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A guide to developing your own E6 film using the Tetenal Colortec E6 kit – by Sina Farhat

Congratulations, if you are reading this article then you are (hopefully!) willing to take the next step in your film development adventure. In this article, I will explain the required steps in order to develop slide film using Tetenal’s Colortec E6 kit.

If you have the Arista E6 kit, I would recommend you use this guide by Kikie Wilkins.

Before I get the process lets start with how I got into slide film and later developing it myself.

 

 

My slide film adventure

My adventure with slide film started with me shooting a roll or two now and then, I was somewhat interested in slide film but the longer lab development time and the cost of the film scared me away, so I concentrated on black and white film instead.

In late 2016 this all changed thanks to a friend who contacted about some expired Kodak EKTACHROME slide film he had collected. He wanted to empty his freezer and (luckily for me), didn’t have any need for the film.

Fuji Provia 400X, expired 1998 - Rolleicord

Fuji Provia 400X, expired 1998 – Rolleicord

Fuji Sensia 400, expired 1996 - CanonF1N + 35mm f2.8

Fuji Sensia 400, expired 1996 – CanonF1N + 35mm f2.8

Kodak EKTACHROME 400 - Rolleicord

Kodak EKTACHROME 400 – Rolleicord

After covering shipping costs I found myself in possession of an 8kg package containing over 200 rolls of EKTACHROME 120 and 220 film. There was so much film that it took up a whole section of my freezer!

Some time later two more friends asked me if I wanted even more film. Of course, I said yes and I added 35mm slide film to the mix!

It’s worth mentioning that all of the slide films are expired, however they have all been freezer stored, which means I can continue to shoot them all at their native ISOs and still get great results, to the point that they look fresh when developed.

 

 

Problems and solutions

I found myself with a bit of a problem. How was I going to process all this film? Should I send it to a lab or do I take the step forward and develop it myself?

Considering the cost of sending the film to a lab, and that local turnaround times are 1-2 weeks, the answer was relatively easy; I should develop the film myself.

Fuji Provia 100F - Canon F1N + 28mm f_2.8

Fuji Provia 100F – Canon F1N + 28mm f/2.8

Kodak EKTACHROME 100SW, expired 1997 - Rolleicord

Kodak EKTACHROME 100SW, expired 1997 – Rolleicord

I looked up the cost of the chemicals and found a 2.5 litre Tetenal Colortec E6 kit that develops 30 rolls.

This was just around the time when another friend stepped in and asked me if I wanted to have a 5 liter Tetenal Colortec E6 kit that was just siting in his home and gathering dust…of course, I said yes and after covering the shipping costs (again), I once again had an 8kg package in my hands!

Let the slide film adventure begin!

 

 

Quick tips

Before I get into the details of the development process I want to impart a few tips that I think will help you to get comfortable with the process. Here goes:

  1. Be patient. It takes around 25 minutes to process a roll of slide film. Take your time and don’t stress!
  2. If you need to take a break, do so when you are washing the film between development steps. Just make sure that the tank is filled with water so that the film doesn’t dry out.
  3. When you get comfortable with the process bring a tablet/smartphone/laptop and put on a video that runs in the background, this helps you to get past the monotonous part of the development stages!
  4. Mix your stabilizer with distilled water, this removes any watermarks that are usually left on the film from tap water.

 

Most importantly: Have fun and look forward to seeing your images, this makes the process much more enjoyable.

Like C-41 development, the E6 process requires a relatively high temperature to be attained and maintained. I also have some suggestions on maxing the developer chemicals, too. I have detailed them below before we jump into the process itself.

 

Getting the temperature right

E6 Tetenal - Warming Chemicals

E6 Tetenal – Warming Chemicals

Ah, the temperature fear! This step really scares people away from both C41 and E6 development at home, as it seems to be really hard. That said, it isn’t and you don’t event need special, expensive equipment to get the job done.

My process goes something like this:

I fill my sink with hot-ish water from the tap and put in my three 0.75L glass bottles, which contain:

  • The first developer
  • The color developer
  • Blix chemicals

I use a digital thermometer to monitor temperature. The display part goes somewhere dry and the cord goes into my sink so that I can monitor the temperature. I let the three bottles sit in the sink until they reach 38 degrees Celcius. Now and then I use the thermometer to check on the temperature of the chemicals until they have reached the appropriate temperature.

Make sure to mix the water so that the temperature reaches the whole area of the water bath, and when the temperature goes below 38 degrees just add more hot-ish water and mix the water.

Voila, you have solved the temperature problem!

 

Mixing the solution

E6 Tetenal - Chemicals

E6 Tetenal – Chemicals

I prefer to use 0.5 liter of the mixed solutions as it gives me enough chemicals to develop 6 rolls of film.

The reason for this is that I have ruined films in the past by letting mixed C-41 solution sit unused for too long and I ended up with a blank roll because of that.

By developing 6 rolls at a time, my solution is used up and I don’t risk letting it sit and go bad!

