Thinking of getting into C-41 developing

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by B&Wpositive, Aug 22, 2009.

  1. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    I currently develop b&w, and am thinking of starting to develop C-41. I'd want to use the Kodak chemistry with stabilizer rather than the 3-step kits that use BLIX.

    How hard is it compared to B&W to get quality and consistency?
    How toxic are the chemicals?
    Can you use the same tanks and reels you use for b&w?
    How cost effective is it?
    How long is Kodak likely to make the chemicals?

    Please share your experiences.

    Thanks.
     
  2. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    How hard is it compared to B&W to get quality and consistency?
    C41 is not much more complicated than B&W. No special equipment is needed. I use water bath tempering for the chemistry (bottles in a dishpan of hot water ~140F, and start processing when temperature stabilizes at about 101F). Only the developer (first solution) is particularly temperature sensitive. Thus you only need to be between 99-101F for about 3 1/2 minutes. I hold the small tank (Nikkor two-reel tank) in the tempering bath in between inversions for agitation.

    How toxic are the chemicals?
    Not very unless you are sensitized to developing agents. You should have little or no more chemical exposure than for processing B&W in small tanks. Stop bath is acetic acid/sodium bisulfite and fixer is quite similar to what you are using now. Bleach is primarily Ferric-EDTA and while it can be corrosive to stainless steel, the short exposure of processing isn't a problem. It does not appear to present any dermatitis problem, although there are alternative bleach formulae that are not so benign. CD3 and CD4 developing agents are more complicated, but toxicity is somewhat comparable to phenidone that is used in many B&W developers. I will defer to experts on this, but have not had any problems when following good lab procedure and the normal practice for small tank processing. Stabilizer contains formaldehyde, but it is my understanding that stabilizer is not needed for the current generation of C41 and RA4. I continue to use the formaldehyde-based stabilizer perhaps more out of habit than for any other reason. I do use photo sponges to wipe film after a couple of minutes in the stabilizer before it is left to air-dry.

    Can you use the same tanks and reels you use for b&w?
    Yes, but water bath tempering is facilitated by using SS tanks and reels owing to their improved thermal conductivity. Otherwise it's exactly the same as for B&W processing with a bleach step added before the fixer.

    How cost effective is it?
    Probably not as cheap as WallyMart processing, but a lot better for quality and consistency and certainly for convenience. I use scratch-mix chemistry exclusively. See the Alternative C41 thread for discussions of this approach. There are also threads with lots of information on dividing Kodak and other chemistry into more convenient sizes. I mix and use 1-liter size and process for a few weeks before renewing the developer. I use stop, bleach, and fix to exhaustion as determined by observable activity taking half the processing time. Usually these solutions last a lot longer and can be used for quite a few rolls before being replaced.

    How long is Kodak likely to make the chemicals?
    I defer to PE for comment on this, but likely as long as they are in the film business. Kodak supplies a lot of small independent processors and obviously they are going to support their films for as long as possible. Read that statement to mean until some corporate raider decides the company assets are worth more than the stock and buys Kodak for liquidation. Kodak has gone into the digital market very heavily in an attempt to stay afloat. I expect they are going to be in the chemistry business longer than a few other big outfits we can name like Braniff, Ozark, Eastern, Western, TWA, etc.
     
  3. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    It's extremely cheap depending on the kit you get.

    A pre-made kit in 5 litres+ is economic.

    But a kit that you source from starter and replenishers on individual parts/bathes is extremely cheap for the amount of chemical you get.
     
  4. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    Out of the following chems, which ones am I likely to need?

    http://www.adorama.com/searchsite/default.aspx?searchinfo=kodak C-41 flexicolor
     
  5. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Well you need colour developer, bleach and fix is the minimum, you may want stabiliser too (but thats real cheap anyway).

    You need Developer Starter + Replenisher for a working developer, same with everything else, starter + replenisher.

    Adorama do not appear to have everything you need in a starter/replenisher kit.

    If you want a simple to use kit that gives great results - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/474986-REG/Tetenal_T102238_C_41_Developer_for_Color.html

    I had the same thing but in a 5 litre kit for twice the cost here in Australia and its still more economical than getting film processed by a minilab here.

    The 5 and 15 litre is only $20 difference from B&H, I've already finished my 5 litres.

    Tetenal reckons it processes 60 to 80 films, so I'm assuming the 15L kit does 3x as much
     
  6. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    That kit uses blix. Yuck.

    Is Kodak the only company that produces chemistry with separate bleach and fix solutions*? I don't want to compromise by using a blix solution. I also want to avoid stabilizers that contain formaldehyde.

