I shoot 2 rolls per month: Kodak Flexicolor LORR vs CineStill CS41 Liquid

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by timlaux, May 22, 2020.

  1. Hi all,

    First off, I'm sorry about the length of this post. If you have any input, or can answer only one question, that would be awesome. I also hope this might be useful to other people reading.

    I developed 7 rolls over 4 months in my last Tetenal C-41 powder press kit. Once mixed, all solutions were stored in brown glass bottles, in a dark refrigerator, with all air removed by adding marbles to the bottles to displace the air. The density of the last roll was a little bit thin. Could be a little underexposed, but I was already metering for ISO200 on IS400 film (XP-2 Super). So, I have reason to believe the blix might be shot. (3 of those rolls were Portra 800. I've read higher ISO films cause chemicals to wear out sooner.)

    My main dilemma is that I don't shoot much at all. On average, I shoot about two rolls per month. I'm also the type who likes to develop as I go. I have all the equipment for developing and scanning, so at this point, it still makes more sense for me to continue developing at home, as I can still beat the per roll cost of most labs, and of course, I enjoy the process.

    I'm between these two systems: Kodak Flexicolor LORR and CineStill CS41 Liquid.

    ---

    CineStill CS41 Liquid:
    Makes 1L

    Dev A + Dev B + Dev C
    Blix A + Blix B + Blix C (uses Ferric Ammonium EDTA, apparently better blixing agent than Ferric Sodium EDTA found in powder kits)
    Stabilizer (Hexamine + Photoflo)

    $35 shipped

    Kodak Flexicolor LORR:
    Makes 5L minimum (Fixer makes 25L, Bleach makes 10L)

    Kodak Flexicolor LU Developer Replenisher (A+B+C) (to make 5L)- 823 1672
    Kodak Flexicolor C-41 Developer Starter LORR (1.2L) - 660 1074
    Kodak Flexicolor Bleach III Replenisher (to make 10L) - 660 0258
    Kodak Flexicolor C-41 Bleach Starter (1.2L) - 660 1082
    Kodak Flexicolor Fixer & Replenisher (to make 25L)- 660 0027

    Kodak C-41 Final Rinse & Replenisher (to make 5L) - 867 3170
    or (??)
    Kodak Stabilizer III & Replenisher (to make 19L) - 196 5482

    $100-120 shipped

    ---

    First of all, do those Flexicolor chemicals look correct? Kodak seems to have discontinued many chemicals. Numbers have changed, and I'm not sure what's what.

    If I hypothetically only made 5L working solution (even though most of the chemicals support 10-20L+), then the cost is $22/L.

    To use up (almost) all of the chemicals, I'd need to buy 1 more bottle of Bleach III and 3 more packages of LU developer, which adds about $75 to the price. This allows me to make about 20L of working solution for about $175USD, so the cost is $9/L.

    However, as I mentioned above that my throughput is quite low.

    According to Kodak (z131 document), the shelf life of the working solutions of most of their chemicals is about 2 months. One of my main questions is: What is the shelf life of the unmixed chemicals? I plan to only mix 1L at a time.

    Based on using 1L every 2 months, I will use 6L in a year. It will take me 3.3 years to go through 20L of working solution. Are the chemicals stable enough, unmixed, to last that long? Or am I going to have to toss them sooner? The Bleach III and LU developer I can buy in the future as it's depleted, but how about the other stuff?

    Another question: For processing new films like Portra, Pro400H, Ektar, XP2-Super, is there still an advantage to using formaldehyde based stabilizer (like Stabilizer III)? Or do most labs/people just use the "new" Kodak Final Rinse only? These two are interchangeable right? From what I understand, the Final Rinse does not include any anti-microbial/anti-fungal ingredient. For the most part, I'm just scanning these and not touching the negatives again.


    Does anyone have any suggestions or feedback on my proposed methods? What's your experience.

    Thank you!
    Tim
     
  2. Weak blix will leave silver in the negatives, so that they will be dark.

    As well as I know, developers last a lot longer unmixed.

    Specifically, the developing agents oxidize much slower when they are not alkaline.

