Thursday, February 12, 2009

E-2 slide film home processing!!!

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 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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Polapainful Repairs + 195 vs 180: Deathmatch!

Sometime last spring, I was shooting up north and suddenly the shutter on my Polaroid 195 wouldn't fire. I couldn't figure out why until I got home and noticed that the cable leading from the red button to the shutter had gotten pinched while when I closed the camera. So it would fire on occasion if I pressed down hard enough of the button. I recently decided it was time to fix the stupid thing.
The cable is made up of a couple basic parts. There is the outside coil and an inner wire that pushes through to fire the shutter. First I tried to straighten the coil out by bending it back into some semblance of straight. All I managed to do was crimp the hell out of the thing and make it worse. So much worse, in fact, that the wire wouldn't push through the coil at all. The only way to fix it at this point was to replace it.
Sorry about the half-ass pictures through this, but this was really one of the bigger pain-in-the-butt things I've done with a camera. I was very annoyed through most of the process. I just wanted to get it over with without injuring myself anymore than necessary (I have a huge blood blister on one finger from the pliers and managed to stab myself in the thumb a few times with the shutter wire). All in all, this was about a three-hour project.
Here is the crimped cable after cutting it off of the camera.

That was the easiest part...clipping the wire. Nothing else was easy. I had to remove the original cable from the 195. This is the end of it after I got it out.

The brass end is the part that is stuck in the camera body. Now, I first tested the removal of this part on my 102 that I use as a pinhole camera, because I knew I didn't need it. I just used a screwdriver on the top and wedged it under and it popped right out. Easy! Moved on to the 195. Not easy. Really, really hard to get out. I basically had to pound it out with a hammer and then snap it so I could pull it out. I ruined the silver metal ring that surrounds it, but I had the ring from the 102, so that was okay (you will see all of this when I start putting the 195 back together).
For the new cable, I found a Countdown 90 on eBay for cheap. I wanted this camera because the body was plastic. I just ripped off the top and crushed the plastic around the brass until I had my usable cable remaining.

Not much left on the top of that camera. But I think I payed $7 for the Countdown. Okay, so I have my outer coil and my new wire...time to put it back together. This was the easiest part.

The silver ring goes first (this is what holds the red button), then the coil goes through. That brass part on the top actually holds one of the front focusing brackets, so it has to be secure. I just took a screwdriver and hammer and tapped it into place until it was all the way in and tight. Then you feed the wire in through the top. the wire is attached to the red button and has a spring under it to provide resistance. When you push the button to fire the shutter, you want it to spring back, not stay pushed in.

Simple enough. Now it becomes a pain again (getting the camera apart was annoying...this part had me cussing). At the end you have this bare wire. This is the part that will attach to the front and fire the shutter.

Well, that wire alone isn't going to push anything. There is a little piece of brass I had to remove to get all of this apart that acts as a bumper for the firing mechanism. Getting this back on was...impossible.

It's blurry, but it's that little thing at the end. I had to tape the red button down so I would have enough wire to work with. This is seriously the hardest piece of metal ever. I could slide it over the end, but I couldn't get the metal to pinch the wire. I tried for at least 30 minutes. I squeezed it, I pounded it with a hammer. When I finally made a dent in the thing, I popped it off at the same time so it wouldn't fit back on the wire properly. So...screw all that. What I finally did was take a piece of the coil from the old cable and superglued it to the end, let it dry, then pinched that with pliers. It worked, fortunately. If it hadn't, I would have had to taken it somewhere and had a piece clipped on there.

Again, very blurry, but you can see it sitting at the end. This took care of all the really tough stuff. I've kind of breezed over all of this and it seems pretty simple, but it was all incredibly annoying. Everything is tiny and my tools are big (that's what she said). I'm over it now, but I was about ready to take my hammer to the whole thing. Ugh.
So now all I had to do was hook it back up on the front. I also superglued the thing that holds the cable to the bellows. The cable is held in place by a metal piece that is held in place by three of the tiniest screws ever. That's a lot of fun, as well, messing with tiny screws in an area that doesn't allow much room for a screwdriver. I have a set of small screwdrivers I got from a hobby store, but they are still a bit long and barely fit in the space available.

When putting this back together, you need to make sure the cable is advanced enough that the wire will reach the shutter release. This was the easiest part of the project, though. And, in the end, we have a working shutter cable once again.

