Home developing C41 - any tips?
Old 10-08-2014   #1
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Home developing C41 - any tips?

It's starting to cost a little too much to shoot 120mm in color now ($9 to process here in NYC) and I have been debating whether to do color developing at home.
I have been doing BW developing for a very very long time but have never done color. I'am thinking of getting the Teternal C41 kit from B&H and trying my hand at this. Are their any special considerations I need to be aware of? How toxic is the chemistry and how do you keep the temperature stable? Any help would be apprciated
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Old 10-08-2014   #2
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I'd like to hear some tips too. It is getting to be a project to find someplace that develops, and if you do they dry your film using air out of clothes dryer. You have to spend your life spotting.
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Old 10-08-2014   #3
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C41 is easy! It's a fairly tolerant process and I'm surprised people don't do it home as much as they do B&W. It's fairly similar, just one additional step (bleach) and higher temperatures, that's pretty much it - easy.

In fact so is the 3-bath E6 slide process (i.e. Tetenal E6 chemistry). Only the proper 6-bath E6 (Fuji Hunt 6X or Kodak E6 chemistries) can be a bit challanging in "home-sink" conditions, I've done the latter as well, but wouldn't recommend it, much easier on a processor. But a C41 and a 3-bath E6 - easily DIY doable w/o any processor required.

You need a good precise temperature gauge that shows you at least +/-0.2C precision at around +38C. A 5 liter or bigger water bath is sufficent to keep the temperature stable +/-0.2C for the first developer that is the most temperature-critical developer, it's ususally just 3-5 minutes required depending if you push or pull, the rest (bleach and fix) are much more temperature tolerant and you do not need to re-heat inbetween those, I just run the rest off from the temperatre "inertia" the bath holds and never had any problems with bad developing etc, in fact I always get better results then my local lab delivered.

The chemistries aren't that toxic these days as they were before (i.e. formaldehyde is now banned by WW health organisations that was used in the past both C41 and E6), but the smells themselves can be irritating to some, i.e. bleach particulary (that's why they call it a "filthy bleach" in slang, although for me it doesn't smell too bad at least the Fuji Hunt C41 kit I use, at least I'm perfectly fine with the smell of a bleacher). Good thing is that probably your kitchen sink already has sufficent ventilation going (from the above-oven vent, I run it on max) so you probably just barely notice any smells or any at all, just don't work directly between the vent and the chemistries. In case when doing it in the kitchen - throughoutly clean everything after finishing developing to remove any residual drops of chemistry etc you accidentially dropped here or there - remember it's mainly for making food! (though, for me the film is food too, but a different kind of food). That's it and the results are equally rewarding!

Plus to my knowledge all the common C41 and E6 developing kits come with proper instructions for using them in water bath tampered small-tank developing specifically for the people who do not have a film processor.

I.e. found a random U-tube vid on doing DIY C41:

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Old 10-08-2014   #4
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been developing C-41 since early this summer and have done couple of E-6 rolls and sheets, they become easy once you get the hang of it.

having a processor/roller will help you maintain constant timing.
maintaining the temperature is another important thing, I like to keep the water bath at 41C as it will start to drop down during developing.
also pre-heat the film with water at same temperature as your chemicals.
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Old 10-08-2014   #5
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I agree, developing with C-41 is easy!

The main item is to have a constant temperature with the first developer for the entire duration of developing. What I did was to get either a large pan or sink with water to put the tank with film & developer to maintain the required temp. for the first developer. It helped to achieve the desired temperature through the time to use the first developer. I would have the depth of the water cover most of the side of the tank, not over the lid though.

I used Arita from Freestyle.

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B & H is a great place to buy from as well.
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Old 10-08-2014   #6
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As you have the Tetenal kit go for the 30c option, it gives you more time to think and evens out any slight miss timing. A fish tank heater in a bowl of water keeps the chemicals at the right temperature (I use Kaiser 1 litre bottles to store the diluted chemicals), and agitate my Paterson tank with 30 seconds inversion followed by an inversion each minute but keep it gently swirling in the water bath in between. I use a pre soak to get the dev tank up to temperature and allow the chemicals to be absorbed quickly.

