Struggling with RA4

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Robert Whitehouse, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. I've been printing Black and White for a couple of years now and am fairly

    I thought that I might have a go at some colour (RA4) just for fun, but
    without the expense of buying automatic colour processor because I don't see
    this as a regular/long term thing.

    So I bought some RA4 paper on eBay - "Tetenal Work" - the pack looked fairly
    new and unopened.

    I bought a "Photchem" RA4 kit, and found a "Cibachrome" colour drum in a
    cupboard in the darkroom.

    I filled a very large (16x20) tray with water at 30degC, mixed up my
    developer and bleach and put everything in the tray to warm up.

    Following the instructions in the kit, I started off with the following

    Dev - 200secs @ 30degC (constant agitation)
    Wash 90secs
    Bleach/fix 90secs
    Wash 90secs

    My first test strip was way too dark, but after a couple more attempts, I
    have managed to get to the state where the exposure looks about right but I
    cannot seem to get my whites white !

    The base colour of the paper (even unexposed edges) comes out a dirty
    grey/green colour every time and overall the colours look very muddy.

    I thought that perhaps the bleach/fix was not working, so I have tried
    mixing up another batch and I have tried extending the bleach/fix time - no

    Then I thought perhaps that I was over developing - so I have been
    progressively reducing development time from 200 secs, now down to 40secs
    (@30degC) - still no better and I am now starting to lose shadow density and

    Any ideas what is going on ? - Perhaps the paper is all fogged ? - I can buy
    some more paper but I would be grateful if anybody else can provide some
    thoughts. I have provided a scan of my latest test strip here ..

    And, for comparison, here is the same scan of the original (commercial)
    print ...

    Any thoughts/comments most welcome

    Bob W
    Robert Whitehouse, Feb 27, 2004
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  2. Robert Whitehouse, Feb 27, 2004
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  3. Robert Whitehouse

    Nick Zentena Guest

    How are you keeping the tray at 30C? An open tray is going to drop fairly
    quickly unless your room temp is 30C.

    And I thought my kit used long times-)

    I don't think you can overdevelop. The process basically goes to
    completion. 40 secs at 30C is less then the normal times for at higher
    temps. Lower temps require more time.

    I can only guess your temps are off. I can't tell anything from the web

    Nick Zentena, Feb 27, 2004
  4. Hi Robert,

    Comments are interleaved.

    It would appear that you are not giving the paper a pre-wash after
    exposure. This is very important in order to remove the cyanic coating
    on the paper. Failure to remove this coating results in a case of the
    blue/green meanies, as Dr. Chapman has called it, in Photo Techniques
    USA. A vigorous 60 second pre-rinse is advisable.
    This is much too long for an RA-4 process. The time is in fact correct
    for the C-41 process to develop color negatives. At 30° C., 60 seconds
    is sufficient. While RA-4 paper develops to completion and cannot be
    overdeveloped, it may be that excessive time in the bath can have a
    deleterious effect on the emulsion. That last is speculation on my
    part. Try much shorter times, though
    Half that would be adequate.
    If you keep the Blix bath at the same temperature as the developer, you
    can use your time in developer as a reasonable guide to the time in
    Blix. So, 60 seconds would suffice.
    I like 2 - 3 minutes.
    Very well could be the blue/green meanies. Dr. Chapmen advises that,
    when adding CD-3 as a solid to the solution, first add little ethanol
    and diethylene glycol to facilitate solubility and keep developer
    particles from adhering to the print.
    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Feb 28, 2004
  5. Francis, Nick,

    Many thanks for your comments, these are very helpful.

    I will ceratinly try the pre-wash, this sounds promising. As regards keeping
    the temp. constant, this is why I am using a large deep dray, so that I can
    put lots of water in, plus drum, plus chemicals, all in the same tub of warm
    water. I am monitoring this and putting a bit of hot in every couple of
    minutes to keep the temp. constant.

    I will have another go tomorrow and let you know progress.

