Planning to get film processing equipment, would like some advice.
So I'm planning to buy the equipment needed to process my own films, and spend some winter evenings developing. I'll most likely get the Arista premium processing kit from Freestyle. I'll probably go for XTOL as my main developer, since I've been told it's relatively benign both to me and the environment. I'll want to try C-41 as well, and will probably start with the Unicolor powder kit. I looked at the Digibase kit from Macodirect, but I was worried about too little stabilizer included in the kit.
(The Arista liqiuid C-41 kit is not available to me, since I don't live in the US. The Tetenal kit from Macodirect is an alternative.)
I'm wondering what to do about water. The stuff on tap is unfiltered well water, and apparently somewhat hard water. Should I get one of those filter jugs and filter water that way? Would that be adequate? The alternative is bottled water. I suspect there's enough crud in the tap water to make permanent spots on the film.
Do I need hypo clearing agent?
Because of my poor well water I use distilled water for mixing chemicals and for the final film rinse (with Kodak PhotoFlo to reduce beading of the water). Filtering would remove some particles from the water, but not dissolved chemicals. A hypo clearing agent reduces wash efficiency and time, and is worth while.
As Jim said, if your water is really hard you should use distilled water for mixing chemicals and final rinse. The minerals will leave deposits on your film, and a filter only removes particles, not dissolved minerals. One of the easiest developers to use (IMHO) is Ilfosol III. It is a liquid, and you mix just what you will use and discard this mix after use. After that you need a fixer - for film I use one with a hardener. And then a hypo clearing agent and a PhotoFlo.
I would wait until you get some experience with B&W before trying color. Color is much more critical of time and temperature than B&W. Then, of course, you will need and enlarger, print washer, etc. to get the most out of your efforts.
Let us see your first films, and good luck.
Thanks for your advice. I don't know if I can get hold of distilled water, but soft bottled water is affordable. I've done some B&W before in a photo club, but not on my own equipment. Now that I've moved away, it's rather a hassle to get to the club darkroom, so I figured it was more efficient to show up with developed negatives and spend my limited time there printing.
Is it ok to use tap water for washing and then bottled water for final rinse, or should I use bottled water for everything?
I had overlooked that XTOL is only available in 5 liter sets, which is inconvenient, so maybe I'll go for liquid developer after all.
Filtered water will suffice if you don't have ready access to distilled. For final rinse, use a rinse aid mixed with distilled water and a capful of 90% isopropyl alcohol, it will dry film faster and leave no streaks or spots, also lessens the chance to pick up dust.
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It all depends on how many films you intend to develop and over what period. I mix 5 litres and then pour into two 3L wine bags having drunk the wine, cleaned the bags and kept the cardboard boxes in which the bags are kept
Originally Posted by Arctic amateur
I have kept the Xtol in a usable condition for a year now. If used as stock that's only 20 x 35mm films in a year or 40 if diluted 1+1.
Even if your use will be less than these numbers of films Xtol is relatively cheap and can be thrown away.
Worth thinking about in my opinion and maybe not as inconvenient as it first appears
Thank you for your advice, everybody. I've ordered a Paterson tank and TMAX developer & fixer and various supplies. I also decided to get the Tetenal 1l C-41 kit while I was squandering my money, will be fun to try.
Xtol is sensitive to dissolved iron, so it's best mixed up from soft bottled drinking water - I use the 5L or 10L bag-in-box things and keep the Xtol in the bag once mixed up, which protects it from oxidation. It will keep for about a year like that. If you're shooting 135 and developing in inversion tanks, you'll use about 150mL of Xtol per film, so there's about 30 rolls of developer in a pack of Xtol.
Colour is harder because you need some temperature control at 38C, but certainly not impossible. My experience with C41 is that you can be pretty loose on the temperature and time and still get basically perfect results; it just changes the contrast. You have to make a major error (e.g. wrong pH due to incorrect mixing) to get bad colour, i.e. crossover.
PS if you're just starting out with development, you'd probably benefit from a flick through the FAQ in my signature.
I finally got around to testing my equipment with two old KB100 films that had been through a Lomo Spinner camera. I used TMAX developer and fixer. I had trouble regulating the temperature, and I suspect the developer was a degree too warm. I have ordered a better (analog) thermometer, the digital one I used was slow and couldn't make up its mind.
One thing I noticed was that the black leader was very dense, noticeably more so than when I developed the same film in XTOL at my old photo club. I'm not sure if this is due to overdevelopment this time, or if I previously underdeveloped the film. I used a two-bath fix as recommended by Ian C, but no hypo clear. Is HC needed with rapid fix?
I'm with the earlier posters who advised distilled or filtered water, at least for the final rinse. Before I switched to filtered my negatives were routinely emerging covered in crud. I used a film squeegee for a while which greatly improved things but increased the risk of scratches on the still soft emulsion. Filtered water completely cured the problem of dirty negatives. If using Photo Flo or similar in the final rinse, I'd use half the recommended dilution. You might also want to pick up a small bottle of Rodinal developer. It keeps for ages - years in fact - and gives lovely negs when used at a very economical 1+50.