DIY E-6 Developing no longer economical?
Years ago, I developed my own slides on occasion, but that was always because I had an overnight deadline and couldn't wait for the lab to get it done. So I wasn't concerned as much with economy -- I was concerned more with turn-around time.
It appears that now the time factor would be the only reason one would want to DIY E-6 processing. Kodak has discontinued their kit, which was economical, and the Tetenal kit, which also appears to be economical, is apparently not available in the US. So, as far as I can determine, that leaves Freestyle's Arista. And at the way it's priced, unless I buy a gallon of the stuff, the economy just isn't there.
And with as expensive as shooting slides has become -- $15 to $20 per roll, including developing -- I wouldn't mind figuring out a way to reduce prices somewhat.
According to the Arista data sheet, 1 pint will develop 2 rolls of 35mm, and a quart will develop 4 rolls. I can have two rolls of 35mm E-6 processed same day at a local pro lab, unmounted, for less than the cost of the Arista 1 pint kit, and mounted for about the same price as the kit. But with the kit I have to add in shipping. For the 1 quart kit, it's about break-even with the pro lab, when shipping is factored in.
From what I've read, the Arista doesn't keep that long once it's been opened, so if I were to buy a gallon, I'd better have a stockpile of slide film to develop, or else be planning on shooting a bunch of rolls pretty soon thereafter. Right? Or does it keep for a while?
Also, the Arista data sheet starts getting rather vague when it discusses extending the use of its developer. It does state that it doesn't recommend more rolls (or sheets) than what is stated, but it goes on to say that the person doing the developing must be the final arbiter. Okay, fine, so for you who have used Arista and stretched it some, how well does it handle this? I mean, if I could develop, say, four rolls of 35mm or 120 during the same session with the 1 pint kit, then that would represent good economy to me. But since they state that the 1 quart kit should be used for four rolls, I wonder if it's even remotely possible to extend things without losing image quality?
Any feedback you'd care to provide regarding your experiences developing your own E-6 and extending the chemicals would be appreciated.
I use an Ornano (CPAC) E6 6-bath kit but imagine that the cost must be in the same order of magnitude for any comparable product.
The kit for 5L of final solution costs me around €70,00 + €10,00 shipping. I use it at one-shot dilution.
If you use a Jobo 1520 drum you develop 2 135/36 rolls with 250 ml of final solution if using a rotary processor. That would give you 40 135/35 rolls with the 5L kit in case you only use each one-shot bath only one time. But it is possible to use the baths a second time, with fine results, provided you do the second processing fast (I do it the day after the first processing). That makes 80 135/35 rolls per kit. Only nuisance is adding a wash between bleach and fix during the first processing.
I read people on the internet uses one-shot baths for more than two times, without being able to observe decay in quality. I suppose some decay in quality must be there, although hard to spot, and the additional saving is probably not worth the risk. So I would stick with 2 processes which certainly give you professional quality results.
That makes around €1,00 per roll, and no compromise on quality. (If you really are paranoid about quality, and use one-shot solutions only once, it's €2,00 per roll, still a bargain).
As far as preservation is concerned, if you avoid extreme temperatures (you keep your chemistry in a fresh place during summer, and not below 13 °C during winter) and use some Protectan you should certainly be able to use your chemistry for one year without any risk. Somebody on this forum reported good use of two-years old opened chemistry without particular precautions.
If you shoot let's say more than 50 rolls per year, DIY is very cheap and the quality is probably better than at the laboratory. By using one-shot solutions you always use freshly prepared chemistry, and have very repeatable results. You also breath much less chemistry, I would add.
I don't know about the prices of Arista kits. Maybe you can find 5L Fuji kits in the US, or CPAC kits, or maybe you can buy a 10L Kodak kit and split it with somebody else.
If you plan developing often, tanks which use little chemistry and a rotary processor are a good investment, you buy them once and you go on saving chemistry forever.
PS One can save further by partially reutilising baths that are less subject to oxidation or other decay, and buying back not the entire kit but only the single chemistries that you need.
PPS As the Ornano E6 6-bath kit has exactly the same chemicals in the minilab versions (with starters, replenishers etc. in addition to the basic chemistry) as in the DIY kit (which comprises only the basic chemistry, but identical to the one of the minilab version) I do strongly suspect that, when using one-shot dilution, you can use the basic chemistry of any kit, ignoring the fact that the producer also has starters and replenishers in their catalogue.
