C41 Colour Film Developing

C41 Colour Film Developing – At Home

Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica.com

November 2016

Film Developing… to Recap

 

Black and White Film Developing

I have developed my own black and white film since the beginning of 2013 and I am pretty comfortable with the process as I shoot so often.  I have quite a casual approach to B&W film developing and it still seems to work for me every time now I know the basics.  I have a degree in science so I like to apply the common sense approach as to how chemicals work rather than strictly following the film/ developer guidelines. When I started out I used the developer Rodinal for semi-stand development but I have since move to Xtol and have settled with that for the meantime. I am happy with the results Xtol gives me so don’t see a need to change yet.  For fixing black and white film I use Kodak T-Max fixer.
kodak-xtol-5lv2

Paterson Developing Tank

I develop all my film (colour film and black and white film/ 35mm, 120 and 4×5 film formats) in Paterson style developing tanks (a 2 reel tank plus a 3 reel tank). For readers new to film developing a 2 reel tank can accommodate 2 rolls of 35mm film or 1 roll of 120 film.  A 3 reel tank holds 3 rolls of 35mm film or 2 rolls or 120 film.  Sometimes I wish I had a 5 roll tank but I haven’t got to that stage quite yet! A Paterson developing tank for those that don’t know is a light tight tank so film can be developed in daylight without the need of a dark room.  Film must be loaded into the developing tank in complete darkness using a changing bag or a room with no windows.  (I just wait until it is dark outside and use a part of the house where there is no windows.  I then bring the developing tank into the light and develop the film in my kitchen.
patunivtank

C41 Colour Film Developing

After avoiding colour film developing for the best part of 18 months I finally took the plunge when my local film lab rejected my first roll of Kodak Vision3 motion picture film that I sent for developing.  I had bought a bulk roll of Kodak Vision3 500T movie film which is ECN-2 colour negative motion picture film and not the standard C41 colour negative film.  In brief, ECN-2 film has an additional rem-jet or remjet anti-static / anti-halation layer, a black carbon layer that needs to be removed prior to film developing.  ECN-2 film cannot be developed in a standard film lab C41 process and doing so would contaminate the C41 chemicals resulting in machine downtime.  I removed the remjet layer from the Kodak Vision3 film at home (see below) and then sent it to the lab for standard C41 developing. Unfortunately some remjet layer residue remained on the film so the film lab returned it back to me undeveloped.  *I would not recommend trying to send ECN-2 film to a lab as C41 film as in hindsight I don’t think it is not fair to risk other peoples C41 film if any remjet residue remains on the ECN-2 film resulting in film not being developed properly and the developing chemicals failing.

image3v3

As a result of not being able to develop my Kodak Vision3 ECN-2 film at my local film lab I decided to purchase colour film developing chemicals and try to develop the film at home myself.  I looked at a few different colour film developing chemicals and decided on the Tetenal C41 Kit 2.5L kit.

Removing Remjet

Before attempting to develop my own ECN-2 film I did some reading to try to understand how to remove the remjet backing on the film.  Popular choices seem to be to use washing soda or baking soda.  Both make an alkaline solution when dissolved in water.  Personally I tried baking soda as I found that in my local shop first.  My remjet removal method is as follows:

  • 4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 litre warm water (40 degrees Celsius) to dissolve the baking soda in
  • Pour solution into Paterson developing tank containing ECN-2 film
  • Soak for 3-5 minutes (nothing exact as all guestimated)
  • Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes (nothing exact as all guestimated)
  • Empty the tank content into a white bowl/sink (Solution should appear coloured yellow-pink at first then towards the end of the emptying start to go black (carbon remjet layer))
  • Refill developing tank with warm water (40 degrees Celsius)
  • Shake vigorously for 1 min
  • Empty the contents into a white bowl/sink (solution should be black)
  • Repeat warm water rinse process until water runs clear
  • Remjet removal process finished.
  • Next see colour film developing process below

antacids-baking-soda

*Note – The above remjet removal process has worked for me but there may be better or alternative methods if you search online.  If you search “Rem-jet removal” or “Rem jet removal” on YouTube there is also similar methods shared but with the advantage of the visual aid!

