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Tutorial: Rollei C41 Digibase – Color Film Development

The Rollei C41 Digibase Kit is a great solution for inexperienced lomographers wanting to develop their own color film. Unlike many other kits this one works at lower temperatures. It has allowed me to successfully develop color negative film, redscale film, and even cross-process slide film, all on the first go. In this tutorial I will explain this specific development process step by step and share some very handy graphs I made, that will help you develop your own film.

Photo by sandravo

Before ordering this kit I did a lot of online research on color film development. Turns out there are two important issues with color film developing: the chemicals have short shelf life and you need to be able to work at high temperature. The Digibase C41 kit is an exception to both: it has excellent shelf life and, even more important for the home-developer, it works over a very wide temperature range. The lucky few who have the means to heat up the solutions to a temp of 45°C can go for the rapid developing process. But even the rest of us, who are depending on a bucket of hot tap water, are all set with this kit!

The Rollei Digibase C41 kit is sold in different sizes, ranging from 0,5l to 5l in volume, ranging from 10 to 100 rolls in development. Since I planned to do a lot of shooting I bought the largest kit, resulting in a very low cost per roll, only €0.50 per film. This tutorial will work for you, regardless of which size kit you choose.

As there are plenty of resources that will explain how to use a dark bag, how to spool your film on a developing reel, how to use a developing tank, how to hang your film to dry, etc. I will solely focus on the development process in this tutorial.

THINGS YOU’LL NEED

  • Four dark plastic bottles to store solutions, 1l
  • Large measuring cylinder, 1l
  • Smaller measuring cylinder, 100ml works fine
  • Small volume syringe (included in kit)
  • Precise thermometer (ranging at least to 45°C, preferably higher)
  • Developing tank
  • Funnel
  • Film squeegee
  • Bucket (large enough to hold the 4 bottles)
  • Tap with hot water
  • Stop watch (any clock showing seconds will do, I use my iPhone)

MIXING SOLUTIONS

The Digibase C41 kit is delivered as concentrated solutions you need to mix and dilute yourself. The box clearly states it holds enough concentrates to make up 5 liters of working solution, but it isn’t that straight forward. The only solution you can make 5 liters of is the developer. There is only enough concentrate in the box to make 3.5l of bleacher and fixer each, and 3l of stabilizer. The good thing is that the final volumes of each liquid, being 5l or 3l, is sufficient to develop at least 100 rolls.

In order to use the solutions at the same rate and refresh them at the same time, I opted to make the right amount of solutions so that each would give me 20 rolls. That means I made 1l of developer, 700ml bleacher, 700ml fixer and 500ml stabilizer.

Note: if you’re planning on developing e.g. 2 rolls of 35mm simultaneously, you should realize 500ml would not be enough volume. In that case you could make 1l, so the stabilizer will last for 40 rolls, exactly twice as long as the other solutions.

Note: Solutions can be made with tap water but it is advised by the manufacturer to use distilled (de-mineralized) water.

1. Color Developer

To make 1l of developer I followed the instructions printed on the bottle. You will need warm water (49°C), a large measuring cylinder (1l), a small measuring cylinder (100ml) and a syringe (provided with the kit).

The volumes for making up 1l of developer are:

Part A: 100ml, Part B: 100ml, Part C: 100ml and starter: 10ml (use the syringe for this).

Start by filling the large cylinder halfway with warm water (49°C).

Add 100ml part A and mix well.
Add 100ml part B and mix well.
Add 100ml part C and mix well.
Add 10 ml starter and mix well.
Finally, top of the volume to precisely 1l.

Keep the solution in a dark bottle, clearly labelled.

2. Bleacher

To make 700ml of bleacher I followed the instructions printed on the bottle. You will need warm water (35-40°C), a large measuring cylinder (1l), a smaller measuring cylinder (the same 100ml cylinder from before works fine).

The volumes for making up 700ml of bleacher are:
Bleach concentrate: 196ml + Water: 504ml

Mix well and store in a clearly labelled bottle.

3. Fixer

To make 700ml of fixer I followed the instructions printed on the bottle. You will need warm water (32-40°C), a large measuring cylinder (1l), a smaller measuring cylinder (the same 100ml cylinder from before works fine).