    Best is to mix up a smaller amount from the concentrates, then use it quickly.

    Years ago, I did E6 from Unicolor quart kits. I would mix up 240ml from concentrates,
    do the two rolls that it was supposed to do, and then dispose of it. The concentrates
    lasted at least a year from first to last.
     
    timlaux likes this.
  3. Personally, I find it very difficult to judge the density of C41 films by eye.

    XP2 might be easier, but don't judge compared to normal black and white films.
    It still has the low gamma of other C41 films, so probably should print with a
    number 4 VC filter. It is the low gamma that allows for the large exposure
    latitude, but also complicates printing. Scanners in C41 mode should get
    it right, but otherwise adjust the contrast after scanning.

    I believe Fuji also sells C41 chemistry.
     
  4. Thank you. Interesting. I hadn't given much thought to the idea that "weak blix makes thin negatives" other than (I think) reading it somewhere else. And by dark, I assume you mean the negatives are dark, not the print/scans?

    I found this thread on phototrio: Shelf life of Kodak Flexicolor SM Tank chemicals? There are some photos showing the LORR LU dev kit, final rinse, and fix/bleach. Kodak gives them all a 2 year (after manufacturing date) shelf life. To me, if they're willing to give them a 2 year expiration date, without particular storage instructions, then seems like they will hold up pretty well.
     
  5. Also, if it is weak blix, you can re-blix and re-stabilize, to fix it.
    (And yes, dark negatives.)

    Underdevelopment can't be fixed.
     
  6. As with food, I always believe that the original package seal is better than what I can do.

    I have had sealed pouches of powder developer go bad, such that the powder was
    a little brown, and the mixed liquid dark brown. Sealed packages aren't a guarantee,
    but usually good.

    If you want to be even more sure, you could de-aerate the water before using it.
    Many water sources have dissolved air. The traditional method is to bubble
    nitrogen though it, but easier for home is to (almost) boil it. As it heats, the
    air comes out, which is the cause of bubbles before water boils. I don't know
    how much air might be in store-bought distilled or de-ionized water.
     
  7. I'm using a Fuji X-T30 and Nikkor 105mm f/4 for scanning. I am using the Lightroom plugin Negative Lab Pro with the B&W profile. In general, it does a very good job with auto contrast and producing a very nice histogram.

    Shadows were muddy and flat and the grain larger than I would've expected for 120 film. Still usable, but just felt like something was a little off.

    And yes, I won't rule out under development, although this isn't exactly my first rodeo..but it's not like I'm developing every day for a living. I also won't rule out proper exposure in camera. Was not using a camera with a meter or auto-exposure, but as I mentioned, was still metering at +1 box speed.

    Regardless of whether it was operator error (for this roll) or not, I'm probably going to need to swap out my chemistry soon anyway, as it's pushing about 5 months now. I know people have had reported 1 year or more with properly stored Tetenal, but I wonder how realistic that is.

    Thanks!
     
  8. I tried quite a few C41 kits in the past. The best that's still available is Tetenal's full 4 bath kit. Not impressed by their 'press' kit.
    Tetenal definitely has a good reputation. Cinestill? Who knows? Johnny-come-latelies that might, or might not, deliver the goods.

    Of all the C-41 kits, the best I ever used was produced by a small local company - actually a one-man operation. He supplied a lot of the minilabs in the area with their processing chemicals, and really knew his stuff. Unfortunately, he died, and so did his company.

    If you can find a reliable local commercial processor, that's your best option. Home processing kits will always be more expensive for small and infrequent quantities of film. I had to invest in a rotary Jobo machine to get anywhere near the quality of a good commercial lab.

    P.S. IME the Blix bath is the one most likely to give problems. It doesn't take much undissolved silver to completely ruin the quality of a colour neg. But then again it can often be re-bleached and fixed if you catch it before the film's been exposed to too much light.
    Sounds like a Blix problem to me.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  9. The "real" ones use separate bleach and fixer. Oxygen is good for bleach. I am not sure if it is good for blix, though.

    There should be no real grain, that is, no metal grains with sharp edges.
    There are dye clouds which are fuzzy, and not so uniform, so sometimes are called grain.

