Colour development: tale of woe
Old 07-23-2019   #1
traveler_101
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Colour development: tale of woe

Well, woe is a bit of hyperbole, but still very discouraging first experience today. I have been developing b&w for a few years now: never had problems and have generally enjoyed the experience.

Some time ago I bought a colour development kit and a few rolls of film: it has sat around for five years . . . because of . . . of what? Innate laziness or a sixth sense that colour would be difficult? That was conventional wisdom, but somehow I still wanted to try it. Well I shot a roll this week, mixed the chemicals and today and had a go at it. What happened: on the first or second inversion in my Paterson tank, the blix "exploded" landing on my shorts, shirt, all over the table and the floor. I should have had that sit for a couple of days I guess. But beyond that I came away with a general sense that the chemicals for colour development stink . . . literally (lol). I found it difficult to get temperatures correct as well.
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Old 07-23-2019   #2
wwfloyd
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I share some of your misery with color developing. Yes, with just kitchen gear, temperature control is inexact. My greatest frustration with the higher temp. chemicals, is that the plastic Kinderman top wants to slide itself off of the stainless tank. Twice, I have barely kept a loosened top from becoming total loss.
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Old 07-23-2019   #3
retinax
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I guess "burping" the lid on the Paterson tank doesn't help with the warm soup, it warms up the air inside which then expands... well that sucks.
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Old 07-23-2019   #4
Mackinaw
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A Sous Vide heater works wonders for temperature control. I started processing C-41 at home just last year and have good success. Saving a bundle of money too. As for the exploding Blix, I’ve noticed that adding Blix causes a chemical reaction that increases pressure in the tank. I’ve learned to “vent” my stainless steel tank (take off the drain cap) about 30 seconds after I add the Blix. That solves the pressure problem.

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Old 07-23-2019   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mackinaw View Post
A Sous Vide heater works wonders for temperature control. I started processing C-41 at home just last year and have good success. Saving a bundle of money too. As for the exploding Blix, Iíve noticed that adding Blix causes a chemical reaction that increases pressure in the tank. Iíve learned to ďventĒ my stainless steel tank (take off the drain cap) about 30 seconds after I add the Blix. That solves the pressure problem.

Jim B.
I noticed the blix would leak a bit. This is a good reason why. Thanks for the tip. Iím using a steel tank with plastic lid.
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Old 07-23-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wwfloyd View Post
I share some of your misery with color developing. Yes, with just kitchen gear, temperature control is inexact. My greatest frustration with the higher temp. chemicals, is that the plastic Kinderman top wants to slide itself off of the stainless tank. Twice, I have barely kept a loosened top from becoming total loss.
The real misery occurred when my wife got wind of it . . . literally. I work out of the downstairs bathroom with a nice Italian tile floor. I could never imagine such a mess.

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Originally Posted by retinax View Post
I guess "burping" the lid on the Paterson tank doesn't help with the warm soup, it warms up the air inside which then expands... well that sucks.
Perhaps it would have helped. I do that when fixing to minimise leakage, but the amount of gas in minuscule in comparison to what this hot blix stuff produces.

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Originally Posted by Mackinaw View Post
A Sous Vide heater works wonders for temperature control. I started processing C-41 at home just last year and have good success. Saving a bundle of money too. As for the exploding Blix, Iíve noticed that adding Blix causes a chemical reaction that increases pressure in the tank. Iíve learned to ďventĒ my stainless steel tank (take off the drain cap) about 30 seconds after I add the Blix. That solves the pressure problem.

Jim B.
Just curious - what is a "sous vide" heater? Sounds like someone is preparing a meal. Thanks for your suggestion. Yes I think it is a chemical reaction, but it mimics the releases from a reactor core in the process of a meltdown - lol.
After posting this I found a discussion on another site suggesting that the reaction is caused by contact with the developer. He recommends doing a rinse in between the developer and blix cycles.
All I can say is that I don't like working with these chemicals. Perhaps with a rotary tank and in a basement dark room it would be more plausible.
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Old 07-23-2019   #7
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.....Just curious - what is a "sous vide" heater? Sounds like someone is preparing a meal....
That's exactly what it is. Basically, you drop sealed packets of food into a hot water bath. The Sous Vide heater will maintain water at a set temperature. After cooking for a certain period of time, your meal is done.

