I too have a DUKA and was able to print with enough light to see what I was doing. We are trying to help the OP to get into RA4 printing as easily as possible. It is of course possible to do everything in total darkness but unless you are very experienced in a darkroom and really have everything right and very dedicated to RA4 then total darkness is a considerable and unnecessary barrier in my opinion.
If I had never tried RA4 then reading the posts I'd also have concluded that on balance it was just too much of a hill to climb and not worth the effort but this way we'll never get new recruits to darkroom colour printing.
It doesn't have to be this way but it is true that convenience does come at a minimum price.
There are good safelights available and the easiest way to process is with either a Jobo processor with drums( after which the processing can be done room or daylight or a Nova Trimate processor( OP: this is a set of trays placed on end into which low lever safelight hardly penetrates.
OP: Open tray processing can be done at room temp of about 70F but unless your room temp is around this temp or 75F in your case then trays in a water bath may be required.
If I were in your shoes, I'd buy a temp controlled Nova processor which can also be used for B&W. Then you can use a low intensity safelight safely or if you don't want to invest in a safelight in case you give up RA4 then a Nova will allow you to process in darkness. Half way through the blix stage the light can go on.
A Jobo processor with drums will also allow processing in darkness and more conveniently but it is an investment that is only really needed for colour.
Do give RA4 a try but be prepared to go slowly in the early days with a limited chance of instant success first time. Once you have produced a print then you can decide whether RA4 is for you and you can invest in the likes of a Jobo and a safelight for colour.
Best of luck
Very well said PU. (Uh, unfortunate acronym - and I'm also a Pentax user in 35mm)
It's not nearly as hard as it sounds, but like anything has a learning curve. I have a Jobo but don't plan to use it for getting back into RA4. We've hashed that out - some of us consider washing and trying the tubes to be a time consuming hassle (and a totally impractical one in my current darkroom that lacks running water - will probably get the plumbing in the basement next year.) I've used trays at room temperature in the past and also a Nova Print Pod which is like an unheated Nova slot processor. If they didn't cost so much to import directly from the UK with price and shipping I'd definitely go that route. I've been keeping an eye open for them but the prices tend to get bid up there when they do come up, which isn't that often. Trays will work. If you need slightly warmer for faster processing and more consistency an aquarium heater in a water bath will work too. They won't reach 105 but they will get warm enough. Just standardize and find the time for that temperature.
The info about dim yellow LEDs is interesting. I may try to rig that up myself, against the day when the Duka stops working. I bought it used and used it for several years for both color and black and white (I miss that level in b&w too but could get that with a Thomas Duplex) so I've no idea the time left on the tube.
I am glad you had that feeling as well.
Originally Posted by pentaxuser
I would love to. But as I understand they are not available in the US. If anyone knows a distributor in the US for Nova slot processor, please do let me know. I hardly find them on eBay.
Originally Posted by pentaxuser
Thanks for the encouragement. I am bent on giving RA-4 printing a go. I already bought the chemicals and paper from Freestyle. I will try drum processing (I found an Ilford color processing drum kit on eBay) with lights on first. I will also try tray processing in dark with a very dim 1 yellow LED flashlight and see which one fits my needs.
Originally Posted by pentaxuser
BTW, one more question. if it is supposed to be total darkness, what about the lights from LED on my Gralab digital timer and the glow in the dark Gralab manual timer? Is it safe to ignore them?
Thanks again to everyone for all the tips and suggestions so far.
For the usual operating lights and dials (timer, colour-head etc) I just made up flaps of black paper which I lift up for adjustments and lower for printing. Don't forget the red lamps which you might find on extension-lead switches either! Standing in the darkened darkroom for ten minutes will make all the 'dodgy' light sources very apparent of course, then you can deal with them.
With a logical layout and a handy work-surface, doing tray-processing in total darkness is not a problem (up to 9 1/2" x 12" at least, which is all I've done). It is a good idea to practise with plain water and a dummy sheet in the light, then with your eyes closed, and then in the dark, all before the first 'real' test strips (just as one might practice loading a film-reel for example).
