Tips to start up RA4 process printing at home?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Jedidiah Smith, Oct 15, 2007.

  1. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Alright...I'm in again. Just updated my subscription here and I'm dusting off the B&W darkroom gear and will be bustin' my chops getting proficient at printing again. I've been off in "shoot slides and scan" land. That's getting old...I've always like the peaceful darkroom work (compared to staring at my computer in PS3 for hours) and I'm always up for a new challenge anyway :smile:
    Just bought a PhotoTherm processor off of Ebay that should be on its way this week for processing C-41 negs. That looks straight forward enough.

    Now about processing the prints...
    Does anyone have any recommended starting points for printing RA4? I've never done it...just B&W (and of course color digitally). Can I start out with just using trays, or is that a real pain? I'd like to purchase a processor of some sort, but not sure if I have the funds at the moment.
    I used to do all my printing on an Omega B-22 condensor enlarger, but I do have a color enlarger now - Agfa C66 (basically a Durst M605 with the Agfa name on it) but it has a built in timer that is worthless...I'm wondering how to bypass it and hook up a better one - any easy ideas? :smile: I'm afraid I'm going to have to pull the base apart and re-wire it straight from the main power to the transformer and somehow bypass that timer.

    One more thing - do I need a densitometer or color analyzer - or will I be able to "eyeball it" good enough?
    Thanks for any tips or links to articles to get me started on this.
    Sincerely,
    Jed
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    An analyzer is mostly about speed and saving paper. But even so if you stick to a small set of films and paper you won't save that much time.

    I'd also suggest learning to do it without an analyzer. The better you can do it without the better you'll be with an analzyer.

    Does the Phototerm take print drums? Print drums have some advantages/disadvantages.
     
  3. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    RA in a roller transport

    There are other options, but my best sucess (I I run a fujimoto CP31) is with Kodak RA-RT chemistry. I have home mixed RA-4, for drums, and also bought 'kits' for drums that dilute to give you 2l, etc. They all oxidize off very quickly in a roller type machine. I run to at 95F, and accurdingly, the drive speed can be set to be quite quick.

    Once you get the hang of it, you definitly will print more than you ever have before. If I get the colour filtration of my printig lined up quickly, then it is possible to pump out 30 or more prints in a night. I have a colorstar analyser, but second Nick's suggestion that you learn color witout the analyser first. Get an old Kodak color or combined color and b&w datagude that includes a ring around chart. A print viewing filter kit is also good. Write down the exposure time, apurture, head height and filtration for every print, and then write this on the back of every print you do when you start. Don't throw anything you print in the early days away; they all will teach you something after a few sessions of fighting with this new process.

    If you cannot source any of the print resources, pm me, and I will see what I might have second copies of.

    I definietly fall into the 'extremely low utilization' class when it comes to commercial photofinishing chemistry, but I have been too cheap to spring for the developer and blix additives that are meant for this situation, since my current supplier (Mondrian Hall - I think they have a Vancouver or Calgary office) only sells these in cases of six bottles, and even one pair of bottles, sumiing to about $50 would still last me many, many years.

    I use the developer in tank 2, and the b/f in tank 3 . Tank 1 runs water to rinse the blue dye off the paper, so that there is less dye to oxidize off in the developer. I drain and rinse the machine after every use, inless I am going to be printing again the next day. If it is the next day scenario, then I pull the rollers and racks, rinse and leave then to drain, and then cover the chemistry in each tank with saran wrap.

    Don't just get tired and turn the thing off with chemistyry in it and go away for a few days. The scrubbing to clean up semi dried solution on rollers and racks will make you wish that you found the time to put it away right.

    When pinting I pull the cover off after about every 5 prints and pour the replenisher strength blix and developer into the appropriate tanks. DO NOT contaminate the developer with blix. Get separate funnels, and jugs to handle the fixers/blixes, and rinse everything thouroughly, and your life will go much easier.

    The RA-RT chemistry seem to hold up when stored in full bottles a lot longer than Kodak suggests. I think Mick Fagan also has this experience; you might want to check with him.

    Save all dud paper sheets ( as you learn to print colur there will be plenty of them), process them normaly, wash them thoroughly, and then reuse them once they are dry again as 'clean out' sheets to pick up any gunky bits off the rollers for the first runs of a session. This is a lot cheaper than buyiing the official product.
     
  4. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    Kodak RA-RT developer can be used in trays at any temp from 68 to 100. Kodak's suggested optimum is between 80 and 95. Just be consistent with temp from test to final print. Nail the exposure before you tackle the color balance. Starting point is given on EK papers, but not on Fuji. Try 60M + 60Y as a starting point. This will vary with your enlarger and others may have different starts that work better for them. It takes a little while to get the hang of it, but is not really that difficult. Good luck.

