Self processing color...

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by ChristopherCoy, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    If I wanted to process my own color film at home, what kind of initial investment am I looking at?

    Is it a highly specialized process as compared to B&W?
     
  2. LJH

    LJH Member

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    You'll NEED a processing system that allows accurate, continuous temperature control (+/- 0.1 degree Celsius) as a starting point, and one that is capable of heating much higher than for B&W.

    As for the process, have a look at Youtube. There are some videos showing processing of E-6 film. It's not too difficult.
     
  3. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    When I started I used a couple of water baths to do E6 and whilst it was tedious to keep the temperatures right, it was quite okay. I ended up getting a Paterson Auto Colortherm and it is a great way to control the temperatures.
     
  4. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    depends how automated you want to make it
    I find it cheaper (if you include my time) to have someone else do it...then again I hate having to wait though.

    you can invest very little and still get results...reel and tank and chemicals for slides with big water tempering bath....

    for color prints...well...now you need an enlarger, print processing stuff too drums...etc etc....the enlarger will be your first expense followed by roller drums...significantly more than slides.
     
  5. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    No specialized equipment is needed, costs are low, and you dont need to actually control it within .1 degree C. You will never see the diffrence being .1 degree off, only a densitometer and color analyzer will be able to detect those differences. I say this based on personal experience devbeloping color slide film over the past year. Slide is the more difficult and sensitive of the two also (C41 is more tolerant). With slide, as long as you are within .5 degrees Celcius when you start processing, which is very easy to do using tap water from your kitchen sink and an inexpensive styrofoam cooler, you will get great results.
    Here is what you need:
    -a Paterson Hand Developing Tank. The 5 roll tank new is only $42 with free shipping. Or, get the 1 roll $25 tank.
    http://www.adorama.com/PAT535.html

    -a $10 digital cooking thermometer for measuring water temperature

    -a $5 digital cooking timer/stop watch for accurately measuring time the film is in each developer

    -a $3 styrofoam cooler, big enough to fit 3 bottles that will hold your color chemicals, and enough extra space to hold a good amount of hot/warm water. This is your hi-tech water bath system, although you could pay hundreds more for professional JOBO machine to do the same - and then worry about maintenance and repairs;-)

    -3 empty 1.0L water bottles to hold your color chemicals. Dont use empty pop or fruit juice bottles, as the residual acidity can ruin the first developer solution. Cost - free to $3

    -a glass measuring beaker from the cooking section of your local store, $5 maximum. you use this to mix up your color chemistry. what the heck, splurge and get 3 (1 for each chemical), so you dont have to worry about thoroughly rinsing between chemicals to avoid cross contamination.

    -some rubber gloves and plastic eye protectant glasses, to protect your hands and eyse, should you accidentally splash or spill the chemistry. $5-10 total.

    -the most expensive item, the film chemistry. recommend a $40-$100 Tetenal 1L - 5L kit. easy to use and mix up, gives fantastic results. German Engineering (chemistry made in Germany, these guys know what they are doing). Or the Kodak C41 chemistry (kodak is tops, but getting hard to buy in reasonably small quantities for the home user, otherwise I would recommend over Tetenal), or even teh Arista and Rollei kits. The 5 Liter Tetenal kit develops 60 rolls of slide film with great results, even on the 60th roll (I was sceptical, but it does indeed do 60 rolls without contrast or quality issues, and could probably do more if you want to exepriment.)
    Freestyle Photo will begin selling the Tetenal kits in early July!
    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/c1000-Color-Chemicals


    That is it! You mix up your chemicals with water and pour into the empty water bottles. Fill the cooler with water at say 42-44C. put the chemistry bottles in the cooler water bath, this heats the color chemistry. let the water and bottles cool, checking temperature until the water bath (and bottles) reaches 38-38.5C, then you are ready to begin developing, and you have very precise temperature. Only the first step/first developer is really critical anyways.
    You already loaded your film into the Peterson tank, like I do in my basement pantry at night with lights out (no windows). Or, you have a small film changing bag to do in a fully lit room.
    Turn on your kitchen sink, adjust the water temperature to approximately 38-39C, then do a pre rinse. Fill the paterson tank with this warm tap water, then pour out. You just brought your tank and film up to temperature. Now, pour in the first developer (remember, its now at 38-38.5C floating in the cooler/hi-tech water bath), start the timer, and repeat for each of the 3 steps/developers using the time specified in the instructions.
    Bam, then rinse with water a few times, and as the final step, you pour in the room temperature Stabilizer/preservative bath. Let sit 2 minutes in the Stabilizer, then pour back into the bottle.

