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Disappointing results using the digibase C41 kit – part 3

This is third and final part of my series on home developing of colour negative film using the digibase C41 kit. In this part I’m going to describe the scanning, final results and look at possible ways I can improve the process for next time.

Digibase C41 Kit Results

First, here are the results I obtained from the Digibase C41 kit.

Scanning & Post Processing

In the cold light of day I took another look at the negatives to assess how the development had gone.

Although I could definitely see images, they seemed to be quite low contrast and mostly uniformly orange in colour. There was also a lot of curl on the negatives, which I knew was going to cause problems with trying to get them to hold flat in the negative carrier. However, I wanted to see how they came out, so I fitted the first couple of strips in the carrier and started the scanner.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V550 Photo scanner using the following settings.

  • Professional mode
  • Colour Negative
  • 24 bit
  • 2400 dpi

I scanned each negative individually and adjusted the levels in each to try to get the most from each scan.

Once scanned I imported the tiff files into Lightroom and adjusted the colour balance, exposure, contrast and added noise reduction and sharpening to each image.

Results and problems

So the results are shown above and it’s obvious I’ve had some problems with the development of this film.

Although there are a couple of results which look ok none of them have the proper amount of dynamic range or definition that I’d expect. Several of the pictures have excessive brightness along one edge, but I think that is the result of the negatives being curled very badly and the scanner leaking light round the edge of the film.

When it comes to the dynamic range, the last couple of picture above are screen shots of the Epson software taken during the scanning of one of these negatives and then scanning a lab developed negative I shot last year. You can see that the lab negative ranges from 79 on the black end to 204 on the white end, whereas the negative from this batch is starting at 215 and finishing at 246. That means the whole picture is contained within 31 steps whereas the lab developed negative has 125 steps or 4 times as many.

So what has gone wrong?

Well first I’m reasonably happy that the processing kit is ok. I only received it this week and this is the first time I’ve used it so it’s unlikely that the chemistry is off.

I’m also reasonably confident that the camera isn’t to blame. Although it’s possible that the shutter is completely out, I used it over a range of shutter speeds and although I know it isn’t a scientific test I checked the speeds by eye looking through the back of the camera and each successive speed did seem to be about half the last one and certainly the light was reducing.

I know the lenses used are ok because I’ve used all of them on other cameras and have confirmed the result.

I also find it interesting that I took a series of pictures of my Daughters paints as the last pictures on the reel and deliberately over exposed by +2 and +3 stops and it made no difference to the quality of the image on the film.

So that leaves the possibility of me doing something wrong in the processing stage, or the film. I’m absolutely certain that I followed all the steps in the instructions and I’m happy that the temperature was within a few 1/10th of the correct temperature, but there are some things I will change the next time I develop a colour film.

First, the instructions say that the tank should be inverted at the start and then agitated every 30 seconds after that. I took agitated to mean use the stick in the middle of the tank to spin the film – having watched a few more YouTube videos, I think I will now use inversion to agitate rather than the stick. That seems to be the preferred way, and it’s inline with how I develop black & white films – it’s also much easier to do because you can keep the lid on and not worry as much about having to hold the tank upright in the water bath.

Another part of the process which isn’t completely defined is the wash stages between the main chemical baths. I gave the film about 30 seconds in water the same temperature as the chemical, but perhaps more time is needed?

The bleach and fix stages had a range of times in the instructions, bleach was 3min to 4min 30sec and fix was 4min 20sec to 6min 30sec. I set my timer to the mid point of these times, but I’ve subsequently done some reading and found that it’s better to err on the side of being too long rather than too short, so in future I will extend these times.

When I think about the film it’s possible that could be the problem.

I used a reel out of my 35mm film stock, just choosing a 400 ASA kodak which I thought was Kodak Gold 400. After I’d developed the film I looked again at the canister and I find it is Kodak Gold Ultra 400. Now I don’t remember buying any Kodak Gold Ultra so it’s possible it is a roll that’s been given to me or has been included in a vintage camera that I’ve bought. If that is the case it could be 10 years old and not been stored correctly. At the moment that is the best option I have.

I’d welcome any comments from anyone with more experience than I in C41 development. If I can get it right it is in many ways easier that black & white because there are far less variables to consider, i.e. don’t need to think about which developer to use or if you should push the development etc.


I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.


