Whither the best route to colour?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by polyglot, Feb 12, 2010.

  1. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Hi all,

    I currently shoot B&W in an RZ67 and mostly rely on my DSLR for colour, occasionally shooting some Velvia/Provia if I have an unusually deserving subject. However, I have the following problems:
    - DSLR is low res so I want to get MF colour happening
    - E6 is disgustingly expensive[1]
    - I can now scan my slides passably but can't do them justice
    - my scanner[2] refuses to give passable colour from C-41[3]
    - I can't afford a new scanner yet
    - I don't have (can't afford) a 6x7 projector
    - I cannot obtain Ilfochrome paper or chems
    - prints would be good for exhibition/wall purposes
    - scans would be good for posting online

    So. Do I persist with E6, maybe getting a Kodak one-shot 5L kit to develop it at home? What's a CPE2 worth these days? I could print hybrid but would probably have to pay for pro scans.

    Or: do I try to go for C-41/RA-4? This will require at least a print drum, if not the motorized base. My enlarger has a colour head. Dev is only $3.50/roll at the lab, less if I get that Fuji-Hunt kit. This option probably gives me very good prints easily but scanning them to put online and make redundant backups is hard.

    The last question is regarding projectors. How fast are 6x7 projector lenses typically? More to the point, is it reasonable to lash up a 5500K automotive HID lamp or two, enlarger condensor, film carrier and an RB 180/4.5? I could put all that together for a lot less than the usual projector prices but will it be bright and sharp enough? I am itching to see some of my slides on a 3m screen.

    Help a dreamer out with your advice? thanks...

    [1] $12.50/roll dev-only, no scan, not to mention $8-25/roll for film
    [2] SprintScan 45 Ultra + VueScan, lamp replaced with one a little too blue
    [3] I shot some new Ektar-100 and it looks indescribably crap no matter how I manipulate it; like a faded print from the '70s with all sorts of crossover faults and nasty skin-tones.
     
  2. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    Give RA4 a go. You've already got the most important piece of kit, the colour enlarger. You could try it in trays first to see if you like the results before buying drums or whatever. I think it's very easy to get good colour prints and I'd never go back to scanning after doing this. Why do you need to put your prints online?
     
  3. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    The online thing is because I have more people who see my stuff that way than in person: just the way it is these days. And I would like to make backups that cannot be lost in fire etc, which means high-res high-quality scans.
     
  4. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    You could always make two prints and store one at a different location.

    As for getting your work seen, yes, I suppose online is the way it is these days. Have you tried photographing a print with your DSLR?
     
  5. coigach

    coigach Member

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    Quick answer to only a part of your original question. Not appropriate on APUG to go on at length about scanning etc, but this might help you.

    I always found scanning c41 a nightmare to colour match, until I discovered this Plug-in, recommended on Large Format Forum:
    http://www.c-f-systems.com/Plug-ins.html
    I use it for scanning Kodak Portra and it really is superb. Your c41 scanning issues might not be a problem with your scanner, rather colour matching?

    Hope this helps,
    Gavin
     
  6. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Steve: not really the redundancy I'm looking for: you can't run Reed-Solomon on a print for a start.
    Gavin: thanks, will have a look.

    Ignoring the digitisation red herring for now (I'll solve it somehow, sometime), what do we reckon about the analogue parts? Is my projector plan reasonable or will it be dim or soft? Is changing to an all C-41 and RA-4 workflow going to make me happy or will I pine for Velvia?

    Do people present projected exhibitions or are prints really the only viable medium? What about for your own enjoyment - I know that "come see my holiday slides" can be the canonical friendship-killer but what about "personal use only, officer"? Do people regularly shoot slides with the intention of projection rather than hybrid processing?
     
  7. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    Go for RA4 printing. The rollers and motorized bases are cheap on ebay. You can get set up for less than $50. I take my c41 to the local lab for processing. I may have to start processing my own C41 since there is only one lab left in Thunder Bay that will process 120. RA4 printing is really easy and paper is relatively cheap. You can really cut your costs down to less than b&w if you buy roll paper and cut your own. There are a few threads here on apug about cutting sheets from rolls.
     
  8. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    By motorized base, do you mean one with a temperature-controlled tempering bath? They seem to be a lot more than $50. Or do you not require much temp control for RA-4: like B&W printing instead of developing film?
     
  9. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    You can do RA4 at room temperature.
     
  10. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I have only been doing RA4 fro two years. Apparently, the temp sensitivity with modern papers is much less than older emulsions. I work at room temp (warm the room up to 72F). Charts are available for time/temp. My current work flow for RA4 is (all at room temp)
    Wash 30sec
    Dev 2 min
    Stop 15sec
    wash 30sec
    blix 2 min
    wash
    wash

    No temp baths etc. since everything is at room temp.
    In a lot of ways, RA4 is easier than b&w, although colour balance does require some practice. Buy a colour print viewing kit. It makes colour balance adjustments easier for newbies like us.

