Unicolor C-41 processing first crack

It’s been over 8 rolls of B&W film since I resumed my own film processing. It was easier than I remembered, and especially easy thanks to the Massive Film Database Timer application available for iPhone and Android. I use it on my iPhone 5.  Time to try colour processing.

Last weekend provided a few firsts for me:

  • First time shooting action using manual zone focussing with my Mamiya 645 medium format camera.
  • First time using my recently cleaned Mamiya Sekor 150mm f3.5 lens.
  • First time processing my own colour film.

Last week, I dropped into our local used camera shop, Camera Traders in Market Square downtown Victoria.  I went in to have them assess my neighbour’s Zeiss Ikon SLR camera (more on that later) and to pick up a box of Unicolor. At $29, it promises to save me money in exchange for about a half-hour of my time.

Scootering Unicolor 1My first roll of colour film to develop using the Unicolor kit was a roll of Fujipro 400H 120 film. I figured 12 frames lost due to blunders would be tolerable. What I didn’t factor in was my subject’s anxiousness to see the results – my son and his pals doing scooter tricks on the street.

I’ll take you through some of the things I did (wrong), but the results nevertheless were favourable.  Starting with a roll of 120 means I only blow 12 shots if it doesn’t work out.

Scootering Unicolor 3Knowing and maintaining temperature is key, or so I heard, so I picked up a basic $12 digital kitchen thermometer at London Drugs that ranges from negative temps to over 500F. Should do the trick.

I ran the water in the laundry sink until the thermometer said it was about 102F. I then poured 800mL into my pitcher and mixed in the powder C-41 Developer. After it was fully mixed, I topped it up to a litre and poured it into a Fiji water one litre water bottle.  I mimicked this with the Blix A powder. What I did slightly wrong, I think, was fully mix the BlixA before adding the BlixB. Not to worry, I kept going.  Lastly, using room temperature water, I mixed the STAB or stabilizer in a litre of room-temp water. With both DEV and BLIX bottles sitting in 104F water in the laundry sink, I head to my ‘dark room’ – that cold storage windowless room under the entry stairs, accessible from the basement.  120 film in the Paterson tank, which by the way, I loaded in about 30 seconds, a record for me, I head back to the laundry room keen to get started.

Check the temperature. 102.6F. Close enough. Time to develop. But first, the hot wash.. clean water at 102F… which I didn’t have.. Oops. I quickly pour some into a bottle and get rinsing. Blunder alert! As I agitate  the developer for the first bit, I kept the Paterson tank out of the water for a whole half minute, risking cooling the chems. Oops. I correct this subsequently, taking it out of the bath water only for the 10s agitation. You can see the standard C-41 dev times in the instructions for Unicolor.

3-1/2 minutes in the Dev and time for the Blix. Blix is about 6 minutes, or so, wash for a few minutes, then onto the STAB, which is a minute.  Then final rinse. After rinsing, I added the photo FLO wash to reduce the chance of water stains and rinse again before hanging to dry.

I dry my negatives in our basement shower. I hook a bungie cord across the top to create a line to clip to and use either bulldog clips or clothespins top and bottom.

The cool thing about C-41 is the standardized process – times in each chemistry are the same regardless of ISO or brand. This removes the need of the massive database.

Scootering Unicolor 4

I used a timer on my iPhone for each step. I saw that someone built an iPhone app for C-41 timing, but it transitions between steps instantly, which isn’t feasible. It takes time to drain and to grab the next bottle.

All the little mistakes aside, the actual results are good. In fact, I can’t really tell that I did this at home. The scans look great and the film was pretty much free of dust, more so than when I have a lab do my C-41 processing.

Scootering Unicolor 5

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