For Christmas 2018, I received the CineStill C-41 one quart developing kit. This seemed to be the right size for my first attempt at developing color film. At $25, the kit is a price I’m willing to pay, to experiment and learn. Plus, the amount of chemistry is enough to get me through roughly 8+ rolls of film. That should be enough to determine if I’m really interested in color film developing.The CineStill C-41 kit I used is a liquid kit, they also have a powder kit available. Before using the chemistry for the first time, you mix the developer, blix and rinse stabilizer. Using the FPP Heat Helper, I heated some distilled water and followed the instructions included in the box, mixing each of the items. Doing this for the first time, I pre-read, re-read, and re-re-read the instructions. CineStill has done an excellent job documenting each step for both mixing the chemistry and developing. To summarize mixing the developer and blix: heat the distilled water to the correct temperature, measure out the correct amount of water, stir in Part A, stir in Part B, stir in Part C. For the stabilizer rinse: measure out the correct amount of room temperature distilled water, stir in Part A.
During the Christmas season, I shot two rolls of film that I intended to be my experimental developing rolls. The first roll was Agfa Vista 200, the second was an expired roll Kodak Gold 200. I developed both rolls at the same time in a Patterson tank. The instructions provided by CineStill are straight forward. So easy, even a caveman can do it! And depending on your skill with the kit, they also provide the details for pushing up to 3 stops and pulling 1 stop.
In the end, the results surprised me. Could it be that developing color film is easier than black and white? The color developing process was much faster than black and white. The step that took the longest was heating up the chemistry. And stepping through CineStill’s instructions was incredibly easy. After this experience would I recommend developing color film at home? Yes.
Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Film: Agfa Vista 200
Process: CineStill C41 Kit
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo
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.
When New55 released a monobath a few years ago, I was eager to give it a try. What could be easier? A single solution to develop black and white film and no need to mix chemistry. After successfully developing a few rolls of 120 film, I was happy. That changed when I tried to develop 35mm film. I found that each roll had bromide drag. What is bromide drag? It occurs when the silver bromide overpowers the developer, leaving marks from the edges of the film sprockets, bleeding into the center of the film. When doing some research online, I found no real consensus. One person stated the temperature of the monobath needed to be exactly the right temperature, another said that agitation needed to happen at certain points in developing, and another person said that a prewash on the film was necessary.
Bromide drag on a photo taken with the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole and developed in FPP Super Monobath
Fast forward to 2018, the Film Photography Project and CineStill released liquid monobaths. I thought I should give it another try. I purchased some of the FPP Super Monobath and developed the first three rolls I shot in my Ondu pinhole camera. The 1-liter bottle from the FPP contains no instructions other than: 3.5 minutes at 75° F. After developing, the negatives looked good until I scanned them. And just like my experience before, bromide drag. I was disappointed, so I contacted Mike Raso at the FPP. He quickly responded with: agitation. And to be certain, he included Leslie Lazenby in on the email. Her response: agitation. So why wasn’t this printed on the label? Why wasn’t a small insert not included with the bottle? It wasn’t until recently that FPP updated the information about the monobath on their website. It now includes a list of recommendations and tips. What have I learned? Monobath is not a stand developer. It does need agitation like conventional developers. I found in subsequent rolls that this worked the best:
- Heat the monobath and some distilled water to 75° F with the FPP Heater Helper.
- Prewash the film for 1 minute with distilled water, dump distilled water.
- Pour in the monobath and agitate (invert) for the first 30 seconds, and then 5 seconds every minute.
- Pour monobath back in bottle. It can be used for about 3 – 6 months.
- Rinse film with FPP Archival Wash for 1-minute. Saves 10 – 20 minutes of wasting water.
- Pour archival wash back in bottle.
- Add diluted Kodak Photo-Flo for 1-minute, dump when finished.
Camera & Lens: Leica M3 (1959) – 50mm f/1.5 Summarit
Film: Ilford HP5+
Process: FPP Super MonoBath BW Developer 3.5 Min @ 75° F
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo
FPP Super Monobath Pros:
- It’s odorless. When I was using the New55 monobath, I had to open the window because it smelled like household cleaning ammonia. The FPP monobath has no smell.
- It’s quick and easy to use. There is no need to dilute or mix chemicals. In just a few short steps, your negatives are developed.
FPP Super Monobath Cons:
- It doesn’t work the same with all black and white films. Kodak TMax needs longer developing times. And films over ISO 400 are not recommended.
- Doesn’t give you the same flexibility as conventional developing, i.e. pushing and pulling. Increasing temperature can give you a small boost in density.
Would I recommend trying a monobath? Yes. It’s a guaranteed gateway drug for developing film. For me, using a monobath gave me the confidence to move to more conventional developing. Mixing, diluting, and using multiple chemicals can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. A monobath is a great starting point for anyone that wants to develop easy, quickly on a small budget.