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View Full Version : Setting up a color darkroom advice ? ( or talk me out of it :) )



Jim C.
3-Aug-2014, 14:33
I've been thinking of adding some color printing to my existing darkroom set up
and I'm curious about what others that have color darkroom set up use
to process the prints, do you use a dedicated print processor, or a Jobo rotary processor set up ?
And the pros and cons of dealing with a color darkroom ?
Pros I can think of ( color contacts and enlargements ) , but what about the cons ( chemical availability, Papers ) ?

Tom Kershaw
3-Aug-2014, 15:57
Colour RA-4 prints can be processed in a variety of ways, I've used a Thermaphot for example and a Jobo would probably work well (I'll be trying this soon), but Fuji Crystal Archive is the only paper now available in sheet sizes. Kodak Supra Endura, an excellent paper, has been discontinued. Optical colour prints can look fantastic however and pretty distinct aesthetically.

Tom

Daniel Stone
3-Aug-2014, 16:07
If you don't mind cutting down rolls of paper, you can still get Supra Endura in various flavors, albeit it's now a series of papers primarily designed to be exposed digitally, but can work alright for most optical enlarging purposes. It's not a "direct" replacement for the prior versions of Supra Endura, but it's an option at least. I got a few rolls of 12" Supra Endura Metallic for cheap a few years ago, and cutting it down to 12"x(X)" dimensions was super easy in the dark, using a Rotatrim and an extension table.

Same goes for Fuji papers, if you want to enlarge onto their Pearl paper, which is similar, but not identical, to the Metallic paper from Kodak.

I've done RA-4 in a Jobo before, and it was quite easy. Having multiple drums available helps, so you're not wasting as much time drying out drums in between prints.

Jim C.
3-Aug-2014, 22:37
I'm not too keen on 'metallic' papers, the Fuji papers seem to be plentiful for now, but the moment i spend money on
hardware Fuji is going to discontinue them ! A Chamois cloth and a blow dryer can take care of a wet Jobo drum.

Any thoughts on the Ilford paper processors ? They seem more available than the Thermophot and at a good price point.
Trawling the web they seem to come up as one way of developing color prints.

polyglot
4-Aug-2014, 05:05
I do everything including all my prints in my Jobo, so colour isn't really much more difficult; I just set it to 35C instead of 25C. It's nice and warm on your hands in winter ;) The main difference is working in the dark, and that I need to cover the red LED displays on my f/stop timer and Jobo temperature display. No need to dry the drum between prints, just do a 10s prewash so everything is uniformly wet. Make sure you evaluate the final hue on DRIED test strips as there is often about 2CC of shift in drydown.

Paper is easy to get (freestyle/arista or B&H/Fuji, both work fine for optical exposure), and I bought the Kodak 4x5L RA4 kit from Ag Photo in the UK. You replenish at about 10-15mL of stock per 8x10, the chemistry basically lasts forever in mylar bag, and 10x forever in the original sealed bottles.

Do it. It's cheaper than B&W too...

Drew Wiley
5-Aug-2014, 12:55
I prefer simpler drums that fill and drain faster than the Jobo ones, but they can be made to work if your dev time is at least 2 min. I prefer Kodak RA/RT chem for
its reliability, or the generic Arista equivalent, which appears to be identical. Cut sheet Fuji CAII paper is readily available up to 20x24, bigger than that, only on
rolls. Kodak is avail in rolls. I am getting superb results with both the paper based CAII and the polyester Fujiflex Supergloss, which has a look reminscent of Cibachrome, but must be printed from color negs instead. I have no interest in metallic papers, so can't comment on them. With RA4 you need to be careful with
temp control and fumes. Good ventilation is critical.

Jim C.
5-Aug-2014, 15:20
Good info, thanks all, I think I'll try it with my Jobo rather than a dedicated processor.
Are there any options for printing slides ?

Drew Wiley
5-Aug-2014, 15:41
With Cibachrome gone, direct printing from slides is unrealistic. There are a few people experimenting with reversal processing onto RA4 paper. They are getting results, but so far rather weird results. That leaves only internegs as a viable option, which I am experimenting with from time to time, but hit and miss,
and advanced masking skills are requisite to doing this well - not really something a beginner is likely to have luck with. At this point in history, slides are going to be
more realistically printed via scanning. But color neg films have gotten so good, and slide film selection so diminished, that's it's a good time to switch anyway.

Jim C.
5-Aug-2014, 16:11
Seems a shame that there wasn't anything to fill Cibachrome's departure,
why would there be any masking if you're doing a interneg ?
Just a guess would be to contact print the slide to negative stock.

polyglot
5-Aug-2014, 16:43
I believe that C41 (Porta160) internegs are the only reasonable option for making all-analogue prints from chromes at this point. Might as well just put the Portra directly in your camera and capture more dynamic range.

