Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fuji reclaimed negatives revisited: The 4x5 edition

Taking a short break from the Fujipet posts (two more to come, I believe) to talk a but more about reclaimed Fuji negatives. More specifically, 4x5 Fuji negatives, and even a bit more specifically, Fuji 4x5 black and white negatives. This is applicable to the regular-sized Fuji film, as well, so fun for all.
I recently bought myself a Fuji PA-45 back for my Crown Graphic. Same thing as a Polaroid 550 back, but easier to find (though not cheap). What does a PA-45 use? Fuji 4x5 pack film. A regular Polaroid 4x5 sheet film back looks like this:

While a PA-45 back looks like this:

Flies in the face of the definition of "compact". So Fuji makes this giant pack film that works exactly like smaller Polaroid pack film, such as Type 669, 667, etc.

There were three types of Fuji 4x5 being made...FP-100C45, FP-100B45 and FP-3000B45 (same as the smaller packs, with a 45 at the end). Well, they stopped making FP-100B45 (and FP100B) last year, and I've heard that they are going to stop making FP-100C45 and probably FP-3000B45 in the next year (though the will still keep making FP-100C and FP-3000B). Bummer! But all of them are readily available on the internet at this point, even FP-100B45 (on eBay mostly). So I don't feel like I'm talking about something here that is unattainable for all of you.
So, as mentioned above, I'm going to talk about reclaiming the negative from FP-100B45. You can seem my previous post for the basics of bleaching a negative, Color is easy...black and white is a bit more delicate. You can rinse a FP-100C negative to your heart's delight and it will probably be fine (though you can lose emulsion along the edges if you are rough with it). FP-100B will wash right the heck off of the plastic. So you need to be able to bleach and rinse the opaque side while retaining the soft image on the other side. How? Well, that's what I'm here to show you...
First you have your negative, which is the side that you peel from the print. It looks like this before you tamper with it.

You need bleach and a soft brush (I use an oil brush that probably cost $20, but use whatever as long as it is not course so you don't scratch the plastic). And, of course, you need negatives to work with.

I use a piece of glass to work on. This one is actually meant for rolling printer's ink onto for block printing. But anything smooth should work.

You don't want anything with texture because it will allow water to flow under the print. So first I wet the glass.

Water will soften the emulsion, but adding water to the glass creates a seal for when you bleach and rinse, preventing water from flowing under the print and washing away the emulsion. So lay down your negative, emulsion side down (the not black side) on the wet glass. I always have it so the white strip is along the top, because the other end seems to be more sensitive to washing away (for both color and black and white negatives). Then you start scrubbing the black surface with bleach.

Rinse and repeat. You will see your image through the plastic as the black stuff washes off.

You want to scrub a bit, then rinse, then scrub a bit more, and rinse, etc. The black stuff will quickly start to wash away. Make sure you aren't letting the running water hit along the top edge, lifting the print up. You want to maintain the seal under the print.

I can usually get all off the black junk off in about three minutes. I like to get all of it off, because any left will be opaque and scan as white spots.

Carefully lift the print off the glass. It will look a bit messy...

All you should do now is let it dry.

Do not rinse off the emulsion right away, thinking you need to get rid of the developer, because you will wash off the softened emulsion, or it will bubble and look like this:

Once the negative has dried and hardened, you will have something that looks like this...

Interesting that some of the black and white negatives seem to have some color...red areas...possibly solarization? Can't wait to scan and see! But...first we do want to get some of that "salt" off of the negative. Now that the negative is dry, you can very carefully rinse it under the tap.

You can take a very gentle finger to it (that's what she said), but you want to only rinse it maybe for 30 seconds and if you start to see bubbling or warping, stop! I wash off both side so I don't get streaks on the shiny side from stray water. Then you just set it aside to dry once more. It should look like this if you did it correctly (and were lucky):

Time to scan! The negative in color...

And then converted to black and white and cleaned up...

The print for comparison. And you can see one of the problems with the PA-45 back...leaks. Mijonju had one when I was in Japan and it seemed to have a similar problem. Haven't taken the time to figure out why or where it is leaking.

The negatives are very thin and require some adjustment in Photoshop. Another scan, this one with bubbles from the emulsion softening too much.

So sometimes you get something good, other times you screw it up. Still fun to try.


Bleaching still works better with Fuji FP-100C45.

EDIT: I made a video demonstrating a bleach of a Fuji F-100B negative to show how easy and fast the process is. One thing I have changed through some experimention is I don't re-rinse the film to remove the developer goop. Instead, I run the emulsion side under cold water for 20 seconds or so, rubbing very gently to kind of "even out" the goop, so there aren't any "wave" forms on the scan. The developer actually does a very good job of protecting the emulsion, and as soon as you start to wash the developer off, the emulsion washes off as well. Better just to leave it.

Tape the negatives to the scanner bed.

You can see again how the negatives look in color...red and blue.

A scan of the print for the negative bleached in the video:

And the bleached negative.

This negative has so much solarization that it actually works as a "positive" scan, as well.

The detail in the shadows is much greater on the negative, much like 3000 goop scans. I'm sure the solarization is increased with cold (it was in the 40s F), which is also a characteristic of 3000 goop negatives.
One more for good measure.

So have at it! Until next time!