I set my Sous Vide heater at 103F when I process C-41 film. Works really well. Google for some pics of the unit.

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Old 07-23-2019   #8
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That's exactly what it is. Basically, you drop sealed packets of food into a hot water bath. The Sous Vide heater will maintain water at a set temperature. After cooking for a certain period of time, your meal is done.

I set my Sous Vide heater at 103F when I process C-41 film. Works really well. Google for some pics of the unit.

Jim B.
Heck, that would be really useful! So the holy trinity of colour development imo: rotary tank, dark room and sous vide heater.
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Old 07-23-2019   #9
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Assuming C41, colour chems are much different than b&w- as you have found out! Sloshing them around should be avoided. I used a Paterson tank but never inverted- just gently rotated.


You don't need special equipment (besides an accurate thermometer, which you need for b&w anyway) to keep the water bath at a constant temp (there is 1-2 degree leeway regardless what the internet says). Just keep a supply of hotter water nearby (kettle) and add to your bath as needed. Times are quite short compared to b&w but making sure the temp is correct adds some flavour to the process.



I should add I occasionally got brownish streaks on some negs, so my work flow needed improvement. Still better than the local lab...
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Old 07-23-2019   #10
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And kitchen sink makes a perfect water bath.


Regards, David
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Old 07-23-2019   #11
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I loathe colour development. Stinky developer, horrible stainy blix, the necessity to agitate for seemingly hours as the blix depletes, keeping temperature constant in the winter and water everywhere and just a lot of faff. Using my kitchen sink as a water bath it decided to detach itself and fall off (inadequately fitted probably). I've yet to have the blix explode on me though!

So once my current batch of colour film is finished, digital colour only.

Black and white on the other hand, bliss!
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Old 07-24-2019   #12
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I send my color negative film to Simple Labs in California to have them both processed and scanned to DNG format so I can interpret the colors later in Adobe camera raw just like I do color files from my digital M262. That guy does a great job on both the processing and scanning and I only do the part of the process I enjoy, shooting the cameras and working the digital raw files, and storing the negatives when they return, LOL.

Kodak Portra 400 through an M4..



and M6..

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Old 07-24-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benlees View Post
Assuming C41, colour chems are much different than b&w- as you have found out! Sloshing them around should be avoided. I used a Paterson tank but never inverted- just gently rotated. . . .
Yes, C-41 processing: a Unicolor kit purchased in USA. I followed the instructions which specified inversions, but I am glad to have your advice.

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And kitchen sink makes a perfect water bath.
Regards, David
Yes, the kitchen sink would be far more useful than the one in the bathroom. If I were a bachelor I could use it . . .

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Originally Posted by CharlesDAMorgan View Post
I loathe colour development. Stinky developer, horrible stainy blix, the necessity to agitate for seemingly hours as the blix depletes, keeping temperature constant in the winter and water everywhere and just a lot of faff. . . .

So once my current batch of colour film is finished, digital colour only.

Black and white on the other hand, bliss!
At this point, you are expressing my feelings precisely. I have five rolls of cheap colour film in the freezer - two rolls of Ektar 100 and three of Fuji 200.I will try to shoot them swiftly and then be done with it.

I would love to have a reasonably priced lab available where I live, but it is a dream. These are absolutely gorgeous, Gregm61! Thanks for posting.

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I send my color negative film to Simple Labs in California to have them both processed and scanned to DNG format so I can interpret the colors later in Adobe camera raw just like I do color files from my digital M262. That guy does a great job on both the processing and scanning and I only do the part of the process I enjoy, shooting the cameras and working the digital raw files, and storing the negatives when they return, LOL.

Kodak Portra 400 through an M4..



and M6..

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Old 07-24-2019   #14
Bill Clark
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I find C-41 is much simpler than black & white. By that I mean look at the gadzillion different types of developers available for black and white film.

