I take back the cost part. I called one of the local photographic stores. The price for the 500ml Agfa kit sounds fairly cheap. Now maybe he misread the price. I'll drive by next week to see. Is the Agfa AP44 kit any good? 5 steps. How long do the closed kits keep?
Thanks for the input. It still sounds like it's easier to take it to the lab. I don't really do that much E6 anyway, and honestly I am doing more and more C41 when I do color, because my goal is always something for the wall instead of the printed page.
Doc, I'm with you...when I shoot something I want to see it quickly, so I am usually up all night after a day of photography processing. BW, in my case.
And DKT, thank you for that very well thought out and comprehensive post. Part of the reason I love this place so much.
One more thing...
Someone, Doc I think mentioned self-processing C41. How does THAT compare to E6 at home and BW? Especially since C41 labs are both MUCH more common but MUCH more prone to less that quality work?
I do my own E6, mostly because of cost. I shoot 4x5 transparencies, and developing lab costs are just too high.
DKT mentions above the need for absoute consistency, and he's right. Small changes in temp and times, if they are uncompensated (and compensating is more an art than a science, I use time and color dev pH) will give less than ideal images. But then, I'm an enzymologists, and copared to enzyme activity assays, E6 is quick and sloppy, so it's easy for me.
In the end, we do our own color development because we like doing it, not because it's easier or better than a lab.
I've done C41, and it's very easy. Since the color balance gets adjusted on the enlarger, temp isn't as exacting as E6. But printing RA4 is hard, as one step is just so dang short (45 sec developer!, it's awkward to do in a rotary processor.
Agh, C-41 is easy! AND, so is RA-4, just get a color analyzer and a modified roller-transport processor. I modified a Ilford CAP-40. I can run my Cibas and my RA-4's in the same machine.
My main problem is the wait of getting a lab to do your prints. For weddings, yep, it goes to lab. Too much work, and I can always use my lab as an excuse when something goes south.
For my competition and personal/travel work, I do my own. I hate having to make time to get to lab or mail to the lab (and overnight ain't cheap). And, I hate the wait to get your stuff back. Especially when you only need a few prints of one or two negs, that's what got me started doing my own work.
Many times, I'll shoot C-41/BW AND E-6. The C-41 goes to lab or the BW get processed when I get time. The E-6's I process almost immediately. They give me a heads-up on what the final output'll be. (If you screw up the E-6, you can be a bit more relieved when you think about the latitude of C-41/BW.)
Plus, sometimes, a shoot will be "normal", but a Ciba makes the right color/contrast for what you saw when you pressed the shutter.
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A very interesting thread...
I will probably start doing my own E6 soon. The main reason is the lack of labs able to handle 5x7" chromes in Norway - not just locally, but the whole country! There are a few who can do 4x5", and one that gave me back a yellow sheet of 5x7" film with a footprint on it. I'm not giving them any more of my film to play with.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
My very first darkroom experience as a mere lad was processing Ektachrome-X in E4 and even doing a bit of E3 (with it's manual re-exposure to to a lightbulb step) in my Dad's home darkroom. Since then, many years of working in studios, labs and freelancing in multi-image production houses gave me the opportunity to work with, and the responsibility to maintain process control for dozens of E6 processing machines of all types and makes.
E6 was really designed to work best in a Dip and Dunk processor or a sink line with seasoned, replenished chemistry. A couple of of the steps are intended to occur without agitation, which is obviously impossible in a rotary or roller transport process. Even then it takes constant plotting of each color with a densitometer and chemical and process adjustments to keep a line in control. Keeping a commercial E6 line within Kodak's specs is two parts science, one part art and one part voodoo. I would guess that the footprint on OleTj's film is a pretty good hint that his lab isn't particularly scrupulous about fine process control.
It may seem that one-shot processing would be at the very least the most repeatable process, especially if you mix your stock solutions in quantity but I've run Colenta and Wing-Lynch rotary lines and found them infuriatingly difficult to maintain consistency on, run to run.
All that being said, I wouldn't hesitate to process E6 at home, tanks and hangers or invertable tanks is best but if you are doing rotary, follow any recommendations and adjustments that the manufacturer publishes and use your most disciplined and practiced processing techniques. It is a critical process. Also, use all safety precautions when handling the chemistry. Good ventilation, rubber gloves, I recommend a stylin' Black plastic Kodak darkroom apron and by all means protect your eyes. They eventually got rid of the formaldehyde stabilizer but there are some truly nasty acids, bases and bleach involved. I've run both 3 and 6 step E6 in my Jobo. I was pleased with the results visually but I have an uneasy feeling that if I had run a control strip and plotted it, I would have been horrified.
Bottom line, If you have specific needs, like a lack of access to a decent local lab (becoming a common problem) or strict turn-around requirements, and can justify the extra expense and effort or you just enjoy relaxing evenings in the darkroom and "doing it yourself", home E6 processing is certainly worthwhile , _But_ if you can hook up with a good lab that has a dip and dunk processor, runs scads of film every day and maintains critical process control (yeah, right), that is where you will get the ultimate in quality and consistency.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
If you have a good pro lab, stick to it they can do it better and more consistently. I was recently given a tour of a pro lab who have done my E6 films for years by the companys sales manager, I was Very impressed, if you walk near a E6 machine it can detect
your body heat, and a motor kicks in to adjust the processing temperature to compensate. I don't think it's worth the trouble when you can drop them off and collect them in three hours.
I have an ordinary turn-around of 5-7 days so home processing may be for me. But if need to get it fast I can have it done in 4 hours for 2½ times the price.
The lab I use most have the films ready in the afternoon if you leave it at around
8 am. they are rather expensive no matter turn-around time and the only way to keep prices down is to buy alot development cheques at a time. Both labs I use does a great job and delivers a clean scratch- and stainfree roll of positives. I couldn't do it better my self.