It is really easy, just don't extemporise, follow the Tetenal guide for usage and times and you will be ok

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Old 10-08-2014   #7
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I've been using the tetenal powder kit for a while, but I now use the larger liquid kit from freestyle, because it is more economical, and easier to mix at different quantities.
Some notes;
With the powder kit I would usually mix it the day before to give it time to fully dissolve. I don't recommend trying to split the powder if you want to mix a smaller amount. I made a right mess trying to do that. Since you are using a Paterson tank, I would figure out how to economically use the 1liter in the kit. Doing rotary processing in my Jobo tank I can use less liquid for a given number of films. The mix will last ok for a few weeks in the fridge, but I wouldn't use one batch more than 4 times. I started to see real deterioration from doing that.
I know you are concerned about leaking, so use rubber gloves. I also recommend bathrooms over kitchens. Besides smelling bad, the blix gasses off. If you seal the tank with the lid, it will blow off like a bottle rocket! Ask me how I know. If you are doing inversion agitation, open the lid while it sits on the counter, and close it to invert.
I noticed that the developer tends to foam up more than the blix. As I use right sized bottles, when I pour the developer back into the bottle it often overflows. So either use a catch tray, or a slightly larger bottle.
When you pour out the prewash, you will see a crazy amount of green dye, don't panic. After a typical wash routine, I like to let it stand in the water for a while (while I do more developing). There is seems to be always more orange dye that comes off no mater how long you leave it. I haven't noticed any advantage of disadvantage to removing more dye.
In the powder kit the last bath is hexamine stabilizer, after the last wash. I would add some wetting agent to this, because it tends to crystalize on the film and make the worst drying marks. I eventually got a bottle of kodak stabilizer to use instead. I have realized that this does still contain formaldehyde. If you do get drying marks, they remove very easily with film cleaner or 99% isopropyl alcohol.
Let me know how it goes.
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Old 10-08-2014   #8
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Hi I've used the Tetenal kit for a few years now, with generally good results. I've found that the two critical things are temperature of the initial developer and the timing of each stage. (As another poster mentions above) -

I have a combination boiler which means water from the tap runs cold then hot, then very hot, so to maintain a constant temperature I use an old washing up bowl as a temperature bath for the tank and the bottle of chemicals and top it up with a cup of water at a time from a recently boiled kettle.... this way using a photographic thermometer I can keep within the temperature tolerance that Tetenal recommend.... Hi-tech it ain't, but i works :-)

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Old 10-08-2014   #9
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Thank you all for the very helpful suggestions. Christian I will certainly be picking your mind during this months meetup. I'am still debating this since I shoot so little color film. But by the look of things, it doesn't seem too difficult
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Old 03-26-2018   #10
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I have just developed my first rolls of C41 today with Tetenal colortec and I am very pleased with the results.
The color of the developer did change after the second roll because it had some tint on it, can I still used it more?

an example of first roll:
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Old 03-26-2018   #11
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Nice kits except no stabilizer. I used to buy Kodak.

Everyone else has given proper advice
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Old 03-26-2018   #12
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Telenal colortec kit does come with stabilizer.

Read the manual, use at the volume stated in the manual and more.

Develer changing its color because film has some layer which deludes in it.
Most pooping films are from FujiFilm. Their 120 C-41 are most pooping.
I was pre-washing them to get this crap out before it was going to developer.
It is amazing how much crap comes out from FujiFilm.
Kodak films are better in this and other regards.
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Old 03-27-2018   #13
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Kodak has published a technical sheet discussing C41 processing in small tanks, it contains a lot of helpful information. Download it.

my personal experience is that rotary processing creates more problems than it solves UNLESS your processor is equipped with a lift; I tried all kind of tricks and variations with rotary processing on a CPE-2 and finally found that I got the cleanest and most consistent results with traditional inversion processing in a stainless steel tank. But you will have to see what works best for you. YMMV.

While simply using a big bucket of water to keep temperature in the ballpark should work, it will certainly remove a lot of hassle and potential problems from the process when you have some kind of device that keeps the water bath at temperature with help of a thermostat and a heater. I use my rotary processor (CPE-2) just to do that, but there are other options. In the case of a controlled device, the temperature of the water bath should be set to around 0.5~1 C above the actual processing temperature (37.8 C). Prewarm generously with the film loaded in the tank. This is much easier with stainless steel tanks.

It is also very important that the developer has been heated to a temperature well above the processing temperature when you pour it into the developing tank. In my experience, the solution will loose about a full degree C of temperature simply by pouring it from the beaker into the tank. So I heat the developer to around 40 C and let it cool down. When it has reached 38.5 C I pour it into the developing tank and start processing.
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Old 03-27-2018   #14
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I've been using the Unicolor C-41 kit from Freestyle for a couple years. The process is no more difficult or time consuming than b&w processing. I think the directions in the box say twelve rolls per kit, but you can easily get twice that, so the processing price ends up being about a buck a roll. There is a post on my blog illustrating my experience with C-41 color processing: diy color.
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