    You are now done. open that Paterson tank, and hang those beautiful slides/negatives to dry in your shower.
    Low tech, easy, inexpensive, fantastic quality results (never again scratched negatives or ruined film at the lab), and did I mention - Fun! Put on some music in the background while developing, enjoy.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Temp control doesn't need to be expensive, I used to use a $32 dbl burner hot plate from Walmart. Two thrift store stock pots for film, one for the chemicals, one for the film. For paper I used a hot pad under the developer and blix trays, anything between 85 and 100 is workable with paper.

    RA paper Chemicals are easy and can be premixed ready to use. RA paper is inexpensive compared to B&W.

    Used enlargers can be found very inexpensive with a little patience. The best enlarger I have was free.

    I develop C41 film for about $1 a roll but that requires buying chemicals from minilab supply houses in the smallest commercial quantities. Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock here.
     
  7. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pukalo/sets/72157627018681644/

    My first ever roll of home developed color film, done almost a year ago to date. I have done over a hundred rolls since then, and have yet to have a bad result. In the beginning, I was fanatical about getting the temp withing .1c and keeping it there, but soon realized that as long as you are withinh .5C, you will never see the difference.
     
  8. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    And did I mention that I am still bitter over that foolish Photo.net article that deterrred me for many years from trying home color development? A completely false and misleading article that cost me $$$$ in lab development fees and ruined and scratched rolls over the years. I hope after reading this, others will try it and see how easy and inexpensive it is. (and great quality results)
    Sorry, just lamenting.
     
  9. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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  10. hrst

    hrst Member

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    C-41:

    If you are fine with typical non-pro or "one-hour" labs, then it is VERY easy to surpass their quality in every regard. Just buy a C-41 kit, heat the chems to 39 deg C, prewash the film quickly with water at 39 deg C and just develop for 3'15 like you develop BW, agitating every 15 or 20 seconds, the average temperature will be close enough and you don't need any water baths or other specialties.

    That being said, it is quite easy to do it much better. Use a water bath at 38.0 deg C to heat up your processing tank and chemicals. Add a bit hot water every time the water bath seems to drift away from 38.0 deg C. Use two successive prewash water baths at 38.0 deg C (15-30 seconds in ok), measure the developer temperature and GO!.

    Don't wash after final rinse / stabilizer bath. Hang up to dry.

    Also, some kits have erroneous or unclear instructions, so as a reminder:

    With kits that use BLEACH and FIX, go directly from developer to bleach, but DO insert a 3-4 cycle wash between bleach and fix, and DO a 7-8 cycle final wash between fix and stabilizer/final rinse.

    With kits that use combined bleach-fix (BLIX), insert an ACIDIC stop bath (2% acetic acid, B&W stop bath products are fine) after the developer and one wash cycle after the stop. Use a 7-8 cycle final wash between blix and stabilizer/final rinse.

    E6: Just a longer process with more steps. Otherwise, as easy as C-41.
     
  11. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Funny, he's talking about how the temperature needs to be SPOT ON, but deviates 5 degrees F from the correct temperature, which is quite a lot :laugh:. His temperature control is quite lacking in other ways, too.

    Well, this is an another example how the process actually does not need to be so SPOT ON, but people are still very satisfied with their results. It is VERY super-duper easy to get good enough results, and quite easy to get perfect results.
     
  12. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    I'm not concerned with "pro" quality stuff at the moment. Cost is my driving concern since I closed my studio (which means no extra play money), and have moved to a new city. I have about 5 or 6 rolls of Porta 400 in 120 that I STILL haven't gotten developed because a) I can't do it myself, and b) I cant bring myself to spend the $60-$70 it's going to cost to develop it all

    The Darkroom has been the cheapest I've found at $10 a roll for developing, but that added to the cost of the film
    itself comes out to like $15 or $16 for 12 shots on MF.

    I enjoy processing my own b&w but have never ventured to try color because I assumed it was impossible due to the cost.

    Is it like B&W where you can mix 5L at a time and keep it on a shelf? Or do you mix only what you are going to use?
     
  13. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Oh boy...now you guys are tempting me. I have 2 rolls of Kodak EKTAR color film on their way...... Actually, I should mention when I purchased some amazing color prints at a local art fair I asked the photographer about difficulty of developing color. His answer was essentially what I"m hearing you folks saying.
     
