Sunday, May 15, 2016

DIY E-6 Developing

Lately, I have been developing my own color transparency film (E-6) as well as C-41 color negative film.  Doing color transparency (positive) film is pretty straightforward with the easy to obtain Unicolor E-6 kit, which can be purchased from the Film Photography Project Store as well as Freestyle and other vendors.  I have the 16 oz kit, which does a minimum of 6 rolls of 35mm film.  The process is simple -- mix up the chemicals as directed, and you end up with three bottles -- First Developer, Color Developer, and Blix.  There is a pre-wash and a rinse cycle between each step, followed by a last wash.  Temperatures can be a bit lower than the C-41 kit, with adjustments made in the length of development times.  However, the First Developer step is the critical one for the timing, and you will need to increase the length of time for each additional roll you develop, as the chemicals are re-used.  The kits instructs you on this point, but it's easy to forget if you set things aside for a while and forget about the previous rolls.  Put a piece of tape on the First developer bottle (and yes, you DID label them, right?), and put a tick mark for each roll you develop. The Color developer and the Blix apparently do not need the same compensation.


  1. Use a hot water bath and monitor your temps.  Try and keep them within a degree or two of your target.  Immerse the developing tank in the bath to keep the temperature stable.  I just use the hot water from the tap and keep adding hot water until the temp is about where I want it.
  2. Keep another container of water that is near the developer temp for the rinse cycle and you will need enough for 7 tank-fulls of water for each rinse step.  
  3. Do keep the caps on the bottles during the process and keep them in the order you'll be using them. Only open the cap to pour back the contents from the developing tank.  You don't want to accidentally knock over a bottle and lose the contents!
  4. I use amber glass bottle made for chemicals. Avoid using bottles made for food or drink.  
Once you get your first roll done and see the color positives on the roll, you will be hooked.  At $31 for a quart kit, you'll get over a dozen rolls of 35mm film processed.  At the going rates for mail-order labs, you'll save yourself over $100.

What about mounting the transparencies?  
The only reason to mount them is if you are projecting them.  I have thousands of mounted slides in my files, and I only occasionally have projected them.  It does make it easy to handle individual frames, and the slides are easy to file and label.  However, most of my recent E-6 film is stored in the typical plastic 35mm pages that we put negative strips into.  After I scan them, it's still easy to hold the page over the light box and examine the sheet.

My last roll was definitely color shifted to the blue side, and I think it is because it was roll #6, and I had not compensated for the used developer in the First Developer step.  It should have gotten at least another minute.

last roll, Retrochrome 160 - note the blue shift, which is actually pretty cool.

1 comment:

とりおた said...

I like the last shot. The color is mysterious.