Posted under Photography
In case you’ve been worried that I’ve been spending any profits from the shop on gummi bears and crack cocaine, fear not! I’ve really been spending it on things like this:
That’s right. I bought Travis a rocket launcher.
No! I kid! Really, that’s just one tube that came in this set:
You see, I was on ebay last week, and ran across an auction for a Beseler color developing unit. It has a motorized base and three tubes, and is designed for (I think) developing color photo paper. Color paper, unlike black and white, has to be handled in complete darkness, so you can’t really develop it in trays with a red safelight like black and white paper.
I have color paper and chems, and attempting to make color enlargements is definitely on my list of things to do, but I’m not too keen on being cooped up in my stuffy bathroom darkroom in the middle of summer (we don’t have central air, so it gets hot in there). However, I saw potential in the tubes for stuff other than color paper, and wound up winning the auction. Yay!
What I didn’t fully realize was how incredibly big the tubes are. They’re designed for color paper, sure – poster sized color paper. The biggest tube is over 2 feet tall. It’s potato cannon big.
The inside of the tubes, too, aren’t just a smooth cylinder. There’s a ridge to, I think, keep your paper from overlapping onto itself, and then there’s also a trough that your chems flow into. It’s pretty cool. The lot didn’t come with an instruction booklet, but it all seems pretty self-explanatory.
So, since I’m not going to be developing any color paper in the immediate future (watch, I’ll probably do some next week), I decided to try the Beseler system out with film. I had spent all day on Monday developing film with C-41 chems, so I had the chems all mixed up and ready to go, and they had had the night to come down to room temperature, which was about 72 degrees. Perfect for trying to develop C-22 film!
(As a refresher – C-22 is the process older Kodak color films were developed with. If you see a roll of Kodacolor-X, it probably dates from the mid-60s to early-70s, and is process C-22. In the mid 70s, Kodak switched over to the C-41 process, which involved different chems and, most importantly, a hotter developing temp – around 102, if you’re doing it right, or, if you’re like me and not really giving a crap, 108 degrees Fahrenheit. C-22 needs to be developed in colder temps, around, roughly, 70-75 degrees F. I can tell you from personal experience that if you put C-22 film in 80 degree chems, the emulsion just floats right off. That is bad. Also, I’m not the definitive resource on C-22, but in a few minutes of googling, I couldn’t find the tech pubs for C-22, so I’m just winging my facts here – think of it as truthiness!)
ANYWAY! I had a boatload of process C-22 film laying around, most of which came from that last camera auction we went to. We acquired, quite by accident, a bunch of rolls of 620, 127, 126, and other random film that was exposed… or, in most cases, partially exposed. By this I mean the photographer snapped a few pictures on a roll of film, and then, for some weird reason, just extracted the roll of film from the camera without advancing the film. It’s entirely bizarre – he’d just take out the two spools from the camera with the middle of the film exposed to light. Why, I have no idea. So, most of these rolls of film only had 1 or 2 pictures on them, if you could get any results at all considering the massive amounts of light the film had been exposed to.
And that gets to something very frustrating about trying to develop found C-22 film (or any color film that’s not C41) – the processing times are so long, since you’re working at a lot colder temps, that when you’re done, even if the film developed, if you only get one crappy picture that develops, it can be a little bit of a bummer. For example: “I just wasted 40 minutes of my life to get one blurry picture of someone’s garden!” This has happened to me.
But that brings me to the beauty of the Beseler system! It rolls! By itself! All you have to do is load the film inside of it, pour the chems in, start a timer, and walk away. And it happily does its thing for twenty minutes while you can go play Yahtzee or knit or watch Deadliest Catch! You don’t have to stand next to the tank, watching the timer and agitating it every 30 seconds. This thing rocks!
The only problem was, the Beseler system is designed for photo paper. Or sheet film. Large, flat, bendy things, not so much reels of film. That turned out to actually not be a problem at all, because the Paterson tank with the non-leaky lid…
…worked just fine.
So, with the mechanics of the developing system worked out, how well did it actually perform? Pretty damn well, as it turned out. Keeping in mind the fact that most of the film we were developing was only partially shot and had at least a few frame’s worth of exposure to light, and also the fact that I had developed about 25 rolls of film in 1000 ml of color chems the day before, I was amazed when I saw the results.
This is, by far, the best result I’ve ever had developing C-22 film in C-41 chems. I adjusted the levels slightly from the original scan, but didn’t mess with it too much, because I liked the yellow cast.
Here’s another scan, this one from a roll of 127 film. This is a little more grainy, but still cool:
These were both developed using the Paterson tank on the Beseler base. The tank I used will fit 3 reels inside set at 35mm width (or two 120s or 127s). I filled the tank up with what I thought was 500ml of fluid, until Travis pointed out to me that I had actually been filling my measuring cup up to the wrong line, and had actually been using about 300 ml of chems.
