instructions, for both C-41 and E-6, include times for temperatures as low as 70 F, which I've only heard of previously from Tetenal).
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    If you buy C-41 fix and bleach in the big jugs you'll save more. The fix can be used for both B&W and colour. The bleach seems to keep. Actually needs oxygen for the process.

    The only thing that seems to go off is the developer. I'm mixing my own up fresh from bulk chemicals. If I knew the developer concentrate would keep I'd buy the big bottle of that to.

    If my math is right you can buy 1 gallon of the various components from B&H for about what Freestyle wants for the kit. Unlike the kit buying the Kodak 1 gallon jugs you'll have the first time cost of the starters. So the second batch will be cheaper. Assuming you replenish. Which you should for fix and bleach. Developer is the only one you might want to do one shot.

    Now the best part is if you can find a local source for this stuff. Then you'll save on the shipping.
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    From B&H

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Fixer & Replenisher for Color Negative Film - Makes 5 Gallons $ 7.95

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Developer for Color Negative Film - Makes 1 Gallon $ 9.95

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Bleach Starter for Color Negative Film - 1 Gallon $ 13.50

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Bleach III for Color Negative Film - Makes 1 Gallon $ 26.50

    Total $58.

    Down side is B&H doesn't ship most of that. So you'll need a local source. Upside is the Bleach starter is a one time cost. Upside that's a lot more fixer then 1 gallon. Fuji makes a bleach that doesn't need a starter.

    I'd also suggest checking the Kodak and Fuji hunt websites for the various tech papers. Just to make sure you're ordering the right stuff.
     
  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    A couple more things before I shut up. That developer doesn't need a starter. So I guess it could be mixed up one shot.

    You'll want to check capacities. Some of the products are low replenishment and do much more film then some of the others. You need to check capacities to make sure you've got apples to apples.
     
  5. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    If you're looking for small quantities, Unicolor K-2 (their C-41 soup) is still available, as is their Rapid E6. It's all liquid concentrates and they ship via UPS. They sell via ebay as bigalfish0.

    It's not the cheapest way (the bulk stuff from Kodak is a bit less expensive), but it's a good way to give it a try.
     
  6. HolgaPhile

    HolgaPhile Member

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    In the UK I have been using Speedibrew Celer-41 powders. These I bought 10x1L kits for £70, which will do me for 80 rolls of 120 as a one shot. I could probably double that if I dare in the Jobo but havent chanced it yet. As stated before its the dev that will turn, a fresh mix is quoted as lasting 3-4 weeks in a sealed glass jars, as powder its indefinate. The Blix on the other hand will last for months when mixed so there are no problems there. I would be tempted if you can to source the dev as powder, I know Speedi will do batches to customers requirements so can't see why you couldn't source something similar in the States and buy the BLIX in bulk, which I believe to be the more expensive component.
     
  7. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Supposedly if you keep the bleach and fix separate the working solution keeps better. So instead of running a blix I run three steps. Bleach,wash and then fix. Takes a little longer but that's the only downside.
     
  8. HolgaPhile

    HolgaPhile Member

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    Dont think its quite that straight forward :- Que PE?

    Liquid kits that I have used has come as a concentrate BLIX in one bottle. Its once they are made into a working solution that they will start to deteroirate and even then not really until they have been used. As a one shot process this really isnt a problem, its the Dev that goes quickly and that is the one to watch.
     
  9. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    That's the reason I use the liquid kits. I mix what I'm going to need for a session and use it one shot. I only use this for sheet films (plenty of places to get 35mm and 120 souped) and my mix quantities are small.
     
  10. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    My $0.02 on this, in several parts. Note that I've done 29 rolls of C-41 and 5 rolls of E-6, so I'm not yet an expert on this.

    First, as Nick mentioned, it's possible to mix your own from bulk chemicals. Various formulas are available on the Web, but I'm sure most of them would make PE shudder. I've used NCF-41 with decent results, but it's clearly a bizarre developer and it might well not satisfy the pickier folks. (I'm sure it's among those that would cause PE to shudder.) FWIW, 16 of my 29 rolls were done using NCF-41.

    As to commercial C-41 developers, so far I've only tried Paterson Photocolor chemistry (for 13 rolls), which has the advantage that B&H will ship it. The developer worked well, but started producing very thin results by the time I got about halfway through the bottle, so I ditched the rest. It ships as a concentrate that's diluted for use and can be re-used a couple of times.

    For bleaches, fixers, and blixes, the conventional wisdom is that blixes don't do as good a job as separate bleach and fix steps. So far I've only used blixes: I've used a homemade recipe that I didn't like and I've used the Paterson blix, which works better but still seems to produce slightly grainier results than I see in commercially-processed rolls. I'm planning to buy Kodak bleach and fix next. Note that Adorama will ship these (and most other color chemicals), although B&H won't ship the bleach or some other Kodak color chemicals, and Freestyle doesn't seem to carry the Kodak chemistry at all.

