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Thread: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

  1. #1

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    RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    Some basic info........I have my 8x10 DeVere and had been processing my color and b&w film for a few years.....but only printing B&W........not much darkroom action in a long time....a "D" (you know!) and moving and having my enlarger in storage for a few years until recently.....OK...it's back up and ready to go...... I have a Nikon LS 8000 for medium format (but I still like a traditional B&W print) but nothing worth much mention (Epson 2450 for 4x5) to scan LF film and a Canon Pixma Pro 9000 to print......my question: Is it worthwhile to try to print traditionally my Color negs?.....especially my 4x5 and 8x10 ..........not to compare the ability to enhance or alter digitally but rather a print of say the max of my inkjet printer versus the equivalent size printed traditionally......
    ......Is RA-4 still a worthwhile process to learn?........I have chemicals and paper...all out of date but likely very usable .......
    ...or should I just nix the whole idea and opt for a current flatbed scanner that is still only consumer grade......keep in mind I want my LF print to look like LF prints..If I wanted less I wouldn't bother with LF...not to mention camera movements.....

  2. #2
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    Joseph

    The new papers are extremely fast and biased for led and laser exposure, but with that said there is nothing wrong in setting up to print RA4 . I assume you would be using a rotary processor? These papers do work under an enlarger but much faster than let's say 15 years ago
    If you are talking trays then I cannot comment as I have never done colour in Trays and I would imagine doable but quite difficult.
    I print RA4 and Inkjet, they both have their strongpoints and generally I am inclined to make RA4 prints over inkjet. *my personal choice*
    The difference you will find with a enlarger print and one done digitally is small but there would be a sharper image from the direct negative, but one could argue the pure bliss of being able to edit in PS to achieve results not possible with an enlarger print.
    I switched to PS laser RA4 about three years ago and am very happy , but I do not think there is anything wrong with the results attained with an enlarger print.

    go for it.

  3. #3

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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    In some ways I've found colour easier then B&W

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    RA4 is really quite easy if you have a simple processing drum and a colorhead. I personally use Kodak chemistry one-shot (mixed fresh for each print or daily session)and Fuji Crystal Archive paper. The paper keeps fairly well, the chemistry doesn't, so
    make sure you are buying it fresh. Simple test strips are suitable for determining exp
    and color balance. It's important to keep the temperature of your chemicals, especially
    the developer, rather precise. Something like a Jobo tempering box works well. I'm
    allergic to RA4, so load the exposed print in the darkroom, but mix the chemicals and
    do the actual processing outdoors, with the processor base mounted on a portable
    Rubbermaid cart. If indoors, it's important to use good ventilation just as in any other
    darkroom chemistry application. The actual color gamut you come up with will depend
    to a considerabe degree upon your specific negative film. Some films are obviously
    more saturated than others.

  5. #5

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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    RA4 is pretty straightforward once you dial it in for a particular emulsion and get a good baseline print.

    What changes with color is that as the enlarger bulb ages (or when you blow it out and have to replace it), the baseline filtration shifts, too. As it does for each particular emulsion. I found that Kodak paper was easy to get color balance spot on with Kodak films, not so easy with Fuji because of the "4th Layer" magenta cross. I'd expect that it's easier to get Fuji reversal papers to work with Kodak neg films than vice versa (though I always stuck with Kodak papers when I was doing RA4). But at least the paper and chemistry are cheap compared to Ilfochrome or digital media.

    As Drew says RA4 paper doesn't color shift at nearly the same rapid rate (outdated Ilfochrome paper can be worse than useless, with red shifts that can't be dialed out).

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    I personally get around some of the idiosyncrasies of printing color negs by using a
    sharp-cutting additive light source which largely replicates the manner in which
    digital printers work with the newest Fuji papers. But I'm also printing only my own
    work, therefore shots which have been tailored for the print meda itself. Generally
    Portra 160VC 8x10's. The color rivals anything digital and the detail is superior, but
    if you need a contrast or saturation boost, well, too bad. Pro and cons. It isn't
    Photoshop and you can't use trannies as a starting point (for that kind of thing I print
    mainly Ciba). But it is a far more cost effective means of making a big print than
    anything digital I'm aware of. No need for a scan or the expense and repair issues
    of a scanner. My colorhead has internal feedback so is extremely repeatable from
    print to print or even year to year. Just need to recalibrate for new batches of paper.
    But engineering a colorhead like this was a distinct chore. But there's no need of
    something this sophisticated for ordinary color neg printing, especially for portrait
    work. Most modern colorheads will work well.

  7. #7

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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    For those of you who process RA4 in drums, how do you deal with rinsing and drying the drums btw every print? Multiple drums...or?

    Has anyone used trays?

  8. #8
    westernlens al olson's Avatar
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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    Quote Originally Posted by PViapiano View Post
    For those of you who process RA4 in drums, how do you deal with rinsing and drying the drums btw every print? Multiple drums...or?

    Has anyone used trays?
    I have a Jobo CPP-2 and use drums to process my 16x20s, both b&w as will as RA-4. I have two drums and I rinse each after processing, disassemble the parts, and then wipe them down with a paper towel. By the time I have finished processing with the other drum the first drum is usually air dried enough so that there will be no water spots.

    I run my smaller color test prints through a DoMac processor. Although it will take 16" wide paper, I find that by the time the end of the 20" length pops out of the developer trough, the developer on that end of the paper is not fresh enough for full development on the last 1 1/2" of the print. It does OK on the smaller papers, though. I use Nova vertical tanks for processing my b&w test prints up to 11x14.
    al

  9. #9
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    I never used trays but...

    The very first colour prints I made were on a Kodak K16 drum processor.
    Very cool unit ... basicaly a 20 inch waterbath tray at working temp, with a net drooped inside,,, the chems were pre mixed and sitting in a water bath at temp as well, ,, you would expose your paper, then place the print emulsion up inside the tray on the net to pre soak,,, a rotating drum that was connected to the waterbath running through the drum to keep the metal at temp... the surface of the drum was very smooth and as it rotated you would lift the net with your exposed paper and place on the drum which was rotating now with the paper emulsion touching the drum.... start the timer and in a tray connected to the rotating drum you would put in the dev.... when time was up just flick the tray and the dev would dump,,, then bleach,,, then fix,,, lights on ,, then wash... Prints had to be dried in a heated dryer.

    I loved this machine and it really was a workhorse through my school years.
    There also was a basket system **calumet** that used nitrogen burst system which basically was much like a dip and dunk system that you moved the prints between the baths by hand.. I hated this machine because the room really f....ing stunk of chemicals and back then we did not wear gloves and the school ventilation was crap.
    But this system also was a workhorse and easy to use.

    This site LFPF is full of gear freaks/geeks who could redesign the K16 and for a small home darkroom would be a fantastic piece of equipment to make colour prints. The enlarger and processing system fit in a small closet size room and worked wonderful for thousands of students going through photoschool, before they bought the Kodak roller transport.

    Re drums, we wipe down the drums and put in a heated dryer for 10 min and ready to go ..


    Quote Originally Posted by PViapiano View Post
    For those of you who process RA4 in drums, how do you deal with rinsing and drying the drums btw every print? Multiple drums...or?

    Has anyone used trays?

  10. #10

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    Re: RA-4/Wet Color...Is it worth trying for a newb?

    I use multiple drums. Washing in the drum isn't an issue. It's making sure the damn thing is 100% dry.

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