Let that sink in for a moment. I can fill this tank up with film – 4 rolls of 120 (taped together, 2 to a spool), or 3 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film, and develop that film using 700 ml *less* fluid than I do with normal hand tank agitation. I had mixed up 1000 ml of chems because that’s what it takes to fill up the tank, but because the tank is laying on its side and is constantly dipping the film in and out of the chems, I can use much less with the Beseler motor base. Since I am a fiend and shoot a ton of film, and develop it all myself, this will wind up saving me a ton of money in buying chems.
So, in short, I developed the C-22 film in the following manner: with my chems at 72 degrees, I poured 300-350 ml of color developer into the tank, and had it on the Beseler base for 20 minutes. When that was done, I poured in the Blix and had it rotate for 8 minutes. 3 minute wash, followed by a minute in the Stabilizer. Absolutely simple, and it worked every time.
The C-22 was developing without any problem, even if the majority of the film we were developing was unshot. But since we weren’t having to constantly babysit the developing tank, it was all good and not nearly as frustrating as it would have been doing hand tank agitation. With the success of the C-22, I decided it was finally time to give E-4 processing a try.
(And here’s another refresher, this time with more factiness to it than the C-22 one – I was able to find the E-4 data on the intertubes! With the exception of Kodachrome, Kodak’s color slide film – different versions of Ektachrome – were developed with various methods of the “E” process. The ones I’ve heard of before are E2, E3, E4, and E6, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an original E and an E5 in there somewhere. Ektachrome films from the 60s tend to be process E2, Ektachrome films from post 1976 tend to be process E6, which is the current chemistry for developing slide film, but there was a brief period of time where Kodak produced films that were process E4. E6 process temps are similar to C41 – you want to shoot for around 105 degrees – but E4 was processed at 80 degrees. According to Wiki, E4 processing involved the really scary chemical Tertiary Butyl-Amine Borane, which apparently wants to kill you. Kodak came out with the E6 process in 1976, which doesn’t want to kill you quite as much, but for some reason, was legally obligated to keep producing some sort of film and chemicals that used the E4 process for 30 years. As far as I know, the only films that Kodak continued to make that used the E4 process were its color infrared slide film, of which I have one roll, and its Photomicography Color Film.)
And, o hai! Look what I have here! It’s a roll of Kodak Photomicography Color Film! What do you know? This was another ebay purchase from a while ago – I bought a lot of this film, probably around 15 rolls, just because it was weird and I had never heard of it before or could find out any info about it. When it came in the mail, I discovered it was E4. My reaction: “Oh, crap!”
Not only was the film E4, but it also expired in December 1985 and was supposed to be cold stored. I had no idea how the film had actually been stored, but it was mine now, so I needed to make the best of it.
We shot a test roll when we were in Georgia using the Canon AE-1. The film box says the film is rated ASA 16 – I think we shot it at ASA 25. We had a few pictures left on the roll so we finished it off the other day, whilst driving aimlessly around Ohio.
I developed the photomicography film using the same exact technique as the C22 film above. And the results?
The negative scans were kind of all over the place, but overall, the tone of the cross processed E4 film seemed to be a cold blue-gray…
…or greenish cast…
…with, depending on the angle of the sun and what direction the camera was pointed, a healthy amount of light leakage from the sprocket holes on the film.
E4, I OWN you! Ha! Anyway, there was nothing weird, or tricky about developing this versus developing the C22 film. It didn’t contaminate the chems, either, as far as I can tell, because we continued to develop C22 film after running the E4 through it and we got the same results.
Since I was on a roll, I threw in probably the weirdest shot film I had laying around in the developing tank, too – a roll of 35mm Anscochrome that probably expired in the mid-50s. Yes. This film:
We shot this in Georgia, too. It was a roll of 12 exposures, and we probably rated it at ASA 25, as well. I honestly didn’t expect to get any results from this. As far as I know, Anscochrome was some sort of magic process similar to Kodachrome, but now even more obscure. Also, did I mention the film was probably between 50-60 years old?
The negatives were a bright teal color, but I thought I could make out a faint… something on them. Scanning revealed a bright green image, and subsequent adjustment of levels brought us to this:
I know. We’re not talking any great work of art here, but at least you can tell it’s some flowers and some trees and a sky. That counts as a win in my book.
So, to recap – Beseler motorized thingy? Awesome. C22? Doable. E4? WIN! Anscochrome? Not really recommended, but a little bit like Everest. (Why did you climb it? Because it was there.) If you do a lot of color developing and can get your hands on a Beseler or anything similar to it – and heck, it doesn’t even seem like you need the other tubes, as long as you have a longer Paterson tank – buy it! It rocks!
Next up? Trying out the Beseler system with E6 chems. I have a boatload of 4×5 slide film I need to develop. I’m excited! Woo!