Beginner RA-4 printing questions

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by 1kgcoffee, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. 1kgcoffee

    1kgcoffee Member

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    I'm about to get started on RA-4 printing, with the following tools:
    Minolta 45a color head for a Beseler 45
    Arista RA-4 Kit 2L
    Fuji 8x10 (100 pieces)
    Beseler 16x20 drum + roller

    Now onto the questions.
    1. Replenishment or one shot? My goal is perfect colours, but I want to maximize the value of chemicals. If one shot, should I mix the entire kit at one time, or only use an eye dropper to make solution for every use? In other words, do the chemicals have a much shorter life in solution?
    2. Should I get a smaller drum? I'm not interested in trays or jobo at this time, but for printing 8x10, will I be wasting too many chemicals?
    3. If doing one shot in a large drum requiring 240ml, how many prints can I reuse those chemicals for a session (ie day of printing)? Or do they go back quickly?

    How many good prints can be done with this kit?

    -thanks in advance,
    1kgcoffee
     
  2. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    Mixed chemicals, if stored properly, have a much longer shelf life than the component chemicals. For that reason, and to facilitate consistency, I would mix the developer all at once. I use the Kodak chemicals (makes 10L, I think) and store them in 600ml bottles filled to capacity. They keep at least a year this way -- probably longer, though I've not kept any that long.

    I would get a smaller drum. The 8x10 Unicolor drum requires only about 60ml solution and is much easier to handle. I don't use it one shot, exactly, but I don't keep it longer than a session either. What this means is I'll develop my test prints (4x5's usually) and final 8x10 print in the same 120ml of solution. (I decant the 600ml into five 120ml glass bottles and use one small bottle per session to make an 8x10 print.)
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    +1
    The Cibachrome drums are great for RA-4 and black and white RC as well.
     
  4. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    The biggest detriment to quality color prints IMHO is not reuse vs. single shot, or 30°C vs. room temperature, but: not making enough prints before filtration is completely dialed in. Filtration will change with the C-41 chemistry you used to develop the negatives, it will depend on film stock, age of film stock, and even more on lighting conditions during the shoot, and of course also personal preferences. Each time you change filtration you need another run, which takes 8-10 minutes, and fresh chems if you don't reuse.

    There may be some geniuses around, who can nail filtration very quickly, but I am not one of them. If I did not reuse my chems, that 5l kit would be gone by the time I had my first set of final prints. Personally, I reuse rather than do fewer test prints.
     
  5. vyshemirsky

    vyshemirsky Subscriber

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    My biggest revelation in RA4 printing was to use an acidic stop bath before blix. A dash of vinegar in water will do. Without it I was getting purple streaks all across the print.

    And with a cibachrome tank 80ml single shot worked like magic. Very economical and no concerns about developer capacity. This guarantees consistency and no colour shifts due to exhausted chemistry.
     
  6. vyshemirsky

    vyshemirsky Subscriber

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    As for filtering, I bought a colour analyser. Worth every penny, and paid for itself by needing less test prints.
     
  7. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    This is damn good advice. Get a smaller drum. etc.
     
  8. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    Back in the Cibachrome days I would save the solution from the previous sheet and mix it 50:50 with fresh. RA4 is so cheap these days. I like what bvy says. I think color is easier than black and white. I print properly exposed Portra. If you don't jump around from film to film, filtration will be pretty consistent on a proper negative. I've never fiddled with the 45A head, supposed to be great thing. You can't make enough test prints (or I can't). Light source for evaluating prints is critical. I have settled on a white light LED, I think it's around 5000 K. I think north sky indirect light around 6000K is the standard?? If you stay at it you will get lovely prints, Saunders made several multi-print easels for printing wallets, 4x5s and 5x7s on a single sheet of 8x10.
    Good luck, Best Mike
     
  9. OP
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    1kgcoffee

    1kgcoffee Member

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    Thanks so much for all the responses. A few more questions...

    I tried to make a print today, with some success. It seem my Beseler drum is leaking from the little nubs where the ends fit over. I tightened the ends multiple times to no avail. Still leaking from the nubs. Is this irreparable? I plan on getting a smaller drum, but this 16x20 is great for making many prints. Will other drums work with the Beseler roller or do I need to get a cibachrome roller for a cibachrome drum?

    Can you overblix? After cleaning up the mess, I notice the print came out very light. I'm not sure if this was underexposed or overblixed, considering it was sitting in the drum 3-5x longer than the recommended time.

    As for the color analyzer, the 45a seems to have one but I'm not sure exactly how to use it... if I place it on the subject, say a person, hit analyze on the controller, it will set the colors to expose it near perfectly, ie autocolor in photoshop?
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
  10. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    I don't know the Beseler base but many sizes and systems are interchangeable. Does your drum have a gasket ring? Sometimes you can apply petroleum jelly to slow or stop a leak. Blix is to completion so you can't overdo it. It will cause problems if it's exhausted though, like dingy whites. Someone else can answer about the analyzer. I've never used one. I know calibration is important.
     
  11. vyshemirsky

    vyshemirsky Subscriber

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    Depends on the model, but generally you will need to calibrate it to a colour you want to obtain. Most allow several calibration channels.
    I have mine calibrated for neutral grey, foliage green, and for average skin tone.

    Pick a point, analyse, adjust filters to hit the colour.
     
