Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Color from scratch?

To make a B&W developer from scratch is today very easy. You may use coffee, tea, potatos, wine and so on, all of them can develop silver. But color is very difficult because you need a substance that developing silver produces the right stuff that combined with the dye couplers on the film will generate the dyes. For C-41, the right stuff is CD4 (a complex derivative of PPD, paraphenylenediamine). Ok, other derivatives like CD1, CD2, CD3, will also develope and also PPD alone does it like a friend of this blog did some time ago and shared with us. He offered me to send some PPD but I didn't take the chance because it is also a special stuff and my goal is to use a common stuff like coffee is used for B&W.

Unfortunately there aren't common substances with those potential color developers, one of the only ones are some hair dyes containing PPD. Some people have already tried it, but only a few had some success. I have been trying this for a long time but I couldn't realy get an acceptable result, until today. I also tried para-aminophenol, aka paracetamol, reported also as a weak color developer with tenuous results.

Still a dream
Today, because the wether is bad for walking, I decided to try again with hair dye, following partly the experience of Robert (neelin) . I loaded a piece of film in a camera and from my balcony I made some 6 shots to several directions.

Then I prepared a «soup» containing hair dye and developed the piece of film for 1 hour at more or less 37ºC (100ºF) in my kitchen sink. OK, not only a time, it was the third attempt. I first used 15 min. at room temperature, then 30 minutes at room temperature and finally full one hour at 37ºC.

And my recipe was this one:

50 ml hair dye containing PPD
0,05 g phenidone
1 g sodium sulfite
5 g sodium hydroxide
10 g sodium bicarbonate
5 g potassium bromide
Water to make 500ml

The film looked like a B&W one but at scanning I saturated the colors and also with software afterwoods.

The film I used was a movie film, Fujicolor Eterna 250D, and I first soaked for 30 minutes in just Soda to remove the remjet and then washed and developed. I then fixed to see the silver image but the film was already transparent like bleached. But I used then a Blix bath to be sure that only dyes are on film.

Note: The only special stuff I used was Phenidone like suggested here, and I still don't know if it goes without it. I will try it later because it is important that the developer is realy made from scratch.
Update: I did another modification, without phenidone and without Potassium Bromide. Yes, it works too, I will be publishing the results very soon. So, the recipe is now as follows:

50ml hair dye containing PPD
5g Sodium Hydroxide
10g Sodium Bicarbonate
2g Potassium Metabisulfite
Water to make 500ml


I first dissolved the hair dye in some 100 ml water and Sodium Hydroxide also in some 100 ml warm water. I mixed both and stir a lot and let it react for 3 hours. I did this because hair dye is oily and reacting with Sodium Hydroxide will change a part of it to soap. During this three hours I stired sometimes too. But maybe the PPD also reacts with Sodium Hydroxide, I don't know. Then, after three hours I added Sodium Bicarbonate that will also react with Sodium Hydroxide giving Sodium Carbonate. This will lower pH a lot. Finally I added water to make 500 ml and Metabisulfite as preservative.

It works much faster, I only needed 20 minutes to develop. I think this is because it has no Potassium Bromide which is a restrainer. But I couldn't see differences until now. Maybe with KBr you get sharper images but this is not a problem for who just want to use common substances and KBr is, somehow special. Maybe salt, Sodium Chloride may be used instead.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Temperature Myth and C-41

Like many other B&W developers, C-41 developing time of the developer bath is highly dependent on temperature. In fact, it may be used at room temperature but, perhaps for economic reasons only, it is normally done at 100 or 102ºF (37.8 or 38.8ºC), taking about 3 minutes and 30 or 15 seconds respectively.

Is the temperature really necessary? Some colour developer brands suggest also other possible temperatures, the so called slower procedure at 86ºF (30ºC) and the express procedure at 113ºF (45ºC). This is a sign that it is not absolutely necessary to respect a given temperature. It is obvious that a very high temperature will spoil the film and a very low temperature is maybe time consuming and therefore not suitable for film labs, where time is money. That is maybe the reason why a standard  temperature/time combination was chosen at about 100ºF/3'30''. 100ºF is safe for the film and it turns possible a very short time to make the process cheaper.

Film labs use automatic film processors and it is very easy to respect exact temperature and development time. For manual use in a development tank, that is quite impossible, imho. Filling and emptying the tank take time and the temperature will drop when you take the tank out of the warm water bath to agitate each 30 seconds. Using warmer water above 40ºC to compensate may burn your hands and the time you save to develop in just 3 and half minutes is spoiled with warm bath preparation and so on.

