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E-6 Slide Film  

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Color Transparency Film Process E-6 (Slides)

There are two families of E-6 processing chemistries. The original and standard is a six chemical step process. The other family of 'rapid' or 'hobby' type chemistries use three chemical steps. Both families of chemicals will process E-6 type films. The choice of which chemical type to use revolves around the issues of convenience and control of the process. The three step chemicals are easier to use. You can 'fine tune' a six-step process with adjustments not available in the three step processes. Stabilizer, the final step of the process is not counted in the quantity of steps described above. Hence, a 'six' step process really requires seven chemical steps, and a 'three' step process really requires four chemical steps.
 

Process E-6, Six-Step

 

 Recommended Process Times for Kodak E-6 and Tetenal E-6:

         Rotation Speed (with reversing directions) 'P'/75 for 1500 and 2500 tanks, '4'/50 for 3000 drums

         Temperature 38C (100F)

  1. Pre-Warm 5:00
  2. First Developer 6:30 (All Fuji films only: use 7:30)
  3. Rinse 2:00 (4x 0:30)
  4. Reversal Bath 2:00
  5. Color Developer 4:00
  6. Conditioner 2:00 (or Pre-Bleach)
  7. Bleach 6:00
  8. Fixer 4:00
  9. Rinse 5:00 (10x 0:30)
  10. Stabilizer 1:00 (or Final Rinse) (Off processor at room temperature.)
  11. Dry As Needed

Process Sequence for E-6 (six step)

Pre-Warm
A dry 'incubation' of the tank and film allows the tank and film to rise to the process temperature. The film is loaded and in the tank. No water or chemicals are put in the tank. It is rotated in the tempered water bath. This warms up and stabilizes the temperature of the film, reel, and tank. Doing this prevents a chilling of the first developer and underdevelopment of the film.

First Developer
In the first developer, the exposed silver halides of the film coating are reduced to metallic silver. The first developer represents the most critical phase of the process. Time, temperature, and agitation, as well as storage of the working solutions affects density, contrast, maximum density, and fog.

First Rinse
The first rinse quickly interrupts the development and prevents first developer contaminating the reversal bath (or color developer in three bath chemicals). Insufficient first rinse can lead to changes in density as well as color.

Reversal
The reversal contains a chemical fogging agent that prepares the film for the color developer. Faults in this step can lead to an incomplete reversal and a general loss of density. There should be no rinse between the reversal bath and the color developer. The emulsion enters the color developer soaked with the reversal bath.

Color Developer
In this processing step, the remaining silver salts are converted to metallic silver. The color developing substances react with the film's color couplers and dyes. Changes in the color developer step affect color balance, contrast, minimum and maximum density, and evenness of the development.

Conditioner (Pre-bleach)
In the conditioner, the metallic silver is prepared for the bleach stage. The conditioner maintains the pH value of the bleach by avoiding a carryover of color developer into the bleach bath.

Note: Kodak has changed some of the chemicals in their E-6 process. The step that we are calling conditioner is now called 'Pre-bleach.' The same conditioner actions take place. The work previously done by the formaldehyde in the stabilizer step (the last step of the process) now takes place in the pre-bleach step. (As of this writing, only Kodak and L. B. Russell have made this change in the E-6 process.)

Bleach
In the bleach, the metallic silver is transformed to silver halide that is removed by the fixing bath. Changes in the bleach produce the following problems: Silver residue, low maximum density in reds, fogging in yellows, and high maximum density in blues.

Fixer
In the fixer, the silver halide in the emulsion is removed. Insufficient fixer times or incorrect dilution may lead to the following problems: Excessive blue density, and yellow fog, with spots caused by silver halide residues that become visible in low density areas.

Second Rinse
The second rinse removes the remaining chemicals and should continue for at least five minutes. (Ideally, 10 changes of water, each lasting about 30 seconds.)

Stabilizer (Final Rinse)
The stabilizer increases dye stability and contains a wetting agent. To avoid drying spots or damage on film surfaces, the stabilizer should be replaced at regular intervals. In the Kodak (and L. B. Russell) E-6 process, the stabilizer is replaced by the final rinse step, which contains no formaldehyde, only a surfactant (wetting agent).