    Thanks again,

    Bob W
    Robert Whitehouse, Feb 28, 2004
  6. Robert Whitehouse

    Nick Zentena Guest

    Nick Zentena, Feb 28, 2004
  7. Robert Whitehouse

    Ed Berger Guest

    First, I would get some new paper, just to remove that variable.
    Also, are you loading it in complete darkness? I would also suggest
    using one of the room temperature RA-4 kits (Tetenal or
    Photocolor-Patterson). I've been printing color in trays and find it
    no more difficult than B&W, although getting the proper filtration
    takes some practice.
    Ed Berger, Feb 28, 2004
  8. Nick,

    No - I'm not using a safelight, but then the room is not *-TOTALLY-* dark -
    there is a tiny neon lamp by a power socket and there is a flourescent
    "exit" sign which are difficult to cover up. I can JUST see my hand in front
    of my face (but only just). I was hoping that this might be dark enough for
    prints (but I wouldn't process film in this much light).

    Robert Whitehouse, Feb 28, 2004
  9. Seems awfully bright to me. Try to throw something black over the exit

    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Feb 28, 2004
  10. Robert Whitehouse

    S.Baggett Guest

    I had the same problem once and it turned out to be too much carryover
    of the developer into the blix. The alkaline developer was raising
    the pH of the acid blix too much. Use 2 or 3 washes between the dev
    and blix or use an acid stop-bath + wash between the dev and blix.
    This solved my problem of the "dirty gray-green whites".
    S.Baggett, Feb 29, 2004
  11. If you want an advice:

    1. Use only NEW FRESH paper. I prefer Kodak Ultra Endura because of the
    quality, but this is a matter of personal taste. ONLY use the huge well know
    makers paper.
    2. Do NOT use different kind of hobby chemistry. Use for example Kodak
    standard chemistry (developer replenisher, starter and bleach fix). They are
    very good and works fine at 35 degrees C or some higher depending of the
    3. You do NOT need any stop bath or rinse after the developer if you let the
    developer dropp from the print for 5 seconds. The recomended replenisher
    rate takes care of normal carry over.
    4. You do NOT need any pre rinse in water. This is specific for some drum
    5. NEVE, NEVER try to use a drum processor. Use some kind of slot processor
    (Nova is one) or even open try is better then a drum. To use a drum
    processor is to beg for truble.
    6. NEVER, NEVER try to experiment with different time in the developer. 45
    sec at 35 degrees Celius is right for Kodak chemistry. Take it ot and let it
    drop for five seconds after 40 seconds. And 45 seconds in the bleachfix.
    Never try to change. But don't care if the time in the bleach is a little
    longer. You can turn on white light after 10 seconds on the bleach fix.

    If you follow these 6 points, I am 100% sure you will have perfectly
    developed prints. I have been folowing these points for many years and I'm
    making prints of the highest quality in my basement lab.

    And, the good thing with a slot processor is that you can keep the developer
    in it for months if you replenish it right. You save a lot of money. I use
    my drum processor in the garden, it's nice with some flower in.

    Victor Falkteg, Feb 29, 2004
  12. Robert Whitehouse

    S.Baggett Guest

    I think this advice is too extreme.

    Jobo has been in business for many years with many thousands of people
    successfully using drums to process prints. They have made over a
    dozen different drum processing units over the years. I started drum
    processing in 1983 and didn't start using a Jobo (for better temp
    control) until 1994. I have never used anything but a drum from the
    EP-2 days until now.

    I've tried all of the "hobby chemistry" and they all give good
    results. The unit cost (per print) is higher with most of the "room
    temperature" kits, but their results are indistinguishable from that
    derived from using Kodak chemistry alone.

    I am currently (tonight) using 16-month old Fuji Crystal Archive and
    getting some great prints. Of course, I store it in my freezer when
    not in use. Paper is not like vegetables, but it does need
    refridgeration to stay "good".

    The paper itself will absorb some developer and some will carry over
    to the blix. Usually 2 30-second washes will take care of this but
    you can use a 3-5% acetic acid stop bath followed by 30-second rinse
    and this will certainly take care of the problem.