The only ingredient thst is some what critical is the developer temp. But even then, there is a fair amount of latitude with the film so as I don’t need to get worried about developer temp. And with XP 2 Plus there is a wide ISO range that can be used when making the photos.

At sny rate, C-41 is C-41.

How many different black and white developers do you use? And the temp needs to be looked at for developing times. Unless, of course, it’s stand development. Or do I use stock 1+1, 1+2, 1+3. Let me see fine grain, PMK, XYZ and oh dear me!
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Old 07-24-2019   #15
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I use the Unicolor C-41 kit. I find it easier and quicker than most b&w processes. The cost per roll is about a buck as a kit will easily process twice what the directions indicate.

Plastic tanks leak when inverted. That can be averted by agitating with the stirring rod for the Paterson tank.

I bring the developer and blix to the proper temperature by setting the beakers into a container with running hot water.

I store the three C-41 solutions in plastic peroxide bottles in the refrigerator; they last for months without degradation.

A description of the process I use is in a post on my blog.

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Old 07-24-2019   #16
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C41 for me:

Developer and Blix in their Jobo 1L bottles in a bath with the thermometer in the developer to bring chems to proper temp. I'll get to 102 degrees and pull the chems from the bath and pour the bath water in the developer measuring cup ( brings the temp of the cup up ). While the chems are in the bath rising to developing temperature I'm measuring out my stabilizer and photoflo ( not sure this step is needed but I've done it forever so I continue to ). Once the developer is at 102 and I've poured out the bath water that was warming up the measuring cup I measure out my developer and Blix and start my timer and follow the directions. I do invert the Patterson tank for the developer but not the Blix--just use the stirring rod. Thats it and no exploding chems.

The only time I could have had that happen was after mixing the Blix. I put it in a Jobo 1L container and closed the top. The chems were still reacting and the bottle begin to budge so I slowly released the air.
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Old 07-24-2019   #17
Steve M.
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I don't even know what a Blix is, much less an exploding one, but really, really don't like the sound of it.

Charles has summed up my feelings about colour home development. Not sure that I'd go as far as shooting digital, other than my phone. This may sound odd, but I COULD see the point of making B&W prints at home (development and printing a good neg is a breeze) and hand colouring them. That sounds like fun.

Long ago I decided that B&W development was the height of my skill level. It's a comfortable level because things don't need to be exact.....like the time I was washing a roll of Shanghai B&W in a tank, turned the hot water on accidentally instead of the cold, forgot about it for a couple of hours, and every frame still came out perfect!

Unfortunately, my experiments with using fixer for a developer were sub optimal.
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Old 07-24-2019   #18
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I don't even know what a Blix is, much less an exploding one, but really, really don't like the sound of it.....
Bleach and fixer, combined together.

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Old 07-25-2019   #19
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Thanks for all the constructive suggestions on the part of those of you who enjoy colour processing and for the expressions of empathy for those of you who do not. There are apparently quite few people out there who find colour processing to be of a different order so my initial reaction was not idiosyncratic.
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Old 07-26-2019   #20
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to me, color is not any harder than B&W. you just have a stricter temp situation. Like mentioned above, color is easy as you have only 1 developer, not the dozens in B&W, so there is much less experimenting.



I use a large slow cooker set on the warming setting and it keeps the water bath at 105, which keeps the chems at 102. I did 18 rolls of slide film yesterday and had no issues with temps. it does take about an hour per batch, but the cost of self development is the only reason I can still afford to shoot slide film.


Its not hard, just some people make it out to be. it may take a few more attempts to get you system down, but the results will be better and more consistent than a lab. and you will only have yourself to blame if there is a mistake.
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Old 07-26-2019   #21
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^ +1. I enjoy C-41 at home , a camping cooler is great for temp control , even with b&w film I have found that I invert the container once and then loosen the lid and that's pretty well the end of chemistry trying to escape from the tank . Peter
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Old 07-27-2019   #22
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Quote:
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I find C-41 is much simpler than black & white. By that I mean look at the gadzillion different types of developers available for black and white film.

