Cheapest and easiest way to do home E6?
I have been thinking that it would be kinda cool to do my own E6 processing...(well, one day at least).
I know, compared to B&W, its not quite all beer and skittles. A lot more care is needed. I know that there are a few kits out there that do the job, but this is not about chemicals. Its about hardware.
From my research, the most difficult thing is temperature. I know from my own personal experience, keeping the chems within 1/4 of a degree at 20C is not too hard.....but doing the same at 38, well, I haven't found that magic bullet yet.
I know I could get a processor, but even then a second hand jobo that would do the job still asks for decent money.
There has to be cheaper DYI methods, surely. Who has rigged up something on the cheap that works reasonably well? What have you used?
You can use ordinary inversion tanks with a water jacket. Picnic coolers work well.
How critical is it to keep it within that 3rd of a degree?
Relatively, but it's nowhere near as difficult as you'd think, just a bowl of water, I used to use a kettle to tweak it but it's simple.
It mostly affects the final density of the film, due to the first developer activity, which is the first chemical to contact the film. A short interval later is the color Dev, which is also temp sensitive, but not quite as so. It is not really as critical as the spec says, to keep things at 1/3 of a degree, but try your best. I have had success with pour in temp to pour out temp being within 1/2 a degree by holding the tank almost submerged in the water bath between agitations. The initial temperature I thus start with a tiny bit above 100F.
I now have a wing lynch automated processor, but I started out with a 2 reel stainless steel clone of a Nikkor tank. I had a picnic cooler filled with water that the chemicals would temper in, and where I would hold the film tank a few minutes before the first chem to warm the tank and reels up, and where I would hold it between agitations.
I started with slow running water stream of water at the desired temp flowing into the cooler to keep the tank and chems warm, but moved on to a modified fish tank heater with a mechanical thermostat wound past its normal high set point to give me the 100F that I want. I later added an aquarium pump to speed the rate at which heat diffuses though the cooler, and chem bottles sitting in it.
I started out with plastic bottles for other than developers, but switched to all glass 1L Boston round bottles that have their necks and caps poke just above the water surface, so that they can be uncapped and a thermometer dipped in to see how they are doing getting up to temp.
I still use this rig to process C-41, and put the chem bottles in the cooler, fill it with water, add the heater and pump, put lid on the cooler, and go to work for the day. When I come home at night, everything is at the right temp, and ready to go.
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I use the same Nikkor stainless steel tank and reels I use for B&W processing. You need only an accurate color thermometer.
I use a dishpan water bath to set the temperature of the solutions. Place all the 1-liter solution bottles in the dishpan and fill the pan with very hot tap water to start the tempering process. Only the first and color developer require careful attention to temperature. I fill the dishpan with water ~130F and then as it slowly cools, the temperature stabilizes for ten minutes or so at around 100F. The bath takes about 20 minutes to cool to 100F, sometimes needing an added fill of hot water to reach stable temperature conditions. I start processing when the temperature reaches 101F as measured with a Kodak color thermometer placed into the developer bottle and the surrounding bath is also at the same temperature.
I load the film reels, place them into the tank,and then fill the developing tank with first developer. I have not noticed any advantage to pre-wetting the film with tempered water so I just fill the room temperature tank with developer and then hold it in the water bath in between agitation cycles. I agitate with the usual 3 inversions and twists during each 30 seconds of processing. During the short developing time the temperature in the bath cools by less than 1 degree.
After development is complete I return the first developer into its 1-liter storage bottle and fill the tank with 1st stop. At this time I add some hot water to the bath to put the temperature up a few degrees in order to repeat the above tempering procedure for color developer.
Following a minute or two in the first stop bath, I open the developing tank and complete processing in the sink. I return the stop bath to its storage bottle, and now working in the sink I flush the tank of first stop bath with warm water at about 100F and then follow with a reversal exposure that is made by removing the reels from the wash water and holding them near an outdoor flood light for about a minute on each side of the reel. The 150W outdoor light is mounted directly over my processing sink in a weather-resistant socket. I don't use chemical reversal. After reversal exposure I bleach by filling the tank while it sits in the sink and use a lifting rod to periodically agitate the reels. The bleach is at the nominal 100F as it is removed from the water bath. Precise temperature control is not needed for other than the two developers. I bleach for the proper time with confirmation of the bleaching action by inspection of the film that is in the reel. If the bleaching appears to take longer than half the specified time, then the solution is near exhaustion and should be discarded.
