Darkroom Notes – Tetenal Colortec E-6 kit

Recently I have developed 5 rolls of 120 slide films in 4 days, here is the story and what I found.

The Trigger

It has been a long time since I started developing black and white film at home. I have always thought of stepping up to C41/E6 chemistry, but held back because the temperature needs to be precise and exact.

Recently, a major E6 lab in Hong Kong increased the price for E6 developing. This lab is responsible for a major part of E6 developing in Hong Kong; a lot of smaller photo labs rely on their service. So in short, the cost of E6 developing has gone up by a significant amount.

This leads me to finally step in the E6 home developing world. I bought a Tetenal Colortec E-6 kit 2.5L recently, which claims a total capacity of 30 rolls. For the price I paid for it, it is much more cheaper to develop it at home, even before the lab decided to increase the cost.

The Alchemy

In the box there are 6 bottles of mysterious liquid, from there you will mix the liquids into 4 working solutions – First Developer (FD), Colour Developer (CD), Bleach & Fix (BX) and Stabiliser (STAB).

It was my first time so I mixed the smallest amount possible – 500mL of working solutions, which I can develop 135 & 120 film with. The user manual is quite straightforward you just follow the table. The 4 working solutions are then stored in these brown bottles.

It was not mysterious after all.

The Temperature Struggle

If you had experience developing black and white film, developing colour film is not much different, the clear instruction of developing times and washing is very useful. The only struggle is to get the chemical to the right temperature.

After some research on the internet, most people use the sink/a container to make a hot water bath, and put the chemical bottle in to heat them up. Some people use fish tank heater or even sous-vide cooker to control the water temperature, both are too fancy for me.

what the setup would look like – without water

I eventually found an unused plastic box to serve as the hot bath. When I developed the first 2 rolls, the temperature was not very stable and I was really panicking.

However, I have to say the temperature tolerance is probably looser than it states in the manual; I have done developing at 3 degrees away from the suggested tolerance and the result is indistinguishable from normal.

Eventually I arrived at the conclusion that I would use hot water at 43 degree Celsius as the hot bath, and let the chemical sit for 15 minutes, meanwhile the film is loaded in the developing tank. The temperature and time should be different in winter; I shall test it again in the future.

What It Feels Like

Fujifilm Velvia 50

After developing 5 rolls and getting the hang of controlling the temperature, I felt like a Level 13 Sorcerer who just learned the Prismatic Spray spell.

I mean it feels very very very satisfying every time you pull out the developed film and see the vivid colours!

Why not C41?

It would be wrong to say I do not want to develop C41 film at home. The main hurdle is the fact that I always struggle to get decent colour scans from a colour negative film.

At some point I decided to just give up and take all my C41 film to a professional lab. I am a kind of person who always want to do stuff on my own, but this time is an exception. It is a huge weight off my shoulder.

Fujifilm Provia 400X

Conclusion

If you read all the way down here, you have my respect and appreciation for tolerating my English and not-at-all useful sharing.

I do not know how to conclude my story because it is still developing. But if you ever wanted to try developing colour film, you should try it. It is ever so satisfying.

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