All of the shutter cables on folding cameras work the same, but I wouldn't recommend this project unless you really love your camera, or it's expensive like the 195. This post feels like a rush job, but I barely wanted to screw around with taking pictures while dealing with this mess. Worked out well in the end, though.

I also got the Countdown 90 for another reason. I was curious about the electronic timer on the back.

I was hoping it used some kind of watch battery and that I could swap out the back with my 195. The 195 has a mechanical timer. The original was broken when I got the camera, and the replacement I got from another camera was also broken.

I'm not a big fan of the thing, mostly because it sticks out and digs into my belly when it's hanging from my neck. So I was hoping to stick a back with the electronic timer onto it. Well, the timer is powered by the same batteries that power the meter.

The 195 (and 180) actually has the same battery compartment, but it's empty.

So all of this would require a lot more work than I want to do. Rewiring and all kinds of stuff. Plus the Countdown is a different color and plastic, so that part would just look like crap.

I'll just have to find a cheap folder with a working mechanical timer someday. I don't even really use timers anymore, but it's the principal of the thing. It should work!
Okay, so why am I so concerned with getting my 195 in shape when I have my 180? I want to take my 195 to Japan! I did a few test prints to see what the difference between the 180 and 195 was. They are very similar, but they have different lenses. The 195 has a larger lens and the aperture is 3.8 to 64, while the 180 has a smaller lens and the aperture is 4.5 to 90. I don't think I've found any reason to use the f90 yet (that's very small), but it turns out there is a big difference at the low end. Using Fuji FP-3000B, I took the same shot in my living room in low light. First I set both cameras at the widest...3.8 for the 195 and 4.5 for the 180. I set the cameras at 30 for speed, which is pretty slow and allows time for some camera shake if you aren't steady. The difference is apparent...

Huge difference in exposure between the two. Next I set both at 60 for shutter speed...

So the 195 at 60 is about equal to the 180 at 30. This makes the 195 much more versatile in low light, which is something I want when I'm shooting in Tokyo. So what about a difference in quality? I've read that the 180 produces a sharper image than the 195. I tested that theory out and basically found the two cameras to be exactly the same in picture quality. I shot ID-UV, and used the same pack to prevent differences in film quality. Both cameras were set at f8 and 250. On top is the 195, then the 180, and then the Colorpack III (which auto-exposes), just for comparison.

And once more at infinity focusing, f16/60.

Again, no difference that I can see. If one ever has sharper images than the other, it may be from the different focusing systems. The 180 has the single-window Zeiss focus, where focus and framing is done through one viewfinder...

...while the 195 has the dual-window focus, where you focus and frame in separate finders.

I have no issues with one over the other, personally. The Zeiss does have a tendency to drift after awhile. The focus doesn't line up properly in the viewfinder. Mine is fine, but I noticed this while checking out some other cameras in a shop.
The one thing I do like about the 180 is the super-obvious EV system for setting exposure. I didn't get really good at this until I got the 180 (I don't use a light meter). Now I always know where to start and can make typically accurate adjustments on the fly.

The 195 has something similar, with some numbers painted red, but not nearly as user-friendly as the 180. I'll just have to make some notes before I go.

So, the Polaroid 195 and 180.

Which is better? Which should you buy? Can't really say. The 180 is an older camera than the 195, and the 195 tends to sell for more, though I payed the same for both (around $200-$250). Chances are a 195 you find will be in better shape than a 180. The mount around the lens of the 180 seems to be much softer and dents, which makes it tougher to get filters on the camera. But the 180 has the Zeiss finder, though you can get one from a cheaper Polaroid camera and replace the finder on the 195. I have no problem with focusing and framing in separate windows, though, so I just left it. The 180 has the nice EV system and the aperture squeezes down to f90, if you can find a use for that. The 195 has a wider aperture at 3.8, making it more versatile in low light. Other than that, though, there isn't really much else different about them. So it all comes down to personal preference, and what you are willing to pay. I'm keeping both of mine, so I have two manual cameras to use at the same time if I want. Hell, I like my cheap Colorpack III as much as these two (that's what I used to shoot the 195/180 shot). It's not always the equipment, it's what you do with it.
Anyway, this was WAAAAY longer than I was planning, and I'm super hungry. Seeya.