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  15. CatLABS

    CatLABS Subscriber

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    champion photo chemicals. bulk and large quantites, but dirt cheap per roll, lasts forever.
    DIY = cheap in the short run, and if you get a hang of it can be done at ease.
    Jobo = clean and easily repetative and predictable work environment but at a greater initial investment.

    Enlargers should be had for free, the number of super high end class top of the line dichroic enlargers i have seen in the past short while that were given\trashed is phenomenal. Nobody other then a few fruitcackes here and there has anything to do with them.
    I saw a 5000 star color analizer (most likely cost several thousand $$ when new) for 50$ the other, but probably could be found for free.

    RA4 in trays can be done, but i think its fairly tricky, and smells kinda bad too. and you have to be in complete darkness, and a few other things come to mind that might be an issue... but - if you get a Jobo you can use it for prints and for film.
     
  16. hrst

    hrst Member

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    According to my experience, mixed C-41 developer keeps about 4 - 5 months when stored without air in a squeezed PET plastic bottle refrigerated. This is probably the easiest way for mixing too, to avoid the need of measuring parts of small concentrates. It is meant to be mixed all at once. If you shoot very little C-41, then this will be a problem, but if you get to shoot a roll per week on average, it will be economical enough. Developer gets a grayish color when it goes bad so this is a good indicator.

    Bleach and fix are simply diluted with water (I mean: no multipart concentrates) and keep very well. The fixer may still sulphur out if stored with a lot of air. I have found that refrigeration helps on this, too, if you have a half-full concentrate bottle that is not squeezable.

    Color fixers tend to be cheaper than BW fixers and you can use those for fixing your BW films too, so here is a potential for cost savings and this will help so that you don't need to buy so many different products.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2012
  17. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Again we need to debunk the myths.

    RA-4 is BEST done in trays. It is the EASIEST process ever, easier and more repeatable than even B&W printing processes. It is a well-engineered process with almost unlimited shelf-life for chemicals, non-toxic chemicals with almost no odor, high repeatability over large temperature swing, etc.

    Don't even think about drums, it makes no sense. Some people seem to like them for whatever reason and that's of course fine if you are a masochist, but you don't need to drum process.

    The smell is practically nonexistent, and actually is a good one for the developer. Acetic acid stop bath smells a very little bit (same for B&W) and is the smelliest part of the process; you can avoid it if you need to.

    If you have done B&W printing in the same darkroom setting, you have no problem getting used to work in complete darkness. Or, if you want, you can get a color safelight. It is very dim but much better than complete darkness.

    When I teach people to RA-4 printing, it usually takes less than 2 hours to completely master making good prints, especially if there is some background on making B&W prints. But it works even without such experience.

    I want to make an appeal to all of you APUGers:

    Please, check the claims and facts you are going to post. Without any hands-on experience on a topic, please do not post the traditional darkroom "hearsay". It does not help, because the chances are, it is very likely completely false, because of the sad fact that 99% of the analog photography "common wisdom" or "hearsay" are urban legends and falsehoods. These rumors just live their own life by being constantly echoed by people who don't check the facts. So in fact, it is BETTER to not post at all, than to forward "common hearsay".

    Color film processing as well as color paper processing has always been cheap and easy. It has just been that the abundance of color labs and lack of good B&W labs have caused people to process their own B&W but not color. And then, the reason for the abundance of color labs and lack of good B&W labs is simple; (1) people shoot more color than B&W, so there is more need for color labs, (2) B&W processes are not standardized, color processes are, so it is easier on a commercial level to provide a high-quality standardized process than a high-quality custom process for every film. But some people have made the false assumption that because color is most often done by labs, it would be difficult or expensive or dangerous or whatever to DIY. This is completely wrong.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2012
  18. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    hrst,

    You missed one advantage of drums, exceptionally low volumes of chemical usage. An 8x10 Beseler drum uses 70ml of chemistry. That amount can be easily reused four times and process three 8x10 prints or one final one and a number of test strips. 10 liters /70 ml * 3 = 428 prints, not bad for the $60-80 cost of dev and blix.



    Real easy and somewhat boring when you have a timer run the motor base, esp when processing at room temp.
     
  19. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

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    Really good advice in this thread. Some experiences of mine to add. I've been doing C-41 for about 3 years.

    1) The chemical kits mentioned above are all good. I'd like to add to the list the Kodak Flexicolor Developer / Replenisher, 5 gallon. You can mix this up a liter (or quart) at a time and so far has lasted me about 18 months. Don't be thrown off by "replenisher": this just means that you use the same kit for developer and replenisher http://www.adorama.com/KKFCDR5G.html You aren't likely to be replenishing (to start anyway) so don't worry about it.