Tetenal Colortec C-41 Kit 2.5L

What is in the box – 6x 0.5 litre bottles, including 3 bottles of film developer (Part 1,2,3)(mixed together to make the developer solution), two bottles of bleach fix (“BLIX“)(Part 1&2) and 1 bottle of stabiliser.
c41-kitv2

Product description – “The Tetenal Colortec C-41 kit is ideal for the enthusiast, professional or home user looking to process their own colour negative films. This kit will process around 30 35mm or 120 films or equivalent in sheet film. This is a 2 bath kit, a simplified version of the C41 process where the fix and bleach are combined. May be mixed to make 2.5L of working solution in one go, or smaller quantities may be made retaining concentrate for future use”.

 

Tetenal C41 Chemicals – Mixing

To make 1 litre of film developing chemical solutions –
  • Developer: 200ml (Part 1) + 200ml (Part 2) + 200ml (Part 3) + 400ml water
  • Bleach-Fix: 200ml (Part 1) + 200ml (Part 2) + 600ml water
  • Stabiliser: 200ml (stabiliser) + 800ml water

Tetenal C41 Film Developing

My colour film developing is nothing mind blowing.  I simply followed the Tetenal C41 film developing instructions and opted for the 38 degrees Celsius method.  In summary this involves the following stages/times/temperatures (based on developing times recommended to develop the first 1-4 films in fresh chemical dilutions from concentrate):

C41 Developing Instructions

  • Pre-Soak Water Bath: 5min @ 40C (+/-5.0)(Not temperature critical)
  • Developer: 3min15 @ 38C (+/-0.3)
  • Water Rinse: 1min @ 40C (+/-5.0)(Not temperature critical)(*extra rinse I like to do)
  • Bleach-Fix: 4min @ 38C (+/-3.0)
  • Water Rinse: 3min @ 30-40C
  • Stabiliser: 1min @ 20-40C

clock_png6614

The common term you always hear associated with colour film developing is “very temperature sensitive”.  To give myself the best chance of keeping the film developing chemicals at the required temperature I filled my kitchen sink bowl with warm water at around 40 degrees celsius.  I made up 1 litre of working solution for each of developer, bleach-fixer (BLIX) and stabiliser per the Tetenal C-41 film developing instructions and put the 3 solutions into 3 used plastic pop bottles and labelled accordingly.  My bottles are not as good as the recommended 1 litre collapsible film developing chemical bottles but they function OK to start me off.  I ensure all the air is squeezed out of the bottles after use and store in a dark cupboard out of the light.
1-best-selling-instant-read-professional-kitchen-digital-cooking-thermometer-100-money-back-guarantee-used-by-top-chefs-baking-soup-bbq-meat-thermometer-real-commercial-type-these-are_3771135

C41 Film Developing – Chemical Shelf Life

  • Developer: Diluted solution – 6 weeks / Concentrate – 12 weeks
  • Bleach-Fix: Diluted solution – 24 weeks / Concentrate – 24 weeks
  • Stabiliser: Diluted solution – 24 weeks / Concentrate – 24 weeks

*Note – Recommended shelf life is assuming chemicals kept in full / sealed bottled

Conclusion

So is colour film developing as impossible and risky as I feared?  Not at all.  I really wish I had started developing my own colour film 12-18 months ago.  Yes you need to watch the time and temperature of the developing chemicals more than if developing black and white film but it is merely like following a recipe in a cook book.  If you follow the instructions the results are a success!  I love the fact that I am now self sufficient and can develop and scan all my film in house.  It gives much better control in terms of not having the risk of film being lost in the post, a much much faster lead time (as can develop the film the day it was shot) and a big cost saving if you use the chemicals within their active lifespan (per above).

Going forward I will buy bottles of colour film developing chemicals separately rather than as a developer kit as each chemical has it’s different shelf life.  I also read that by doing a 3 bath C41 development (developer + separate bleach and fixer) rather than a 2 bath C41 development (developer + bleach-fix)(above) it gives greater control so win win. I understand you cannot ‘fine tune’ colour film developing like you can with black and white film developing but I will certainly try to modify my process after each film batch developed to try to get ‘better’ and better results.