The volumes for making up 700ml of fixer are:

Fixer concentrate: 140ml + Water: 560ml

Mix well and store in a clearly labelled bottle.

4. Stabilizer

To make 500ml of stabilizer I followed the instructions printed on the bottle. You will need warm water (32-40°C), a large measuring cylinder (1l), a smaller measuring cylinder (the same 100ml cylinder from before works fine).

The volumes for making up 500ml of stabilizer are:
Stabilizer concentrate: 25ml + Water: 475ml

Mix well and store in a clearly labelled bottle.

Note: you can find an online instruction manual for this kit. In my case, the instructions in the manual differed from the information on the bottle when it came to mixing the stabilizer. I followed the instructions on the bottle rather than the manual (which wasn’t included with the kit, by the way). You too should carefully check your bottles and follow the instructions you find on them, even if it differs from the information I give you.

When you are finished making your working solutions it is best to store the remaining concentrates in a cool, dark place (no need to store in a fridge!). The solutions you have just mixed should also be stored in a cool and dark place when not in use.

You have made enough solution to develop 20 films. You do not have to use it all in one go! You can reuse the solutions over several weeks or even months, simply pour the used solution back into the labeled bottles. Keep track of how many films you have processed and when you hit #20, the time has come to make new working solutions. Check with local waste disposal officials to find out where you can dump the used chemicals.

GETTING YOUR CHEMICALS UP TO TEMPERATURE

According to the instruction manual there are 4 set temperature points at which you can develop your film: 45°C, 37,8°C, 25°C and 20°C. Depending on the temperature, development takes from 2 min to 21 min. Since I have no water heater or warm water bath, I simply use a bucket of warm water, it is close to impossible for me to reach a specific temperature. To make things more complicated they indicate different temps for the next step in the process. So I have to use a workaround.

Using the information from the manual I created a very handy graph. I plotted the indicated temp/time points from the manual on a graph and connected the dots (pun intended). This way, instead of aiming for a set temperature indicated in the manual, I simply measure the actual temperature of my solution and use the graph to determine the appropriate developing time. For your convenience, I made similar graphs for the bleaching and fixing processes as well.

As I said, I use a bucket of hot tap water to warm up the chemicals. My tap water goes as high as 60°C. Experience has taught me that placing the bottles in a bucket holding 3.5 litres hot tap water for 15 minutes is enough to get the chemicals temperature up to approx. 40°C. So, no need to buy expensive heating set up; all you need is some hot water!

Theoretically, you could start developing as soon as your chemicals reach 25°C, which will give you a total processing time of half an hour. Personally, I like the system I have used so far: fill a bucket of hot water, put in the bottles, wait for 15 minutes, and whatever temp the liquids have reached is fine (as long as it is over 25°C!). I leave the bottles in the bucket during the entire process. Temperature will drop a little, but no more than a few degrees. If you feel temperature drops too much, just replace some of the water in the bucket with hot water again.

DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

The Digibase C41 process consists of 5 steps. We’ll go through them one by one.

0. Pre -Soak

To start of it is advised to pre-soak your tank and film with tap water at approximately the same temperature your chemicals have. The easiest way is to scoop water from you bucket into the tank. CAREFUL: make sure the temp has dropped down enough! Pouring 60°C water on your film might damage it!

Pre-soak will get your tank and film up to temperature and will soften the emulsion on the film, improving development results. Pre-soak for 2 to 3 minutes and dump the water from your tank (pour it back into the bucket if you like).

1. Developing

Pour the developer in the tank and start your timer. You don’t need to measure the exact amount, just make sure your film is covered. I use a Patterson tank and pour in liquid until I see it reach the bottom of the funnel. Close up the tank with the lid and invert during 15 seconds. Set the tank down with a nice tap to dislodge air bubbles and take of the lid. From this moment until the end of this step you just need to agitate once every 30 seconds (use the little agitator to spin the spool around).

This is the moment the DEVELOPER graph comes into play. Place your thermometer in the tank and read the exact temperature of the liquid. Find this temperature on the left side of the graph, follow the line horizontally until you hit the red graph line, drop straight down and read the time you will need to develop. Easy as pie!