    Some folks use the dev as one-shot, some don't. The blix is reuseable. I use 50ml of dev. one-shot, and about 150ml in the washes, stop bath and blix (both stop and blix are re-used). The roller I use is made by simma and has an eccentric on one of the rollers so the drum rocks while it rotates, making for an even distribution of solution over the print surface. I use regular Kodak indicator stop bath for the stop, and save it for use only with RA4. The blix I mix in half-litre bottles. I find it exhausts after about 25 8X10 prints, so I pitch it and use fresh after 20 prints. I found the paper speed with colour much faster than b&w. While I may expose a b&w print for 10-15 sec at f11, Supra or Edge require about 3 sec. I guess that's a function of the paper useable with digital laser or optical printing. I have been printing some old negs of my kids from about 20 years ago. The prints I can make at home from those old colour negs are just gorgeous. The hardest part of RA4 is obtaining the paper and chemicals.
     
  11. hrst

    hrst Member

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    YES! It's easy and very cheap and results are stunning.

    Now where did you hear that?? That's not true at all. It's just tedious to use drums. Use trays, it's a lot more convenient and you don't need to buy anything. There's a lot of threads about the subject.
     
  12. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    Don't you need to clean - wipe - dry the drum after every print in order to avoid streaking? If so, it's tedious. I'd rather use trays in the dark.
     
  13. lilserenity

    lilserenity Member

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    Home C41/RA4 is eminently do-able and with films like Ektar or 160VC/400VC/160C you can get saturation, plus have the benefit of natural neutral emulsions like 400H/400NC/400VC for speed.

    I do my RA4 room temperature and got the Kodak RA4 RA-RT (sometimes known as RT/LU) this weekm £50 or so; but if mixed 1L at a time (the kit supplies 4x5L) then this will last a very long time if the chemicals are flushed of air after mixing allowing the 1L batches rather than 5L batches. Even if you work with 5L batches at a time, that whole lot will last you minimum 6 months. The cost of printer ink is comparable if not more expensive.

    Then there's the paper, Kodak Supra Endura is lovely stuff (I just wish their was a heavier weight but there you go) and is relatively cheap. It now comes in packs of 50 and 50 8x10" sheets are locally £11 for me to buy. There is also Kodak Edge which is cheaper roll paper you will have to cut.

    In terms of how easy it is, very. I'd also advise trays. I tried a drum this week and I found it a pain, so I've gone back to trays.

    Most Kodak film I use (160VC, Ektar, Gold 200) will print at the box colour balance settings with no adjustment so that keeps test printing costs down to find your initial colour balance. Fuji I find a bit different (as well as the Portra NCs) but once the balance on that is sussed you are then good for that as you will know your ballpark for subsequent shoots. Then I cut each 8x10" sheet into strips of 5 roughly to give about 20 test strips (4 sheets used) and then I find the rest of the pack I can use to get reliable prints thus not wasting too much paper. On average I'd say out of a box of 50, I will get 40 good prints. So that works out 28p (UK pence), I will never process enough to use up a batch of RA4 chems in 6 months and per 1L batch of prints I could easily print those 40 prints. So I work that out as £50 / 20 = £2.50 per 40 prints on chemicals.

    What this should show is that RA4 and C41 is cheap. Certainly comparable to working digitally, if not cheaper, and gives you just gorgeous C-Type prints. Medium format looks superb printed this way.

    It's also easy to do at home, the main thing is to orientate yourself in the darkroom in the pitch black. But you soon get the hang of that :smile:

    And I do all of this in my rather small bathroom so there is no need to think you need space, my enlarger is on the washing machine top, dev tray usually on the toilet seat (hmm lovely!), and the stop and blix on the floor (protected by a waterproof sheet.)

    I still shoot slides, but I admit mostly in 35mm as I don't have a 6x6 projector; especially now that Ektar gives me prints that are not a million miles from the palette I love in Kodachrome, but with the bonus that it is a print I can put in an album, sell or hang on the wall.

    I then scan the 10x8s on a flatbed scanner (not expensive one) which digitalises them if I need to, and this works a treat for all my 35mm and 6x6 MF work.

