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I developed my first rolls of color film on Sunday.

Eight rolls, seven 35mm, one 120.

It’s something I had been thinking about for a long time, but putting off because it seemed a little bit too difficult.

The difficult part relates to temperature. Successful color developing needs both strictly controlled and higher temperatures than are used for black and white developing. So a requirement is a water bath with reliable temperature control.

I got one, a cast-off from my work. Designed for some long obsolete piece of complicated twisted chemistry glass – the type featured in countless horror movies – it was just large enough to hold to two one-liter dark brown glass bottles and enough water to keep them at 39° C.

With that, I was ready to go. The chemicals required are easily obtained from B&H or Freestyle Photo, and I started out with the Tetenal (Jobo) Press Kit for C-41. It’s a powder kit, and I made up the requisite quantities with distilled water and warmed the two temperature sensitive components, the developer and the ‘blix’ (bleach + fix), to the required temperature. I also warmed some plain distilled water for the presoak, needed to wet the undeveloped negatives and bring them up to the working temperature.

After that it was really extremely easy. No harder than black and white developing. Quicker, too, than some, since the developing time is only 3 minutes and 15 seconds, followed by 6 minute and 30 second blix treatment.

A brief wash under warm tap water followed by a one minute wash in stabilizer solution, and the film was ready to dry. According to the instructions at least, I gave the film a final wash in distilled plus detergent to aid drying.

It worked.

A few of the frames showed signs of chemical salt deposition suggesting to me that a longer wash after developing would be beneficial – I’ve seen the same problem with black and white and a lengthy rinse invariably cures the problem. As it is, all it takes is a further rinse to remove the crud.

The results looked just as good as any I’ve got back from a commercial developer. And my 8 rolls worked out at about $3 a roll in terms of cost – and I am going to experiment with going beyond the recommended eight 35mm or 120 films per kit, and maybe bring the cost down even more. Considering my local camera shop, Creve Coeur Photography, is currently charging $7.50 per roll for film developing only – no scan or print – this is quite a money saving exercise.