Keep agitating every 30 seconds. Keep the labelled bottle near, with a funnel placed, ready to go. When you have 15 seconds left of your developing time start, pour the liquid back in the bottle. Reset your timer.

2. Bleach

Pour the bleacher in the tank and start your timer. Close up the tank with the lid and invert during 15 seconds. Set the tank down with a nice tap to dislodge air bubbles and take of the lid. Agitate once every 30.

This is the moment the BLEACHER graph comes into play. Measure the exact temperature of the bleacher in your tank and use the graph to determine the appropriate processing time.

Keep agitating every 30 seconds. When you have 15 seconds left of your bleaching time, start pouring the liquid back in the bottle. Reset your timer.

3. Fix

Pour the fixer in the tank and start your timer. Close up the tank with the lid and invert during 15 seconds. Set the tank down with a nice tap to dislodge air bubbles and take of the lid. Agitate once every 30.

This is the moment the FIXER graph comes into play. Measure the exact temperature of the fixer in your tank and use the graph to determine the appropriate processing time.

Keep agitating every 30 seconds. When you have 15 seconds left of your fixing time, start pouring the liquid back in the bottle. Reset your timer.

4. Stabilize

Pour the stabilizer in the tank and start your timer. Close up the tank with the lid and invert during 15 seconds. Set the tank down with a nice tap to dislodge air bubbles and take of the lid. Agitate once every 30.

The stabilizing step doesn’t appear to be very time sensitive. The manual indicates times from 1 min at 40°C to 1 min30 at 25°C. As long as the temp of the stabilizer is between 35-40°C I choose the middle ground and use a fixed time of 1 min 15. Works fine for me.

When you have 15 seconds left of your stabilizing time, start pouring the liquid back in the bottle.

ADMIRE YOUR RESULTS

And that’s it, you’re done! Your film is developed! You can now completely open the tank and take out the reel. Avoid touching the film with your fingers. Immediately attach a clip or a cloths pin to the accessible end of the film, open the reel and carefully let the film come of. Remove the excess liquid with the squeegee and hang your film to dry in a dust and draft free room. Scan your film and post your results for the rest of us to see ;-)

LET ME SHARE SOME OF MY RESULTS

Every roll I have tried so far has given me great results: color negative, redscale, and even xpro.

Acknowledgement:

About a month ago I read an article written by blueskyandhardrock. It was the first part of a C41 DIY developing tutorial, in which she claimed the entire process wasn’t very hard at all. When I read the second part of the article, she had me convinced C41 processing truly wasn’t as difficult as everybody made it out to be. So, thank you blueskyandhardrock for getting me to jump in, feet first!

written by sandravo

28 comments

  1. muchachamala

    muchachamala

    Awesome! Thanks for the graphs, now I no longer have to get the temperature right on the mark! Makes life easier ;-)

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  2. sandravo

    sandravo

    @muchachamala You're welcome. Send me a personal message if you want a better resolution graph :-)

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  3. blueskyandhardrock

    blueskyandhardrock

    @sandravo great results! Glad to have helped push you to start doing it! xo

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  4. danbarry

    danbarry

    I bought a small set of these dev solutions online ages ago to give it a try and i've been too chicken to us it as the instructions are a little erm... intermediate for my skills. This is super clear and I'm gonna do some right now!!! oh, wait I'm at work and need to shoot a film first - but as soon as!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  5. sandravo

    sandravo

    @danbarry Good luck with your first developing attempts! I have just finished roll #20 and they have all come out great! Time to change solutions and keep going ;-) Send me a message when you post your results!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  6. aguillem

    aguillem

    Wow, thank you!

    I've also been convinced by @blueskyandhardrock, and I was going to order the equipment.
    I chose a Tetenal kit, but you just sold me the Rolei ;)
    So your tipster arrived at best moment it could

    Two advises from my inexistent developing experience:
    - I thought about using a kettle to get hot water if the tap isn't hot enough
    - Your graphs seem very useful, but it would be more accurate if you connect the dots with curves (especially for the developer)

    If I understood well, you don't turn the tank upside down to agitate, but use the agitator? Anyone know if one is better, or easier?