You may also find that a nitrile-glove (nitrile examination gloves, from your pharmacist) on one hand can help to collect up the paper, if you suddenly find that you can't manage with print-tongs while in the dark with a timer ticking. Have a double or triple paper-towel for drying the glove between stages if needed, and then replace the glove with a fresh one.
OP: Sorry to hear that Nova processors are so scarce in the U.S. Yes room temp liquid and simply rolling a drum on a table top will work or better still getting a drum with a manual winder. Pity that your kit needs 75F to work. Kodak will work OK at about 70F. Maybe Arista will as well. Give it a try to see how it goes.
At this time of year I presume that most of the U.S. has room temps in the 70s or much higher in some places. Unlike B&W printing high summer temps work in your favour for RA4.
Let us know how it goes
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I've been following this thread with intense curiousity. I always thought color printing would be out of my league. Now I have the feeling it's no more difficult than C-41 developing.
bvy, the processing steps for RA-4 printing are no more difficult than for C-41 film processing. In fact, RA-4 is even easier than C-41. What I recall from the last time I did RA-4 is that getting the color balance and exposure right on the print was the hard part. For me, anyway.
I hope to get my Fujimoto CP-31 processor fully operational this weekend. As soon as I do, I'll try my hand at RA-4 printing again.
Spot on Skip. The processing is easy if you have some experience. Getting the color right can be...challenging. I got "ok by my standards" at it (and those are the ones that count ) but it's been so long...but once you work it out for your paper and a given type of film, it doesn't vary nearly as much as it used to. Even emulsion to emulsion on the paper was pretty consistent by the 90s. By the time you get it right you'll have also figured it out, more or less. Takes a while, you may pull some hair out, but if you're up for spending a bit of time and materials learning a new skill, it's just like hitting a golf ball, driving a stick shift, any skill real. Practice makes perfect and learning can be fun.
Thanks. I'm already shopping. Have my eye on an Omega C760 kit with drums, motor, timer, etc.
It is no problem to start in total darkness when doing small format in trays.
I also started 3 years ago without having any safelight. Some accidents may happen like the tongs slipping into the tray when trying to catch them.
RA-4 process isn't difficult. You can have good results without much hightech after the first day.
You will need some time to learn filtering. During that period you don't need to spend money for additional accessoires.
When I started, I didn't listen to all the guys discussing about 'Todays RA-4 chemistry needs 35░C' and all that.
I just tried it at 25░C in trays and it worked. I took 2 Minutes instead of 45 sec. to develop. That's all.
To make colour prints, you don't NEED a drum, a Nova processor or a machine.
A drum is a cheap tool. But a drum is no fun at all. Cleaning and drying the thing after each print is a real pain.
I tried it all. The result was, that I used trays and some large heating plates or pads (for terrariums) for 2 years.
I also work with trays today when doing prints under 10x12", because the setup is fast.
Now I use a Fujimoto CP-31 for large prints or if I want to do a bunch of prints. This is real luxury. I had a chance to get one very cheap, otherwise I would still use trays. But all my processors, drums, tanks, analyzers and all the stuff 'making colour prints easy' I used a few times only.
The BEST investion ever for me was the infrared system, even when some purists think this is not traditional enough.
You can start very easy and cheap, but once you want larger format and higher quality, you need some more professional equipment.
Otherwise you will be frustrated later when your demand for quality rises.
>Could you maybe link or refer me to where you bought your $250 in gear?
Unfortunately you cannot buy it complete. You need someone knowing some basics about electronics. Video glasses for TV-signal input have to be combined with a camera module. The camera module is $20 but the glasses have to fit in signal (TV-In). Glasses start from 150$. Also you need 2 or 3 infrared LED lamps which you can mount in fixed positions in the darkroom. I use 2 lamps with 48 LEDs each.
>In fact, RA-4 is even easier than C-41
Hmm - I think there is nothing more easy than C-41.
I would say RA-4 isn't more difficult than B/W.