Tetenal E6 Velvia 4×5 Film Processing – Do it Yourself

Velvia 4×5 tetenal E6 3 bath process an alternative to sending your chromes to the lab.

February 2019 update

I started using the Tetenal E6 3 bath process in 2013 to develop my 4×5 Velvia film. Since then I have written 3 posts about my experimentation with Tetenal E6. For clarity I have decided to combine the info from all three posts into one post.

Currently Tetenal Germany, the parent company, is insolvent and there is a employee bid by New Tetenal to buy it out.

Also there has been other changes to the E6 kits. The 1L E6 kits have been superseded for a 2.5L kit. The other change is that is that I am now only processing 6 4×5 sheets at a time and not 12.

You can read on and see how I arrived at my method or you can jump straight to my summary below. Australian Tetenal E6 suppliers are listed at bottom of page.

Coastal heath Margaret River - Tetenal E6
Coastal heath Margaret River – Tetenal E6

Trying out the Tetenal E6 3 Bath Process

In 2013 I began trialing Tetenal E6 3 bath process with 4×5 velvia. I must admit it was with a little trepidation that I undertook E6 processing at home. The last time I processed colour slide it was as a young teenager in the 1970s using my mother’s cement laundry troughs out on the back verandah. I can’t remember how many process baths it took but it was quite a few. Compared to Tetenal E6 3 bath process the steps are much simplified.

Back then it was the Kodak E3 process, and it required that I re-fog the film with a 500 watt light source after the initial development. I was processing Pacific 35mm colour slide film from my high school’s media department. The results were radical to say the least. I had blue and magenta colour casts and wildly contrasty images. I also did not have a water-bath for temperature control.

Needless to say I loved it. But it’s not exactly a comforting result if you are processing your professional images that you have spent time, money and effort just traveling to remote locations to create them.

Fast forward to the present day and there is much improved film processing gear and improved chemistry at my disposal. The digital world was forcing me to revisit processing chromes at home.

Willyarbrup Cliffs pimelea tetenal E6
Wilyarbrup Cliffs Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park – Tetenal E6

Cost and Convenience of Tetenal E6

For years I was posting my chromes from Perth to Melbourne for professional processing. Lab prices are increasing. With professional E6 usage dwindling and E6 laboratories disappearing it was time for a rethink.

I still have plenty of velvia 4×5 sheet and roll film I want to process into the future. Processing of one 4×5 sheet film is AUD $10 and and upwards. Then there is the postage (or travel) to and from the lab.

Compare that to a 2.5L Tetenal E6 kit which cost $150 with freight and has a capacity of 120 4×5 films. That is AUD$1.20 per sheet or AUD$5 per roll.

Samphire wetlands Canning River Tetenal E6
Samphire wetlands Canning River near Perth CBD – Tetenal E6

Running Film Tests with Tetenal E6

I strongly recommend putting a few test films through the Tetenal E6 process first. This will allow you to make adjustments for your particular camera/film/darkroom/technique combination.

I photographed an 18% Kodak grey card at different exposures to create a test film. In the southern hemisphere you want to place you grey card facing south. Usually you want it in even shade with a clear midday sky.

Using Grey Cards to Create E6 Test Films

Typically I would take a 120 film for which I get 12 exposures with my 6×6 camera. I meter the grey card and note the exposure time and f stop indicated on my meter. By changing the shutter speed up and down I make a series of exposures extending from 5 stops darker to 5 stops brighter than the indicated normal exposure for 18% grey.

When developed this test film will allow me to visually compare the correct exposure with the actual developed frame. If the grey is lighter than 18% grey then it is likely then I need to reduce my first developer time. Conversely if it is too dark then I must increase my first developer time. The separation of tone between frames gives me an idea of film’s contrast range. It will also pick up any potential colour casts – they grey will turn some other colour.

I started with a 1L Tetenal E6 kit and put a few 120 velvia film tests through first to confirm my development times. I found a development time of 7.5 min a good starting point for velvia 50 ISO with my Jobo set up.

Cape Leeuwin Augusta - Tetenal E6
Cape Leeuwin Augusta – Tetenal E6

Processing Consistency of Tetenal E6

Overall I have been pleased with the results. To my surprise the film processing was remarkably consistent between batches and the processing time information provided by Tetenal is a good starting point. The overall process is much simplified with the 3 step chemistry.

Clematis Augusta - Tetenal E6
Clematis Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park Augusta – Tetenal E6

Processing Equipment with Tetenal E6

It was time to press my Jobo processor, which I use for all my black and white negatives, into doing some colour work for me. This is the basic Jobo CPE Plus model modified with the addition of the CPA2 lift and an insulating polystyrene box.

Alternatively you can use almost any daylight film processing tank. Water-baths for controlling the temperature using buckets or some such container, are essential. Use digital thermometers to monitor temperature.

Determine the Number of E6 Films to Process at One Time.

In 2013 my aim was use my Jobo 2550 drum which holds 2 4×5 reels with a capacity to take up to 12 sheets. The maximum fluid volume recommended by Jobo for the CPE Plus processor is 600ml.