E6 Colour Film Developing

Now I have tried C41 colour film developing I am now interested to look into E6 slide film developing as I love the colours of slide film.  Watch this space! 🙂

Related Links

Teaser.. 🙂

Kodak Vision3 200T Portrait

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Kodak Tri-X Film

Kodak Tri-X Film

Matthew Osborne Photography

Kodak Tri-X - The Film of Champions! :)

For anyone who has followed my work for a while will know, for black and white film photography I normally use Kodak T-Max 100, especially for 35mm film.  I have tried various black and white films and will continue to experiment but I am finding I am now completely hooked on Kodak Tri-X 400 film.  The modern T grain T-Max films have very little visible grain so can look a little too much like my Leica M9 black and white JPEGs which have a slight filmic look despite being digital.  I was an easy convert to medium format 120 Tri-X as grain is less apparent with the larger negative size.  For 35mm Tri-X I was a little worried the the classic grain structure might result in too much visible grain for my film wedding photography and portraiture.  I shot a roll of 35mm Tri-X when I was out in Florida covering a wedding and was pleasantly surprised. Samples below.

What do I like about Tri-X and what is it that made me convert?

Broad lattitude – I can (and do) shoot Tri-X at anything from ISo 200 (-1 stop) to ISO 1600 (+2 stops).  It can do it all and will even go to ISo 3200 and beyond (not yet tried this but others have with success).  This means that for available light photography it is perfect for my needs.

Contrasty – Other than the grain structure, the biggest difference I notice when comparing Tri-X to T-Max is the beautifully contrasty mid tones.  The deep shadows are rich blacks, the highlights retain their detail and the mid tones are what makes it for me.

Price – I am now starting to use quite a lot of film, both 35mm film in my Leica cameras (M3 and M2) and 120 Tri-X in my medium format Mamiya 645 Super, Rolleiflex SL66E and in my 6×7 Horseman 120 roll film back for my 4×5 large format cameras.  I need a film that I enjoy using yet is also affordable.  120 Kodak Tri-X 400 5 packs can be bought in the UK for £20 a box if you shop around. £4 a roll is competitive at today’s film prices. Calumet are currently offering 120 Tri-X 400 for £20 a box and free postage so I stocked up!

Calumet UK, Film – http://www.calphoto.co.uk/category/film-darkroom/film/

Developing – I develop my own black and white film at home and favour the R09 Rodinal stand developing  / semi-stand developing method.  I am still fine tuning my times and temperatures to develop Tri-X at box speed but also pulled 1 stop to ISO 200 and pushed 1 stop or 2 stops to ISO 800 and ISO 1600.  Depending on the lighting conditions I shot in I can then adjust my times accordingly.

Sample Images (various)

Kodak Tri-X 400@200 (135 & 120)

Kodak Tri-X Fashion

Happy New Year Everyone! :)

4x5 Speed Graphic + Aero Ektar Portrait

Leica M2 + 35mm Kodak Tri-X

Leica M2 Portrait - Tri-X 400@200

Leica M2 + Tri-X 400@200

Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 C

Kodak Tri-X Love!

Leica M2 + Zeiss ZM Biogon

Saint Augustine Fort - Tri-X

American Trucks - Tri-X

The Lightner Museum Saint Augustine

Kodak Tri-X 400@200 - American Truck

Kodak Tri-X 400@200

Kodak Tri-X 400@400 (120)

Retro! Luna's Converse

Kodak Tri-X 400@800 (120)

Home developed 120 Tri-X - 400@800

My Bro

Leia with ARAX/ Sonnar -Self developed

Old John, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

Kodak Tri-X 400@1600 (120)

Rollei SL66E = Smiles Allround

Rollei SL66E Tilt Portrait

Rollei SL66e Tri-X Portrait

Rolleiflex SL66E Tilt + Tri-X 400@1600

The Darker Side of Modelling

Shared: Portra vs Fuji 400H

My Wedding Film Photography + Shared Link (Below):

Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800 vs Fuji 400H Compared

 

Film Photography

As a big fan of film photography like others I am always interested how certain film stocks compare against each other.  For wedding photography wedding photographers have to work quickly in very unforgiving light. As a result photos can be taken underexposed or overexposed in the spur of the moment so it is important to understand which film has the greatest lattitude.  That being, retaining the detail in the shadow and the highlights.  Film is well known to retain highlight detail better than digital however digital is better in the shadows.  For this reason when shooting film I expose for the shadows and with digital I expose for the highlights (common practise).

