I’ve bought most of the colour chemistry from AG Photographic - prices are good and delivery is quick.
I would recommend the Digibase C41 kit, since it’s available in a range of sizes, so you can experiment without spending too much. I will say that the instructions miss a few important details regarding the processing. Based on advice in a JOBO book, I added a rinse between bleach and fix, reading online it seems that without this people have problems.
Would you be processing by inversion or rotation (JOBO)?
Fingers smell of fixer, I swear nothing shifts it. Did 6 rolls of E6 and a single B+W tonight, all look good. Scanning the last two rolls of 35mm from Cornwall (almost a month ago now), once that’s done I can get on with editing 300-odd photos down to a sensible number (lose all the ‘wow, actual sunshine!’ shots for starters) and scan the more recent stuff. Some (hopefully) nice ones from last week’s trip to Anglesey - found time between car-related activities to shoot a few rolls.
After 25 rolls the E6 process is getting pretty mechanical, and doing the roll of B+W just seemed like something to do whilst the slides were drying. I remember how daunting my first ‘solo’ development session was!
When Matt and I got involved with the darkroom, we didn’t think we’d ever do anything beyond black and white development and printing. Colour is too difficult, the chemicals are nasty, nothing’s clean enough - and for a while we were happy to persist in these delusions. I’m not sure exactly what prompted it, but almost 7 months ago (on my birthday), using some old chemicals we were given, we fired up the JOBO for the first time and had a bash at C41 development. The results were far from perfect but there were pictures and the process didn’t seem too difficult.
I invested in some decent C41 chemicals (Rollei Digibase), and since then I must have processed getting on for 50 rolls of colour print film using the digibase chemicals. There were some teething troubles (uneven development, gas build-up in the bleach stage) but I can say with some confidence that those have all been ironed out and the results are as good as anything I’ve had done commercially - at a fraction of the price.
Having tamed the C41 process, it didn’t look like too much of a step further to try processing E6 slide film. Steve Scott (aka The Wishy) has been brewing it up in his kitchen for a while now, and on his recommendation I looked into the Fuji-Hunt ‘3E6’ 3-bath kit. The Digibase C41 chemicals also use 3 baths (dev, bleach, fix) so it didn’t look particularly daunting - compared to the 7 baths of ‘full-fat’ E6 processing.
An upcoming trip to Cornwall (which I knew from last year’s experiences looks great on medium format slide film) and a slight increase in commercial developing costs was the final factor in convincing me to take the plung - I knew I’d shoot enough rolls that the cost of commercial processing would be as much - if not more - than the cost of the chemicals. And I fancied a challenge.
I did indeed shoot a lot of film in Cornwall, including 13 rolls of assorted 120 E6 and 3 rolls of 35mm Velvia. Not willing to risk these to an untried process, I duly loaded up an old roll of Kodak E100GX and shot a test roll - at the familiar location of Chew Valley Lake. It was a nice end to a frustrating weekend spent in the garage!
As soon as I found the time, I booked myself into the darkroom and got busy with the new chemicals. 3E6 has 3 chemical baths plus stabiliser (final rinse). These are 1st developer, colour developer and bleach-fix (‘blix’). The two developer stages are temperature-critical, taking place at 38 degrees C. Between steps there are water rinses - so these also need to be at the right temperature.
To cut to the important bit - 3E6 isn’t really any more difficult than C41, but requires a bit more concentration since there are 4 temperature-critical steps - pre-rinse, dev 1, wash, colour dev. That aside, it’s just a case of setting up the JOBO, mixing chemicals, loading film and pouring them in and out at the appropriate times. A batch (2 or 4 films) takes 2 hours from getting to the darkroom to leaving with dry, sleeved film.
I’m using the chemicals one-shot, so should get 40 rolls from the chemicals - I’ve done about 20 so far. At £60 including delivery, that’s £1.50 a roll which really isn’t bad. Of the rolls I’ve done so far, I’m yet to find anything wrong with any of them. Pulling a freshly-developed roll of Velvia from the tank and holding it up to the light is pretty exciting :-)
For those of you wondering, the chemicals were all mixed with normal tap water, except the final stabiliser bath which used demineralised water. The measuring cylinders and storage bottles used were of unknown history, I just gave them a good rinse in very hot water first. I’m careful about rinsing thermometers and so on, but it doesn’t require a space-grade clean room to get good results.
So, did no-one like this photo of Alice and Matt which I posted yesterday, or did it just fall between the tumblr-cracks?
I’m genuinely interested to know.
Dev, stop, fix, wash, dry. Seems so simple after a week of pre-rinse, dev 1, wash, colour dev, wash, blix, wash, stab, dry :-)
FP4+, RB67 and guesswork metering continues to look like a good combination. Just scanning some photos I took of Matt’s graduation yesterday…
Whereabouts in the world are you? I believe ‘freestyle photographic’ distribute them in the USA, in the UK we’re lucky enough to have both Firstcall and AG Photographic who sell them.
Tetenal also do a small-volume C41 kit, I think Fuji and Kodak kits are 5L (~50 films) only.