  1. Kenny Wood says:

    Hi Simon,
    Your foray into C41 processing articles are very interesting as is the rest of your blog by the way! I’ve gone through something similar myself. I’ve been developing my own C41 using a Jobo processor for many years now and I’d agree with you that it looks like the film is rather old. Recently I’ve been experimenting with processing Fuji and Kodak movie film in C41 chemicals to see how usable they are and to determine if the Remjet layer is easily removable.
    A few months ago I had a similar experience using long expired Kodak 250T movie film in C41 chemistry. The results were very washed out looking, with an odd colour cast. Increasing the exposure made little or no difference to the density of the negatives. I know that that particular film hadn’t been stored in a fridge or freezer and had been subjected to high temperatures.
    As for your processing skills you seem to have it pretty much nailed down. Although I would suggest that you wash the film more between steps to eliminate any possibility of staining that might occur due to chemical carry over from one bath to the next.
    As I process my colour film in a rotary processor then temperature and agitation are controlled automatically as are filling, emptying and washing of the film. I can tell you that as the cycle progresses there are several wash/rinse steps between the different chemical baths.
    The critical stage with C41 as you are probably aware, is the development time and temperature. The subsequent baths are not as critical regarding time and temperature so long as the film is fully bleached and fixed, best to err on extra time in each if in doubt. However if the chemicals are fresh the recommended times will be accurate.
    You might find that there may be a colour shift or stain appearing in some of your films as you process more and more films through the same chemistry. This will probably be seen in the film rebate. I’ve long since stopped over using C41 chemicals and use one shot only now. Although if one is to believe some of the ‘reports’ on the web, the chemistry can be used and used for dozens of films! And I suppose it can, however there will be a drop off in negative density and colour balance at some point due to the exhaustion of the chemicals in the developer and the build up of reaction products. I’m sure if your into Lomography then that wouldn’t matter too much and it would be regarded as ‘art’.

    I would recommend that next time you consider buying the chemistry in a stock concentrate if you want to save some money. Both C41 and E6 kits for slide film are available and well worth the effort by the way.

    Sorry for the rather long comment and all the best in your journey into colour film developing.

    1. Hi Kenny – thanks for the comment and please don’t apologise for the length, there’s lots of useful information there! I think I’ll probably go for a concentrate kit next time – the pre-diluted kit I’m using at the moment was a convenient way to get started and make sure I could do it before I invested too much.

      1. Kenny Wood says:

        If it’s of any interest when you come to buy a replacement C41 kit. The Rollei Digibase kits are good as are Tetenal and the Fujifilm C41 Express kits are also very good. Just a word of caution though if you buy a large kit. One of the developer concentrate’s contains para phenylene diamine (CD4) and it will go off (oxidise) after a fairly long period of time. This is labeled Part C in the Rollei kit and it is probably the same in the others, I’d need to look it up! If the concentrate starts to go dark or in extreme cases turns black then dispose of the solution as it probably now won’t work. To help preserve the concentrates top up the bottles with glass marbles and use squirt of Tetenal Potectan spray in the bottle. It’s expensive stuff but a can will last a very long time and help prevent oxidation.
        Hang onto the soft packs when your finished with them as they will come in useful for refilling with fresh solutions when the original chemistry is all used up otherwise brown glass bottles with tight seals are best along with marbles.

        1. Again thanks for the advice Kenny – Yes saving the pouches sounds a good idea, I can mix my own pre-diluted solution.

  2. David Seagrave says:

    I am teetering on processing a batch of C41 films in a Rollei Digibase Midi kit There are 8 films exposed in Cyprus one film exposed in Morocco and about 8 x 36 exps equivalent exposed in Scotland I am most anxious to learn how many times a made up solution can be reused so that I can develop all the batch one at a time on consecutive days I have ancient 250ml Paterson tanks with Perspex spirals and also other types of tank requiring 300ml and for 120 size films two Paterson tanks dating from the 1960s

    I live in Dunfermline and I do not belong to any camera club as all the clubs seem to cater only for digital camera users Most of the films exposed in Cyprus in brilliant sunshine were in wide angle elementary cameras ; a Halina Panorama and a Vivitar Superwide which has a 22mm lens

    I hope to show results at the Autism Resource Centre 24 Hill St Edinburgh on 8 January when I take over the Chairpersonship of the Aspergers Syndrome Society

    1. simon says:

      HI David

      Really sorry it took so long for me to answer – I’ve move the site to different hosting and missed your comment. My experience with the Digibase C41 kit, which was a 500ml kit in soft, air expelling bags was about 14 films in total. I haven’t used the kit for over a year now so I expect the developer is exhausted, but I would think you should be able to do your 16 films in one kit.

  3. Mike Davis says:

    Hi Simon,
    I have recently use a Rollei C41 kit to evelop some old colour film I found in a store camera of mine.
    Similar results to yours in that I have a muted colour range – reminds me of the postcard photographs of holiay estinations!
    One note: the digibase instructions suggest using de-ionised water in preference to tap water if you live in a hard tap-water area.
    i have been using tap water for my B&W chemistry with no problems. With colour chemistry I have white calcium spots on my negatives. Not a problem with the film processed above as I was not sure what I was going to get, but, a lesson learnt for the future.
    Great blog.


  4. Mike Davis says:

    Hmmmm my keyboard needs cleaning – missing ‘d’s!!

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