    If you see sharp edged metal grains, then it needs more blix.
    (That is, with enough magnification.)
     
  10. Thanks. Is that Tetenal 4 bath kit really available? I've never seen it. Only the "2-bath" (really a 3-bath) kit. Do you have a link?

    In general, I think it's okay to "over-blix", right? Is there an upper-limit to how much you might blix passed the time noted on the instructions? Maybe another 30 seconds for a 6:30 Tetenal press C-41 blix?

    Thanks Glen. I'm just starting to learn about grain vs. dye clouds. My eye isn't really trained enough to know what is metal grain and what is dye cloud. I've attached a clip of an image which it seems most apparent.

    XP2Super 120 Scan.PNG
     
  11. Honestly that one might just be underexposure.

    Regardless...I'm planning on re-stocking chemistry soon. I was mostly curious if anyone's used Kodak Flexicolor at home, whether you thought it was worth it, and if the shelf life of the unused chemicals was any good.

    In part, I think that's mostly been answered.

    Seems like it should be possible to do Flexicolor at home, just have to commit to shooting a lot of film to make it worth it!
     
  12. I'd agree, this is possible.

    But... in a shadow area there is very little metallic silver developed, so little stress on the "bleach" part of the blix. And the "fix" part of the blix shouldn't have any problem unless it's overused.

    I think it's more likely an exposure issue. Color neg films generally have multiple layers - high sensitivity and low sensitivity - for each color.

    When the film is exposed the high-sensitivity layer is the first to react. The high-sensitivity layer tends to be grainy. With more exposure the lower-sensitivity layers will begin to "fill in," smoothing out the grainy appearance. If they don't fill in, then grainy appearance. In a well-exposed negative those parts of the print should be nearly black so such grain isn't easily seen.

    There's two ways to verify this sort of thing. First is to rebleach and refix with known-good chemicals. Although you don't really have these, you know that your blix does at least a passable job. So you can try an additional blixing step (followed by wash, etc.);" if there is ANY visible change then you know the blix is a problem. The second test is to reshoot the scene. But this time do several exposure variations. If you increase exposure by one or two stops this will clearly show if it was an underexposure issue.

    Ps, I see that your example is monochrome, so the following doesn't apply. But... when shooting color there are three different color-sensitive layers. They are typically "balanced" for "daylight." Under any other color of light it is possible to have one color layer be underexposed, and thus grainy shadows for that color. The easy, but not ideal, fix for this is to just increase overall exposure by a stop or two.
     
    timlaux likes this.
  13. Well, good for the bleach part, bad for the fixer part.

    These sorts of bleach use iron (Fe) in either the +2 or +3 form. When it is a good bleach it's mostly in one form. As it is used it shifts to the other form, and has less spare bleaching reserve. But aerating it will convert mostly back to the "good" form, and the bleaching power is restored.

    For the fixer part, though, sulfite ion is commonly used as a preservative. Sulfite is always eager to become oxidized (via exposure to air, etc.) to sulfate where it is no further help as a preservative. When all the sulfite is gone the fixer is subject to becoming sulfurized (bad).

    In my view the only place where a C-41 blix (as opposed to separate bleach and fix) is for a small scale user who is throwing everything away after use. A commercial finisher would have to be nuts to use film blix as it 1) takes away the ability to stretch out the bleach usage, including regeneration and reuse, and 2) it makes it difficult to recover silver. If you don't care about these things then it can be sensible, at least initially.

    As a note, I've read online about people saying that a certain film blix DOES hold up well. So it's possible that someone has so out a clever chemical system where the fixer part is not easily hurt. I dunno, I'm always skeptical about online comments.

    Ps, these bad things about FILM blix don't hold for PAPER blix, which IS a useful and sensible way to go.
     
  14. Thank you for your insights Bill. Makes perfect sense about why blix isn't used by commercial processors. I've see people make arguments that "Well the commerical processors use separate bleach and fix baths so it must be technically superior!" and others come back saying "It's not that blix is bad, it's just that it doesn't scale for commercial operations". Interesting points.