  12. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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  13. btaylor

    btaylor Subscriber

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    That Minolta head is quite a contraption. I've had one for years but have yet to fire it up! I believe you can find a PDF of the instructions on the web. It is very sophisticated. There no "auto correct" button for color correction in RA4 for amateur use. You have to set up and calibrate the color analyzer if you want to use one. Personally I do it by eye with a set of Kodak viewing filters and a shot of an 18% gray card. I make gray card corrected prints for each film (and paper) I use so I have a really close starting point every time. That way I spend most of my time making small density changes and burning and dodging to get my perfect print, not on color correction.
     
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  15. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    You can't over blix. My experience is you can't over develop either. I use the old Kodak rapid color processors 11 and 16k. I run them at 100F . I cannot tell any difference between 1 minute to 2 minutes development time. I always use stop bath after developer, I blix for 60 to 90 seconds. Then I wash the print throughly in 100 F running water for 90 seconds. That's it no stabilizer.
    I'm pretty sure that Cibachrome drums will work on the Beseler base, otherwise you can roll Cibachrome drums on a table top. Too light means you need a longer print exposure time. You might try picking up a used Kodak color darkroom data guide off ebay.
    Mike
     
  16. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    +1 to that.

    @1kgcoffee: C-41 film is a low contrast medium, therefore RA-4 must be rather high in contrast to yield normal looking images. Therefore slight changes in exposure or filtration have big impact on final image. More than once I though "oh my chems must have gone bad", when only exposure and filtration were a fair bit off the mark.
     
  17. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    Just to add, I've printed with four year old Dev stored this way and one year old Blix stored this way. I always mix up the entire 10L and store in 1 litre pop bottles.
     
  18. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    THIS is important to know. If you exclude all the air from a pop bottle full of developer it will last for a LONG time. I found an old bottle of XTOL in a soda bottle. Over 10 years old, Still developed a roll of TMY2 and produced a normal looking negative. I couldn't believe it.

    I've never fooled around with an analyzer. There's tons of them that come up on Ebay. I would like to have someone that really knows one of these machines show me how they work, I'm a bit skeptical, but admit never tried one.
     
  19. OP
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    1kgcoffee

    1kgcoffee Member

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    So after some hair pulling trying to get the colours right, it turns out the beseler 45a is an ADDITIVE head. LOL. I now have some prints that are on track. Analyzing these prints in photoshop helps alongside the filters. May post some in the not too distant future here... The color analyzer I have temporarily given up on.

    (I have and will post a link to the manual here for anyone searching for info about the 45a.)

    Managed to stop most of the leaking with duct tape and so far I am enjoying the results more than B&W or anything I have printed digitally.

    Is it true that stabilizer is not necessary for RA-4 prints? The formaldehyde formula posted by PE will not prolong life of the paper?

    Also regarding cibachrome tubes, will the 11x14 hold two 8x10s as does the beseler?

    Thanks so much to everyone for the fast and helpful replies, you guys are amazing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2017
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    There is an unusually sized Cibachrome tube that does hold two 8x10 prints - essentially a 16x10 tube, but I don't think the 11x14 tube will work.
     
  21. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    The 11
     
  22. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    The 11x14 Unicolor drum will hold two 8x10 prints
     
  23. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Printing RA4 colour is as easy as or possibly easier than B&W once you get the hang of it. Firstly if you can get a deep tank processor such as those made by NOVA it is much quicker and easier to develop the paper than using a drum. You do not have to wash and dry out the drum before each print. This eliminates the possibility of cross chemical contamination. The chemicals are constantly temperature controlled so that eliminates one more problem.
    Going by the replenishment rates recommended for RA4 developer I replenish at the rate of 10cc per every 80Sq inches. You don't have to do this after each print but I make note of how much paper I have used in square inches and once it reaches 800 sq inches I top up the processor with 100cc of developer. Stop bath and blix I use the same rates of replenishment as well.

    Nor do I use an analyser. Paper batches differ from one to another so you will have to have set up the device for different batches. There is no replacement for the Mk1 eyeball and a good daylight quality light source. I use a 6750 degree LED Bulb which is a touch slightly cooler than daylight at 12 noon.
     
  24. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    This is good information, except I hate to see the myth propagated that drums have to be thoroughly washed and bone dry between uses. If you rinse the print inside the drum as I do, then you're halfway there. After that, I just do a quick rinse of the drum and lid in hot water between uses. If you employ a prewash (which is good practice as it tempers the paper and drum) and work fast (i.e. don't leave the paper in a semi-wet drum for more than a few minutes) then the drum needn't be bone dry. In fact, instead of drying the drum at all, you can fill the drum with tempered water before loading the paper. Not only does it alleviate the need for drying the drum, but it counts as your prewash for your next print. This doesn't work well with very large drums obviously.

    A Nova processor is nice, but a big upfront investment for someone unsure if they want to commit to color printing, and they're a bit hard to find.
     
  25. btaylor

    btaylor Subscriber

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    I'm sure the Nova processor is a great device, but drum processing need not be that time consuming. When I used drums it went pretty quick. I rinsed well after the blix and used a hairdryer to dry the drum. No contamination issues, and I don't think it took more than a minute to dry the drum. Pre-measured cups in a tempering bath (temp easily maintained in a large picnic cooler) using one shot chemistry was simple. And I often printed four 8x10 prints at once in a single 16x20 drum which really made things fast. Drums are practically given away now.
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I have 4 sets of 8x10 drums and caps. A quick wipe with a towel and air drying does it for me.
     
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