It turns out that developing color negative film with C-41 is really simple. After trying out the process on a very old roll of film, I was ready to develop a couple of rolls that I did not want to risk losing. The first easy thing about developing with C-41 for the second time is that the chemicals were already mixed. All I had to do was let them soak in a hot water bath long enough to get them up to the proper temperature. Of course, my wife would be upset with me for taking over the kitchen with my chemicals, so I offered to do the grocery shopping while they were warming up. (Brilliant!) I filled the container with hot water from the kitchen faucet at about 120F, and when I returned from the store everything was at about 100F.
The second easy thing about developing film is that loading the reels with newer film is much easier than loading old film. I did not realize this the first time when it took me approximately two days sitting in the dark bathroom to get both rolls of tightly curled 35mm film loaded onto the reels. This second time I developed a roll of 120 and a roll of 35mm, and each one was successfully spooled on the first try.
The actual development process is also easy. With the chemicals up to the right temperature, developing the film is simply a matter of pouring in the right chemical, stirring a few times while the timer runs, then pouring it out. The shortest chemical soak time is 3.5 minutes, so there’s really no rushing involved. For the final rinse, I used distilled water with a drip of dishwasher rinse aid since my kit didn’t include Photo-Flo, then I hung up the strips of film on a hanger in the bathroom.
All of the images featured with this post were captured using my Yashica Electro 35 GSN with Fuji Superia 400 film and processed in Lightroom using Negative Lab Pro v2.2 with the Frontier and Lab-Standard settings. I was able to convert the entire set of 36 negatives in one batch, then I made some minor color adjustments to a few images that I wanted to improve. These are probably the cleanest and easiest set of negatives that I have processed. I had more difficulty processing the 120 roll that I developed just before this roll of 35mm-I’m not sure why but I did have some issues with those negatives. I’ll be presenting those images and the problems encountered in my next post.
Overall, if you have an interest in developing your film but like me have been hesitant because of concerns about the time commitment or complexity of the process, I would encourage you to go ahead and give it a try. I’m using the Cinestill Cs41 chemicals purchased as part of their color processing starter kit. I think it is a great way to get started at a cost of less than $200.