View Full Version : Need Help / Recommendations With DIY RA-4

23-May-2013, 16:07
I ordered these items from Unique Photo :

Kodak Ektacolor RA Developer Replenisher RT for Color Neg Paper makes 10l Item #: EKY8415580 $14.26
Kodak Ektacolor RA Developer Starter for Color Negative Paper - 80 Oz. Item #: EKY6601090 $5.95
KODAK RA BLEACH/FIXER/REPL TM 10L Item #: EKY6601629 $14.75
Kodak RA-4 Prime STB/Replenisher 10 Liters Item #: EKY8264442 $9.77
Fuji Crystal Archive Paper Type II 8x10 Lustre (100 Sheets) Item #: FJP8967 $42.07

Did I forget anything or get anything wrong?

I have:

- 4x5 and 8x10 C-41 negs
- Super Chromega D Dichroic II head
- Omega 4x5 enlarger, with 50mm, 90mm, 135mm lenses
- Print File Custom Proofer with glass on a hinge over foam (will this make good contact prints?)
- 11x14 Beseler print drum and roller base

To start, I would like to enlarge 4x5 to 8x10, and contact print 8x10.

Looking for process steps / hints, e.g.

- chemistry tips, temperature suggestions
- what do I do with the CYM wheels
- baseline exposure
- should I get control strips (I don't mind experimenting on a few sheets of paper)

I've heard color printing requires complete darkness (except for the exposure), wondering how stringent this is ... for example a taped up led light (or two) in a kitchen darkroom that is barely noticeable, etc.


23-May-2013, 16:16
That's all you need.

Darkness must be ABSOLUTE, with thick cloth tape over any LEDs. RA4 paper is more sensitive than most B&W papers and the slightest bit of light (e.g. LEDs on your enlarger timer) will cause brightly coloured fogging. I have to tape up the temperature display on my CPP2 though it's 2m from the enlarger and facing away, otherwise I get bad cyan fog.

By process hints, do you mean the overall workflow of how to get the right density and colour balance, or how to develop the paper?

23-May-2013, 16:25
Thanks for the info on required darkness.

Any info on the process that will help me create a nice print would be great, from exposure, dialing in the colors, and processing, times, etc.


23-May-2013, 16:50
Chemical process is at 35C, continuous agitation:
- 0:20 prewash recommended, but drain it well to prevent developer dilution
- 0:45 develop
- 0:20 stop (1% acetic)
- 0:20 rinse
- 1:00 blix
- 4:00 wash (or about 0:10 if it's a test strip)
- stabilise

Make up 200mL of developer solution (requires starter) and blix solution. Replenish each with with 15mL of replenisher per 8x10 (don't forget the test strips!); I usually replenish on every second sheet and once extra at the start of a session. Make up ALL of the developer replenisher from the concentrate as it keeps better as replenisher than conc. Make up the dev with distilled or spring (low oxygen and iron) water and store it in the 10L mylar bag-in-box that the water came in. I bought the 4x5L kit and made up 5L about 18mo ago, it still works the same as the day I made it.

Bleach eats fix, so mixing up all the blix is a not-great idea. What I do is make up two half-solutions, i.e. mix the bleach concentrate into 5L and the fix concentrate into another 5L which, if mixed, would be 10L of blix-replenisher. Store the separately. When replenishing, you replenish equally from the two sources, e.g. after making a 16x20 you would replenish the dev with 60mL and the blix with 30mL of each of bleach and fix. The bleach does NOT work separately from the fix, they must be mixed together into a blix working-solution. The bleach part might grow grey floaty mould in the long term (photographically irrelevant, just scoop it out before you do any replenishment) but a splash of Listerine or formalin will prevent that.

To get a good print takes a little practise. Get the density in the ballpark (half-stop iteration is more than fine enough), then fine-adjust the colour. Then fix the density again (to maybe 0.2 stop?) because the colour changes will have affected it. Density test-strips are made similarly to how you would with B&W but you must expose each section of the strip just ONCE only, you can't expose them cumulatively. The reason is that the enlarger bulb has a different (warmer) colour when heating/cooling at switch-on/off, so an exposure with one heat/expose/cool cycle has different colour balance from an exposure made up of 4 of those cycles.

You should make colour test-strips, iterating an important bit of scene through (say) 4 different colour settings by some step (10CC being quite coarse, 2CC being moderately fine). It'll take a while to get a feel for how much to adjust the colour to correct any particular cast. Look at the midtones only when guessing corrections: the highlights are less sensitive to filter changes and the shadows are more sensitive to filter changes. Only judge fine results from DRY paper because drydown shifts the hue by about 1CC to 2CC.

