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  1. #1
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    Liquid vs. powder for C-41 economy?

    I've been looking at starting to process C-41 at home; local processing is inconvenient and getting expensive for 120, and I really prefer medium format over 35 mm -- and there are some things that just don't work in black and white.

    I see that Freestyle has their Arista C-41 chemistry available as powder (pint or half-gallon sizes) or liquid (quarts and gallons). The powder is quite a bit cheaper, and will be cheaper to ship (because no shipping water, which is heavy), but I won't have the option to mix a partial kit to extend the life of the chemicals, which means buying smaller kits and giving up some of the saving.

    If I mix the stuff a pint at a time, I can do 4+ rolls in that pint (depending how much I'm willing to extend dev time and how many reuses won't visibly affect negative quality), which makes it cheaper than local 120 processing -- as long as I buy the gallon, and only unless the concentrates go off before I use them up. I don't shoot *that* much color; a gallon kit would probably take me six months or more to use up the capacity (and I'd be surprised if the opened concentrates would last that long). Quart kits are much less economical, but I could probably use a quart kit fast enough to go the powder route (that's only 8 rolls official capacity), and the powder is less than half the price of a liquid quart kit (so comparable economics to the gallon liquid kit). So, the question is how long would the concentrates last after opening?

    Same question would apply to E-6, I suppose, though on that one I'd guess the color dev has a similar life to C-41 developer, while the first dev would be similar to D-76 for storage life -- and the E-6 doesn't come as a powder kit, but does come in a pint size...

    (FWIW, I think the Arista is rebranded Tetanal; their instructions, for both C-41 and E-6, include times for temperatures as low as 70 F, which I've only heard of previously from Tetenal).
    Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.

  2. #2

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    If you buy C-41 fix and bleach in the big jugs you'll save more. The fix can be used for both B&W and colour. The bleach seems to keep. Actually needs oxygen for the process.

    The only thing that seems to go off is the developer. I'm mixing my own up fresh from bulk chemicals. If I knew the developer concentrate would keep I'd buy the big bottle of that to.

    If my math is right you can buy 1 gallon of the various components from B&H for about what Freestyle wants for the kit. Unlike the kit buying the Kodak 1 gallon jugs you'll have the first time cost of the starters. So the second batch will be cheaper. Assuming you replenish. Which you should for fix and bleach. Developer is the only one you might want to do one shot.

    Now the best part is if you can find a local source for this stuff. Then you'll save on the shipping.

  3. #3

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    From B&H

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Fixer & Replenisher for Color Negative Film - Makes 5 Gallons $ 7.95

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Developer for Color Negative Film - Makes 1 Gallon $ 9.95

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Bleach Starter for Color Negative Film - 1 Gallon $ 13.50

    Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) Bleach III for Color Negative Film - Makes 1 Gallon $ 26.50

    Total $58.

    Down side is B&H doesn't ship most of that. So you'll need a local source. Upside is the Bleach starter is a one time cost. Upside that's a lot more fixer then 1 gallon. Fuji makes a bleach that doesn't need a starter.

    I'd also suggest checking the Kodak and Fuji hunt websites for the various tech papers. Just to make sure you're ordering the right stuff.

  4. #4

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    A couple more things before I shut up. That developer doesn't need a starter. So I guess it could be mixed up one shot.

    You'll want to check capacities. Some of the products are low replenishment and do much more film then some of the others. You need to check capacities to make sure you've got apples to apples.

  5. #5
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    If you're looking for small quantities, Unicolor K-2 (their C-41 soup) is still available, as is their Rapid E6. It's all liquid concentrates and they ship via UPS. They sell via ebay as bigalfish0.

    It's not the cheapest way (the bulk stuff from Kodak is a bit less expensive), but it's a good way to give it a try.
    Bob Fowler
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  6. #6

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    In the UK I have been using Speedibrew Celer-41 powders. These I bought 10x1L kits for £70, which will do me for 80 rolls of 120 as a one shot. I could probably double that if I dare in the Jobo but havent chanced it yet. As stated before its the dev that will turn, a fresh mix is quoted as lasting 3-4 weeks in a sealed glass jars, as powder its indefinate. The Blix on the other hand will last for months when mixed so there are no problems there. I would be tempted if you can to source the dev as powder, I know Speedi will do batches to customers requirements so can't see why you couldn't source something similar in the States and buy the BLIX in bulk, which I believe to be the more expensive component.

  7. #7

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    Supposedly if you keep the bleach and fix separate the working solution keeps better. So instead of running a blix I run three steps. Bleach,wash and then fix. Takes a little longer but that's the only downside.

  8. #8

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    Dont think its quite that straight forward :- Que PE?

    Liquid kits that I have used has come as a concentrate BLIX in one bottle. Its once they are made into a working solution that they will start to deteroirate and even then not really until they have been used. As a one shot process this really isnt a problem, its the Dev that goes quickly and that is the one to watch.

  9. #9
    bobfowler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HolgaPhile
    Dont think its quite that straight forward :- Que PE?

    Liquid kits that I have used has come as a concentrate BLIX in one bottle. Its once they are made into a working solution that they will start to deteroirate and even then not really until they have been used. As a one shot process this really isnt a problem, its the Dev that goes quickly and that is the one to watch.
    That's the reason I use the liquid kits. I mix what I'm going to need for a session and use it one shot. I only use this for sheet films (plenty of places to get 35mm and 120 souped) and my mix quantities are small.
    Bob Fowler
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  10. #10

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    My $0.02 on this, in several parts. Note that I've done 29 rolls of C-41 and 5 rolls of E-6, so I'm not yet an expert on this.

    First, as Nick mentioned, it's possible to mix your own from bulk chemicals. Various formulas are available on the Web, but I'm sure most of them would make PE shudder. I've used NCF-41 with decent results, but it's clearly a bizarre developer and it might well not satisfy the pickier folks. (I'm sure it's among those that would cause PE to shudder.) FWIW, 16 of my 29 rolls were done using NCF-41.

    As to commercial C-41 developers, so far I've only tried Paterson Photocolor chemistry (for 13 rolls), which has the advantage that B&H will ship it. The developer worked well, but started producing very thin results by the time I got about halfway through the bottle, so I ditched the rest. It ships as a concentrate that's diluted for use and can be re-used a couple of times.

    For bleaches, fixers, and blixes, the conventional wisdom is that blixes don't do as good a job as separate bleach and fix steps. So far I've only used blixes: I've used a homemade recipe that I didn't like and I've used the Paterson blix, which works better but still seems to produce slightly grainier results than I see in commercially-processed rolls. I'm planning to buy Kodak bleach and fix next. Note that Adorama will ship these (and most other color chemicals), although B&H won't ship the bleach or some other Kodak color chemicals, and Freestyle doesn't seem to carry the Kodak chemistry at all.

    For E-6, so far I've only used the Paterson Chrome-6 kit, which comes as six bottles that are mixed into four components (1st developer, color/2nd developer, blix, and stabilizer). The instructions say each component can be re-used up to three times for 35mm. I've gotten good results from the first roll, but the two second rolls I've done have been dark. The one third roll I've done had some ugly color shifts. I'm not sure if the re-use per se is the problem or the storage for a few days after mixing before doing the subsequent rolls. I notice that Adorama lists a Kodak E-6 kit that's specified for one-shot use, so I may give that a try.

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