After developing, stopping, rinsing, reversing, bleaching, and rinsing, I fill the tank with second (color) developer at 100F, again working in the sink and using the lifting rod for agitation. The second developer processing is started when that solution reaches 101F in its storage bottle. I usually hold the filled but open tank in the water bath in between agitations to maintain its temperature. When color development completes I return that solution to its 1-liter storage bottle and fill the tank with second stop (don't interchange the two stop bath solutions), followed by another rinse in warm water. That's the end of temperature controlled processing, as the fix can also be done in the sink once again with verification by inspection. Complete processing with a warm water wash and the stabilizer bath, sponge off the film and hang to dry.
Once you have the routine down, E-6 is as easy as C-41 and no special equipment is needed, only more time. It takes about 45-60 minutes to process depending on how long you rinse and how much time you take for reversal exposures. Only the first developer and first stop bath steps must be performed in the dark. I much prefer separate bleach and fix baths to ensure that processing is completed properly. I use scratch-mix chemistry (see the thread on alternative E-6 processing), and I use the bleach and fix to exhaustion as indicated by observation. In this method, quality control follows from your ability to maintain consistent working procedure and proper temperature. Consistent quality results depends on your technique, instead of the performance of an automatic processor.
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Cheap and easy do not go together in this case. It is possible to do everything with water baths and simple tanks, inversion etc.. but not easy really. Get a Jobo rotary processor of some sort with a heated bath for temperature control- now that is easy, but not cheap. Slightly cheaper and easier option is to use an aquarium heater with a thermostat that heat, or be modified to heat, to 100 degrees (38C). Automation is your friend with E-6 processing.
I've done it in a bathroom sink, using the normal plastic tank. Really any BW tank will work. It's really easy. Just keep measuring the water temperature with a thermometer (one meant to measure fever is cheap and readily available) at the same time you agitate. Add a little hot water if the temperature drops. It's quite easy to keep the temperature on average very close to 38C/100F.
Just measure the First Developer temperature before starting. You can first use much higher temperature to get it quickly to 38C/100F, but when you start, the following conditions must be met:
1) First Developer is 38C/100F
2) Water bath is 38C/100F
3) The tank has been prewarmed in water bath (no water in the tank). Plastic tanks may require a little longer time. I've used 10 mins.
Then just agitate one turn every 15 sec. It's that easy. Of course, processing times or temperature or agitation may need a small adjustment if the slides are too bright or too dark. I've always been very happy with my results. If there is any error, it's so small that I cannot see it without side-to-side comparison. On the other hand, when I started using Jobo processor, I needed to reduce the temperature and time as the results were too bright.
Take care that the wash after First Developer is as close to 38C/100F as possible. You can put this wash water in bottles and put them in the same sink. But, for the rest of the washes, it's just easy to use water from the tap directly. The rest of the processing temperatures are not so critical either.
So, the bottom line: you really won't need anything special you wouldn't have in your household, if you have the BW equipment! The Jobo Processor is more like a "hands-free" as you don't have to agitate and measure the water temperature all the time. This manual way keeps you busy all the time for an hour or so. This is so dependent on person. Some people want the automation. Only you can decide. You can start with the manual way with no starting costs so I suggest it. Buy a Jobo if you can't live with the manual way and have many films to do.
The stabilizer/final rinse is the last stage and the film should not be washed after that. The film looks very milky but don't worry, when it's dry, it will be perfect.
It gets more difficult if you try it like I did when I had to develop four films and had two tanks that each take two films (and wanted to reuse the chemistry). I did it so that when the first tanks FD time was up, I poured the FD directly from the first tank to second one and proceeded to next step, and so on. As I had to control the times for TWO processes running at the same time, and control the temperature, and agitate two tanks, that was horrible, but it luckily worked out perfectly! But never again!
"Cheap" and "easy" would be one of the three bath off-brand kits. "Good" would be the Kodak 7-bath kit (5L for about $50).
I did it the same way I do C-41: with a sink and an in-line temperature control valve, fine tuned with a hand thermometer. It turns out fine. It saves a lot of money, especially if you are pushing and pulling (which I am usually doing with E-6, as it is one of the reasons I use transparency films). I have done C-41 without the temp control valve, but it was a hassle and a half. The negs came out fine, but manning two low-end bathroom sink knobs and hand agitating a Jobo tank on a roller base is imprecise and no fun. It is harder with E-6, because the development times are significantly longer and you only have a 1/2 F window instead of a 1 F window.
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Tetenal 3-bath works pretty well, but isn't as flexible for pull/push, I find, beyond -1 or +2. Most of my film is processed within those limits anyway, so it works for me.