    For E-6, so far I've only used the Paterson Chrome-6 kit, which comes as six bottles that are mixed into four components (1st developer, color/2nd developer, blix, and stabilizer). The instructions say each component can be re-used up to three times for 35mm. I've gotten good results from the first roll, but the two second rolls I've done have been dark. The one third roll I've done had some ugly color shifts. I'm not sure if the re-use per se is the problem or the storage for a few days after mixing before doing the subsequent rolls. I notice that Adorama lists a Kodak E-6 kit that's specified for one-shot use, so I may give that a try.
     
  11. HolgaPhile

    HolgaPhile Member

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    E6 chemicals need to be used straight away once they are partially used (i.e. three goes), they will go off quickly and demonstrate the characteristics you described.
     
  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Advantage of not using a kit is you can mix and match. The offical way of using the chemicals I've got is something like

    Bleach
    blix
    fix

    The blix tank is really an overflow tank from the other two. This is fine if you're using a minilab machine but I'm not. So instead I just use longer times for the bleach and fix step and skip the blix.
     
  13. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I've had good luck with the longevity of both Tetnal and Kodak E-6 kits. They seem to last at least a month after mixing. It may depend on what you have in your water, what you keep them in, or local weather conditions.

    As to the powder vs. liquid issue, liquids are certainly easier. With powders you have to mix the full amount. But with liquids you have to ship water to Finland (or wherever). In some cases, one form may be more stable than another, but that depends on the specific chemicals used. Well sealed packs seem to work well in both cases. I've had problems with some of the Arista kits in the past, but I have no experience with this one.
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Ok, here is my 0.02 cents.

    A bleach is an oxidant, a fix is a reductant, therefore a blix is a mixture of an oxidant and a reductant. This mixture does not keep well or long! The stronger it is, the poorer are its keeping qualities, therefore strong film blixes keep poorly and weak film blixes either don't fix well or bleach well or don't do either very well and allow retained silver. I'm working hard on a solution to this problem. I have one blix that might make it out there.

    A powder bleach, fix or blix CANNOT contain ammonium hypo. It is not easily dried and kept dry. It turns into slush or decomposes. The ammonium ion is what gives bleach, blix and fix solutions their high speed and capacity. Therefore, powdered varitions of color tail end chemistry are usually quite stable and less expensive but not very fast and often weaker than their liquid counterparts.

    The first true liquid blixes for paper and film were designed at EK in 1966. The first paper blix was blix 1066 (month/year). This was the first complete conversion to ammonium ion in these solutions for speed and capacity. Elimination of all positive ions but the ammonium ion and ferric ion was patented by Stephen and Surash of EK at about that time. Prior to that time, either the pH was wrong or the chemistry was slowed down due to the presence of sodium ions.

    PE
     
  16. HolgaPhile

    HolgaPhile Member

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    Okay so, separate bleach and fix will be stable for longer and powders are inferior? Just my two pence PE :wink: SpeediBrew's BLIX comes in two powder parts and BLIX's the film in under two minutes, the usual BLIX's are around six aren't they? Just curious how they manage that but from what you have said it sounds pretty impressive stuff.

    One off no topic question:- on RA4 the BLIX usually comes in two parts which are suppose to be mixed, would these be more stable to keep as separate baths?
     
  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I'm not familiar with Speedbrew's blix, but they may be using the information from our patent on film blixes which is now expired and would blix film in less than 2 mins. It was quite stable as well. Nothing unusual about that. Oh, our formula was also a powder. It can be done with the right chemistry. Kodak decided that it was not worth commercializing at the time, for a number of technical and economic reasons. I'm working on a better blix.

    The RA4 blix is part oxidant and part reductant. One is Ammonium Ferric EDTA (or a counterpart of EDTA depending on version of blix) and the other part is ammonium hypo and ammonium sulfite. Again, nothing unusual. They are more stable if not mixed together.

    If you want a film blix with existing chemistry, then IMHO try using Kodak C41 bleach III mixed with Kodak C41 RA fixer (with thiocyanate). This mixture of two parts will probably make the best film blix around, as it approaches our original film blix formula very closely if you take a look at the patent. Just pour the fix into the bleach 1:1 and use as-is. It should blix in less that 6 minutes. I would try a sheet of film to test the rate and double it and use that for the final time. It should have reasonable keeping.

    PE
     
  18. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    PE could you comment on the Kodak C-41 developer that doesn't need a starter? How long will the unmixed concentrate keep? Would seem an ideal option. Buy developer in a smaller size along with bigger sized fix and bleach.
     
