C-41 Stabilizer (maybe?) Problems

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Thanks for everyone's help diagnosing my color processing problems. I put one of the first nags halfway in bleach-fix for 3-4 minutes, and there was a very minor lightening of the mask.

Besides that, and the fact that others verified that the 4x5 mask looks a little darker than 35mm, I'm convinced I don't have a bleach-fix problem.

But I think I have on with the stabilizer. I am left with these white spots and blotches all over the negatives. Let me see if I can link the photos....(and I'm a bit nervous showing anything I've taken to the pros on this board!)

The Tetenal instructions say that's due to the stabilizer. Since they tell me I can bleach-fix up to 50% longer than the recommended 3:30, I have increased bleach-fixing to 5 minutes, so I don't think this is a problems of unbleached silver.

The instructions also say that I should mix the stabilizer with more distilled water, but I already mixed it all with distilled water to begin with!

I'm using Jobo drum with 2509n reels on a CPE2. After stabilizer, I open the drum and there is a lot of froth. It seems to act something like Photo-Flo. The first time, I just let the negs hang thinking the froth will slide off, but maybe I have dried froth. Maybe stabilizer shouldn't be used in a rotary drum - perhaps I should just dip the reel in it? Does anyone have another procedure? Should I rinse the negs after stabilizer? Use Photo-flo? The instructions sound like I go straight from stabilizer to hanging them to dry.

Anyway, I put these last negs back into the reel and went back to the wash using the Jobo hose that plugs into the drum - near but under 40C - the highest temp recommended. Then I put in the stabilizer again and put it back on the machine for the recommended time + 50%. This time, I squeegeed off the excess froth and hung the negs. Now I can still see the dried stabilizer and the squeegee "trails". And these spots on the negative like you see in the picture remain - the same spots remain - they weren't affected at all by the rewashing and restabilizing.

(1) What am I doing wrong in the first place and what can I do to get my results right the first time?

(2) Is there some way for me to go back and restore these negatives?

Thanks a lot.

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), February 09, 2001


John, To answer your second question first... no not really. The minus density is in there and probably will not be able to be recovered. It sounds like your stabilizer could be diluted a bit more and lower the heating on your dryer... do not exceed 140 degrees F!!! Now, I would recommend to stabilize... off the reel there by not contaminating your reels. Formaldahyde is a tough one to clean off and will continue to contaminate. This looks like it is another part of your problem. I would almost like to say that your rotation might be to fast causing airbells also... yes I may be stretching but it also might be that the air bubbles are from bubbles of stabilizer popping when drying causing a minus density. Do a test, shoot a small roll of film... doesn't matter what ASA or what subject, slow the speed of rotation down if you can and stabilize in a tray so there are no bubbles and hang to dry at about 100 degrees and see if this helps. I hope it does! Cheers, Scott

-- Scott Walton (f64sw@hotmail.com), February 09, 2001.

John, stabilizer is made of two major components, formaldehyde and surfactant. There are some aldehyde substitutes that might be used instead of formaldehyde. The aldehydes stabilize the dye couplers and harden the emulsion. The surfactant causes the negs to dry evenly. Photo Flo is a surfactant. Since the use of stabilizer results in the stability of the neg, it should not be rinsed off of the film.

There is no need to use Photo Flo since the stabilizer already contains a surfactant. If the stabilizer's surfactant is adequate, squeegeeing should not be necessary. If drying problems do occur, you can try a different stabilizer, different drying techniques, and/or different squeegeeing techniques.

Some say with justification that the stabilizer should never be put into the same tank or onto the same reels as the ones used for the other processing steps. It definitely should not be agitated vigorously. Just enough movement to insure even coverage and removal of any air bubbles is all that is needed. Vigorous agitation will, as you have found out, will cause the surfactant to suds up causing a lot or air bubbles.

Some of the defects in your negatives look like there might be some dust or some sort of sediment on the negatives. I would recommend filtering the stabilizer. Make sure that it is stored properly and that dust, dirt, and sediment are not allowed to contaminate it.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), February 09, 2001.


I have processed alot of C-41 films over the years in various and some sometimes not too nice places and usually in a big hurry (I'm a wire photographer). I have never liked using stabilizer on my C-41 films. I have used and liked using Pho-Flo with good results. I have and use a Jobo drum (sometimes), but I never use stabilizer or Pho-Flo on the Jobo while it's turning. I just wash and then Pho-Flo and hang the film up in my shower (the most dust free area of my house) with no problems. If that film was mine I would just rewash and use Pho-Flo and hang to dry. If you have any questions email me.

-- John Miller (Vwbus1967@earthlink.net), February 10, 2001.

The large blotch top-right of the vapour trail pic is definitely a drying mark. The smaller spots may be as well, except that they have more the appearance of air bell marks during processing, but if that was the case they should have been darker in the print, not lighter.
I agree that a re-washing is called for, but use filtered water this time. One of the best investments you can make, IMHO, is an in-line particle filter for your darkroom tap water. A simple mesh type isn't sufficient, it needs to be a permeable cartridge to do any real good.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), February 13, 2001.

I spoke to the Jobo reps at PMA. I am going to send them the pictures, but they said that once this is done, I probably can't go back and repair it (as I found out.)

They concurred with what I surmised and what others said here - I shouldn't be rotating the stabilizer - Sam said he used a tupperware container, I think. Just let it sit in there like I do with Photo Flo. I suggested that they add this to the Tetenal instructions, which I was following, and didn't mention that stabilizer shouldn't be done rotary.

BTW - the Tetenal stabilizer is formaldehyde-free.

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), February 13, 2001.

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