    Good luck and have fun,

    Vicky
     
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  15. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    When I remove the print from the drum, I rinse the drum under running water, then push a tea towel into the drum and pull it out, et voila! a clean, dry drum. Not what I'd call tedious. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

    I have my workflow set up so that the paper I use is in a paper safe that dispenses one sheet at a time. I hit the light switch, take a sheet out of the paper safe, place it in the easel, hit the print button, place the sheet in the drum right beside the enlarger, and turn on the lights. Lights are out for about 30 sec. Then I'm free to putz with other stuff while the drum is rockn and rolln.

    Whether you use trays or a drum, try RA4. If you're like me, you'll wonder why you waited so long.
     
  16. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    Same here. Should have tried this years ago and ignored all the 'it's too hard' comments online.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    If you are going to use drums, get more than one.

    I have four 8x10 Cibachrome drums, and I just cycle through the set (use one while other three air dry).

    I'm currently using this for Black & White when I don't want to put out all the trays, but it will work as well for colour.

    Matt
     
  18. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    Indeed, whatever floats anybody's boat, but I'm too lazy to mess with drums. :D

    Well, first I'll have to find a colorhear or filters, but what really hurts is local availability (not much) and the fact that supra endura that everybody says that is the best paper (in sheets) has been discontinued.
     
  19. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    I was in exactly your situation when I took up color darkroom work. Assuming you've tried black and white darkroom work the color should be fairly easy. The challenge is to get your first print. Once you have that, you're all set because the color doesn't really change. Stick with one film (Ektar 100 or Portra 160VC/NC) and go from there.

    Ektar 100 when printed optically is a dream film. It looks great. Good skin tones, nice reds and purples.

    Use only kodak papers and kodak chemicals. They work great at room temperature. The current recommendation is to use Kodak developer RT without starter.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum221/58260-ra-4-printing-200-a.html

    The last comment in that article has the new specifics. I don't like fuji paper anymore.
     
  20. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    E6 chems are cheap, Im using Kodak E6 fixer replenisher, Agfa bleach, and Kodak E6 Colour developer replenisher (40 litre) + starter, costs less to buy than the 5L kit.

    Mix up my own first dev.

    and use Rodinal + salt for a first dev for colour neg as a colour neg, and E6 CD for the colour developer on it.
     
  21. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Thanks everyone - I didn't realise RA-4 was that easy and I shall definitely have to give it a go. If that works out well, I guess I can then think about C-41.

    I'd been told to use drums for the not-being-dark aspect of it all. I can try trays and if I don't bugger it up then that's cool.

    Someone mentioned in a PM the Jobo DUOLAB so I'll look that up too.

    Next question on C-41: I'm assuming the print dynamic range is no more than 6-8 stops... do people do dodging, burning, etc on them to get stuff to fit on the paper? I guess you don't have much contrast control (barring the addition of sulfite to dev, etc) because that could change colours. Accurate D&B with 3ish second exposures sounds harder.
     
  22. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Ymous: I understand that Supra is available as sheet but metallic is roll-only. FCA is now roll-only but I think someone in the UK is proposing to cut rolls to sheets commercially (looking at ag-photographic website)
     
  23. hrst

    hrst Member

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    If you find it difficult to move the print to next tray, and don't want to put your fingers to the developer...: Use a very dim yellow led light carefully at the end of the development time. Then you can easily move the print to stop and blix, and at the end of development this dim enough yellow light won't do anything to the print anymore. It's completely safe this way.

    Of course you dodge and burn, at least as much as in bw, if not more (because there's no easy contrast control)! 3ish second? Now where did you hear that :D. The exposures are about the same as in BW. Close the lens to f/8 and usually you have about 10...20 seconds for a 8x10" print.

    And, if you find the paper too contrasty and develop your own negatives, you can reduce the development time for negatives a bit to lower their contrast.

    And don't be afraid to add a bit sulfite to the developer. Then you'll have two developers, normal and lower-contrast, in two trays from which you can select for every print. Developer is cheap.
     
  24. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Rick at #10 was saying the paper is a lot faster. I can always stop down to f/22 but don't want the softness. I guess I can wind in all three filters for a bit of ND effect too.

    I like printing 12x16" as the RZ frame fits that very well and it's basically the size limit in our local comps. However, my 12x16 trays are quite fiddly and the paper can get stuck in the bottom, requiring vision and fingernails to retrieve. Actually I'm puzzled as to how you even grab the corner of a print with tongs and land it in the next tray blind. And how do you watch the clock?
     
  25. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Howdy Polyglot. Nice to see your still around!

    Very timely thread, as i have to admit that colour printing has been on my mind for a while too.

    In relation to safe lights (& sorry to hijack a little here), I was given one recently, with two filters. The horrible looking dark amber one, so I was told, was for colour papers. Is this correct? Or should I be avoiding at all costs? While, ultimately, I could learn completely in the dark, it would be good for a start.

    Cheers
     
  26. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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