 

 

E6 development: required items and materials

Things you will need before you start:

  • Exposed slide film (fresh or expired)
  • Mixed solution stored in bottles with clear labels in order to avoid confusion.
  • Some kind of timer, I use an old stopwatch
  • Digital thermometer
  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Developing tank and reels
  • Film changing bag or a darkroom to load your film into the developing tank
  • Container, sink or bucket large enough to hold your chemistry
  • Access to water tap.
  • Somewhere to hang and dry your film

 

After developing a few rolls, I made some changes to the process outlined in the instructions provided in the Tetenal kit. These modifications haven’t yet let me down and at the time of writing I have developed around  40 rolls without issue.

Here are my refinements:

First, I prewash for 1 minute instead of 5 minutes. The prewash warms the film so that the first developer chemicals and the film are the right temperature. I had no problems when it comes to working within the temperature tolerances according to the instructions. Make sure to be close enough to the temperature for successfully developed film!

Second, when washing the film after applying the BLIX, the instructions say to use 36 degree C water. I don’t understand that at all, as the stabilizer is around 25 degrees and at that point the temperature-crucial development part is done and only the final wash remains in order to get the film free from any remaining BLIX. Therefore I simply open the tap at a warm(ish) temperature and let it wash under running water for 4 minutes, now and then, I pour out the water and let the tank fill up again.

These are alterations I have made to the published process and they work for me. Your results will vary and I strongly advise you to follow the instructions a few times before you start making any variations of your own.

 

 

The development steps

After loading your film into your tank and getting the water bath to the right temperature you are ready to start.

The process below may seem daunting but if you already develop C-42 or black and white film at home, it shouldn’t be too much of a leap.

The steps below are as follow:

  1. Prewash
  2. First developer
  3. Wash one
  4. Color developer
  5. Wash two
  6. BLIX (Bleach / Fix)
  7. Wash three
  8. Stabilizer
  9. Hang
  10. ENJOY!

Let’s get started.

 

 

Step 1: prewash

Pour in the 38 degree C water into your tank and agitate it hard. After 30 seconds pour it out and repeat the process on more time for a total of 1 minute.

 

Step 2: first developer

Your chemicals should be at 38 degrees C. Pour your first developer into your tank and use the agitation stick to constantly agitate the film for the first 15 seconds, then every 15 seconds spin the stick 2-3 times until you reach your stop time.

When I mix 0.5 liters of solution the instructions say that development times for rolls 1-2  is 6:15 min, rolls 2-4 for 6:30 minutes and rolls 5-6 for 6:45 minutes.

When you are done pour back the first developer into the bottle.

 

Step 3: wash #1

Draw some water at 38C and pour it into your tank. Agitate hard and put the tank down, then repeat this step 3 more times until you reached the 2 minute time.

 

Step 4: color developer

Pour in your color developer (at 38C) and use the agitation stick to constantly agitate for 15 seconds then once every 15 seconds, spin the stick 2-3 times until you reach your stop time.

The instructions say that for rolls 1-2 you will need 6 minutes of development time, rolls 2-4 require 7 minutes and rolls 5-6 require 8 minutes.

When you are done pour back the color developer into the bottle.

 

Step 5: wash #2

Once again, draw some water at 38C and pour it into your tank. Agitate hard and put the tank down, then repeat this step 3 more times until you reached the 2 minute time.

 

Step 6: BLIX

Pour in your BLIX (at 38C), and use the agitation stick to constantly agitate for 16 seconds then every 15 seconds spin the stick 2-3 times until you reach your stop time.

The instructions say that for rolls 1-2 you will need 6 minutes of development time, rolls 2-4 require 7 minutes and rolls 5-6 require 8 minutes.

When you are done pour back the BLIX into the bottle.

 

Step 7: Final wash

Run warm(ish) water from your tap into your film tank to remove a remainging BLIX from the film. I pour out the tank water a couple of time and refill it again. Four minutes later and you are done washing!

 

Step 8: Stabilizer

Pour your stabilizer into the tank and agitate constantly for 1 minute, when done pour back the stabilizer in the bottle.

 

Step 9: Hang film

Congrats! You have developed slide film! Open the tank and remove the reel, then open the reel and hang the film to dry.

Tip: Before you open the reel I recommend that you hold the reel tight in your hand and shake it, this way you get more liquids out from the film and it dries faster.

 

Step 10: ENJOY

Enjoy your developed slide film!

 

 

More samples

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sf_webcoast/collections/72157677836651512/

 

 

Final thoughts

As Kikie Wilkins points out, developing slide film at home is no more difficult than developing C-41 and if you are only used to developing black and white film yourself, trust me, the leap is not as big as some people make out.

There are several things you can do to ensure more control over the temperature of your chemicals, from using a small aquarium with a heating element, or a sous vide cooker – the choice is up to you. Hopefully what I’ve helped to do here is helped to show you that process is neither hard, or mysterious.

Looking forward to hearing about your own E6 adventures!

~ Sina Farhat

 

 

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About The Author

Sina Farhat

I am a freelance photographer that enjoys challenges and discovering my world in photos! I teach photograpy and in my spare time I enjoy analog photography.

3 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a roll of Portra to my local film lab to be developed and then the person at the front desk writes “E6” on the slip attached to my roll. I have a heart attack every time.

    Reply
  2. Nice write up … I have recently started E6 developing too and the tip of just mixing 500ml is what I do also … good stuff 🙂

    Reply

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