  19. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Nick, I use the 1 gallon C41 kit myself, and keep it for about 6 months mixed or about 1.5 years as a concentrate. Actually, if the part with the color developing agent is clear, and not brown, it is still good.

    I use Jobo plastic bottles, as these are the most oxygen resistant bottles that I have ever found in shopping around, unless you use glass.

    I have stored this developer with and without a nitrogen blanket in the bottle and find that the nitrogen extends the lifetime by about 3 - 6 months if used carefully and if the water used to mix the developer is not aerated unduly during mixing.

    PE
     
  20. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Thanks. Kits are getting harder to find. Add in shipping issues and just buying the bigger mini-lab products makes more sense.
     
  21. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Hmm. I'd really rather do separate bleach and fix steps -- just seems better, and a few minutes longer doesn't hurt me -- but the kits all seem to use a blix (probably to cut down step count or bottle count). FWIW, the Arista kits apparently have the Ammonium Ferric EDTA based bleach component in their blix (they have a warning callout for that in both instruction documents). And it makes perfect sense that it's cheaper to get the components separately, but I'm don't want to spend $150 up front and then find out I don't like it, or the developer concentrate goes off, or whatever. And that's the problem with the mini-lab stuff; I see it sold at places that ship, but if I'm reading it right, I have to buy 40 L worth of concentrate, and it's designed for replenishment (how much starter?). I doubt I'll burn enough film to make replenishment work well anyway, so starterless is the way to go for me.

    However, let me restate the question -- what's the most economical way to do small quantities of C-41 at home? Probably, in my case, I'd shoot a couple rolls a month, though that might increase (the film isn't any more expensive than B&W, I don't shoot it now because the lab wants money, which doesn't keep the way film and B&W chemicals do -- mine's always going off), and it wouldn't be hard to batch the film to use the capacity of a small mix (4 rolls in a pint, says Freestyle's kit instructions, or more if you're brave). If the Kodak concentrates keep as well as you say, PE, that might be the way to go (though I don't know of a local supplier, I might ask Costco where they get their soup next time I'm in); I could probably use up a gallon size developer concentrate in a year.

    I'm after bringing the price per roll down to around $2, not counting my time (takes me a half hour to develop a roll of B&W, shouldn't be even quite as long for color, except for temperature adjustment of the tempering bath); that's competitive with Costco (which is 7 miles away, takes more than half an hour just to drive there and back), and much cheaper than the local place where I've been taking my 120 (which is 5 miles away, same time to drive, and can't print 120 anyway) -- and just having the stuff on hand will make 4x5 color possible, even if I'm not using up the capacity in that application. I was planning to order some bottles from Boston Rounds for this venture anyway (once I know what size I need), that's just a startup cost. Obviously, the old trick of dividing the solution into multiple smaller bottles still applies here, though I don't have the ability to use a nitrogen blanket (I've been using butane lighter fuel to blanket my Dektol, but I'm not sure it's worth the cost of the butane).

    Related question: the Arista E-6 kit doesn't appear to include a stabilizer -- is that a bad thing, or is stabilizer optional with E-6? And, if I have components for C-41, can the bleach and fixer (and stabilizer) be used for E-6 as well? If so, I'd need only first dev and E-6 color dev added to the C-41 chems to do both...
     
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Donald;

    Having no stabilizer is either bad or good. Bad if you have older films than the current Portra films and ok or good if you have Portra films. The couplers changed and the most recent ones don't need the same type of stabilizer, they use a new stabilzer.

    PE
     
  23. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    PE, does this mean that when I develop Portra films, I don't need to do the stabiliser bath?

    As I sometimes develop Kodak and Fuji C41 in the same bath I would then use a stabiliser bath anyway, but if I'm only doing Portra it would appear that the stabiliser isn't required.

    Or, is it a combination of the new films being manufactured differently along with the newer C41 processes having the stabiliser inserted in another solution(s)?

    Mick.
     
  24. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The new Fuji films have the same requirements has the new Kodak films.

    What stabilizer are you using? If it's a new one from Kodak or fuji I think it's basically just a final rinse. No formaldehyde.
     
  25. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Check the list of chemicals I put up in one of the messages. Assuming I didn't screw up the list then the total cost was $58 for everything before shipping. That's less then the 1 gallon Arista kit I think. From that point on it'll be even cheaper. If you can find it locally then no shipping. One issue is the 5 gallon fix I included in the list is only sold by B&H in full boxes of four bottles. But other sellers might be more flexible. The 1 gallon jug is only a couple of dollars cheaper IIRC. You can use the same fix for basically everything.

    I'd suggest picking the smaller size developer and the bigger size bleach and fix. You're unlikely to have anything go bad that way but you'll save money.
     
  26. HolgaPhile

    HolgaPhile Member

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    Gorup buy comes to mind then you can split the boxes.