The problem with printing via internegs is not so much the interneg as that a chrome contains more dynamic range than paper can represent; chromes have a contrast index greater than one. So while Portra can capture everything on the chrome, you'll end up with a basically unprintable negative. You can pull the C41 development to reduce contrast but you risk crossover doing that, or you can dodge+burn some images where that's feasible, otherwise you need to make a mask. All the problems come from trying to capture an image from the chrome which has more dynamic range than the original scene, so you're better off just capturing the original scene on C41.

Since current Portra is daylight balanced, you want to make the contact print using a strobe as the lightsource, or put a blue tungsten/daylight conversion filter on your enlarger if using that as the source.

koh303
5-Aug-2014, 17:31
Seems a shame that there wasn't anything to fill Cibachrome's departure,
why would there be any masking if you're doing a interneg ?
Just a guess would be to contact print the slide to negative stock.

Not a shame at all. As negatives today are oh so wonderful, and so much more flexible then chrome, with superior sharpness, contrast control, color rendition, and a huge envelope of performance, i am not sure why anyone is missing the toxic, expensive, unforgiving, unreliable and very hard to keep consistent process of shooting and printing chromes.

There is (and never was) absolutely nothing wrong with printing from negatives - andreas gursyk and thomas ruff, jim dow and others will agree, if anything, working with the more forgiving medium allows one to spend the saved energy and nerves for use in other areas.

koh303
5-Aug-2014, 17:34
I believe that C41 (Porta160) internegs are the only reasonable option for making all-analogue prints from chromes at this point. Might as well just put the Portra directly in your camera and capture more dynamic range.
+1


Since current Portra is daylight balanced, you want to make the contact print using a strobe as the lightsource, or put a blue tungsten/daylight conversion filter on your enlarger if using that as the source.
A dichroic head might be easier, and the filtration point of the contact will be close to that of the enlargement in case you are not going to use a color analyzer.

brucetaylor
5-Aug-2014, 18:25
I used to do color in drums, it was simple and cheap but fairly time consuming. Now that I am getting back into darkroom work after a 30 year hiatus, I have been thinking about color too (currently trying to get consistent b&w prints as I dial things in). Hoping to work more efficiently (and with darkroom stuff so cheap) I picked up a Beseler automated print processor. I can see now that one of the disadvantages is that it's going to cost about $100 in chemistry every time I fire it up. Since I won't be printing that regularly I suspect the chems will spoil from one printing session to the next. But the time savings may be worth it. Using drums, the chemistry costs are hardly worth thinking about.

I agree, back in the day color negs weren't that great and chromes were the way to go. C41 color negative materials are really good now, and the only way to go for optical prints without mucking about with internegatives, masks, etc.

polyglot
5-Aug-2014, 19:33
I believe that C41 (Porta160) internegs are the only reasonable option for making all-analogue prints from chromes at this point.

Actually, if you're insane, you can make tri-colour "carbon" prints using B&W separations from your chromes...

sanking
5-Aug-2014, 19:42
Actually, if you're insane, you can make tri-colour "carbon" prints using B&W separations from your chromes...

Makes me want to listen to Waylon Jennings,

"I've always been crazy, but its kept me from going insane. .... "

Sandy

Richard Johnson
5-Aug-2014, 22:00
Not a shame at all. As negatives today are oh so wonderful, and so much more flexible then chrome, with superior sharpness, contrast control, color rendition, and a huge envelope of performance, i am not sure why anyone is missing the toxic, expensive, unforgiving, unreliable and very hard to keep consistent process of shooting and printing chromes.

There is (and never was) absolutely nothing wrong with printing from negatives - andreas gursyk and thomas ruff, jim dow and others will agree, if anything, working with the more forgiving medium allows one to spend the saved energy and nerves for use in other areas.

+1

Jim C.
9-Sep-2014, 11:11
Now that I have some time I'm bumping this thread up for some more advice on color printing.

The paper seems easy to get it's just deciding on what surface finish to use, but the chems seem to
have me confused, looking on B&H's site there are replenisher / bleach fix kits of varying amounts,
but I don't see developer, can the replenisher be used to develop ?

rob4x5
9-Sep-2014, 13:41
Kodak RA Developer/Replenisher RT can be used to develop RA-4 prints in trays at room temperature with excellent results. This makes the printing process as easy as black & white. I used to use drums years ago but had to hastle with high temperature control and wash and dry the drum after every print which wasted time and after I switched to trays my productivity increased greatly.