Process Information for E-6 (six step)

If you are using the six-step E-6 Chemicals, we suggest you get Kodak's Manual Z-119. It contains detailed information on E-6 chemicals, steps, and process control.

Determine the first developer time. Although both chemical manufacture's recommend a first developer time of 6:00, JOBO USA recommends 6:30 as a starting time (7:30 for Fuji films only). You should test for your best first developer time. The time of the first developer is critical, but our customers reports satisfactory results with first developer times ranging from 5:30 to 7:30 for normal exposures. You may need a longer first developer time for Fuji brand films than other brands of film.

Kodak reversal bath should be mixed to a 60% solution. The recently released Kodak 5 Liter Kit should not have the reversal diluted, use it a full strength. Tetenal reversal is used at full strength.

Note: Example of a 60 % solution: Start with 1000 ml of normal strength (mixed as instructions direct) reversal bath. Add to it 600 ml of water. This yields a total of 1600 ml of a 60% solution.

Color developer is used for a reduced time of four minutes because of the effect that constant agitation has on it. Any time from four to six minutes will work.

With all rinses, the numbers of changes of water are more important than the time. We suggest changing the rinse water every 30 seconds for the duration of the rinse time. It is critical to maintain the correct temperature in the first rinse. Deviations from the prescribed first rinse temperature could cause a shift in the color balance of the film. The first rinse should be maintained at plus or minus 1C (2 F). The remaining rinse should be maintained at plus or minus 5 C (10F).

Note:

All modern color process bleach or bleach-fix chemicals (with the exception of Ilfochrome bleach) require oxygenation (exposure to oxygen) to perform its function properly and completely. Unlike developer or other chemistries, you should intentionally introduce air (with its oxygen) to the bleach or bleach-fix. Oxygenation is easily accomplished while diluting the stock solution. Place the bleach or bleach-fix in a larger (about twice the volume of the mixed solution) sealable container. Seal the container and shake vigorously for about thirty seconds. For situations where this procedure is not practical, an inexpensive aquarium 'bubbler' may be used to aerate the solution. Leave the bubbler on for about a half hour. If the bleach or bleach-fix has not been aerated for a week or longer, repeat the procedure before using the chemical. If you re-use the bleach (not recommended) it is even more important to do this procedure.

Film should be stabilized (or immersed in final rinse) outside the processor, out of the tank, off the reels and at room temperature. Do not agitate.

WARNING: Stabilizer contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Use only with good ventilation. We suggest that you use rubber or neoprene gloves and apron, and eye goggles.

Note:

Kodak and L. B. Russell E-6 Conditioners have been changed to 'Pre-Bleach' and contain the formalin treatment that stabilizes the film. The stabilizer was changed to 'final rinse.' The final rinse in the Kodak and L. B. Russell chemicals do not contain formaldehyde. It is a rinse that contains a surfactant. It acts much like Kodak Photo-Flo, helping to prevent water spots on the film while drying. Do not use final rinse as a substitute for stabilizer in other (non Kodak E-6 or L. B. Russell) processes.

Caution: Stabilizer (or final rinse, or any Photo-Flo type surfactant) should always be used in the following way: Use a dedicated container for the solution. This solution should be stored and used off the processor (at room temperature). Remove the film from the reels before immersing the film in the solution. If reels or tanks are immersed in these solutions, they will eventually cause processing contamination effects. The reels will become difficult to load. Rinsing or cleaning the reels or tanks after processing will not eliminate this problem.

Note:

If you are using stabilizer, you do not need an additional wetting agent. Stabilizer contains a wetting agent. Do not rinse the film after treating it with stabilizer or wetting agent, as this would remove the surfactant included for spot-free drying.

It is good practice to be consistent in processing procedures. However, it may be useful to know that with the exception of the developers, all steps in the E-6 process (both 3 bath and 6 bath) are 'taken to completion.' That is, once the action of the chemical or rinse has done what it is supposed to (had its effect), further time in the bath or rinse will have no additional benefit or harm. If you are to err in the timing of the process steps other than the developers, it is safer to go longer, not shorter. Be aware however, that very long (over one hour) immersion times in any solution or water could cause excessive softening of the emulsion or other problems, and should be avoided.

