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Recommended Color Film Developing Chemicals

Gwendolyn White , Oct 02, 2006; 05:01 a.m.

I'm going to start developing my color film soon and I want to know if anyone here has any recommended chemicals they think I should use. I've seen a lot of Kodak, but I'm really big on quality so I'd like to hear what people here suggest.

And also, do you prefer powder or liquid? Is there really that much of a difference in the end? As in, is powder a pain because you have to mix it etc.

Thanks for any opinions/advice!


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Neil Grant , Oct 02, 2006; 08:11 a.m.

You dont mention which colour process you are going to do. Could be E6 or C41. Both are only available as liquids. The quality you will be able to obtain isn't related to brand. Its down to your ability to do things consistently. That's chemical mixing, temperature control, agitation etc. And don't forget trying to get your run on-line to start with. For that you'll need process control strips, a densitometer and the process control manual. To be honest, unless your going to be developing large quantites and have got the time to learn the process, its just not worth doing at home. Find a good professional lab if you want quality.

John Shriver , Oct 02, 2006; 01:44 p.m.

Indeed, a pro lab is probably more cost-effective. It will be hard to do "better" than a good dip & dunk line.

If you want to do it yourself, the Kodak and Fuji-Hunt chemicals are the only ones that have all the trade-secret technology that makes for a true C-41 or E-6 process. All the others are only approximations. The Kodak chemicals are far easier to buy in retail/hobbyist quantities.

What it IS worth doing at home is the printing, be it via the digital darkroom path, or optical/wet with RA-4 paper and chemicals. You can learn to do better than a lab there. See the digital darkroom forum for the digital path. You don't even need a printer, there are many places that accept digital files and produce RA-4 prints without messing with your color balance and exposure.

Gwendolyn White , Oct 02, 2006; 05:09 p.m.

I develop black and white film, which is why I figured I could develop color film - from what I have read/researched it is not that different, except for some added things (bleaching) and different temperatures, sets of chemicals, times etc.

I could always go to a pro lab but I really prefer to do it myself. I've done a lot of research, like I said, the only thing I don't know is what chemicals are recommended etc. I actually haven't found that big of a variety of chemicals which is probably why I don't know what is recommended.

Of course, the way you do it matters most when it comes to quality, but I figured some people would have something to say in their experience, with certain brands or chemicals or... something along those lines. You never know until you ask.

Thank you for replying, anyway.

Gwendolyn White , Oct 02, 2006; 05:17 p.m.

I forgot to add, I plan on developing color negatives ? not slides or transparencies.

Andrew Limiti , Oct 02, 2006; 09:09 p.m.

Gwen, I plan on trying Tetenal's Powder C-41 chemical for 120 Reala this month. The kit was $15 a B&H. There is a lot of discussion in previous posts about using the genuine stuff "Kodak" vs the imitators "Tetenal / Photocolor". Its hard to tell which opinion is right, so I am going to try it myself and see how it works out.

Neil Grant , Oct 03, 2006; 05:49 a.m.

An important difference between colour and black and white processing is TOLERANCE. It is possible to develop a satisfactory black and white negative with a wide range of techniques and resulting contrasts (c.curve shapes). This is NOT so with colour materials. There is an optimum process and deviation from this produces poorer results.

Aaron James , Oct 03, 2006; 10:52 a.m.

The big thing will be temperature control. A water bath will work fine (at least it did for me) although thigns go a lot easier with a jobo.

I've used the paterson concentrates (although I thikn they're discontinued now) and the Tetenal powders. When compared to results from a pro-lab I couldn't tell any difference--of course I don't have control strips, densometer, etc. But the point remains the same, for my purposes I could do it just fine. It didn't save me a whole lot of money, but it did a little, and it was more convenient and fun.

My only complaint about the Tetenal kit is I've had a hard time getting the Blix to dissolve completely. Maybe my water is too hard? IN any case, give it a try. What have you got to lose but a few dollars?

Gene E. McCluney , Oct 03, 2006; 11:08 a.m.

It is quite easy to develop color negative and color slide film with small tanks and small batches of chemicals. You will have to have an accurate thermometer and a way to control the temperature of the chemicals. Both processes work at 100f, so you won't need to do any chilling. I started out developing my color materials in my bathroom at home, using a washtub put into the bathtub, with the small quart chemical bottles in it, with hot water trickling into it constantly to maintain the proper temperature of the chemicals.

Other comments above about "control" of the processes are valid concerns if you are running a "replenished" processing line, where you add replenisher after each processing run and continue to use the chemicals for extended period of time. This is only valid if you are running a larger tank line, with at least 10 litres or up of each chemical. If you are an amateur that is going to process just a few rolls of film from time to time, and you start with fresh chemistry each time, then you have no need of these elaborate procedures. Just don't exceed the capacity of the chemistry. C-41 and E-6 chemistry is "in-control" when mixed fresh. It only gets "out of control" when it is used for extended period of time and not replenished correctly. If you are processing with a quart "kit" you have no need for elaborate "control" procedures. You just have to be accurate on your temperature and processing times in each chemical.

McCluney Photo

Richard Harris , Oct 03, 2006; 01:27 p.m.

If you don't have a tempering bath set up I would forget it. But, if you have a jobo or Nova then have a go. I have used various C41 chemicals with good results. Patterson used to do a one solution concentrate that was very good, however, Most third party kits include a bleach fix or Blix bath. These are bad news. You need to bleach then fix then stabalize in seperate baths. My advice is to go for Kodak flexcolor. If you get the temperature right and the chemicals mixed correctly, you will not find a better developed negative. I use 150ml per 36exp 135 or 120 roll developed which is less than Kodak recommends but gives me consistent and perfect results. You will need more than this if you don't use a rotary processor. And do not expect great results first time. Learn and modify your process and then keep it bang on to the nth degree when you are satisfied.

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