    And I'd agree that my shot looks more underexposed than anything. I remember that I didn't actually meter for that shot in particular,but did a general meter reading a few minutes before to get an idea about the available light. But, I metered for +1 box speed, and it seems like this exposure is maybe at -2 stops underexposed. Having a hard time thinking that I was really off by 4 stops, but who knows.
     
  15. Also, does anyone have input on whether Stabilizer III (with formalin) has much advantage over the Final Rinse stuff? Not particularly stoked about using formalin in my kitchen, or trying to properly dispose of it. But if negatives only rinsed in Final Rinse are likely to go bad in 10 years then maybe I'll reconsider?
     
  16. Hi, well the separate bleach and fix ARE technically superior as far as processing performance is concerned. The real question, though, is, "Is the blix adequate?" You see, if the silver is completely bleached and/or removed, does it matter that one chemical did the job faster? Not really. Just so the job is completed.

    Generally the issues with a film blix is that the bleach and the sulfite (the fixer preservative) are at odds with each other. One wants to oxidize something; the other wants to be oxidized. For some reason this doesn't happen right away, but over time that is the tendency. This is why I wouldn't wanna trust the film blix after some time - only when it's fresh (whatever that means).

    Something else may come up in the course of processing - you might have heavily-exposed film. This means there is a lot of silver to be bleached. If the bleach is marginal it may work fine on the top layer of the film, but barely so in the bottom layer. And in fact, this is how the bleach performance is checked in an operating processor. They periodically run a strip of film known as a "process control strip." These are supplied by the manufacturer, and are precisely pre-exposed. Plus there is one strip precisely processed by the manufacturer as a reference - this is ideally how your control strips should come out. But one pair of test patches is designed to look for weak bleach - one patch is heavily exposed on the top color layer, only; the other is heavily exposed on all color layers. A somewhat marginal bleach can easily bleach only the top layer, but will have difficulty with all three layers. By measuring the results with an instrument the photofinisher can say, oh, my bleach is slightly weak, I'd better do something about it. (In high-volume machines you have to be slowly aerating bleach all the time, so a weak control strip (for the black test patch) can indicate that something has gone wrong with the air supply.)

    Ps, hardly anyone on the internet seems to know much about these sorts of things; I think those that did eventually get tired of trying to roll the rock up the hill - constant arguments from the internet-educated crowd.
     
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  17. My fuzzy recollection is that one common color coupler (these are roughly partial dye molecules scattered all through the film), if not used, would eventually take on a color - a stain - so discolor the film. But if formaldehyde was used, this would react with that particular coupler, preventing it from taking on the stain. At some point the industry had a push to find a different dye coupler that did not need formaldehyde. After that happened, and allowing plenty of time for old film to all be processed, they removed formaldehyde from the stabilizer. So unless you find some really old film there's no need for formaldehyde in C-41 stabilizer.
     
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  18. Thank you for the lesson and for sharing your knowledge. I suppose doing process control at home is probably not really worth it, although it may depend on how much you do. In my case, I do not think I will ever exhaust the solutions, as in use up all of the reactants, within the manufacturer stated allowable storage times. If I only shoot 4-6 rolls in an 8 week period, mixing 1L at a time, then most likely will have plenty of overhead, in terms of chemical capacity.

    That said, I am well aware that the performance of the solutions will be slightly different (worse) after each roll it processes. I can refer to the replenishing rates for a particular system to understand how much to discard and how much to add per roll. While sounds good in theory, I wonder if there's really much use ( in my case ) where I will probably only exhaust about 1/3 of the chemicals' potential before it needs to be discarded due to age.

    upload_2020-5-23_19-42-53.png
     
  19. That is why the developer time increases for successive rolls in unreplenished use.
    I don't know that there are increases in time for bleach or fix, as those are supposed to be
    long enough, but maybe for them, too.
     
  20. You're welcome. Yes, probably not worth doing it via the "official procedures." But if you get fairly serious it might be worth shooting an entire roll of a fixed scene as a sort of reference image. When your chemicals are new, and presumably good, clip off a couple of frames and process; save the clip as your baseline reference. If you ever get stuck, and have no idea where to start troubleshooting, process another clip; it may reveal something.
     

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