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Pros and cons of Unicolor Powdered C41 kit

Mike Gammill , Oct 11, 2010; 09:19 a.m.

Considering the possibility of trying the above kit for color negatives. I usually shoot Fujicolor 100 and 200, Kodak Portra VC 160 and sometimes Fuji Reala. There is only one local lab that will do C41 now and they are not always reliable. I already have a b/w darkroom so I have all I need but the kit. I plan to use distilled water for mixing chemicals rather than tap. I checked earlier posts, but most are about other kits. Anyone here use this kit? FWIW, I will wait until I have several rolls to process before mixing the kit as the shelf life of color chemicals is generally pretty short. I've done E6 before so I've had practice in temperature control which I know is importan for the C41 that I'm considering. The kinds of information that will be most useful include consistency of results, ease of use, and quality (I will be scanning the negatives rather than printing)

Responses

John Shriver , Oct 11, 2010; 10:32 a.m.

The cons of all the powder C-41 kits are that Blix (bleach and fix in one solution) is a bad idea. You wind up with a very unstable solution, that will fail quickly.
They were designed for a press photographer working in the field who had to get out a processed negative as fast as possible. Getting the best results was not important, nor were the keeping properties of the chemicals.
Best results come from using the Kodak or Fuji-Hunt chemistry. Nobody else can match them, due to patents and shared trade secrets. However, they are hard to source, and a pain to mix, you need to mix parts A, B, and C of the developer, along with developer starter. Part C is unstable in the bottle after you open it, it's very sensitive to oxidation, they backfill the bottle with nitrogen at the factory, but that's gone after you open it.
One alternative is to use the developer from the Unicolor kit, but buy Kodak Flexicolor bleach, fixer, and final rinse. The bleach is expensive, but it lasts and lasts, especially if you use an aquarium pump and bubbler stone to put oxygen back in it. The fixer is the cheapest fixer in the world, and is great. Final rinse is also cheap.
You can also buy small quantities of the Kodak developer from Photographer's Formulary. They are re-packaging it into smaller bottles, and presumably backfilling part C with nitrogen.
There's a lot of discussion of this topic on APUG.

Jason Fox , Oct 11, 2010; 11:36 a.m.

I have been using this kit, and it works OK, but I am really beginning to question if there aren't better options without going into buying gallons of Kodak/Fuji chemistry. You might want to look into the Digibase kit available through Freestyle. http://www.freestylephoto.biz/
One question to consider is the issue of retained silver after using a Blix. My question: does the retained silver end up showing on scanned negatives as excessive graininess? Would the amount or appearance of retained silver be affected by film speed at all, i.e. faster film would show more of an effect? I am guessing speed does have some influence as my processed negatives seem to be very grainy and dark - faster film looks worse to me.
As another question, I ruined half the Blix from my current batch of Jobo chemistry by accidentally dumping it into a container of stop bath. (Ugh) I have one box of the Jobo stuff left and then I am planning on trying the Digibase chemistry from Freestyle after the Jobo is used up. Would mixing up a batch of the Potassium Ferrocyanide style bleach such as found on http://www.bonavolta.ch/hobby/en/photo/c41_ra4_chemicals.htm be worthwhile (used with Kodak fixer - it's cheap and I understand you can use with B&W as well) and better than the blix or don't bother? The Kodak / Fuji bleach is awfully expensive and I don't want to commit a lot of money to it until I have tried the Digibase kit which looks perfect for me. I have read it is prepared from Fuji/Hunt chemistry.

Mike Gammill , Oct 11, 2010; 12:03 p.m.

Thanks. I had my suspicions that blix wasn't a good idea. The Rollei digibase kit sounds interesting? Are the bleach and fix separate in it? Not clear from Freestyle info and I cannot get the PDF to open on the computer I'm using at the moment. Freestyle also has a liquid C41 kit under the Arista brand, but it appears to have blix also.
For now I can still get C41 done locally, but it's at a CVS and I don't know how much longer they will offer it. When I do finally purchase a kit I will conduct trial runs first before risking any important photos. But, I do plan to be ready. I know professional labs will be with us for a long time yet, but the one-hour labs are fast disappearing. Most of them now just develop, scan, and print digitally.

John Shriver , Oct 11, 2010; 05:44 p.m.

The Rollei Digibase kit is Fuji-Hunt chemicals repackaged. There may be issues with the quality of the packaging and sealing -- some folks are finding some bottles have leaked in shipping, and/or the contents are spoiled.
The quality of the chemistry in the Digibase kit is first rate -- nothing wrong with Fuji-Hunt chemicals.
But it's really the developer you want to get in small packages. That's why the Forumulary's repackaging of the Kodak developer is attractive. There raelly aren't any "shelf life" issues for the large stock bottles of Kodak or Fuji bleach, fix, or final rinse. It's only part C of the developer in either that "time bombs" after you open it.
What you may want to do is find out who the local distributor is who CVS buys chemicals from. The liquid bleach gets "hazmat" shipping charges, so buying it locally is a big plus.

Eddy d , Oct 11, 2010; 08:02 p.m.

I know someone who processed e6 in black and white chemicals and then finished it in color bleach and fixer mixed together and came out with some interesting results.

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