Caution: We have had a few reports of poor color quality when processing Fuji E-6 films with Kodak E-6 films in the same tank in the same process run (same batch of chemicals). There may be a harmful interaction between emulsion types of different brands when processed in a small volume of chemicals. To be as safe as possible, do not mix brands of film in the same tank in the same process run for E-6 processing. If you reuse chemicals (not recommended), do not mix film brands in the same batch of chemicals. This caution does not include stabilizer, final rinse, or wetting agent.  
 

Process Times for E-6 (three-step)

Caution: Both Kodak and Fuji do not recommend processing Lumiere, Elite, Velvia, Sensia, Provia and other tabular grain-type films in any three-step E-6 type chemicals. For these films, or any critical work, JOBO recommends using the six-step E-6 process (see above). For some amateurs and small volume professional photo processors, the three-step chemical may produce acceptable results. However, the color balance may not be optimal, and the complete clearing of residual silver in the film may take longer in the bleach-fix step than the recommended times.
 

Recommended Process for Tetenal Three Step:

         Rotation Speed (with reversing directions) 'P'/75 for 1500 and 2500 tanks, '4'/50 for 3000 drums

         Temperature 38C (100F)

  1. Pre-Warm 5:00
  2. First Developer 6:30 (All Fuji films only: use 7:30)
  3. Rinse 3:00 (6x 0:30)
  4. Color Developer 4:00
  5. Rinse 1:00 (2x 0:30)
  6. Bleach-Fix 6:00
  7. Rinse 5:00 (10x 0:30)
  8. Stabilizer 1:00 (Off processor at room temperature.)
  9. Dry As needed

Process Sequence for E-6 (three step)

All that takes place in the full six-step E-6 Process also takes place with this three bath process. However, some of the actions of the chemicals are combined in one chemical step with the advantage of fewer items to mix and handle to process film. The disadvantage is the lack of fine control of color produced with the combination of chemical steps.

For the action taking place in each of the baths, refer to the Process E-6 six-step sequence.

The first developer is the same for both. The work of the reversal, color developer, and conditioner is all done in the color developer in the three-step Chemicals. The work of the bleach and the fixer is done in the single bath bleach-fix in the three-step chemical agent. Also note the recommended first developer time change for all Fuji brand films.

Process Information for E-6 (three step)

Determine the first developer time. Although some chemical manufacture's recommend a first developer time of 6:00, JOBO USA recommends 6:30 as a starting time (7:30 for Fuji films only). You should test for your best first developer time. The time of the first developer is critical, but our customers reports satisfactory results with first developer times ranging from 5:30 to 7:30 for normal exposures. You may need a longer first developer time for Fuji brand films than other brands of film.

With all rinses, the number of changes of water is more important than the time. We suggest changing the water rinse every 30 seconds for the duration of the rinse time. It is critical to maintain the correct temperature in the first rinse. Deviations from the prescribed first rinse temperature could cause a shift in the color balance of the film. The first rinse should be maintained at 1C (2F). The remaining rinses should be maintained at 5C (10F).

Note:

All modern color process bleach or bleach-fix chemicals (with the exception of Ilfochrome bleach) requires oxygenation (exposure to oxygen) to perform its function properly and completely. Unlike developer or other chemistries, you should intentionally introduce air (with its oxygen) to the bleach or bleach-fix. Oxygenation is easily accomplished while diluting the stock solution. Place the bleach or bleach-fix in a larger (about twice the volume of the mixed solution) sealable container. Seal the container and shake vigorously for about thirty seconds. For situations where this procedure is not practical, an inexpensive aquarium 'bubbler' may be used to aerate the solution. Leave the bubbler on for about a half hour. If the bleach or bleach-fix has not been aerated for a week or longer, repeat the procedure before using the chemicals. If you re-use the bleach-fix (not recommended) it is even more important to do this procedure.