    2) If Freestyle still sells the digibase kits, they are a good way to get started using excellent quality Fuji-Hunt chemistry. The Formulary also sells a 1 liter kit of all the Kodak chemistry. Save yourself a headache and stay away from the powdered "press kits" because the results aren't all that good. You can do better for the same money.

    3) I have found that the quart size PET bottles from Power-Ade work very well. They are made from a heavier gauge PET than soda or water bottles. Quart is a little less than a liter of course but I have always mixed to the liter specs and just used a little less water with no problems. Get the Kodak CIS-49 document about mixing smaller than package size amounts of Kodak chemicals.

    4) Once I have mixed the developer and poured into the PET bottle, I always store those bottles in a ziploc bag with the air squeezed out. All of my chemistry is stored in a cool, dark place aka basement workshop/darkroom.

    5) You do not have to use developer starter. You can use it but it isn't really necessary. Starter is intended to make fresh solution act more like seasoned, replenished solution.

    6) Bleach can get expensive. However, for your first attempts, use the regular C-41 bleach. This is why something like the digibase kit is best. After you get some experience you can go for the C-22 style Potassium Ferricyanide bleach that you mix yourself and is much cheaper. You can research it here on APUG and find plenty of information. It's a little more complicated to use, although not that much, but get a few films under your belt before trying that.

    7) You can use the same "color" fixer for b/w and it works very well. Do not use the same batch of fixer for b/w and color films. My b/w films got some kind of crap on them after running color film through the same fixer. Fixer is cheap so this is easy to avoid.

    8) If you venture into RA-4 printing, you can use a "color" safelight. They won't help you see very much but I find that mine serves as a point of reference and helps to avoid disorientation in the dark. After about 20 minutes under the safelight, I can see something but not much.

    It's really no harder to do color that b/w - in fact maybe it's easier. To me it is relaxing and mindlessly productive which I need sometimes.

    Soon you'll be trying ECN-2. Remjet is not to be feared.

    You will have fun with this,
    Jason
     
  20. anikin

    anikin Subscriber

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    I'd like to echo what hrst said. I find that color film processing is easier and quicker than B/W because of standardized processing. Color printing is also very easy and quick. Getting color balance is easier than on a scanner and since the paper and chemicals are cheap it way more fun as well. By the way, you don't need to do color printing in the dark. That's another urban legend. I've got Jobo Maxilux safelight which does not seem to affect color paper at all, and I find it even a bit too bright for my eyes.
     
  21. CatLABS

    CatLABS Subscriber

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    Seem and I being the operative words... :smile:
     
  22. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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  23. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Sorry, but this argument is just completely false!

    I can print 1000 prints with the same 10 liter using trays, double of what you do. And I find it just easiest to just reuse the same solution sitting in the tray 100 or whatever times you need to. I don't have to count prints, or test strips, or final prints, or whatever. Just put the paper to the developer.

    Trays are more economical with less cross-contamination, dilution and loss of solution.

    The order is:

    (The best) Roller-transport machine --- squeegees the prints, is enclosed to minimize aeration and evaporation
    (The intermediate) Trays --- You can drain part of the chemicals by holding the print for 10 seconds or so before moving forward. More aeration and evaporation than from roller transport, but luckily, RA-4 is not sensitive to these
    (The worst) Drums --- you always lose remarkable amounts of the chemicals left in the drum walls and prints. Either you contaminate the next solution with those, or you use extra wash steps, but either way, you lose chemicals.

    When I did Ilfochrome in drums, I used 70 ml of developer and got 40 back, 30 ml just vanishing (read: contaminating the next baths). For Ilfochrome, that was fine because you couldn't reuse it anyway, or at least you had to replenish it 1+1 with new solution.

    Sorry for a bit OT. Any case, there's nothing wrong in liking drum processing paper. I just don't see any reason, but to each of their own. For film, it is a completely different play.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2012
  24. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I anyone selling the Tetanal 1 liter kits in the U.S. now?
     
  25. wblynch

    wblynch Member

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  26. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I have found that website not to have the best advice on more than one occasion.

    I used something called the Naniwa Color Kit (I made a thread about it here a while ago.) I used a simple thermometer and a plastic box for $1 as a warm-water bath and got excellent results. I got scared when the negatives came out dark, but after drying they scanned beautifully (maybe it's the kit itself, I'm not sure.) I don't shoot enough color to justify doing it myself (maybe a few rolls a year) but it was simple and rewarding to do it myself. I have an excellent local lab however, so I personally prefer to give them my business.