E6 at home, please advise
I got a beautifull Kandan for cheap (it needs new bellows but I am working on that)
I am really impressed by the results that we can obtain with 4x5 slide film. However, processing is really expensive.
So, I want to process the slides myself and I have a couple questions: I will use a yankee bakelite light tight tank, an I can also use a water bath for temperature. I will also get a digital thermometer to be precise on the temperature. Does it sound right?
Now, chemistry. Kodak single use slide chemistry or Arista (freestyle) three bath chemistry?
I won't reuse chemicals that much, i.e. sill stick to their normal capacities and dispose of them when they will need compensation.
I need something that is consistent, and efficient. Since I am a little bit color blind, I want to be sure that the colors remain ok. (Thats why I shoot slides, I can trust their 'natural' colors)
I plan to shoot mainly Kodak slide but maybe some Fuji too.
Is there anything more I should know, feel free to tell me!
Thanks a lot,
I use the Kodak E6 single use kit and would recommend that you do if you are shooting Kodak transparencies. Check out the Kodak site at
Download the Processing manual Z119 for a detailed instruction on the E6 process as well as the two Tech Publications. As for using the Yankee tank for processing I think you would find it easier to maintain the developer temperatures if you use stainless steel tanks if you can find them. Failure to maintain the temperature tolerances will give you problems with the final results. If you want to mix up portions of the chemistry it is best to split the kit concentrates into smaller bottles to keep oxidation of the chemistry to a minimum.
Your preliminary steps (tank and thermometer) sound right, with one caveat: "Digital" does not necessarily equal "accurate" or "precise." A digital thermometer might read out to one digit past the decimal point (23.7 degrees, say), but the true temperature might be 24.4 degrees, and if you try repeating that measurement, you might get another reading (23.9 degrees, say). If you're buying from a photography shop, look for a thermometer that's designed for use with color chemicals. Those are supposed to be accurate and precise enough for the job. Such thermometers might or might not be digital. (I had an analog Kodak thermometer until I broke it -- whatever was inside stank of petrochemicals.)
Second, I agree with gordrob that the Kodak E6 kit is the way to go. I've tried two third-party 3-bath kits (from Paterson and Unicolor [the latter is the same as the Freestyle product]), and I've found the 3-bath kits to be less reliable than the 6-bath. Kodak's 6-bath chemicals keep for a long time -- I used mine for about two years before they went bad. In the US, the 3-bath kits cost more per roll, and require re-using the chemicals to get their lowest cost. Thus, consistency with the Kodak kit is likely to be better. The main downside to the Kodak kit is that it takes more effort, since there are more baths to mix and use.
I too use the Kodak E-6 kit with excellent results. In addition to the above good advice, I will opine that there is little economy in doing E-6 yourself. There are small cost savings, but not enough savings, in my opinion, to drive the decision. I do E-6 for the fun of it, and yes that is a sad commentary on my idea of fun :-)
When you say that the cost savings is small, is that because you are factoring in the startup costs somehow? The chemical cost itself is much cheaper than commercial processing around here; you can easily run 30 rolls through a 5 liter kit (40 if you're careful), or about $2 a roll.
Originally Posted by Nigel
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The cost savings of at-home E6 are huge. I have set things up to get 40 rolls out of the 5 liter kit. That's $1.50/roll vs. $12 at the local lab. Even if I used mail order processing, it would cost a lot more than $1.50. My equipment to setup the line cost me less than $60.
The cost savings of doing your own E-6 are huge - provided you use the chemicals to exhaustion. Unfortunately, E-6 chemicals have a relatively short shelf life - working solutions are good for only about 30 days. So that means that your throughput must be high enough to use the chemicals to exhaustion within that period of time.
On the other hand, there is a value in the rapid turnaround that you get by doing it yourself that may offset the cost of wasted chemistry.
Obviously, the size of the kit is a factor - larger kits may offer greater economy, but perhaps only if it is possible to mix smaller quantities while retaining decent shelf life of chemical concentrates. Read labels carefully.
I wouldn't get excited about a digital thermometer. The E-6 process is a 100 deg F process, and the published recommendations call for fairly tight control over temperature - less than one degree of variation. The major challenge is with the first developer - variations in first developer temperature have the effect of varying film speed. What that ultimately means is that you want temperature consistency between development sessions so that you can assign a film speed and know that your transparencies will have a uniform density. I found that a dependable (consistent) dial thermometer was more that sufficient.
Temperature control is not nearly as critical in the other steps of the process. That doesn't mean that you can go form 100 deg F to freezing, but you really don't need to stay within a fraction of a degree. My experience was that using a fairly large water bath to temper the chemicals resulted in adequate temperature control.
I used both the Unicolor kit (similar to the Freestyle 3-solution kit) and the Kodak kit. The main difference is that the Kodak process is a six step process that supposedly provides greater stability in the transparencies (for a longer life).
I've no experience with the at all.
Does the Kodak E6 six step process allow you to use just what you need for that session. Can you use just what is needed for 1 or 2 rolls of 35mm and keep the unused safley sealed?
Kodak provides information on the inside of the box for mixing 350ml, 500ml 1L and 2L volumes. When I mix smaller volumes I put the remaining original chemicals into smaller bottles to reduce oxidation. The shelf life of the mixed solutions is not long - Kodak says 1 month in full bottles and 1 week in partially filled bottles. You should be able to process at least 20 - 36 exposure rolls or 10 - 12 sq ft of sheet film from the 5L kit.
Talking about 6 bats and 3 baths kits. My normal supplier ( fotoimpex.de) only got TT kits i 6 bath... wonder if that can compit with kodak or where at mainland europa I can get kodak's kit.