    Can one mix and match chemistry from different brands to get teh best of both worlds--eg:

    Tetenal developer (or Kodak)
    *Kodak bleach
    *Kodak fix
    Tetenal formaldehyde-free Stabilizer

    Is this ok chemistry-wise??????????????????
    Are the above even available separately?
    Would this be the right stabilizer? http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/109299-REG/Tetenal_T104358_E_6_6_Bath_Stabilizer_for.html
    It says it's for Jobo machines!? It supposedly has low formaldehyde content.

    What about "final rinse"?
    http://www.adorama.com/KKFCSR10L.html

    And the bleach: What's with this gigantic quantity of 12.5 gallons?!
    http://www.adorama.com/KKFCBRA125G.html?searchinfo=kodak+C-41+flexicolor
    They don't sell smaller quantities?! That is waaaay too much. It's bigger than the fish tank I used to have!! And over twice the size of the 5-gallon pails that driveway sealer comes in! I'm not running a minilab here! It must weigh 100 lbs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2009
  7. fotch

    fotch Member

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    As far as I know, B&H won't ship chemicals, you have to pick up. Fuji and Trebla make the same stuff. Don't know if you can mix and match.

    Still trying to source out stuff myself in reasonable sizes and moderate shipping cost.
     
  8. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2009
  9. mtjade2007

    mtjade2007 Member

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    If you are in the West Coast, such as California as I am, you can check out this Kodak distributor in Los Angeles and Haywayd (Bay Area) in California. It is for larger chemical packs (at much lower costs) though. It is a mini-lab supplier. You will need to call them to find prices. They are real wholesale prices. If you are close to their warehouses you can go to pick up your order. If you are not too close to them I think they will ship. But I am not sure it will be cost effective to ship small orders. You will have to call to find out. Here is the site:

    http://www.changsphoto.com/inventory/chemical/chemical.php
     
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  10. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    Why the bias against blix ?
     
  11. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    Archival stability.
     
  12. naugastyle

    naugastyle Member

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    Just tagging along to this question...I bought this stuff: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/109267-REG/Tetenal_T109306_C_41_Press_Kit_for.html because I wanted something small to start with in case I decide I don't like developing my own (everything else seemed to make large amounts). Anyone have experience with this mix? All the other color chemistry I saw at B&H was liquid concentrate other than this one...don't know if there's a reason for that preference.

    How long do chemicals last? I keep seeing references to people doing small runs in one go, rather than just one roll at a time. One of the reviews for the product linked above said it only lasted 2 weeks. Is that normal or specific to this type?

    I can sacrifice the $20 if I have to on this first try, because I really just want to see how well it works and if I like doing it, and can buy something more economical/longer-lasting later...but of course I'd prefer to get more than 2 weeks of random test rolls in if possible. I'm used to my b/w chems lasting a really long time (often used past recommendation) so "two weeks" surprised me quite a bit.
     
  13. naugastyle

    naugastyle Member

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  14. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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  15. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    I don't have personal knowledge of the Tetenal kit, but typically C-41 developer would come as 3 separate liquids (called part A, B, and C). Usually this mix is technically developer REPLENISHER, and another part, called "starter solution" would be used to help convert it into actual processing tank solution - what most photogs would simply call "developer." In some small kits, it is already in the form of "developer" (as opposed to replenisher), so no additional "starter" is needed. Anyway, this should help to explain why so many bottles.

    B&W developers are typically able to use as much "preservative" (commonly sodium sulfite) as they wish, so they can have very long lifespans. Color developers, like C-41, are a different animal. During development of C-41 film, sulfite actually prevents formation of the colored dyes, so in a working developer, sulfite has to be kept at a very low concentration. This minimal quantity of preservative helps lead to the short service life. Storing in glass, with no air space, will help keep it there as long as possible.

    There IS another way to greatly extend the lifespan of C-41 developer. One can use what is essentially a "slow drip transfusion" for the developer, restoring individual chemical components to the proper working level. At first, this sounds like a far-fetched idea - something you would never be able to do. But, as it turns out, this is the basic idea behind replenisher, as in the first paragraph. Other problems come along with replenishment, so most small users probably don't want to bother. But just saying, this is how it works.
     
  16. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    The color dyes supposedly aren''t archival using a combined bleach/fix.

    I have no experiece with this yet I'm only parrotting what I've been researching lately.

    It seems there is much more interest in home color processes these days due to the dirth of good cheap color labs like days of yore.