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[OM] home processing

Subject: [OM] home processing
From: "Bill Pearce" <bspearce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 16:12:33 -0600
I'm back from my long weekend in Chicago (thanks to Bob Gries for
introducing me to a great Greek restaurant), and now let me chime in on the
home processing subject.

Processing color is a great deal different from processing color, especially
E6. One of the beauties of B&W processing is the possibility of changing
techniques to produce great negs from special circumstances, the Zone system
being the best example. B&W is best done in a tank, tube or otherwise.

Color, especially E6, has an overwhelming requirement, consistency. For best
results, every roll you shoot should be processed exactly the same. Exactly.
This is VERY difficult. Inconsistent processing will give inconsistent
densities and color. This is why home E6 is only for the dedicated hobbyist.
It simply isn't cheaper or better.

For best consistency, you need well managed, replenished chemistry. A good
lab will run, at the very least, a morning and afternoon control strip.
(They do this on their color print processors, too, something pretty much no
one does at home.) The control strips are then examined with a densitomiter.
Then, subtle changes are made in replenishment rates and other things as
required. The changes are usually very small, and would be impossible with
small quantities of chemistry.

One shot chemistry will never come more than close, as there is no way to
adjust. For non-critical uses, though, if carefully mixed and used, it is
acceptable. I know this from painful personal experience. At one studio, we
did our own E4 (showing my age) in 1 gallon Kodak rubber tanks (there are
racks that hold stainless steel reels for 35, 120, and 220, and 4x5 and 8x10
are in one and four sheet racks). At the airplane factory, we had a Wing
Lynch machine for E6 and C41, perhaps the worst way to process film designed
by man.

Here's what you must consider:

Reels: Stainless, kept scrupulously clean. If you don't want to use
stainless, you aren't sufficiently committed to the project.
Temperature control: Must be regulated to the degree. Don't try when the
teenage daughter is showering. Probably better to not flush the toilet,
Timing: To the second, exactly, every time.
Agitation: Exactly the same, no exceptions.
Mixing: With distilled water (those of you with reverse osmosis units are in
good shape here), VERY carefully measured.
Chemistry: Doesn't store well after mixed. Try to use all in a week or so.
Washing: well filtered water, temp controlled.
Drying: This is what most people forget. Some sort of drying cabinet is in
Mounting: What fun! After all that work, don't scratch!!

See what I mean? This can be done, and done fairly well, if you are
committed to the process. Those with engineering backgrounds are better
suited than those of us with liberal arts or fine arts backgrounds.

And cheaper? I can get, from a lab less than a mile and a half from my home,
within 3 hours M-F, a roll of 36 processed for under 7USD. Well regulated,
same every time.

Now, if I lived in the wilds of Iowa, like someone else on this list...

Bill Pearce

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