A Primer for Choosing a C41 Home Process
There is quite a lot of information in the forum about the pros and cons of using various types of chemistry for processing C41, as well as the difficulties of buying certain types of chemistry. I know that most of what follows is re-hash, but I am hoping to create a thread that compiles a snapshot of whats available now, in 2010, and what is recommended. Please add pros and cons for any of the options below, and correct any false or misleading information I have written. If you are a beginner, please note that I am a beginner, too, and the information I have included is not to be taken as fact. Please, please, please follow the links to read what other, more experienced users have written. Also, I recommend reading the threads that the linked posts are contained in.
So, here is a list of what I can determine is available right now, and a quick pro/con list:
1) Unicolor press kit (this information may apply to other "press" kits that use blix instead of separate bleach and fixing steps)
This is a kit of powders that is mixed into 1 liter working solutions and has an advertised capacity of 8-10 rolls. The instructions has a chart for using different temperatures at various times, using a rotary system, and 102 F for agitation.
- Cheap overall price
- Available in small volume
- Will last indefinitely until mixed
- All the chemistry can be shipped via regular mail (This goes for the United States, not sure about any other country)
- Comes with straightforward instructions, if you have developed b+w, you have all the tools and skills necessary to use this (this is true of unicolor kit, which has excellent instructions, not sure about any others)
- A good jump-in-and-get-started method for beginners
- Inconsistent results
- Only available in small volume
- Color may not be accurate
- May require wildly different times than the ones listed in the instructions
- Blix is a non-optimal solution, there is broad consensus that separate bleach and fixer steps yield better results using several measures
- Once mixed, degrades very rapidly
- When using inversion tanks, blix tends to spurt out unless tank is depressurised after every inversion cycle
- May not be archival, color-fastness has been questioned (is there broad consensus on this, or just speculation?)
- Not a method for ensuring quality
2) Arista Kit
This is a kit that comes in 1 gallon and a 1 quart versions. It is a blix based kit. The pros and cons are the same as the powder based kits listed above. The only extra pro is the larger available quantity.
3) Digibase Kit
This is a kit of liquid concentrates that is a repackaging of Fuji chemistry. The kit comes in 3 sizes: a 500ml kit that will process 10-12 rolls, a 1 liter kit to process 20-24 rolls and a kit of unknown volume that will process 40-? rolls.
- Can be shipped within U.S. via ground mail for reasonable rates
- Concentrates should have long shelf life, although this has not been verified, AFIK
- Repackaging of well-known commercial chemistry
- Users of APUG report good results, if used at standard temperature of 100 F
- Kits may have greater capacity than advertised, so per-roll cost might be less (do at own risk). See here and here.
- Instructions leave out wash steps that many APUG users feel are necessary, so any users are warned to customize the process
- One member of APUG has reservations about buying any products from this company. See here and here.
- Some users experienced leaking bottles upon receiving the kits. See here, here, here, and here.
- Good Information:
- The "main" thread that discusses this kit has a few great posts including this one, that answers a few questions about C41, in general. Also, these two posts have a good breakdown of one user's experience with this kit.
4) Kodak Kit from Photographers Foundry
This is repackaged Kodak chemistry sold in a 1 liter kit. It should yield about 10 rolls (If I am reading the thread correctly) if the process outlined by Photo Engineer is followed. Read these three posts for more information.
- Photo Engineer endorsement.
- This is the real deal, and should produce consistent results. To be more precise, the user of this chemistry will have the _chemistry_ necessary to get the same results as what is available from a pro photo lab (results depend on more than the chemistry, however).
- You have to understand the Kodak process somewhat, or so it seems. From my reading, this is not a jump in and go sort of kit, if you want to process enough rolls to justify its cost.
- Cost is a bit of a concern, as it is more costly that the other kits, and does fewer rolls. It is worth stating that the conservative user would probably run fewer rolls through the above (#1, #2, #3) chemistry and the more adventurous user could stretch the Kodak chems out. That is just my guess, but I think that this option is still the most expensive per roll of all the options here.