    RA-4 is quite tolerant of development times. I wouldn't go less than
    45 seconds or more than 90 seconds, but I've experimented with as much
    as 2 minutes in the developer. All that was accomplished was a slight
    increase in density and about a 5-7 cc shift toward the magenta. I
    would still pick one temp/time combo (I use 1:00 at 35deg C) and stick
    with it, for consistency. If you use a color analyzer (as I do), you
    should maintain a consistent "process" throughout to achieve
    consistent results and you will waste less paper on "test prints".

    You can also replenish RA-4 when using a drum, but because of the
    greater "aeration" in the drum you should use at least 3 times the
    recommended replacement rate. I replenish (with RA-4 replenisher) at
    a rate of 30ml/100ml of developer. I use the same for the blix.

    This particular problem sounds exactly like he is not giving the print
    sufficient wash after the developer which is causing too much of a
    rise in pH of the blix. I"ve "been there, done that" and I'd bet my
    favorite cat that this is the problem.
    S.Baggett, Feb 29, 2004
  13. Robert Whitehouse

    Nick Zentena Guest

    I'm wondering about this. With the current Kodak paper I don't seem to
    have any problems but I picked up some older Supra III and I think I'm
    getting the meanies. So all it takes is a 60 second water soak?

    Nick Zentena, Feb 29, 2004
  14. Robert Whitehouse

    Jim Phelps Guest

    I also agree!!! Been using drums since the Kodak paper of choice was
    Ektacolor 37RC. Unicolor drums until about 6 years ago I upgraded to the
    Jobo. However, I've upgraded again.
    Not sure I agree with this theory, but it could be possible. When I said
    above, I upgraded again, I've been using a ThermaPhot ACP 302 for the last
    several months. With Tetenal Pro chemistry and this two bath roller
    processor, I have never had the "blue - green meanies" nor problems with my
    whites (sounds like a Tide commercial:~). Sure, carry over is at a minimum
    (rollers act as wonderful squeegies), but 25 8X10's and a couple of 11X14's
    thru 2.5 liters in one session is quite a bit. I always start a session
    with a standard print and end it the same way. So I can see if there's been
    a shift. Could also be that Tetenal's Blix is more tolerant to Dev
    contamination? Maybe.

    Anyway, drum processors work fine. Jobo is still in business and making
    them after all these years...

    Jim Phelps, Feb 29, 2004
  15. Me too. Never had a problem drum processing. I currently use 2 Jobo
    processors with no problems. I use them for single print runs instead of
    setting up my Durst Printo Processor(roller transport) Temp is critical.
    Try putting a heavy black trash bag over the exit sign.Also a fishtank
    heater will keep the temperature in a pinch.
    I think Jobo also has a ambient temp. developer for RA4. Watch your color
    corrections too. Poor whites can be a number of problems from temperature,
    contamination, or just color corrections at the enlarger.
    Robert Brodie, Mar 1, 2004
  16. Just a wash following the developer is risky. Use a stop-bath formulated
    for color processing. This will not be especially acid, pH 5.5-6.5 is
    typical, but it will contain Sod. bisulfite to eliminate color couplers that
    react with blix to cause stains. Make the darkroom dark. Don't tolerate
    any light sources at all, especially an illuminated EXIT sign! I'd go after
    that one with wire cutters and electrical tape.
    Maxwell Sandford, Mar 1, 2004
  17. Robert Whitehouse

    S.Baggett Guest

    I agree that "developer caused bleaching problems" in RA-4 is an
    under- reported national problem. Well, maybe not to the extent we
    need a support group or anything. Developer carryover into the blix
    will cause ugly whites and even the unexposed edges will have that
    "sickly" look. When I quit using a stop bath, I soon had a problem
    that sounds exactly like this one. I found it took 4 (four) 30-second
    washes of fresh water to eliminate all of the gray-green ickyness from
    the white edges. I went back to a 30-second stop bath (just using
    acetic acid) followed by one 30-second wash and I was happy again. I
    also upped the amount of blix replenisher I was using, just to be
    S.Baggett, Mar 2, 2004
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