Processing my own color film

"Color (C-41) processing is hard." Or at least that's what I always assumed. Several months ago I decided to find out for myself, but only yesterday did I finally get to it. 

The trick to color negative development is accurate, consistent temperature of the chemicals. I solved that by buying a JOBO processor from a guy on Craigslist. It can also be done with a pan of warm water. The JOBO keeps the chemicals at the correct temperature and will agitate (rotate) the tank for me. All I have to to is load the film, mix the chemicals, and watch the timer.

JOBO CPE2 with Lift

JOBO CPE2 with Lift

What ended up being the hardest part for me was finding decent information on how to actually go through the process. The few people who bother to write about color processing all seem to recommend something different. "You MUST pre-wash!" or "Don't EVER pre-wash!" It's crazy how little consistent information is available. I read a few articles, scanned the forums, and went for it.

The kit I used was from Rollei: Digibase C41. This seemed ideal as it seemed to have been specifically formulated for small runs and has a long shelf life. Of course I just found out today when trying to order more that it's since been discontinued. Naturally.

What I found was that the process was rather simple. Getting chemicals in and out of the tank was made easy by the JOBO Lift. Then hung the negatives to dry and scanned. Not bad. Here's the process I used.

  • Pre-wash for 1:00 minute (The Digibase kit suggests it)
  • Developer for 3:15
  • Wash for 2:00
  • Bleach for 6:00 (suggested from 4:00 to 6:30)
  • Wash for 2:00
  • Fix for 6:30
  • Wash for 2:00
  • Stabilize (directly in tank, not using JOBO as the stabilizer can gunk things up)
  • Hang

I had 250ml of each chemical pre-mixed and in bottles held in warm water in the JOBO. Other than a few drying marks and the usual collection of dust, it turned out pretty well.

One of the things keeping me from shooting 120 color film is the cost and lag with processing. I ship the film to NCPS and in 7-10 days I'd get it back with scans. The cost is about $20/roll. Using the color kit at home brings that down to around $3.00/roll. I can live with that at the volume I shoot.

Here are a few shots from the Hasselblad on (the now discontinued) Fuji Pro 800Z.