Once you have a good workprint, stick it on the wall and live with it for at least 24 hours before going back to it. Endless inspection of test strips during printing will send your vision wacky and reduce your ability to judge casts.

You'll find that for a specific paper/film combination that the exposures and colour settings are very very similar, differing only slightly with lighting conditions. Record your successful print settings carefully and you'll find that once you have a handful of good results from one film, you can probably go directly to a near-perfect print if your new neg was shot in similar light on the same film.

I use my flash meter (dome removed to expose the bare photodiode) as an enlarging meter and use that to program my f/stop timer - use an f/stop timer if at all possible as it will save your hair. I have a table of values that tells me how to convert from meter reading to exposure time for a few important print zones (II, IV, VI, XIII). A colour analyser would similarly save you time dialing in the hue if you have one and can use it properly.

Starting point depends on your enlarger and paper. I think people often quote 0C45M45Y but that's totally wrong on my enlarger, so don't be surprised if your typical print settings are completely different. On my DeVere 504 for example, fresh Ektar works out at about C10M30Y25 and some really-expired Pro160S (heavily browned with age) produces lovely neutral prints at C15M20Y5. Most people will tell you to adjust only the M & Y filters and leave C at 0. Personally I find it easier to use non-zero cyan because it gives me more adjustment range towards red in the print which I've found necessary with expired films. Your enlarger may not need it at all, just do whatever works for you and your equipment.

Drew Wiley
24-May-2013, 08:26
I prefer longer times so that the part spent during fill and drain of the tube is a smaller percent of the total. I do 2min (which includes 10sec for drain) at 85F.
To adjust your filtration I strongly recommend starting with a precisely exposed master negative taken of a MacBeath color checker chart. You'll want not only the
correct exposure of this at box speed on your preferred type of film, but correct color balance too relative to the color temperature of the light. These charts are
much more useful than just grabbing a bunch of color chips at the paint store (though that is better than nothing). When your test strip of paper is correct, not only
with the various respective color patches appear true and clean, but all the primaries and their direct complements will "sing" with about the same intensity. The
neutrals will not be contaminated, and the step in the gray scale will be clearly discernable. Most colorheads will need about equal amounts of yellow and magenta
filtration, PROVIDED the test neg is not itself way out of balance.... but exactly how much filtration is needed requires some patient fiddling around for a day or so.

24-May-2013, 09:48
If you haven't already, I recommend going to the Kodak website and downloading Technical Paper J-39: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/j39/j39.pdf


24-May-2013, 10:47
Thanks for all the info and suggestions, I'll be reading j39 soon, have seen it referred to a lot before.

Since I'm using a print processing tube, I'm thinking I could probably get away with 100ml solutions, using them one shot instead of replenishing?

My Beseler 11x14 drums have a duck bill type light trap, I assume it's sufficient to keeping light out? I'm concerned knowing how sensitive the paper is.

My enlarger probably puts out more light, here and there, then just what comes through the lens, I imagine this is a factor in the overall exposure?

Also, will a "Print File Custom Proofer" produce nice 8x10 contact prints? It's just a hinged pane of glass over an approx 10x12" foam lined plastic receptacle.

Any quick way to process test strips? I have two print drums and think I can only process after they are completely dry after each use ...

I'm planning to use my enlarger timer (Saunders ET-500) and think I can just set the times and tape the LEDs. What is an f/stop timer?

One of the forum members mentioned using a registration system to expose a contrast reduction mask on unexposed B&W film,

his final result seemed to pop. Anyone else do this or have other tricks?


Drew Wiley
24-May-2013, 11:29
I always do RA4 one-shot, and mix up only enough for a daily session at a time. How much chemistry you need per print depends on several factors. One is the
efficiency of the drum itself relative to how level your drum is, another the hypothetical volume for the surface area of the paper, and yet another, how much fluid volume is needed to sustain correct temp during actual development. With my 8x10 drums, I need less than 1-1/2 fluid oz of developer per 8x10 print. Learn the
basics before attempting things like supplementary masking. You won't know why or why not to mask until you discover the working parameters of various film
and paper combinations to begin with, relative to your personal subject matter. Down the line, if you feel you still need an advanced skill set like masking, it can
be explained with some patience. But that holds a far more involved learning curve than simple RA4 printing.