Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t recall seeing so many sous vide cooking options when walking through the kitchen appliance department in retail stores a few years ago. It seems like instant pots and sous vide cooking is the new trendy way to prepare meals at home. One method is incredibly fast, and one is incredibly slow. This past Christmas, we added both of these appliances to our kitchen. Only the sous vide wouldn’t be used for cooking food.
The Film Photography Project saw a cost effective and dependable way to help photographers heat C-41 and E-6 developing chemistry. In the past, photographers have used other methods to heat chemistry: aquarium heaters or running gallons of household water in a sink. The popularity and price of a sous vide, or immersion circulator, provides more control over temperatures, and it’s convenient.
The key to color film processing is a consistent temperature. And using a modern sous vide allows you to dial in the exact temperature you need. When testing the FPP Heat Helper for the first time, I decided to use it to heat up enough FPP SuperMonobath to 75° and develop two rolls of black and white film. The top of the FPP Heat Helper contains a digital display with a large circular temperature adjustment knob. The unit must be placed in a tub of water that’s large enough to hold your chemistry, plus the unit clamped to the inside of the tub. Once the unit is plugged in, the temperature can be set by turning the knob clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when using the FPP Heat Helper:
- The unit has a power cord, so you need to be within a few feet of a power outlet.
- Because you’ve dialed up an exact temperature doesn’t mean your chemistry is the same temperature. Make sure to use a thermometer in your chemistry and monitor that temperature.
- The unit has lines that mark the minimum and maximum water levels. Use a water level in your tub that matches the liquid level of your chemistry. If you use too much water, you’re going to be waiting for the temperature of your chemistry to rise because the unit is circulating excess water.
- Is the FPP Heat Helper made specifically for film chemistry? No. In fact, the unit they sell is a Power Precision Cooker that’s made in China. You’ll find them in several stores, but any sous vide unit will work. However, I recommend buying from the FPP because this helps them continue to provide us with film and other cool stuff!
Some seasoned film photographers may find this trivial, but my next step is developing color film at home using the FPP Heat Helper and the CineStill CS41 Liquid Developing Quart Kit. You’ll be able to see my results and read about my experience next week.
4 thoughts on “The FPP Heat Helper”
Thanks for your write-up on the FPP Heater Helper. That might just solve a problem for me. However, I’ve noticed that some immersion circulating heaters on the market have an operating range whose lower limit exceeds 68 degrees, and most don’t offer those specs at all.
I will be interested to see how your experiment goes. I bought the somewhat cut down “sous vide” tool from Cinestill, and found it to be quite unreliable in terms of stability. I returned it to them and they refunded me, so they must have thought that my criticism was fair.
Not to be deterred, I bought a complete system from a cook shop in London. I have tried this once and found it to be no different to the Cinestill version, other than the iPhone app that makes it easier to program.
I suppose it depends how many films are to be processed, but for the average home set-up the palaver involved in setting up, is outweighed by the speed and accuracy of a a few sinks full of water from the domestic hot tank, or boiler, in terms of irritation.
Recently, I have been considering using my sous-vide for actually cooking something, before I chuck it out as being a complete waste of time.
I received a sous vide for christmas and tried to use for food. I wasn’t completely sold. I thought another kitchen gadget that gets buried somewhere in the kitchen. I noticed a rise of film photographers using for film photography. So I moved it in my make-shift darkroom (aka laundry room) Thanks for posting this. A very good read.
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