Self processing color...
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?
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.
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.
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.
-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!
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.
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.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
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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.
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.
This guy did a great video on it. He also has one for C41 negative film:
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.
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 . His temperature control is quite lacking in other ways, too.
Originally Posted by pukalo
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.