C-41 Processing Options 1Q 2013
Moderator: Is this worth a "Sticky?"
A few months ago I critiqued the sticky about color neg chemical sources and was challenged to "go for it," meaning write up my own list. So, here it is, early 2013. And we all know how fast the film biz is changing, so if you read this in a year or two, things could be different. Again.
My ground rules are:
First, this is strictly about C-41 color neg processing as I have zero interest in RA-4 print processing.
Second, I admit, despite lots of research, confusion on the many Kodal Flexicolor options. But I will make a few observations.
Third, I'm going to presume that posters on APUG will mostly be looking for complete developer-fix-bleach-stabilizer kits or individual phases. Alternatively, mix it yourself for one or all steps.
Fourth, that you live in the USA. Sorry, not trying to be America-centric, but please, whatever your geography issue is, it doesn't reflect on my research. I'm not familiar with vendors in Zambia.
Fifth, that some vendors have issues shipping liquids or alleged hazmat chemicals. The most well known is B&H. Yet, for someone in NYC, that's not a problem, so they are included here.
We all know and love Freestyle, in Hollywood, right? My first order with them was from the back pages of Popular Photography in 1965. Around 1981 I found myself living in L.A. and spending many a Saturday AM in their store. Heaven. So, I'll start there.
The C-41 processing options from Freestyle, early 2013, are:
1. The Arista kits, liquid formulation, 1 quart or 1 gallon, $28 or $70. This is the liquid Unicolor chemistry. How do I know? Look at the instructions for it and the dry version, and they are identical except for the mixing part.
2. The Unicolor dry chemical kits, 1 liter or double down. $19 or $33. This is what I've been using with fully satisfactory results. The least expensive kit available.
3. The Rollei/Compard/Maybe Fuji liquid kit. This product was removed from Freestyle's online catalog in January 2013, right between first draft of this piece and the final version! And has been confirmed since then, no longer available in the USA.
4. The Tetenal liquid kits, 1 liter or 5. The one liter is a bit pricey at $40, but the big boy is pretty reasonable at $75. Go figger.
Moving on to B&H, they offer a number of Kodak products, but with long order times and no shipping, store pickup only. But buried in the offerings is the venerable 1 liter dry Tetenal Press Kit, a somewhat less active version of standard C-41 chemistry: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...s_Kit_for.html Twenty dollars buys you a kit that allows a processing time at 45°C at 10:30 minutes, or at 38°C the time is 13:15.
www.digitaltruth.com has the same Tetenal kits as Freestyle at the same prices. Rollei/Compard "Out of stock."
If you want to peruse processing instructions prior to purchasing, you are out of luck with Tetenal products. I have scoured the intertubes for this information, including the English language home site of Tetenal. I also asked Digital Truth for them, and they could not supply them either.
On to the Great Yellow Father, Kodak. The opinions I offer here are from my observations, not use. I readily admit the possibility of error or differences of opinion, so take my advice cautiously.
Way back, Kodak had a Flexicolor kit for home use. Long gone. The many problems in buying Kodak Flexicolor products boil down to this: They are meant to be used with specific machine models and not for tank or tube processing. Sometimes products similar by name, i.e., "Kodak Flexicolor SM Developer" are radically different when comparing stock or part numbers.
As a recent sub-discussion here showed, even a Flexicolor disciple didn't understand the role of developer "Starter." Which, bottom line is important for start-up consistency.
Another problem, generally, is that you have to buy in case lots.
One Flexicolor product that might hold perfect potential for home users, developer only, is Kodak Flexicolor SM Tank Developer #1756337. It is a 12 liter kit and several vendors sell it, that with shipping, puts it in the $80 price range. Use your Google/Bing to find current sources. It comes in a case of six bottles each of each component, so you can mix only 2L at a time. Of course, there are no instructions because it's meant for a machine. And further of course, you still need your own bleach, fixer, and stabilizer/final rinse.
The Trebla brand of color chemistries keeps popping up here. The implication is that they have simplified the Kodak chemistry. Some say it is Kodak repackaged, but I can't see anyone getting away with that w/o Kodak's permission. But the bottom line is that Trebla is still marketed to the minilab user, all case lots and the same confusing product lines.
http://www.minilab.com is one source for both Kodak and Trebla and other lesser known chemistries. Another apparently popular supplier is http://www.pdisupply.com/ as is http://www.uniquephoto.com .
Mixing your own C-41: Using what seems to be a solid C-41 developer formula, and the chemicals available at http://www.artcraftchemicals.com, I determined it would cost about $100 to make enough developer to develop about 45 rolls. IIRC, that sucks up the CD-4 developer in its entirety and you will have various amounts of the other chemicals left over. So, let's call it $2/roll with no fixer, bleach, or stabilizer.
Two bits of my c-41 philosophy:
Cost Per Roll: Yes, you can buy bigger and bigger lots of chemistry to reduce the cost per roll. But it's all diminishing returns. The 5L Tetenal kit will conservatively process 60 rolls for a cost of $1.25 each. Is it worth bulk buying, figuring everything out, to get to, oh, 50 cents? Not for me. YMMMV. (Your Mental Mileage May Vary.)
Blix vs Bleach & Fixer: Oh, the gnashing of teeth! Best recollection of many discussions on this earth shattering topic here, is that there is a remote hypothetical possibility that separate chemicals might be somehow a little better, or under certain conditions. OTOH, blix has been working great for the low volume user for over forty years.
The reason labs use separate chemicals is simple: It's the only way to control replenishment and get product consistency in high volume. It's not superior per se.
I did backchannel Photo Engineer for his thoughts on this topic, and here is what he said:
"A blix cannot be made potent enough to remove all silver from films. Therefore some silver remains behind in dense negative areas (highlights in the print) and this increases grain and decreases color saturation. The effect is not noticeable looking at the blixed result, but can be seen in direct comparisons of blixed and bleach then fix examples. Also, part A of a Blix is not necessarily a bleach in and of itself. There are chemicals in bleaches that drive the oxidation of silver metal that are made up for in a blix by the hypo in part B. This issue is touchy and I agree that many have used a blix for film for years, but hey, if a company can sell it, why not go for something that almost works. Right? Especially if no one can detect it without a side by side comparison."
YMMV! (If you aren't familiar with this, it meand "Your mileage may vary." The caveat automaker throw on the TV screen when they claim specific fuel mileages. )
If you want separate chemicals, perhaps for bleach bypass experiments, all the kits provide a Blix A and Blix B to mix for a complete Blix. One is bleach, the contents being some form of EDTA. The other is fixer, with ammonium thiosulfate. You can mix them separately, although in theory there will need to be pH adjustments for each bath. But that's out of my league to advise on such.
So here we are at this point in time.