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  1. #1

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    BEST way to develop C-41?

    Hopefully this won't start a war; I'm sure there are as many opinions on this as there are methods, but I have some specific talking points.

    Recently I've had some C-41 stuff done at several local labs, one being a very long established "Pro" lab, down to the local camera shop. To the best of my knowledge, they are all using Noritsu processors.

    It seems all of the film (Portra and Ektar) I have had done on the minilabs has come back with too much contrast, pronounced grain, and heavy color casts in the base. Some to the point where I feel they are unusable, even the prints I've had them make (compared to me scanning negs). Not to mention the negs have always come back horribly scratched.

    I have also done a few on my Jobo, with the Jobo 3 bath kit. I find the grain, contrast, and base to be much more under control, but still I'm not sure if I am leaving something on the table. Of course scratching and dust is a complete non issue.

    I'm thinking this all may have to do with developing speed and agitation? The only thing I haven't tried is traditional small tank developing. I'm wondering if the gentler agitation will give me finer grain and smoother tones, or would small tank with a 3 bath kit be about the same in a Jobo CPP2 or small tank?

  2. #2
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    Three bath kits tend to give too much contrast and grain! This is due to silver retention.

    I use:

    Prewet, 1' to 2' at 100F Several changes of water (2 - 4)
    Develop as recommended
    Bleach
    wash
    Fix
    Wash
    Stabilizer / final rinse

    Details (times and temps) posted in other longish threads on this very subject.

    PE

  3. #3
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    minilab machines don't include wash steps. This is crucial if you want archival negatives!

    They also run their developers at a higher temperature, in order to "push" more film through the system(faster turnaround). "Push" doesn't mean an alteration in development(say, if it was underexposed a stop), but because of the "1hr minilab" mentality, they need a faster process than the "standard" c-41 that pro labs run.

    I know many pros that used to shoot headshots for extra cash before they got "big", and they took all their film to the local minilabs to get processed w/ proof prints(which were actually really good back in the optical-print machine days, those agfa machines were nice, agfa color paper was great too) Their stuff has held up fine. Not that they intended it too, but nonetheless. Now though, with 99% of people shooting digitally, film processing machines aren't getting used as much as they used to(by a BIG margin, for example: a friend of mine who owned a minilab(sold it in 2005 after 20years of ownership) said that he was running close to 1000 rolls of 35mm, 120 and 220 film through 3 processors in his shop. 3 printers, checking and color-correcting EACH FRAME. He was about quality, 1st and foremost. He made HUGE amounts of money off of simply processing film and making great prints! He had professional wedding people coming to him, cause he did a better, cleaner job on their film than pro labs they went to.

    Minilab machines aren't bad, but if you want archival negs, and less pronounced grain, use the Digibase chems from Freestyle. They're really good quality, and can deliver great results. OR, use a really good lab that has lots of film running through it, use the search function here to find threads talking about it.

    -Dan

  4. #4
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    OMHO, "best" is a toss up between careful and well-controlled home development in small tanks and dip-n-dunk processing at a busy and well-managed pro lab. And best also means the proper, unabridged C-41 process, with developer, bleach, wash, fixer, wash, and final rinse (formerly stabilizer).

    I use minilabs for snap shots or camera tests. I process at home when I find the time. I take stuff to a pro lab if I need to have it done quickly, if I have a large batch of film that I want done all at once, or if someone else it paying for it.
    2F/2F

    "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)

  5. #5

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    This is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for. Thank you all for actually reading my post and giving me very specific answers to my questions.

    I agree, minilabs were far better 20 years ago than they are now. Most of the stuff I've had done lately is worse than what I got at the grocery store processor 20 years ago! (although at the time, that was probably Kodak).

    So the Freestyle chems are really worth it over the 3 bath kits. Sounds great, I'll add that to the list. This board rocks!

  6. #6

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    One more quick wrench in the works before I go to bed for the night... does anyone have development times for the Digibase kit in a rotary processor? From what I can see in the instructions, it only lists small tank.

  7. #7
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    I don't know, except to say that when I hand roll my 4x5 in a Jobo Expert Drum using Kodak chemicals, I use the same times that I use for small tanks with hand agitation.

    Digibase is expensive. It costs a lot even if you reuse it. Do one shot rotary processing with it, and you might as well just send your film to a pro lab for dip-n-dunk processing. It may even be cheaper than doing it one shot with the Digibase chemicals.

    I was happy when they announced the kit, as Kodak discontinued their convenient one gallon kit (120 rolls for $75 at the time it was discontinued). But when Digibase came out, I did the math. IMO, at that price, there is not a lot of reason to use that product. Use it one shot (which you should do with rotary processing) and it is 4 to 5 times worse in terms of value.
    2F/2F

    "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)

  8. #8
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    Yeah, Time = Time = Time.

    PE

  9. #9

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    Agreed re: value (or lack thereof) of the digibase kit. I use the regular kodak chemistry, it's much more economical, though you need to buy it in larger quantities ( enough to make 5Gal usually.)

  10. #10

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    Thanks PE! It's great having an asset like you on this forum. If you wouldn't mind answering, why then does my Jobo 3 bath kit list (slightly) different times for rotary vs small tank? Also I was always told that -15% on times for B&W in a drum vs small tank. Is there a reason that does not apply to color? I'm no chemist by far but I can read the heck out of some instructions If you say it is, I'm not going to argue!

    EdSawyer; I'm pretty sure that no so long ago Freestyle was selling that kit in a 1gal or 1L configuration. I think they were just repacking the Kodak 5gal kits. Doesn't appear they still sell them or that's probably what I would be using.

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