Is RA-4 All There Is Now?
As a matter of sheer restless curiosity (and possible future exploration), I'm wondering: Is RA-4 the only game in town now when it comes to (analog) color printing? And for that matter, what color printing technologies have come and gone over the past fifty or so years?
Ilfochrome/cibachrome is gone. I know all about dye transfer and that Kodak stopped supporting it in 1994. Too bad -- I had the opportunity to see an exhibition of Mark Cohen's color work a few years back, and the dye transfer prints were beautiful. I believe it's still practiced today by some hardcore enthusiasts who have found workarounds, but that it's difficult and not quite the same.
Some further reading introduced me to the intriguing, though short-lived, Kodak Ektaflex process of the early 80's. Between the developer, which I understand was problematic, and the Polaroid patent suit, it sounds like it was doomed from inception.
What else is/was there?
There are still a few labs that will produce Cibacrhome/Ilfochrome prints for you.
Regardless of whether materials are available, it is my understanding that the learning curve for printing with Cibachrome is steep. As such, it's probably better to have them done at a lab where they can be done right.
Cibachrome won't last for long, though. In just a couple-few years, it's likely to be gone.
Currently RA-4 is the only process available for printing from color negatives.
From Kodak, before RA-4 there was Ektaprint 2 for home use and before that Ektaprint C, both with longer processing times.
My memory on this is a bit hazy on this but I believe at one time, someone, I think Unicolor had a process for color negative printing papers known as Type B or Type RB or something like that, different from the concurrent Ektaprint 2.
There was a large amt of dye transfer matrix film for sale just a couple weeks ago in Germany. Fresh
batches seem to be run every few years until ... ? It is being custom coated and is not dependent upon
Kodak as a sole supplier. It never was. I know where you can get dyes. You can produce and mordant your own printing paper. Registration gear comes up for sale every few months it seems, or if you have machine-shop skills you can make your own. I know how to make color separations and masks using films currently on the market. The prime ingredient, time (lots of time) is what is hard to come by.
RA4 printing per se if very easy, but doing high-quality advanced work is just like anything else - you
need to gradually learn the ropes. I'm one of the few people attempting advanced masking operations
with it. But it is the future (at least at this moment in the future!), if you like darkroom work per se.
I still have Cibachrome paper and chemicals No idea how to use it though.
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Ilfochrome is much easier to home process than RA4 since color corrections are much more intuitive and the slides you enlarge from already have (or at least should have if you do it right) a repeatable color balance. Real professionals may have been able to get even better results, but I am quite happy with what I got with my simple setup.
Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.
I beg to differ. In terms of color correction Ilfochrome is easier, but the chemicals are nasty and contrast is hard to control. I think RA4 is easier to print because of the manageable contrast and color neg film has much more latitude then chrome film.
But Ilfochrome has a permanence and color that is unmatched.
"Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
It depends on how thin your skin is but 5% sulfuric acid in the bleach is not that nasty. Dev and fix are virtually no different from B&W ones.
Originally Posted by Mainecoonmaniac
I was slightly nervous when I started with Ilfochrome after reading all those stories about its 'nastyness'. It isn't. Just follow the same precautions any sensible person would in a darkroom.
I agree completely. That is what I have experienced. A lot of people who have never tried it simply assume it is complicated.
Originally Posted by Rudeofus
There are still non-trivial processes like tri/quad-colour gum bichromate, carbon and carbon transfer and photo-mechanical processes if you have the time, patience and cash.