  1. Awesome, thanks for this!!! Oh, I have two PA-45s and thankfully neither of them have leaks.

  2. Milton sterilising fluid seems to lift that stuff right off as well. Probably not as harsh on the fingers as bleach is. I've previously taped the negative, emulsion side down, to a plate or sheet of glass (carefully cleaned and dried). Getting the black stuff off the back is easy then without getting bleach on the front. Then, once that's rinsed well, I've found you can rub the white stuff off the emulsion side without screwing up the emulsion if you use really COLD water. Even slightly warm water seems to start screwing up the emulsion.

    I've only ever done this with FP-100C, not the B&W and not the 4x5 version.I'd say the different size is probably much the same, but the B&W might well be different.

    I gave up on it eventually, first few exposed correctly seemed to blow the highlights on the neg side (or it was just really thin). Next few I underexposed so there was more density in the negative but they got real grainy real fast. Not in a completely bad way but still.


  3. J.A. Spieringhs8:52 AM

    Just what I was looking for, thnx.
    But I still have a couple of questions / remarks
    Do you expose and develop normal, without any change ?
    The Polaroid 405 holder is for the smaller pack films. The holder for the 4x5 film is Polaroid 550. I know it's confusing. But I bought a 550 last week, and fp-100c45 fits perfectly.
    Do you know anything about the FP-500b45 ?
    I see this 500 speed 4x5 pack film mentioned on several sites, but have never seen it for sale on eBay.
    And I believe only the 3000 speed film is being discontinued by Fuji.

  4. Nice! Thanks for the post. I don't have a 4x5 camera but I do have 2 land cameras and I've yet to successfully get a good negative from one of the FP-100B shots...maybe I was being too rough on the emulsion side...I'll have to try it again! I didn't think about the double drying. That could be an issue. I've gotten quite good with the FP-100C negatives though and I still like to scan in the FP-3000B goop. It's sad to hear Fuji is discontinuing so many films, especially the peel apart ones. I hope SOMEONE takes over and continues to make it available but...somehow I doubt it with the state of things these days. *sigh* I guess it's time to start stocking up just like I did with the old Chocolate film...

  5. I develop for the print since the negative is just an extra. But it seems to me that the color negs are overexposed compared to the prints being good, and the black and white work much the same as 665 in that you need to overexpose the print to get a decent negative.

  6. And I don't think I've heard of 500 speed film. Used to be a 400 speed Fuji film, not sure if it was made in 4x5.

  7. What is your workflow regarding negatives. When I'm out shooting its usually a messenger camera bag and a moleskin accordion book for the prints. but how do you keep the negs in good standing till you get home?


  8. if i'm driving i just throw them on the back seat to dry. if i'm walking around, i usually keep them unpeeled in a bento box until i'm someplace i can peel and dry. or i will just hold the negative while i am walking until it dries.

  9. you can leave the fuji (which is what i'm using) unopened for long periods of time? also what about dust on the negative side? does that wash off easy? sometimes hairs tend to stick.

  10. Anonymous10:01 PM

    I am guessing my bleach is no good (no chloride)... it doesnt wash away the black stuff at all...You don't learn until you try it...oh well.
    Thanks for the guide. Very helpful. Always a fan.

  11. ChristopherCoy8:35 AM

    Folax... I had a negative from about three or four weeks ago that had accidentally gotten stuck to a piece of printer paper right after it got peeled. I noticed it a few minutes later and by then, when I pulled it apart, there were paper fibers that had gotten stuck to the developer that was drying. I allowed it to dry for WEEKS, until I was brave enough to try bleaching. I bleached the back, and then cleaned off the front with water and a gentle rubbing of my fingers. Surprisingly all the paper fibers came off with the developer and I was able to salvage the negative. It was FP100c, so the emulsion was tough enough to tolerate the rubbing without bubbling.

  12. Thanks for the technique! I used the technique on some fuji fp-100c with 7 out of 8 successes! But I just want to ask how did you bring the wet negatives back home? I put them in a plastic folder but is there a better way? Thanks!

  13. i let them dry out on the back seat of the car and just stack them. they aren't all that delicate once dry...

  14. Do you think cleaning the developer off before bleaching is a good idea? Need a way to pack them in a bag

  15. Anonymous3:14 AM

    did you try to print the negative FP-100B with photographic enlarger?

  16. nope. they are fairly thin and grainy compared to a regular film negative, but something would print, I'm sure.

  17. I recall that when I first started reclaiming the 100B negs that they were cold water wash only. If I ran anything luke warm over them they would just flow off. My avatar is from a 100B.

    1. Eugen Mezei6:37 PM

      How comes you don't get Newton rings when taping the negative onto the scanners glass?

    2. I use a scanning fluid.

  18. Eugen Mezei6:39 PM

    How comes you don't get Newton rings when taping the negative onto the scanners glass?

  19. Fuji negatives have a shiny side and a matte side. I scan matte side down!

  20. Hi... I took longer to give a comment, because both of my hands could not stop clapping. Wonderful master class !

  21. How do you scan the colour negs? I'm using an Epson V700 flatbed scanner and the scans are terrible, mostly green or yellow. I've tried different variations. I can get decent results if i scan it as a b&w neg, but i want colour!!!