I don't think I've ever done posts two days in a row, but yesterday was a rather productive day for photography related projects! Not for much else, as I sat around and did nothing most of the day...but it was a great day for photography! Not only did I finally fix my 195, but I successfully developed color slide film from 1968!
I bought a bunch of expired film for cheap on eBay last year...
I grabbed a roll of the Ektachrome last week and shot it through my Great Wall, not realizing until I got home that it isn't E-6 slide film, which is the current chemistry for color reversal film. Older formats include E-2, E-3 and E-4. This was labeled as E-2 on the paper roll, but the tab and instructions state that it can be developed as E-2 or E-4. Here is a copy of the instruction sheet.
I found this interesting in itself, because I've read that E-2 and E-4, while similar, have different coatings on the film...E-4 being the film that no one wants to run through modern systems because it has a nasty, goopy emulsion. Besides wanting to do everything myself (and not wanting to spend $42 for the only place in the country that develops the stuff), I was intrigued by what I read on the sheet. It's on the sheet, but I will repeat:
You Can Process the Film Yourself: This film should be processed by either Process E-2 or Process E-4. Process E-4 is intended primarily for laboratory use, but you can process this film yourself by using the KODAK EKTACHROME Film Processing Kit, Processes E-2 and E-3, and following the instructions for E-2.
I've cross processed slide film before using a home C-41 kit, and thought it should be possible to do the same for E-2. Encouraged, I did a little research on the Web. Amazingly, while I found a few discussions on the topic, I could not find a single example of this type of processing. Lots of theory, but mostly a lot of, "It probably won't work, but maybe this and this will work." I ended up working out a process that involved both black-and-white and color development.
I decided to use black and white chemicals based on a few basic theories. Number one being that you can develop color film in black-and-white chemicals. I figured that if nothing else worked, I could at least pull some of the silver out and get an image, however faded. Number two being that I've read that the first part of E-2 development is actually black and white development, and the second part is color. I actually found an interesting article here by Kodak stating that you can save color prints afterward if you accidentally develop them in BW chemicals. So the two processes are separate on the same sheet of film. I chose Diafine because it is super easy to use and always yields something, as long as there is something to develop.
As for the color part of development, I have a C-41 development kit. It's a couple months old, but I figured what the hell. I was working on the assumption that either the film would be dead or the developer would be dead, or both.
The biggest issue with current development and past processes is temperature. Current film is developed with very hot water...98-102 degrees F. This would strip the emulsion right off of the older films. The obvious answer to that is to develop at lower temps, which was confirmed in some online discussions. Colder water, about 70F, and longer development times. I figured that if the color developer did nothing, it would at least remove the orange layer from the film (I hoped), allowing for a less dense negative.
One last chemical I added, on a whim. Still worried about the emulsion coming off, I read about hardening agents. A few people suggested pre-hardeners for the film. I decided to go simple and avoid toxic: Sodium Sulfate. This is the stuff used to clear Polaroid 665 and 85 negatives. Reading about it, though, it seems what it does is prevent the gelatin layers from swelling and softening. So, what the heck, I threw in some of that as well.
Okay, so here's my actual process. Even though I had read that the BW development was the first step in E-2 processing, I did the color development first. I did this because I figured there was less of a chance of damaging the color layer if I took care of that first, and I knew it would have little effect on the sliver. And I figured that maybe the Diafine would stand a better chance at pulling the silver if the thick layer was already gone (though maybe this is part of what Blix does, not sure about the exact process).
Here was my actual process. Some of the steps may have been redundant...I have no idea. I'm not really a chemistry person at all, so I wanted to cover all my bases just in case...so I have no idea which steps could have been omitted.
Step 1: pre-rinse
Step 2: 20cc Unicolor C-41 developer at 70F (with 2 tablespoons Sodium Sulfate added) for 10 minutes (about 3x regular development time), agitated 4 cycles every 30 seconds.
Step 3: Diafine Part A (room temp) for 3 minutes
Step 4: Diafine Part B (room temp) for 3 minutes.
Step 5: Color Blix for 6.5 minutes, agitating same as above.
Step 6: Kodak Fixer for 8 minutes, usual agitation.
Step 7: Rinse for 30 minutes.
Step 8 and beyond: Photo-flo, hang, dry, scan, etc.
I didn't save my chemicals, though I probably could have saved the color developer and Blix. I wasn't sure what the color chemicals would do to the Diafine and didn't want to contaminate my supply, so I tossed that.
So I did the development and was first of all surprised and delighted to see images on my negatives! I wasn't sure if the film had lost sensitivity to light, as color film in particular tends to die as it gets older. The negative was gray but not dense and orange, so I wasn't sure if I was looking at BW images or if there was color present. You can't always tell by looking at a negative...sometimes it's amazing what colors are present on a dull looking negative. So, after cutting and scanning, I was double surprised that not only did I have images, but I had usable color images! Sure, the film is old and the processing was odd, so color accuracy wasn't expected...but I honestly didn't expect any image, let alone actual color images. I mean, there just aren't any examples that I could find anywhere of someone doing this successfully. I'm sure it's been done, but with all the people in the world and on the Web messing about with film development, you'd thing that someone would have examples. Guess it's up to me, again! So I present to you E-2 Ektachrome color slide film, expired December 1968, developed with C-41 and Diafine chemicals.
"My god, it's full of stars." Nice! Faded, of course, but a lovely subtle color. I think that using the Diafine helped bring up the contrast in the images. Without it, the slide probably would have been very faded and low(er) contrast. The above image was the most 'true to life' in terms of color. A few more images...
Blues and greens seemed to have fared well...possibly just because they are different from the overall violet cast of the film that other colors might blend into.
Some images had very obvious color, while others seemed to be mostly black-and-white images. This may just be the source material...lots of browns, not a lot of color in the desert in winter.
So there you have it! Makes me wonder what else is possible. I'd like to try this with Kodachrome film, which is another outdated format that can only be developed by a couple places in the world. The general consensus is impossible or at least not ideal, but what's ideal? If it works, and you can get some lovely images out of it, that is ideal. If I want accurate colors and high-quality imaging, I'll get a boring digital camera and do what everyone else is doing. I think I prefer my way.
Okay, two in a row, soak it in for awhile! I may not post again within the month!
SHORT UPDATE: A couple more images from E-2 film, shot with a Rolleiflex. Left out the sodium sulfate this time, and the color developer was fresh.
And just to show that it can be done (and there are also examples on Flickr), here is some Kodacolor-X developed with the same method. Low quality, and the film is pretty bad (expired in 1976 I think), but there is color.