Tips to start up RA4 process printing at home?
Alright...I'm in again. Just updated my subscription here and I'm dusting off the B&W darkroom gear and will be bustin' my chops getting proficient at printing again. I've been off in "shoot slides and scan" land. That's getting old...I've always like the peaceful darkroom work (compared to staring at my computer in PS3 for hours) and I'm always up for a new challenge anyway :-)
Just bought a PhotoTherm processor off of Ebay that should be on its way this week for processing C-41 negs. That looks straight forward enough.
Now about processing the prints...
Does anyone have any recommended starting points for printing RA4? I've never done it...just B&W (and of course color digitally). Can I start out with just using trays, or is that a real pain? I'd like to purchase a processor of some sort, but not sure if I have the funds at the moment.
I used to do all my printing on an Omega B-22 condensor enlarger, but I do have a color enlarger now - Agfa C66 (basically a Durst M605 with the Agfa name on it) but it has a built in timer that is worthless...I'm wondering how to bypass it and hook up a better one - any easy ideas? :-) I'm afraid I'm going to have to pull the base apart and re-wire it straight from the main power to the transformer and somehow bypass that timer.
One more thing - do I need a densitometer or color analyzer - or will I be able to "eyeball it" good enough?
Thanks for any tips or links to articles to get me started on this.
An analyzer is mostly about speed and saving paper. But even so if you stick to a small set of films and paper you won't save that much time.
I'd also suggest learning to do it without an analyzer. The better you can do it without the better you'll be with an analzyer.
Does the Phototerm take print drums? Print drums have some advantages/disadvantages.
RA in a roller transport
There are other options, but my best sucess (I I run a fujimoto CP31) is with Kodak RA-RT chemistry. I have home mixed RA-4, for drums, and also bought 'kits' for drums that dilute to give you 2l, etc. They all oxidize off very quickly in a roller type machine. I run to at 95F, and accurdingly, the drive speed can be set to be quite quick.
Once you get the hang of it, you definitly will print more than you ever have before. If I get the colour filtration of my printig lined up quickly, then it is possible to pump out 30 or more prints in a night. I have a colorstar analyser, but second Nick's suggestion that you learn color witout the analyser first. Get an old Kodak color or combined color and b&w datagude that includes a ring around chart. A print viewing filter kit is also good. Write down the exposure time, apurture, head height and filtration for every print, and then write this on the back of every print you do when you start. Don't throw anything you print in the early days away; they all will teach you something after a few sessions of fighting with this new process.
If you cannot source any of the print resources, pm me, and I will see what I might have second copies of.
I definietly fall into the 'extremely low utilization' class when it comes to commercial photofinishing chemistry, but I have been too cheap to spring for the developer and blix additives that are meant for this situation, since my current supplier (Mondrian Hall - I think they have a Vancouver or Calgary office) only sells these in cases of six bottles, and even one pair of bottles, sumiing to about $50 would still last me many, many years.
I use the developer in tank 2, and the b/f in tank 3 . Tank 1 runs water to rinse the blue dye off the paper, so that there is less dye to oxidize off in the developer. I drain and rinse the machine after every use, inless I am going to be printing again the next day. If it is the next day scenario, then I pull the rollers and racks, rinse and leave then to drain, and then cover the chemistry in each tank with saran wrap.
Don't just get tired and turn the thing off with chemistyry in it and go away for a few days. The scrubbing to clean up semi dried solution on rollers and racks will make you wish that you found the time to put it away right.
When pinting I pull the cover off after about every 5 prints and pour the replenisher strength blix and developer into the appropriate tanks. DO NOT contaminate the developer with blix. Get separate funnels, and jugs to handle the fixers/blixes, and rinse everything thouroughly, and your life will go much easier.
The RA-RT chemistry seem to hold up when stored in full bottles a lot longer than Kodak suggests. I think Mick Fagan also has this experience; you might want to check with him.
Save all dud paper sheets ( as you learn to print colur there will be plenty of them), process them normaly, wash them thoroughly, and then reuse them once they are dry again as 'clean out' sheets to pick up any gunky bits off the rollers for the first runs of a session. This is a lot cheaper than buyiing the official product.
Kodak RA-RT developer can be used in trays at any temp from 68 to 100. Kodak's suggested optimum is between 80 and 95. Just be consistent with temp from test to final print. Nail the exposure before you tackle the color balance. Starting point is given on EK papers, but not on Fuji. Try 60M + 60Y as a starting point. This will vary with your enlarger and others may have different starts that work better for them. It takes a little while to get the hang of it, but is not really that difficult. Good luck.
"I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.
sorry - mis read - phototherm for c-41, not ra-4
Yes, ra-4 in drums works quite well. I thought i read that the phototherm was a roller transport; I think that made such a line of products. Ron Mowray uses the mentioned RA-RT at room temp in drums with good sucess; as I mentioned, there are also other chemistry solutions for drums.
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I have a Nutek RCP 500, which, when I purchased it new, was a very expensive table-top dry-to-dry machine. I have seen one recently for sale, possibly on this form, or the Large Format Photography forum for peanuts. Getting a table top roller-transport processor, even if it doesn't have a dryer module is very worthwhile, as it eliminates most of the drugery of processing, and allows you to concentrate on the artistic parts of making prints. I have printed color prints for my commercial clients for 30 years and have never felt the need for a color analyzer. Years ago color paper, and film had wider variances in color balance. Modern products are very consistent from batch to batch.
The Phototherm is a machine for processing film on reels, in tanks in daylight, with automatic fill and dump of each step with a built in timer and chemical storage. You can program it for the steps of most all photographic film processes.
Originally Posted by Mike Wilde
I use the RA-RT developer replenisher kit, 10L, at room temp. I use it without starter. The development time is 2 minuts. I mix it in 5 liter batches and store it in a 5 L container.
You'll need to stabilize the power to the enlarger lamp for consistent color balance and exposure. If you use Gra-Lab timers, note that they will not work correctly with stabilized current.
Originally Posted by Jedidiah Smith
I have a color analyzer and never use it anymore. I find it quicker, and less bother, to just "eyeball" the print under quarts halogen lighting and make adjustments for each print. Also, I've never found a need for a densitometer.
"Pictures are not incidental frills to a text; they are essences of our distinctive way of knowing." Stephen J. Gould
Regarding the drums vs. trays issue, this is certainly a matter of personal preference. If you've already got the trays and want to keep your expenses to a minimum you might as well try it in trays first. You'll need to know your way around your darkroom in total darkness, including a way to time the development stage in the dark (a timer you can preset and operate by feel, say). You might want to try it with B&W first; that way you can turn on a safelight if you get totally lost.
Personally, I prefer open trays to drums for color prints, at least up to 8x10. I believe I'm in the minority on this, though, so you might want to plan on buying at least one or two drums (having several can help). If the price of drums isn't a big issue, you should definitely do so just so you can compare the two methods and decide which you prefer. Also, even aside from expensive processing machines, there are alternatives to drums, such as orbital processors (basically covered trays that wobble), although I've never used one of these, so I can't comment on them in detail.