We strongly suggest that a stabilizer be used. Failure to use stabilizer will result in rapid fading of the image. A formaldehyde-based stabilizer solution should be used. (All Tetenal E-6 Kits include stabilizer.)

WARNING: Stabilizer contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Use only with good ventilation. We suggest you also use rubber or neoprene gloves and apron, and eye goggles.

Note: Stabilizer has a wetting agent (surfactant) in it to promote spot-free drying. It is not necessary to add a wetting agent to the stabilizer, or use any other bath, treatment, or rinse, after the stabilizer. The residual formaldehyde in the emulsion will help to inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

Caution: Stabilizer (or Kodak Final Rinse, or any Photo-Flo type surfactant) should always be used in the following way: Use a dedicated container for the solution. This solution should be stored and used off the processor (at room temperature). Remove the film from the reels before immersing the film in the solution. If reels or tanks are immersed in these solutions, they will eventually cause processing contamination effects. The reels will become difficult to load. Rinsing or cleaning the reels or tanks after processing will not eliminate this problem.

Caution: We have had a few reports of poor color quality when processing Fuji E-6 films with Kodak E-6 films in the same tank in the same process run (same batch of chemicals). There may be a harmful interaction between emulsion types of different brands when processed in a small volume of chemicals. To be as safe as possible, do not mix brands of film in the same tank in the same process run for E-6 processing. If you reuse chemicals (not recommended), do not mix film brands in the same batch of chemicals. This caution does not include stabilizer, final rinse, or wetting agent. Also note the recommended first developer time change for all Fuji brand films.

Caution: Repeated use of stabilizer on plastic reels and tanks can lead to the buildup of a sticky residue which makes the reels difficult to load and increases the possibility of back contamination (stabilizer contamination of first developer). Rinsing alone will not remove all stabilizer from a reel or tank. Stabilize your film off the reel in a tray or tank used only for stabilizer. Failure to use stabilizer will result in rapid fading of images. (In Kodak six-step E-6, pre-bleach and final rinse together meet the chemical need for image stability.)
 

Process Control for E-6 (six and three step)

For most purposes, the information included in this manual is sufficient for you to produce reliable and excellent quality E-6 films. Complete coverage of process control with the E-6 process is an involved subject. It would be impossible to cover all aspects of E-6 process control in this instruction manual. For critical fine tuning of the E-6 process, there are many techniques and monitoring procedures that are employable. The bulk of these procedures are covered in depth in several excellent books, available from Kodak, Fuji and others. Some of these publications are:

         Kodak E-6 Manual, publication number Z-119

         Processing Manual for Process CR-56/E-6, from Fuji
 

General things to note about E-6 films and process:

Each slide film has its own specific characteristics. There are noticeable differences from brand to brand, 'pro' to 'amateur,' family or speed group. The way colors are rendered (warm, cool or neutral), the saturation of the colors (richness or vividness), the contrast (high, low or medium) each contribute to a unique 'personality.' Be aware that the color balance or speed (effective exposure index) can change slightly from one emulsion batch to another within the same film type. Small changes can sometimes be noted within a single emulsion batch if storage conditions have changed or the film has aged.

All films designated 'Process E-6' are indeed able to be processed in E-6 chemicals (See the caution about three step process of certain films in on page 41 and the caution about mixing brands of film on page 41.) However, to achieve the most demanding control and accuracy, you may want to adjust your procedure specifically to the film type and emulsion batch being processed. If you work with a variety of emulsions you may want to find the best compromise in process procedure that produces satisfactory results for the different emulsions, or alternatively, segregate and fine-tune for each emulsion type. Commercial establishments that may have any type of film come to them for processing will most likely wish to standardize on a process procedure proven satisfactory for the most commonly presented film types.

Using test exposures and test developing, it is possible to optimize processing control for a specific emulsion batch. For critical applications, buy a large batch of a specific emulsion number. Fine-tune your process for this emulsion. Another method of correcting color balance of films is to use correcting filters on the camera lens.