Well, no, you can just choose one B&W developer and stick with it. Nothing simpler.
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Old 07-27-2019   #23
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Or you can look at achieving different contrast, grain, detail and overall look with different developers too. All at a far more sensible 20 degrees.

But yes, master a black and white developer and it's simplicity itself, especially one shot.
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Old 07-27-2019   #24
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Once you get the hang of it its probably easier than black and white in some ways because there is a definite right and wrong. I first started processing with a jobo processor (bought one for £40 before film got popular again) but now I use a Durst coterm which uses hot air rather than hot water to heat the chemicals so you can have everything up to temp in 5-10minutes.
Hang in there good luck!
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Old 07-27-2019   #25
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I guess "burping" the lid on the Paterson tank doesn't help with the warm soup, it warms up the air inside which then expands... well that sucks.
I've had a go at C41 colour developing and it worked a treat, but I agitated it with the Paterson 'twiddle-stick' with the tank in the water bath as I was concerned with keeping it at the correct temp - and agitation times are more frequent for colour than B&W. I agree that Blix is a bit bothersome though! A titchy drop of it leaves quite a stain.

I might have another go sometime with a sous-vide in the sink, but don't know if I can shoot off enough colour film in the time it takes the chems to go off to justify spending thirty quid or so. I suppose the answer is to save the films up after shooting and do them in batches.

I did try stand-developing C41 and it actually worked (initial agitations then leave it) but although the colours were true and consistent, the results were grainier than if I'd developed it at 30 or 38.5C.
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Old 07-29-2019   #26
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Some time ago I bought a colour development kit and a few rolls of film: it has sat around for five years . . . because of . . . of what? Innate laziness or a sixth sense that colour would be difficult?

I did the same thing. Bought a set of C41 chemicals, a Sous vide heater and then promptly never used them. Even bought a Jobo. It sits in my basement unused.



I have over 60 rolls of color film undeveloped. I doubt my chemicals are any good and I'm not going to buy or send in my film. Too much money.


So I just stopped shooting color film. All the labs in my area have closed down so I am unlikely to ever develop this film. It was stupid to spend all that money but there you go.
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Old 07-29-2019   #27
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I have over 60 rolls of color film undeveloped. I doubt my chemicals are any good and I'm not going to buy or send in my film. Too much money.

I suppose if there's anything on those films you wish to get off you could develop them as B&W films in B&W chemicals? I've done that before.
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Old 07-29-2019   #28
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Ok what do we have in the way of suggestions? (Please do not take this too seriously - lol)

On the one hand: secure the tank top properly - it was probably my fault all along (except I never had this problem before with a couple of hundred b&w rolls developed). On the second hand - acquire a sous vide heater (where to put it when not in use?), treat the soup as you would a good martini - stirred not shaken, run hot water continuously to maintain temperature (electricity to hear water is getting expensive). On the third hand, follow Dr Striker's advice (take my losses and consider it a lesson learned).
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Old 07-29-2019   #29
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I was thinking about developing C41 with a kit....but found out my local camera store develops c41 for $3.99/24 roll. I'll let them do it.
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Old 07-29-2019   #30
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Our local store (Penrith UK) used to do a really good C41 develop package, including Hi-res scans, at very reasonable costs.

But then they went all tired and the service went down to 'we send it off every Monday', then the films started coming back and it was evident the lab had been using tired chemicals; apathy had set in and the local store didn't want to know anymore.

The resurgence in film use has livened a lot of the labs up, I'm pleased to say, and there're good labs out there.
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Old 07-29-2019   #31
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I agree with that Russell - I have had excellent results from one send off lab - FilmDev - that is very reasonable. If I didn't develop my own, I'd send it there in a heartbeat. At £4 a roll for C41 development and low res scan, I might resume using them for some colour.
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Old 07-30-2019   #32
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I suppose if there's anything on those films you wish to get off you could develop them as B&W films in B&W chemicals? I've done that before.

Interesting idea. Thank you. I develop b&w film all the time.
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Old 07-31-2019   #33
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^ If the chemicals are still in their original packages , they're probably okay . Peter
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