    Bob
     
  5. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    sorry - mis read - phototherm for c-41, not ra-4

    Yes, ra-4 in drums works quite well. I thought i read that the phototherm was a roller transport; I think that made such a line of products. Ron Mowray uses the mentioned RA-RT at room temp in drums with good sucess; as I mentioned, there are also other chemistry solutions for drums.
     
  6. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I have a Nutek RCP 500, which, when I purchased it new, was a very expensive table-top dry-to-dry machine. I have seen one recently for sale, possibly on this form, or the Large Format Photography forum for peanuts. Getting a table top roller-transport processor, even if it doesn't have a dryer module is very worthwhile, as it eliminates most of the drugery of processing, and allows you to concentrate on the artistic parts of making prints. I have printed color prints for my commercial clients for 30 years and have never felt the need for a color analyzer. Years ago color paper, and film had wider variances in color balance. Modern products are very consistent from batch to batch.
     
  7. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    The Phototherm is a machine for processing film on reels, in tanks in daylight, with automatic fill and dump of each step with a built in timer and chemical storage. You can program it for the steps of most all photographic film processes.
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I use the RA-RT developer replenisher kit, 10L, at room temp. I use it without starter. The development time is 2 minuts. I mix it in 5 liter batches and store it in a 5 L container.

    PE
     
  9. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    You'll need to stabilize the power to the enlarger lamp for consistent color balance and exposure. If you use Gra-Lab timers, note that they will not work correctly with stabilized current.

    I have a color analyzer and never use it anymore. I find it quicker, and less bother, to just "eyeball" the print under quarts halogen lighting and make adjustments for each print. Also, I've never found a need for a densitometer.
     
  10. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Regarding the drums vs. trays issue, this is certainly a matter of personal preference. If you've already got the trays and want to keep your expenses to a minimum you might as well try it in trays first. You'll need to know your way around your darkroom in total darkness, including a way to time the development stage in the dark (a timer you can preset and operate by feel, say). You might want to try it with B&W first; that way you can turn on a safelight if you get totally lost.

    Personally, I prefer open trays to drums for color prints, at least up to 8x10. I believe I'm in the minority on this, though, so you might want to plan on buying at least one or two drums (having several can help). If the price of drums isn't a big issue, you should definitely do so just so you can compare the two methods and decide which you prefer. Also, even aside from expensive processing machines, there are alternatives to drums, such as orbital processors (basically covered trays that wobble), although I've never used one of these, so I can't comment on them in detail.
     
  11. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Thank you all. I will see how it goes - I'm looking into getting a processor, the biggest concern is shipping to Alaska!
    For what it's worth, I have decided for better or worse, this is my art form and I'm going to keep it that way. Tired of doing all my "darkroom work" on the computer in photoshop. So even if I have to do trays, I am willing to try.
    I have finally sold all my autofocus cameras and lenses, and am back to using all manual cameras again. A change for sure, but hopefully makes me grow as a photographer. Someday I hope to try LF. :smile:
    Thanks,
    Jed
     
  12. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Exactly so!

    Colour analyzers are good for production where you need to get close fast and are dealing with someone else’s (unfamiliar to you) negs. Once you are used to doing your own I don't believe they offer that big of a boost. keep your eyes open for an RA4 roller processor (ebay, craigs list). They are all but free and will make your printing far easier. The smaller ones require fewer chems and can be setup with chems, drained and cleaned in a hour or two. The chemistry can last a couple weeks in storage so if you plan your printing sessions and your batches accordingly you shouldn't waste too much.
     
  13. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I notice in the drum v tray discussion, we've come back to the drawback of total darkness with trays. I see no reason why total darkness is necessary. There are a number of safelights which allow you to operate safely with a reasonable amount of light.

    So if trays are an attractive method then it needn't be done in total darkness. Of course if trays area attractive because of least cost in terms of equipment then yes a safelight will add to cost just as a Nova Quad tank will if vertical trays are an attractive option.

    So by all means give total darkness a try and if you are comfortable then fine It will be cheaper but it is not a requirement. So don't be put off RA4 printing if you aren't comfortable with total darkness. I'd hate anyone giving up, believing that it's total darkness or nothing.

    pentaxuser
     
  14. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I use the WR13 safelight at 4 feet with 15 W bulbs with tray development.

    The lighting is indirect.

    PE
     
  15. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The colour safelight I have is very dark. How long does it take you guys to adjust to the light levels? How do you manage turning on the lights to check the print?
     
  16. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I only recently started RA4 printing and I use my LED safelight with an amber LED - just enough to avoid bumping in to the furniture and can just about see the image coming up in the developer tray. According to the usual pre-fogged paper test, this gives me about three minutes safe time.

    My main room light is on an IR remote so I can switch it on from anywhere in the room and there is a viewing light over the sink on a pull-cord.

    I am surprised to find that my eyes respond quite quickly to the dark as long as I'm not in full room light for more than a minute or so between prints. My night-vision seems to be recovered faster after the first time in the dark even after having been in the light for some time. Of course, I could be imagining it - I've not heard of that effect before...