Last edited by Diapositivo; 02-01-2011 at 03:43 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I've found the Arista kits, C-41 and E-6 (1-gallon) to be capable of many more rolls than they state. I think my last calculation was that I was spending less than $1 a roll to develop, vs $8 at the local pro lab. So, even if I only got 1/4 of the capacity out of the kit it would be half as expensive as the local lab. I try to do my rolls in batches (save them up and no one but me is waiting...) and I also found that I had to ignore the additional time suggestion in the instruction sheet. It adds way too much time per additional roll. My advice is to shoot some test strips to run after every x number of rolls (5? 10?) and adjust times or toss Chems based on comparisons between the strips.
I shot a whole roll of the same shot (a page from a design book with a color wheel) and clipped the undeveloped film into 1 - 2 inch chunks and stored them in a black film canister. After I mix up a fresh batch of chems I develop one of those first to get a baseline, then develop another before the eleventh roll and compare the two. Repeat as often as you are brave and/or cheap. (I'm WAY cheap, so I go and go and go...)
Thanks for the feedback, guys. Pandabob, since you buy Arista E-6 in the gallon size, what have you found the shelf life to be, and what, if anything, do you do to preserve/extend its shelf life? Accordion bottles, refrigeration, or?
And just to double-check, it sounds to me as if I wanted to start off small with the 1-pint kit, that I probably could get away with doing four rolls instead of two without sacrificing quality? Maybe I should do a snip test after the first two rolls?
Last edited by cooltouch; 02-03-2011 at 10:35 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Do you know of any webshops who sell this kit, and who will ship this in Europe (to Norway)? I've heard about the Kodak, Fuji, Tetenal and Aristo kits, but never Ornano. I would be fun to try it out.
Originally Posted by Diapositivo
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I bought my kit around one year ago from an Italian eBay shop, eBay name is westernphotonline. I just went to their site to see if they send abroad, no mention is made.
I see that at the moment they don't have any E6 kit on their shop window, but if you ask, they might find it (it happened to me twice that I asked for something that was not listed on eBay, and they told they were going to stock it in three days).
This kind of stuff is probably very expensive to be sent by courier from Northern Italy to Norway, but nobody ever died for having asked a question, maybe they do ship and maybe it is not overly expensive.
My suggestion is to look on the internet for a Norwegian, or Scandinavian distributor of CPAC products (Ornano belongs to the US CPAC group). You could ask for the nearest seller at CPAC imaging in the US or at Chimifoto Ornano in Italy.
In Italy, Chimifoto Ornano also sells and ships directly to customers for orders of at least €60,00, shipping expenses to be paid by customer. I don't know if they ship abroad.
They have an info request form in their English site:
If they cannot send you the goods, I suppose they can indicate who sells them nearer you.
The E-6 kit costs just a little above €60,00 so that is above the threshold.
You could also ask CPAC Imaging http://www.cpacimaging.com/ maybe shipping expenses are cheaper from the US than from Italy.
Hope this helps
I see in CPAC Imaging group that CPAC Europe is based in Belgium. The site gives the e-mail address for information of the Belgian unit as well, besides the US and the Italian unit.
I thought about doing my own E6, but I'd have to buy some sort of system to keep the temps constant (and getting something that would automate it, like a Jobo CP2, would cost hundreds of dollars) and then I'd have the recurring costs of the chemicals. I shot E6 because I love the quality, so I wouldn't want to use anything less than the full process, none of those 3 bath kits are what I really like. I did the math and even factoring in shipping in 4-8 rolls at a clip, it's still cheaper for me to send it to Samy's for $5/roll dip and dunk. Plus no charge for pushing/pulling!
I've used an Arista E-6 kit and a C-41 kit and my most impactful comment that I can make is that if you're doing a lot at once (like I tend to do... batch em up...) then the times they state for adding development time for each additional roll is WAY too much. I noticed this more with the C-41 kit where negatives with a tinted base are already dense... they were coming out way too dense. I can't scan them for crap on my cheap flatbed scanner. When I did clip tests with the "old" chems (still talking C-41 here) I found that a test strip from a fresh batch compared to a strip from a batch after 15 rolls with just 1 additional minute was that the strip from the old chem was over developed. In other words, I should have stuck with the time prescribed for the first roll in a fresh batch.
DISCLAIMER - I have not tested these for color accuracy.
So, with that in mind I've stopped adding time at all. I have a bunch of rolls in cans ready to be devved this week (E-6) so I will post again later this week with my latest findings. I've been mixing the kit up 1 liter at a time and this is the 4th and final liter. I've run about 6 rolls through it and it was mixed up about 2 months ago, I think. I bought the kit back in spring of last year. So it's not a year old yet.