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  7. aguillem

    aguillem

    If you're in Europe, the kit can be bought here, as well as all the equipment you need.
    http://www.ars-imago(…)91_431.html

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  8. sandravo

    sandravo

    @aguillem

    Glad you are convinced to start your own developing adventures! The more the merrier :-)

    At first I made the graphs using all available trend lines in excel, but none really fitted well. If you check the kits manual you will see they give 4 fixed temp/time combinations. The only further information the manual gives is that between the 2nd and 3rd point you could adjust the time depending on your temperature. There is no details on how to adjust, so I assume (given that most people who buy these kits don't hold a PhD in Science) that between these two points that would be linear. Obviously, any curve you draw based on all four points will deviated from this straight line between point 2 and 3, which is the only confirmed info from Rollei. So I kept it as is, connecting the confirmed points by straight lines, extending the range to the highest and lowest temp point as wel. So far this has worked great for me, but nothing stops you from drawing your own graphs!

    If your tap water isn't hot enough you could use an electrical water heater or a kettle on the stove, easy enough.

    At the start of every step of the developing proces I wrote: close up the tank with the lit and invert during 15 seconds. This is my way of saying keep flipping the tank up and down during the first 15 seconds. After that I use the agitator every 30seconds until the end of that step. Next step, again start by flipping the entire tank 15sec, after that the agitator every 30 sec. I think flipping the tank at the beginning of each step is important, just using the agitator might result in uneven processing.

    The online shop you suggest seems to have rather high shipping costs outside Italy, but there are several large online shops (macodirect.de to name one) specified in analogue film, development and dark room equipment. Google is your friend ;-)

    Good luck and keep me posted on how things are going! If you have more questions once you've started just shoot me a message!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  9. asharnanae

    asharnanae

    Great tutorial. I use the digibase kit also, very easy. I have a heater and use 38 degree water, but i preheat my chems with kettle water to speed up the start of the process. I'm trying to get a colour darkroom up and running, just got to save up and see if I can find a good space.

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  10. ed-walker-5059

    ed-walker-5059

    I would like to thank you for this tutorial :). Today I did my first colour film and thanks to you it went well. I just followed your steps and your tips helped. I usually only touch black and white and thought colour was too much trouble but I actually found it was just as easy. Thanks very much.

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  11. sandravo

    sandravo

    @ed-walker-5059 Awesome! And you're welcome! Give me a shout when you post your results! Honestly, with this kit I have more confidence in color developments than black and white... There's just so much you have to keep in mind when it comes to BW film: type, iso, brand, ... For safety reasons I usually resort to stand development, which means a very long development time!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  12. aguillem

    aguillem

    Hey, I received my Digibase kit, as well as the developing tank and so on :)
    I hope I can try it out very soon!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  13. sandravo

    sandravo

    Good luck @aguillem! Feel free to send me a message if you have more questions or if you run into trouble!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  14. rik041

    rik041

    thank you...i want to try this

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  15. sandravo

    sandravo

    @rik041. You should try this! After you've done it once you'll wonder why you have been wasting all that money on developing AND missing out on all the excitement! ;-)

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  16. aguillem

    aguillem

    I finally did it myself! I developped 4 films so far, and everything went fine :) (except when I opened the tank, but that's because I'm stupid...)
    Here are the 2 rolls I uploaded already:
    http://www.lomograph(…)development
    http://www.lomograph(…)ady-in-love

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  17. sandravo

    sandravo

    @aguillem Both albums look great! I bet you will never ever send another film to the lab again! ;-)

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  18. aguillem

    aguillem

    @sandravo Indeed!
    My decond development took me 2h for 2 35mm and 1 medium format (I do two runs while the chemicals are warm). So I could do 4 35mm in the same time.
    If I manage to find a lab which cross-process and push-process for an acceptable price, I'll have to drive 1/2h at least. then come back home, and take the films back... it would be longer than doing it myself! Then if we speak about the price, the fuel to go to the lab would be more expensive than buying the chemicals.
    And then I hope I can experiment with alternative development process, film soups, etc.

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  19. aguillem

    aguillem

    I just lack of information about push-processing... if you have any I'd be grateful.

