I love being a lab rat. And I love xpro. C-41 DIY turned me off until now because of the reports that temperature is crucial and temperature management is somewhat problematic when lacking a processor. Well, it turns out that's all irrelevant. Read on to see how you can develop C-41 similar to b&w at home at room temperature without fuss! Find new XPRO FREEDOM!
Everyone already developing b&w will have absolutely no problems developing C-41 at home, at room temperature. You do not need anything to control temperature, you only need patience. I developed some of my runs in water as cold as 18 degrees Celcius, right out of the tap end of winter.
I used the Digibase C-41 Maxi kit and bought an extra bottle of stabilizer to experiment with batch processing rolls in an old JOBO developing tank holding 1900 ml of solution for 5 135/36 rolls. Mix all your chemicals according to the kit instructions. Be careful and use adequate protection! These are dangerous chemicals! Use protective glasses, gloves and an apron at the least! Work only in well ventilated rooms as the fumes are poisonous! Do not develop when pregnant!
I used empty distilled water containers to store my chemicals. I used distilled water for some of my b&w processing and kept the empty 5 liter containers. The 5 liters of distilled water were about 3 Euros each from my local supermarket (look in the automobile section, it’s often sold for cars) and for a free container, you can’t beat the price. I used my 1900 ml solutions for 10 films until now and I have another 40 films left (when I find time again).
Disregard anything the manual says regarding temperature.However, I take no responsibility should your experiment fail because of other circumstances ;)
Let’s get it on!
Put your films on the reels and in the tank in complete darkness, like accustomed.
Presoak for 3 minutes with tap water, or, if your tap water is >5 degrees Celcius colder than your room temperature, always use water that has been left at room temperature overnight for everything. This is important to prevent film reticulation!
Presoaking helps development by saturating the emulsion and facilitating later developer penetration into all layers, especially with 120 film. I do not agitate during this step.
Pour out the presoak water. Pour in the developer at room temperature. Continuous agitation for 1 minute, then three taps on the workbench to dislodge bubbles. Leave for 45 minutes! This is the stand development.
Important: The Digibase instructions have omitted the crucial washing steps! I omitted them once, too and the films didn’t come out nicely. So, after pouring the developer back into its container for reuse wash for 3 minutes.
The next step is the bleach. Pour in the bleach at room temperature, agitate continuously for 1 minute, tap 3 times to dislodge bubbles and leave for 45 minutes. Omit this step for bleach bypass alternate processing!
Pour the bleach back into its container and wash for 3 minutes, if you did not omit bleaching for bleach bypass.
Now is the time to fix. Pour in the fixer, always at room temperature and now agitate continuously for one minute and then intermittently for 10 seconds every minute. Pour the fixer back into its container and wash using the Ilford method, i.e. one tank full of water and 5 slow inversions, then one tank full of water and 10 slow inversions and then last one tank full of water and 20 slow inversions.
Last comes stabilizer at room temperature. Pour it in and do not agitate, just leave for one minute. Make sure beforehand that your kit gives enough chemicals for your use, as I mentioned I bought more stabilizer, because otherwise I would not be able to fill my huge tank with the kit stabilizer. Pour it back into its container and voilá ready are your negatives to hang to dry for at least 3 hours.
To minimize dust, you can spray the room beforehand with water using a sprayer (I bought mine for 1 Euro from OBI). The water droplets bind floating dust. A dust-free environment like a shower is best.
That’s all there is to it! And you get this (all images shown in this article are with colour negative film to illustrate effect of development on colour; of course you can also use the process to xpro):
Not bad for stand development at room temperature without hassle, eh?
Actually, I find the colours are true and the quality indistinguishable from that at mass labs!
Who needs (semi-)automated processors worth a kindney??
The Digibase kit has separate bleach and fixer, instead of a combo chemical (blix) like other kits, which means an extra step. It also means, however, that I was able to experiment with something I wanted for a long time: Bleach bypass!!!!
This effect has been used in several movies, even Hollywood ones! Just google it! Maybe your favourite one is one of them! Also, eliminating one 45 minute stand step was much to my liking, because I am busy and rather impatient (yes, I admit it!) when it comes to my negatives. So, for bleach bypass, just omit the bleaching step and depending on film used and exposure given you will get such funky colours as here:
So, have fun developing C-41 at home at a cost of as little as 50 eurocents per roll without hassle and let me know of your results!! :D