When I decided to write about this subject, I first heard the opinion of a friend and colleague of these labors, Reinhold G., the author of the nice blog Caffenol. In a earlier discussion with him, we both agreed that for manual processing, one should use room temperature and not external heated tanks. Besides, some time ago he published a graphic he prepared with temperature vs. time for C-41 development, according to manufacturer's data, and extrapolated to as low as 20ºC (68ºF). With his consent, here I reproduce the graphic:

Click to enlarge
From this graphic we can see that for 20ºC we should develop for 20 minutes. And this time is not so critical, 1 minute less or more will not change the result, so filling and emptying will not introduce noise in the result.

Are there other reasons not to use room temperature and go the hard and exact procedure defended by some C-41 fundamentalists? It is said that the 100ºF procedure is responsible for exact colours but neither my experience or Reinhold's support this. Films I developed at room temperature present all three layers (blue, green and red) well developed and a good indicator for a succeeded development is mainly the red layer, the deepest one, where the developer must penetrate more. If you have vivid reds, that is a good sign. Colour shifts, according to my several failures, are mainly a pH problem, varying from magenta shift for low pH to hell yellow/green for high pH. To get good colours, you only need to adjust pH, instead of rising the temperature. Besides the pH of liquids decrease with temperature.

I recommend strongly this post of Reinhold at the site Filmwasters.com. As he says, developing C-41 is somehow easier because all C-41 films will be developed with the same developer (all brands are equivalent) and in the same time, be sure to have the correct pH which is said to be 10 but feel free to adjust for better colour reproduction. When processing B&W you have dozens of developers and each combination has a certain time and depends on temperature: see Massive Development Chart at digitaltruth photo.

Another final recommendation I can make is to prolong the bleach bath more than the standard time because it is normal that at a lower temperature reactions go slower. You may use the same acid fixer for B&W and the same times used for B&W film. To check whether a film is well bleached and fixed, scan it using IR scanning. If it is not well bleached and fixed, some large square pictures like big pixels will show here and there.

To end this already long post, I would like to thank to Reinhold G. for his support and opinions, which we share together.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

DIY photographic B&W chemicals for film, using common substances

There might be be several choices, I am just proposing one, the most simple of all, IMMO:

1. Soluble coffee, any kind of it
2. Sodium Carbonate, of any kind, even Sodium Bicarbonate may be used instead.
3. Sea salt, cooking salt or table sea salt
4. Sodium Hypochloride, aka, household bleach

As developer you may use my black caffenol, which recipe is as follows:

20 g/l soluble coffee
6 g/l Sodium Carbonate anhydrous or equivalente (7 monohidrate or 16.2 decahidrate)
4g/ l table salt or cooking sea salt

Usage: develop for 90 minutes at 20ºC

As fixer you may use a very concentrated solution of just salt, cooking or table sea salt, i.e.:

300 g/l sea salt, filtered with coffee filter to avoid recrystallization
3 ml/l of Sodium Hypochloride

Usage: fix for some hours, open the tank after one hour and control how long it takes to clear and double the time for complete fixing.

If you don't have any sodium carbonate, use 10 g of Sodium Bicarbonate but first put it in a oven at a temperature above 200ºC for some minutes, until it weights about 6 g. Use this 6 g/l, it is Sodium Carbonate anhydrous.

Procedure: Development is almost stand, just some inversions each 10-15 minutes. All baths are one shot, so you may rinse between developer and fixer but it is not necessary. Final wash is advisable for archival longevity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fujicolor Eterna 250D and Dignan-2bath-developer

I have been using Dignan developer for C-41 films now for quite a long time and gained some experience using it. Results depend much more on the second bath composition and duration. The first bath may be kept as it was proposed by Dignan but I had to change the second bath several times in order to achieve better results. Durations of both baths have also to be adapted.

Let me remind you about the original recipe of the first bath:

500 ml water
9 g Sodium Sulphite
1 g Sodium Bisulphite
11 g CD4
Water to make 1 liter
pH should be less than 6.5
Time duration: 3 min. at room temperature

One may use Sodium Metabisulphite instead of Bisulphite, in a 1:1 basis. 3 min. duration is very short and may lead to poor results, specially if the bath is not fresh any more. I use always 15 min. and this first bath will keep for some 2-3 months, developing about 40 films. Because I prepare only 500 ml each time, I use it for about 20 films. In a closed amber bottle and if not still used it will keep longer than 3 months. I thought that this first bath could live for ever but no, it will loose its «strength» and you need to increase its duration. So, 15 minutes will work 20 times with minimum changes in results. When the image density starts to decrease, even with a long 2.nd bath, it is time to make a fresh 1.st bath.