I don't know about other replenishers.

polyglot
10-Sep-2014, 03:25
Usually you buy replenisher and starter. Make up a quantity of replenisher that is as big as your desired working solution, then add a small quantity (according to instructions) of starter. That should get it to the same state as a well-used and freshly-replenished working solution. You process some paper and then begin the replenishment process.

I use these 4x5L kits (http://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/process-ra4-117-c.asp) from Ag Photo. The 1L starter is a bit insane as you need (I think) about 25mL to get a batch going.

Ironage
10-Sep-2014, 06:19
Rob4x5. Tray process RA-4 at room temperature! This sounds very interesting to me and a little too good to be true. I have too many questions.

Do you have any results we could see?
Do you keep the safelight on?
What is the temperature of you room?
How long does the developer run?

tgtaylor
10-Sep-2014, 09:31
I process RA-4 in Kodak RT chemistry in a Jobo using multiple tubes. The process goes:

1. Retrieve the developed sheet from the 1 tube and put in in the Arkay print dryer.
2. While the print is going thru the dryer, I rinse the tube and lid with hot water and paper dry both with a bounty towel and place on a rack to air dry.
3. Retrieve the now dry print from the Arkay and decide what to do with the next sheet.
4. Once the course of action in 3 above is determined, I expose another sheet and place in the 2 tube and repeat 1 - 3 above.

Don't toss the Bounty towels when they become too saturated. Just put them off to the side somewhere and reuse them when dry.
The Jobo CPA/CPP-2 holds ~ 20 liters of water so it's fairly easy to maintain the bath temperature within tolerance for the developer step.

Thomas

rob4x5
10-Sep-2014, 10:44
Ironage, the Kodak RA Developer/Replenisher RT is used per mixing directions, without any starter. Develop for two minutes at 68 degrees. You can go up to 75 degrees with little or no change in the image but beyond that you should reduce the time. Bleach-Fix for 2-2 1/2 minutes. I have used it with both Kodak Endura paper and Fuji CA II paper with excellent results. I have run tests with a densitometer and found the results to be within kodak specs.

Kodak doesn't advertize this capability but I learned of it from posts of a retired Kodak engineer several years ago on photo.net and APUG. Members of those sites who have tried it found it to work well. It is a shame that more are not aware of this simple way to print color. It may not be the way to go for everyone, but I believe that there would be far more interest in darkroom color printing, which is dying fast, than there is.

I do not use a safelight, but you can. I believe the correct one is #10, dark amber.

I could posts results but don't see a point, the prints look like any other quaility prints and I don't believe scans and posts of images on the internet a reliable way to judge image quality. Besides, I could post anything and you would never know. I urge you to try it yourself. It is the only way you will know if it is for you.

Jim C.
10-Sep-2014, 13:19
I looked into the posts you mentioned about not needing the starter, and it seems that all it did was make the RA developer seem old
not sure of the reasons why you would want that unless un- started fresh developer spiked developing times ( ie; making them shorter ).
Not needing a starter would greatly reduce my photochemical stockpile and cost ( B&H has a minimum order of 4 bottles ).

From the posts by Photo Engineer on APUG, the correct safelight is a Kodak #13. It's also good to know that Indicator stop bath can be used
with the RA-4 process.

Ironage
10-Sep-2014, 14:09
I urge you to try it yourself. It is the only way you will know if it is for you.

This sounds great to me. Will have to try it. I am just preparing to try color printing again after forty years. Seems like it is much simplified since then.

Greg Davis
10-Sep-2014, 16:06
I did tests with actual prints and with process control strips with regard to the starter. You get a slightly different color cast when you omit the starter, but it is correctable in exposure.

WayneStevenson
10-Sep-2014, 18:43
http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/j39/j39.pdf

logan.egbert
16-Sep-2014, 16:02
Trays are great! I've been doing them for about 4 months now and getting terrific results.

Developer is 2 mins
Stop bath is :45-1:00
I was the surface stop off in water
Then 2 mins in blix

Drew Wiley
22-Sep-2014, 12:07
If you value your lungs at all, doing color chem in trays is just plain nuts. Learn the hard way if you must, but it can turn out to be a severe lesson at some point in time. Otherwise, RA/RT is extremely simple to use. And there is a direct Arista substitute from Freestyle available that mixes and performs identically. Only Starter is
needed unless you intend to replenish, which simply complicates things for small volume users.