    Bob.
     
  17. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I normally use my DUKA 10( sodium lamp) at the recommended colour setting( it goes up to 25 which is really bright- better than the Ilford 902 - and is meant for B&W work). I can safely cut 8x10 paper into two 5 x8 and place into easel, expose, as well as using very ocasional dodge/burn,then place in drum without fogging.

    The light intensity, if I was using a Nova Quad would certainly allow me to see it develop but I'd stick to the recommended timings rather than try development by inspection. As I understand colour dev, if it's not right at the recommended time then you should seek a solution by paper exposure rather than try to make it up by additional or less dev time.

    At the recommended setting the light intensity is probably a little less but only a little less than my Ilford 902 B&W light but the eyes quicky adapt.

    I suspect that I could increase the intensity and still be under the safelight limit as even with cutting paper and placing into papersafe, then withdrawing and exposing and placing in drum it is probably well short of the safe limit at a higher intensity. I must try it sometime.

    I must admit to being sceptical about those who can "read a book" at safe colour safelight intensity but it's a long way from near stygian darkness and allows me to effectively do what I have to.

    I used to have a Durst Tricolour lamp with an incandescebt lamp and a colour setting and quite frankly after about 15 mins there was just about enough light to avoid bumping into things and it might just have made drums useable but I'd have hated to have even attempted Nova Quad processing let alone normal trays.

    So for anyone thinking that a DUKA is like the usual normal incandescent bulb with a very dark colour filter and therefore not worth the money: No it isn't. You are getting a much better light than that.

    pentaxuser
     
  18. mtjade2007

    mtjade2007 Member

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    I have managed all my darkroom work without any safelight. I had my lights on most of the time in my darkroom, except for maybe 30 seconds when I was ready to load a sheet of paper and made my exposure. Before that the paper would be safe in my paper safe. After exposing the paper it would be in my drum. So that 30 seconds were really not that bad without safelight.

    I eventually purchased a tabletop processor for a few hundred bucks and It made the color printing much more enjoyable. The entire process was done with the light on throughtout, except a few seconds in the beginning to load the exposed paper. MJ
     
  19. papo

    papo Member

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    Perhaps this might be of interest to you, Jed. There is yet another way of processing prints, in slots. I use homemade slots of polystyrene (Hobbyglass, plexiglass would also do), each slot has internal dimensions of about
    320x220x14mm so that it accomodates one liter of solution. There are three slots (developer, stop bath, blix) immersed vertically in a larger tank with water.
    There are some pros and, of course, also cons:

    Pros:
    - The temperature in the tank can be easily controlled.
    - Very small area of solution is in contact with air, so that oxidizing is minimal.
    - It takes up only a small space.

    Cons:
    - For every size of paper used a holder must be used to be able to immerse the paper to the slot and take it out again. The holder is made also from the polystyrene.
    - Due to the paper being held on the holder, more solution is taken from one slot to another than when transferring paper only, but not too much. The amount of developer decreases by about 20% over its lifetime (about 50 prints 18x24cm).
     
  20. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Hi Papo, thanks for the idea. I had actually thought of trying to build my own vertical processor rig at one point. Sounds like a pretty nice solution, really. I am currently in talks with one of the guys selling a processor on here, trying to see if it's possible to get it up to Alaska or not.
    If not, then I can see where that might be an interesting option...
    Jed
     
  21. papo

    papo Member

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    Hi Jed,
    actually it wasn't my idea, it was published on some local Internet site here and it is inspired by some commercial product (by Nova darkroom, not sure).

    Should you decide to build something like that, I could send you some photos of it and give some practical tips.

    I have been using it for about two years and am satisfied.
     
  22. max_ebb

    max_ebb Member

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    I used to own a custom color lab, and used a Kreonite dry to dry processor. Now, in my home darkroom I print primarily 20x24, and I use a Dev Tech temperature controlled drum processing system (I process at 95° for 45 seconds). If you can find a Dev Tech system used, they are much cheaper than Jobo (I got the smaller set up for 8x10-16x20 and the larger set up for 20x24, both for about $120 on ebay).

    I taught my wife how to do the processing, and now I have the best of both worlds. I set up the processing in the kitchen, I expose the paper and put it in the drum in the darkroom, and my wife does the processing and print washing in the kitchen. I don't have a print dryer though. I squeegee the prints, and then hang them by the corners with clothes pins to dry. I use the smaller system to do test strips. Once I have the filtration and exposure values dialed in, we can knock out 6-8 20x24's per hour.
     
  23. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Both those systems sound pretty good - and very reasonably priced. I'm currently in talks with Will here, he is doing his best to figure out if we can ship his processor to Alaska - quite the challenge, but thankfully he seems able to meet any task! What a guy...
    ...anyway, if for some reason this doesn't work out, I'll probably be hitting you up for some plans. :smile:
    Jed