 

What film do I load for Wedding Photography?

I ask myself this question tonight with two weddings in the next two days.  Things to consider are primarily

  • Weather forecast (here in the UK the weather can be very changeable!)
  • Wedding venue (inside/ outside, well lit or low light conditions)
  • What camera/ lens combination will I use (medium format large nagatives show less grain when scanned vs 35mm.  35mm camera lenses tend to be faster with wider largest apertures. I try to use ISO 100 or 160 speed film for 35mm and up to ISO 800 for medium format.

Examples combinations include:

  • Leica M2 + Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens + 135 Kodak Portra 160
  • Mamiya RZ67 Pro2 + Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 + 120 Kodak Portra 400
  • Fujica GS645 Pro Folder with fixed 75mm f3.4 lens + perhaps 120 Kodak Portra 800

 

Decisions

As the weather often changes I wait until just before the wedding starts to load the film into my camera(s).  As film is better overexposed than underexposed it is better to be safe and expect slightly darker conditions.  Knowing this I was then interested in how each film coped with being overexposed at +1, +2, +3, +4  exposure and worst case underexposed at -1, -2 exposure.  I was doing my usual reading and found this fantastic website with a side by side comparison of Kodak Portra 160 / 400 / 800 and Fuji Pro 400H.  To date my very early film work was 400H as I got some free with my Contax 645 (now sold).    Since then I have shot almost all Kodak Portra film so recently bought a new box of 120 400H to see how I liked it now.  New photos to follow once back from the lab!

Checking my film stocks ahead of tomorrow in the fridge I have all films listed above plus others like Kodak Ektar 100, some old Fujicolor CN200 (that I got free..x10!) (will try at some point) and then black and white film – Ilford FP4+, Fuji Acros 100, Kodak T-Max 100 / 400 and some C41 Ilford XP2 Super 400.

 

Colour or Black and White film?

As a rule in the summer months when there are leaves on the trees I enjoy shooting colour film.  In grey winter months I mostly shoot black and white film.  I only normally shoot in colour in any format if I think colour adds to the image, or if a client asks me to (such as a wedding).  If not I will shoot black and white as you can probably tell from my most black and white Leica M9 digital images!

 

35mm or 120 medium format?

For cameras that have interchangeable film backs like the Mamiya RZ67 and Kiev 88 (and Hasselblads/ Contax 645 etc) I own and use 2 film backs. If the film back on the camera contains a part used roll of B&W film and I want to shoot colour I switch film backs and can load colour into the second back.  Easy.  This is handy for wedding photography, either colour and black and white or perhaps a fast film and a slow film.

35mm cameras such as my Leica M2, Nikon FM, Voigtlander Bessa R3A and Yashica MG-1  and the 6×4.5 format Fujica GS645 folding camera do not have this option.  Therefore if the camera already contain a part used roll of film I need to take the camera as it is and finish that film first.  In extreme instances I can remember how many images had been taken on the roll then rewind the film and remove.  I then reload the film at a later date and wind on the part used film to where I had left off.  This can of course lead to double exposed and potentially lost images.

 

Other things to consider –

 

Camera size and weight: Leica M2 and Fujica GS 645 are both small and light.  The Mamiya RZ 67 Pro II is big and heavy.

Lens options and Lens maximum aperture: Medium format lenses are slower so need more light.  f2.4 is the fastest for 6×7 format as far as I know. 35mm lenses are often faster (f1, f1.2, f1.4, f1.8, f2 etc) and brighter. I have arguably a better range of Leica M lenses for the Leica M2 than I do Nikon lenses for the Nikon FM so even though both cameras are merely light boxes I would usually chose the Leica M2 first.  Different lens focal lengths of course do different jobs so again it depends what you will be photographing.

Film stock available: If I only had 120 film in stock, for example, then that would make the chose of film camera format to use easy!.

 

And finally.. what was actually going to be a two line intro and a link post, here is a Comparison of Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800 vs Fuji 400H shot overexposed and underexposed from the brilliant UKFilmLab.com guys. Enjoy!

 

Featured Link:

http://ukfilmlab.com/2014/04/24/film-stock-and-exposure-comparisons-kodak-portra-and-fuji/

 

Matt

http://www.matthewosbornephotography.co.uk/Film-Photography.html

Contax 645 Wedding :)