Larry Gebhardt
22-Sep-2014, 12:58
I'm not trying to talk you out of it, but do you really like the color paper surfaces? I finally decided that the fiber based inkjet papers were much more attractive to me and I sold off my Ilford ICP42 to reclaim some space. The ICP42 was a very nice tabletop processor. I would recommend it. I can still print color in the Jobo, but I haven't really wanted to recently. I also have a Durst Printo that does up to 12 inch wide paper. That's another option to consider. Chemicals lasted much longer in the ICP42 over the Printo however.

I'm not sure where you are located, but I have a lot of paper I should sell off. PM me if you are interested.

rob4x5
22-Sep-2014, 13:09
If Kodak RA-4 chemistry was harmful to the lungs, it would not be recommended for tray use. The MSDS for RA-4 developer indicates low inhalation hazard when used properly, which includes adequate ventilation. If one is in some way sensitive to it, then tray use obviously is not recommended.

Daniel Stone
22-Sep-2014, 15:09
Just remember the "mad as a hatter" term when consistently inhaling trace amounts of chemistry(hence the reasoning behind efficient EXHAUSTING ventilation in a darkroom/confined space.
A little bit over a long time, ends up being a lot. And if you can't eat it w/o it making you sick, I wouldn't recommend you try and breathe it.

Setting up a vent-hood style exhaust system over the rear portion of your sink/processing area might serve a good purpose, and keep those chemicals from hitting you where you're most vulnerable: your lungs.

Some good info/pictures here:
http://www.eepjon.com/Drvent.htm

just a thought :)

-Dan

Larry Gebhardt
24-Sep-2014, 13:46
I agree on the RA4 ventilation. I ran my processor in the darkroom before I installed the vent fan. My lungs felt tight for a few days. I'm sure it wasn't healthy. I wouldn't do tray development without a strong exhaust over the trays.

Drew Wiley
24-Sep-2014, 14:06
Cars and stoplights don't even come with MSDS sheets. You still gotta use common sense with em if you don't want to become roadkill. Don't argue with me. I already know the facts, including friends whose lab careers were ended outright by being macho with this kind of stuff. I've spent most of my life having this or that "artiste"or research chemist tell me how harmless something was, and then watching them go into middle age utterly debilitated or even extinct. Listen to the old timers. If you insist on learning the hard way, it's your lungs, not mine! And if it's not "if" someone is sensitive to it (already) - it's when. And that is something which can happen suddenly, unexpectedly. You can design ventilation flow across your trays, to a collection point away from you. But then it will be tricky to keep temperature constant on a large open surface like that. I'm not trying to scare anyone away from RA4. It's basically fun and simple. But the chemistry certainly must be handled more carefully than garden-variety black-and-white chemicals.

RMiksell
28-Sep-2014, 12:39
I've had good results with the arista ra-4 kit from freestyle and Fuji crystal archive paper. I actually dilute the developer and blix 1:4 and process for 4 min in each at 70f in trays.

Jim C.
28-Sep-2014, 14:50
Freestyle has full kits of the RA4 ( developer/ blix ) but I'd rather not have to ship cross country to NY from Freestyle,
B&H has the Kodak chemicals that I can pick up in store, this is what I have on my list -

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/28803-REG/Kodak_8415580_Ektacolor_RA_Developer_Replenisher.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/28779-REG/Kodak_8309031_Ektacolor_RA_Bleach_Fix.html

Are these the correct chemicals to get ?

Drew Wiley
29-Sep-2014, 09:18
Yep. That's the right stuff. And I notice our local camera store here just started stocking it again, which will be convenient for me.

Jim C.
29-Sep-2014, 14:32
Drew, Thanks for the confirmation.

RMiksell
30-Sep-2014, 10:09
I understand not wanting to ship across country. I can't find any Ra4 around St Louis so I'm stuck with shipping. I wonder if you can dilute the Kodak chemistry and get similar results. diluting the chemistry appears to work better for tray processing.

Drew Wiley
30-Sep-2014, 10:20
Drums do conserve chemistry far better than trays. It takes very little volume by comparison, though can be a nuisance if your drum will only handle one test strip or print at a time. But you do have to be careful that there is enough volume to keep temp constant if the ambient air temp is much off, even if the drum rotates in a water bath. I'm skeptical of abnormal dilution, though you might be able to replenish solutions (a variable I personally prefer to avoid, though others have had success). The Arista and Kodak RA/RT kits perform identically. I can even interchange respective concentrates from the two brands.

WayneStevenson
4-Oct-2014, 21:39
"If you value your lungs at all, doing color chem in trays is just plain nuts."

The first time I C-41 processed 8x10 film a few years ago, I did just that. In a tiny bathroom. It didn't take me long to realize my error. I was laying on the floor in-between agitations with my face shoved into the bed sheet I used to block light from under the door, trying my damnedest to suck breaths of fresh air. Hah.