    Here is the info I found so far, with links to the sources:
    - the extended times are only for developer
    http://photo.net/fil(…)orum/00U75N

    - About Digibase: For push processing +1F add 30 seconds for the C41 developer
    (so multiply by 1.15 if we consider that this time is for 37.8°C)
    http://www.apug.org/(…)1-a-16.html

    - In the instructions I received with the Arista (at Freestyle) it says:
    When Exposure Change Is: 2 stops under/ASA Speed: 4X Normal, Increase Development Time:1.75x
    When Exposure Change Is: 1 stop under/ASA Speed: 2x Normal, Increase Development Time: 1.30x
    http://photo.net/fil(…)orum/00U75N

    - According to Kodak document Z131, normal C-41 dev time is 3:15, 1 stop push is 3:45, 2 stop push is 4:15
    http://photo.net/fil(…)orum/00U75N

    - As for pushing film, the standard times for C41 are a 30 second increase per stop.
    http://www.flickr.co(…)9790260615/

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  20. sandravo

    sandravo

    @aguilem Trust me, you'll get better and quicker every time. Using hot tap water I get my chemicals up to around 39 degrees C, which means max 15 minutes for a complete development cycle (which can hold even 2 or 3 120 reels if you have the big tank). When the first tank is done, I scoop out half the water from the bucket, add some hot water again (so the temperature stays high and times are shorter), and run the next tank, and so on. You'll get to a point where you can do three runs in 1 hour. No way a lab will do better! I am glad you got the hang of it, and please give me shout when you find a good soup for your film!!!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  21. crade1

    crade1

    Thanks so much for the handy graphs! I am going to develop my first roll of color film today with the Digibase Kit, and your graphs will make it much more easier! :)

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  22. sandravo

    sandravo

    @crade1 Good luck! Give me a shout when you post your results!

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  23. baxaviv

    baxaviv

    About the graphs, have you tried various temps between the recommended "dots" with the same results? I found another tutorial (in swedish...) where the author made a hole in the bucket to be able to have the tap water constantly running to keep a even temperature through the whole process. He also recomends to hang the films in the shower after taking a steamy shower ;-) to keep the dust in the air away...
    The tutorial, http://www.fotosidan(…)-hemmet.htm

    I'm about to try this my self any day now, nice to find so much info about this!

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  24. sandravo

    sandravo

    @baxaviv Honestly, I never hit the dots! I just fill my bucket once, with the hottest tap water I can get, which is about 60 C (Celcius) and leave my bottles in there. After about 10 min. I start developing and I measure the actual temperature in my tank after about 1min. I Take the right graph, dev-bleach-fix, and look what the corresponding time is. Works every time! No need to maintain your temperature, no need to keep your tap running all the time! If I want to do another run, I scoop out some water from the bucket (i din't even throw that away, I use it to presoak the next tank) and add some really hot tap water.

    About getting dust on your drying negs... I just hang them to dry wherever I find a place. I do use either a squeegee or my fingers to get most of the liquid off the negs before hanging them up, so they aren't really sticky to begin with. But I have never had a problem with dust getting stuck to the negs when drying. I know the take-a-shower-and-hang-them-in-the-bathroom technique, but even in my house it isn't nessecary (and I do not clean every day, far from it!)

    Good luck with your first developments!
    Greetz
    Sandra

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  25. ronald-bruinsma-9

    Great tutorial! The first two films that I developed were fine but the last film I developed was complete red, nothing on it. Any ideas? I did used the kit to develop 10 films and stored the fluid for about 2 months before using it again. I did exactly followed this tutorials and use a digital thermometer. Thanks.
    11 months ago · report as spam
  26. sandravo

    sandravo

    @ronald-bruinsma-9 Assuming you used all chemicals in the right order and given that the first 2 films came out OK, I am thinking something may have gone wrong during exposure rather than during development. Are you sure the camera you used for the last roll has a working light meter?

    11 months ago · report as spam
  27. bobby_sekeris

    bobby_sekeris

    Wat een handige tutorial! Deze chemicaliën ga ik zeker uit proberen ;-)

    10 months ago · report as spam
  28. af-capture

    af-capture

    nice read

    7 months ago · report as spam

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