Now, let me talk about the 2.nd bath. Remember that the original recipe was:

500 ml water
53 g Potassium Carbonate
0.5 g Potassium Bromide
Water to make 1 liter.
optional: Benzotriazole (Kodak anti fog #2) 2 milligrams
pH: 11.8
Time duration: 6 minutes at room temperature

I am now quite sure that the second bath must be adapted to the particular film we are using. But in general the original recipe is to concentrated and some films will 'overdevelop' in the sense that the dyes may be so dense that the color will tend to loose saturation.

Most of the modern films worked well with following recipe, where Potassium Carbonate is reduced to less than the half and the time prolonged to 15 minutes, frequent agitation for even development:

500 ml water
25 g Potassium Carbonate
0.6 g Potassium Bromide
Water to make 1 liter.

Fujicolor Superia 100 with reduced soda version

I purchased, at ebay, 400 ft of an old 35mm movie colour film (Fujicolor Eterna 250D) and I intend to use it for taking photographs. Movie films have an anti-static layer on the back, which need to be removed and this may happen before or after normal development. But with Dignan 2-bath you don't need to care about it, it will be removed naturally in a more prolonged second bath that will be then discarded.

Following my reduced soda recipe, I developed a first batch using 15 min. first bath and 30 min. second bath, frequent agitation. See result below:

Fujicolor Eterna 250D with reduced version
The colors were very dense and looked fast B&W in film. I had to use auto color correction of scanner and increase saturation in order to get colours.

I was hesitating between «Is it so with movie films? Do they need to be darker because the projection light is very strong?» and «Is it possible to get better results diluting even more the second bath?». And because I have nothing to loose, I diluted the 2.nd bath even more:

500 ml water
20 g Potassium Carbonate
0.5 g Potassium Bromide
Water to make 1 liter.

And yes, I have got a better result, almost like it came out, setting the scanner to full automatic.

Fujicolor Eterna 250D with extra-reduced soda
I liked the result, the red could be a little more saturated but it is much better than the above one.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Is Caffenol a fine grain developer?

 I got two packs of 30.5 m TMax-400 film expired in 1998. From the beginning I saw that this film was very grainy and I had to search for a fine grain developer. After some bad experiences, I decided to make a batch of a Diafine clone and it worked more or less well, giving still grain but acceptable.

Expired TMax-400 developed with a Diafine Clone

But I always had the impression that films developed with Caffenol using only coffee and not too much soda had very small grain. So, I tried it with the above mentioned expired film. I was positively surprised. In fact, I got much less grain, as shown bellow:

Expired TMax-400 developed with Caffenol

The Caffenol I am using now has following recipe:

20 g/l soluble cheap coffee
10 g/l Potassium Carbonate
4 g/l Table Salt

Usage: 90 minutes at 20ºC, almost stand development. Agitation each 5 minutes or so.

My last developed film with this developer was a 120 TMax-400 but not expired, exposed with a Weltaflex 6x6.

TMax-400 developed with Caffenol

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

C-41 without CD4?

A reader and friend of this blog, Matveev Vladimir from Russian Federation, is in contact with me since some time, maybe months now. And he is also trying to develop C-41 films without CD4. In fact, CD4 is only a modern stuff, if we read about the history of color photography, other substances came first.

Perahps this is the case of PPD, paraphenylenediamine, that has been used before CD4, besides CD4 is a derivative of paraphenylenediamine.

OK, nevertheless, old technics are sometimes forgotten and someday nobody knows how it was first. For instance, one of the first fixers in silver photography was common salt but nobody believes it today.

Returning to the theme, this friend from Russia, Matveev Vladimir, wrote me and shared his experiment of developing a C-41 film without CD4, but using PPD instead. And it worked very well indeed.

The first picture is the direct scan of the negative developed w/o CD4 and the second is the same picture automatically adjusted by the scanner. To be sure of this, I downloaded the first pic and made auto adjustments with a software and I've got the same result. 


This is, for me, an importante step in the search for an alternative C-41 developer using a common product and not a commercial one. This common product may be a product containing PPD, such as hair dye for instance. I have been trying it without success, but now I have a proof that PPD does develop color in C-41 films and I will be trying again, in order to find an alternative C-41 developer from scratch.