Quote Originally Posted by Sean
If I wanted to setup a color printing process that gave me minimal fuss what would you recommend I start with? Thanks!
I've done a lot of color printing. My current favorites are Ilfocolor paper - for its color balance. longevity, price (cheapest I've found ... but that is not a major consideration for me)... and lot-to-lot uniformity (extraondinary).
Tetenal (JOBO) chemicals have proved to be the "best" for me... again, shelf life and lot-to-lot uniformity.

Color prints *can* be processed in trays ... supposedly temperature control is critical, but I find it less critical than most believe - I've screwed up a couple of degrees centigrade either way without a really noticable effect ... *BUT* ... processing should/ must be done in total darkness. JOBO produces a safelight powered by LCDs called the MaxiLux (?? I hope I've got that right) with a setting for color processing - but that is very dim (I haven't tried using it). In consideration of this, a processor that would permit working in ambient light is *very* desirable.

In good conscience, I cannot do anything but recommend the use of a color densitometer/ analyzer. I have tried to make my way using viewing filters, color wheels, eyeballs, prayer wheels, incantatons from the Tibetian Book of the Dead .... ancient Finnish spells from the Kalevala ....

I use the JOBO ColorStar 3000.* With it I have control of the process - I can measure the lot-to-lot variablity of materials and the effects of other variables (temperature is one). I would be -- well not quite --- lost without this thing, but close. They are expensive (all "expensive is relative) but the savings in materials alone - to say nothing of time and frustration - will quickly justify their use.

My reasons for processing my own color are not just financial. I am firmly convinced that I can do a "better" job than the best of commercial labs (and I've compared my work to theirs a number of times).
I don't mean to be arrogant here .. it is just that I know what *I* want, and there is not the burden of trying to communicate that information to someone else. Additionally, I will - and have - made numerous prints to get some small nuance "the way it works for me"... something that would cost a LOT to do in a commercal lab - in time and money, and would undoubtedly stretch my "tenacity limits" to the extremes.
The same principles hold true in black and white processing.

* I 'm not sure, but I don't think JOBO "handles" ColorStars any more. They are still available new from somewhere - but I'm not sure who is their importer/ disrtibutor - or what analyzers JOBO deals in their place.