Process Control Strips are available from Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa. These strips, when used with proper monitoring equipment and logging are useful to get and keep an E-6 process 'in control.' However, the use of control strips without essential equipment (such as a densitometer) is of limited practical use. If you wish to use process control strips you should have at least one of the books from Kodak or Fuji mentioned above. These manuals cover the correct use and interpretation of process control strips. If you do not have the proper equipment for control strip analysis, you are better off using your own test procedures (outlined above). Use the film(s) that you normally shoot or process to evaluate the appropriateness of your processing procedure. Also note that a process which is indicated as 'in control' by monitoring control strips may not be optimum for your specific film choice or personal preference.  

Push or Pull Processing for E-6 (six or three step)

Push or pull processing (one or more F-stops) of E-6 films should be considered a salvaging procedure to correct for incorrect exposure of the film. Under poor lighting conditions (or the lack of an appropriate speed film) it may be necessary to underexpose the film and 'correct' for the under-(or over-) exposure with adjustments in the processing.

The best quality processing will be derived from a combination of correct camera exposure and normal processing. The greater the push or pull, the more likely the results will be unsatisfactory. Use push or pull processing only when necessary to accommodate exposure deficiencies, or to exploit the 'artistic quality' (less realistic appearance) of the altered images.

Adjustments made to the E-6 process for push or pull processing are essentially the same for both the six and three step versions. The length of time in the first developer determines the effective exposure index. Note that some film types or brands may have different 'normal' first developer times, thus the modified first developer times for pushing or pulling these films will be different also. The color developer time is adjusted for significant pushing of the film only. All other steps and times are unchanged.

Changing the first developer time causes a change in sensitivity in the following way:

         A 'Push' of one F-stop (2 x ASA) is obtained by a 30% increase in normal first developer time.

         A 'Push' of two F-stops (4 x ASA) is obtained by an 80% increase in normal first developer time.

         A 'Pull' of one F-stop can be compensated for by reducing the normal first developing time by 30%.

Fractional F-stop push or pull first developer times may be calculated by adding or subtracting 10% for 1/3 F-stop, 15% for 1/2 F-stop, and 20% for 2/3 F-stop. A fractional F-stop adjustment may be added or subtracted to the full F-stop(s) Push or Pull times as required.

For all push processes of one or more F-stops, increase the color developer Time to six minutes. Do not decrease the color developer time for pull processing.

Caution: The above processing information should not be used with Kodak Ektachrome P800/1600 professional film, or Fujichrome 1600. ('Normal' use of these films requires push processing.) We suggest you get specific processing information from the manufacturers, or refer to Kodak Manual Z-119, or Fuji Processing Manual for Process CR-56/E-6.

Caution: Any process which changes the effective exposure index (ASA) of the film may produce less than optimum images. There could be color balance shifts. Contrast and maximum density will be altered. The need for accuracy of the camera exposure necessary for a correct exposure is increased. The correct exposure for a push process may need to be a compromise, sacrificing shadow detail for highlight, or vice versa. Higher levels of contrast in the lighting during exposure may make it impossible to render all portions of the picture (darkest to lightest) with a distinct image. Highlight details could go 'clear' and/or shadow details could lack density and discernible content. Any push process will decrease, to some extent, the maximum density of the image. The apparent 'grain' structure of the images will be enlarged. Color shifts may occur. With any pull process, contrast is decreased. Color saturation is diminished. Color shifts may occur. The apparent 'grain' structure of the images will not be reduced.

Since there can be color shifts and contrast changes when using different first developer times, we recommend determining the proper first developer time (for push or pull processing) by test developments using the same film exposed under the same lighting conditions, using the same exposure metering techniques. Camera-mounted filtration may be required to produce the most accurate color balance. If it is not possible to test a specific film, lighting, and exposure combination, use the recommendations listed above. Generally, they will produce acceptable results.

Optionally, you may 'tweak' the density of the processed film by making very small (fractional F-stop) adjustments to the first developer time. Usually these minor adjustments will not adversely impact the quality of the processed image. This type of adjustment is usually done to fine tune all the small variances in a specific processing setup and procedure. Once this adjustment has been determined, the new first developer time becomes your 'normal' time. All push and pull calculations are then derived from the new 'normal' time.

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