Getting started with colour
I'm no stranger to the darkroom, and I frequently process B&W films and make B&W prints. When I need colour, I tend to send my film to a lab, or shoot digital.
I'd like to have the capability to process colour materials in my home darkroom, but I'm not exactly sure where to start with equipment.
I know that C-41 has to processed at a higher temperature and probably with some kind of temperature-controlled water bath. Can anyone suggest some entry-level models that I might try researching? I'll need to be able to handle 35mm and 6x6, 6x7 and 6x9 on 120.
Does anyone here use a "passive" warm water bath - i.e. just some hot water in a bowl? How does this work out for you?
I may ultimately decide that the cost and complexity of doing colour at home doesn't pay off for me, and I may continue to use a lab for this work, but any pointers on getting started will be much appreciated.
Have a very long reading session in this form, all you Never wanted to know about colour processing is here. Enjoy
I ran c-41 for the first time yesterday on a roll of 120 slide film (purposely cross processed it). I found it rather simple. I used the Rollei Digibase kit. Kept it all at 100 degrees fahrenheit by adjusting the water temp in my sink and taking frequent temp checks (I believe this would be a passive set up as you describe). The pictures came out magnificent! You can do it, it was rather fun mixing all the chemistry up and using new chemicals and times/temps instead of my standard b/w routine (not that I don't like b/w, I mean doing a new process kept me on my toes in a good way - was really rewarding). It sure was fun and I believe my eventual cost will be something like $2 a roll of MF/35mm. Ultimately I found keeping temp rather easy by filling up my sink with hot water, then when temp was reached maintaining it. If you are used to b/w processing, which you say is an old hat, then I would recommend the Rollei kit to anyone. I also used a Patterson tank and it worked lime a charm. One reason I love the Rollei kit was it has a bleach and fix as two separate processing steps as opposed to one step with blix (bleach + fix). This was important to me so I could play around with negative film skip bleach processing. I say take the plunge to c-41. Regardless, I wish you the best in whichever way you go.
Oh one note, I mix up 500ml of working solution (dev, bleach, fix, stabilizer) and keep it in 750 ml mineral water bottles (San Pellegrino). That way the heavy glass bottles can sit in my sink and not tip when heating to 100f. When I'm all done I use a wine bottle vacuum sealer to cap them. It was $10 US and worked quite well and I expect it will allow the working solutions to last a while.
Thanks for your tips. The Rollei kit looks extremely useful and I will probably get one as they are not too expensive.
I'll give it a go with a "passive" water bath and see how I get on. Perhaps a polystyrene tray will stop the water from cooling down too much.
Out of interest, can anyone recommend a temperature-controlled water bath? I looked on eBay but most of them are tagged only by the product name, not with useful words like "water bath". The only model I've found is a Jobo CPE2, and these are quite expensive for someone who is not sure if they want to dive in yet. What kind of baths are other people using?
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Thanks. I already have a colour enlarger so it's just a case of reading up on the chemistry and papers. My usual sources for buying B&W materials don't stock colour chemistry or papers, so I'm going to have to look around a bit. Any suggestions?
Originally Posted by perkeleellinen
The CPE2 and similar Jobo models have so many advantages that buying one really makes sense especially as you sound as if you have a whole range of film sizes to do.
Originally Posted by dj_judas21
It will do RA4 processing as well. If you decide that colour processing isn't for you then you will be able to sell it for what you paid except if you wait a few months then you'll get more than you paid
Seriously these things like most darkroom stuff have seriously risen in price on e-bay in the last few months or with secondhand sellers like Secondhand Darkroom Supplies or Nova Darkroom.
If you have the money then get one. There is no case for delay the way prices are going.
Some folks merely use hot water in the sink as a water bath. I use a small Igloo Playmate (a hard plastic cooler) for my water bath.
The only serious issue I've had with color chemistry is its getting old and dying on me. Almost like clockwork, the developer dies six weeks after being mixed up. I've tried Delta Datatainer plastic bottles, plastic water bottles, and plastic soda bottles, all kept at room temperature (I haven't tried refrigerating the mixed chemicals yet), and it still happens.
I guess I should just shoot more C-41 film and develop it all within a short period of time then! I've started using Rollei Digibase chemistry lately, instead of the Unicolor blix kits, and love it. For maximum economy I invested in the highest capacity Digibase kit Freestyle Photo sells, and I can mix up only as much as I need, until the bleach and fix exhaust or until the developer dies or exhausts.
"Embrace the negative with absolution, your final positive reward." --IQ, "The Province," Frequency
For C-41 "passive" solution can work especially during summer (when there is less difference between ambient temperature and bath temperature which is 38 °C, or °37.8 depending on who you ask).
The only temperature-critical bath is the first, developer, both for C-41 and E-6. For the subsequent baths 33 °C - 39 °C is fine. Developer in C-41 lasts only for 3:15 (standard time for first treatment) so it's possible to use a "passive" method if you use a plastic tank which you preheat accurately. With E-6 it's not the same, my standard time for first developer is 7:30, an "active" solution works certainly better.
You can search APUG for "fish tank heater", you'll find solutions. They are good for the "other" baths. They need a "modification" for the first bath as they will not arrive to 38 °C, you have to break the temperature limiter.
You can find cheap Jobo machines that only keep chemicals in temperature. An example:
You can get one of those above for 40 or so plus shipping. I think it would be ideal for you.
The step forward would be rotating processors. CPP-2 are probably the best. CPA-2, CPE-2 are also relatively recent. Some older Jobo models are also available on auction sites. Highly recommended for colour work.
Somebody recommends DIY, you'll find some solutions faintly sketched.
Another ready-made solution is a common food-warmer (better if one of those which can be filled with water) but they tend to cost more than the Jobo above.