5) Bulk chemistry by Kodak
- The real deal
- Cost per roll, if a user's volume is high enough, is the best of all these options
- Process is confusing, and even figuring out what to buy is a huge obstacle for beginners
- You need to have the space to store the stuff
- Hard to find someone to sell it to you, and customer service at the places it is available is reportedly lacking
- It is packaged for mini-lab use and adjustments have to be made for small tank/home use.
- Kodak is no longer interested in supporting the home user of these chems in the same way they do with monochrome processing, so a user will have to go to the forums for help, and this _might_ be a challenge, depending on the question being asked and what the user's expectations are.
- Initial cost is very high compared to other methods, so a new user must be very committed to shooting C41 film before diving in.
6) Trebla Filmpac kit
I have found little information about this kit, but it seems like a good option. This post indicates that it will safely process 112 rolls of film and at the current costs (including haz mat shipping charges) comes in at less than a dollar per roll. I would love to hear any other opinions about this kit.
Error, should be Photographers' Formulary, not Photographers Foundry.
Bill. this sounds like a very good summary of the kits with the links needed to enable each member to decide on the weight to give to members' comments.
Many thanks for taking this kind of time and trouble to do a synopsis. It may not be applicable in the U.S. but Fuji-Hunt do a kit as well which several U.K. retailers sell.
The Fuji-hunt kit is a good starting point. However, as I've become more familiar with C-41 processing in the Jobo I have come to realise that a "makes equal volume" kit may not always be the best option, as C-41 developer has relatively low capacity per litre compared to higher capacity for bleach and fix solutions. Therefore I'll probably investigate the Kodak Flexicolor line next time I need to restock. Fujihunt also supplies a range of individual developer, bleach, fix etc. packings.
Good summary! Some comments:
1. The developer does have a lower capacity than the rest of the process solutions. This is especially true if you use a prewet. IMO, use of a prewet virtually insures that the developer is virtually one-shot due to the added dilution unless you work out a time chart / rolls developed. But, one is already available for used developer anyhow on the Kodak site. So, for the brave using prewets you can either do it one-shot or increase time / roll in a manner to fix dilution. I use one-shot myself. Why take a chance. All things considered I get better quality at lower cost than any pro lab.
2. Blixes only affect image stability if the Blix does not fix properly! It affects image quality (sharpness, color and grain) if the bleach portion does not work properly. The same is true though of a Bleach then Fix sequence.
3. Make sure the kit has a Stabilizer or Final Rinse.
Best wishes to all.
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Good job. I have been looking at this for a while, and was following the other thread about keenly. I'm just about to jump on it in a big (for me) way, and I want to get it right without too much head banging. I don't mind a little head banging, since that seems to be how you get things into my thick skull. But there's no reason to over-do it.
I am curious about the Fuji kit's availability in the U.S.A. I will ask Freestyle about it the next time I am in there.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
On this one point I disagree.
Originally Posted by thelawoffives
The C-41 process is IMO easier than B&W because it's standard across all C-41 films.
I do agree that better documentation is needed.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
Kodak chemistry allows you to process one shot due to low cost. I use my developer one shot, fix one or two shot, and bleach 2 or 3 shot. The main issue with kodak chemistry is lack of a low volume, affordable bleach. The developer+starter gives you enough to process a lot of rolls, as long as you can look up complicated mixing instructions or store a large volume of mixed developer.
Please do, and let us know. I stopped at the local Walgreens a few days ago, and the manager did confirm to me that they use Fuji chemicals in their Fuji C-41 processor, but there's no way for him to order extra chemicals for me. The kits are not in the stock system with a for sale SKU, so the accounting would get hosed if he did it. He can only buy the chemicals, not ring them up at the cash register.
Originally Posted by 2F/2F
Since I don't really know the guy, I didn't bother to press it. He seemed honest about it, and he has helped me out with other unrelated requests in the past. So it probably would really put him in a bind to explain the missing chemicals.
I'm suspecting this is going to be the same story with any "corporate" chain which still has a C-41 machine in a store.
I only know one commercial lab left in the county, and I may ask him. But his location isn't very convenient for me.