My initial processing tests were based around this 600ml volume. However, my aging processor now struggles with that weight and it overloads the motor.

Subsequently, since 2019, I have modified all processing time and working solution volumes to process just 6 sheets at a time. For this I use a Jobo 2520 Multi-tank which takes one 4×5 film reel with a capacity of 6 sheets. Subsequently I halved all my original working solutions to 300mls.

Coastline Margaret River - Tetenal E6
Coastline Margaret River Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park – Tetenal E6

One Shot or Re-Use of Working Solutions

Tetenal E-6 of One Shot Advantages

  • One shot has the potential to minimise the overall process time by eliminating the need for adjusted development times from chemical activity depletion.
  • There is less risk of cross contamination of chemistry.
  • It avoids the problem of volume depletion of solutions, especially of the first developer. Incomplete return of all solution is no longer a problem.

Tetenal E-6 Re-Use Advantages

  • Larger mixing volumes provide greater tolerance to potential small measuring errors of concentrates
  • Avoid measuring small amounts of concentrate
  • Less overall chemical mixing
  • No time compensation adjustment times for developing is necessary if processing is limited to two film equivalents at a time.
Canning River - Tetenal E6
Perth CBD samphire wetlands Canning River – Tetenal E6

Processing 6 Sheets 4×5 Velvia Film

My E6 4×5 sheet film processing is based around 6 sheets being processed at one time using the Jobo 2520 multitank and a Jobo CPE2plus processor. I started out wanting to process 12 sheets at a time. But my old Jobo processor was struggling with the weight of a larger tank and 600ml volumes. Simply put the motor cut out when it overheated, right in the middle of processing!

Jobo 2520 Multitank Tetenal E6
Jobo 2520 Multitank with 4×5 sheet film reel capacity 6 sheets.

Determine your Optimum Working Solution Volume

I use a 300ml working solution volume to ensure good film coverage when the tank is horizontal in the Jobo processor. After the first 6 sheets I reuse the 300mls working solution fir a second batch of 6. Each 6 sheets of 4×5 film is equivalent to 1.5 roll films. On the second development I adjust all the times to compensate for slight solution exhaustion. Refer to my tables below.

Checking solution volume
Checking 300ml working solution volume adequately covers innermost film sheet when tank is horizontal.

Jobo CPE Plus for Tetenal E6 Processing

The CPEplus Jobo processor is the basic entry level model. It has a temperature controlled water-bath which maintains film chemistry temperatures during processing. The tanks sit semi submerged in the water-bath and rotate at a fixed speed clockwise, then counter-clockwise.

Jobo CPE plus E6 processing
My Jobo CPE plus with CPA2 lift and insulating box modification.

Two modifications have been made which are helpful. The processor sits in a custom made box lined with polystyrene foam providing further insulation to the water-bath. Second, a CPA Jobo lift arm allows me to empty the tank of solution without disengaging it from the processor. That means it is faster and cleaner than detaching and re-attaching tanks.

CPA Jobo lift arm
CPA Jobo lift arm allows the tank to be emptied without disconnection.

Tetenal E6 Kit Film Capacity and Volumes

Tetenal have superseded the 1 litre E6 kits with a newer 2.5 litre kit. All concentrate solutions in the new kit come in full 500ml bottles (no partially filled). There are new mixing ratios for colour developer and stabilizer in the 2.5 L kit. Processing times and temperatures remain the same for both kits.

The 1L kits have a film capacity of 12 rolls or 48 4×5 sheets and retailed for around $75 plus freight.

The new 2.5L kits have a film capacity of 30 rolls or 120 4×5 sheets and retailed for around $145 plus freight. That’s around $1.20 mark per sheet.

velvia 4x5 tetenal E6
1L kit of left = 12 rolls, 2.5 L kit on right = 30 rolls of film.

Summary of My Tetenal E6 Process

Using Tetenal E6 instructions as a starting point, these are my modifications to time and dilutions based on my own film tests.

  • I make up the 1000ml working solution as instructed by Tetenal
  • You will now have 4 bottles of 1000mls each of First Developer, Colour Developer, Bleach/Fix and Stabilizer solutions
  • Halve the First Developer, Colour Developer, Bleach/Fix into 2 containers each of 500ml
  • To each 500ml of First Developer and Bleach/Fix I add an additional 100ml of water bringing each container up to 600mls. That’s 2x 600ml of First Developer, and 2x600ml of Bleach/Fix
  • To each 500mls of Colour Developer I add 100 ml of pre-prepared sodium hydroxide solution* to create 2x 600m of Colour Developer.
  • Split the 2 x 600ml each of First Developer, Colour Developer, and Bleach/Fix into 4 x 300ml of First Developer, Colour Developer, and Bleach/Fix
  • You now have 12 x 300ml bottles of working solutions and 1x 1000ml bottle of stabilizer.
  • Each 300mls processes 2 batches of 6 sheets
  • You need to make small compensation times for processing the second batch -see table below.

Altering pH for E6 Colour Casts Tetenal Chemistry

*This pH alteration of the colour developer is to prevent a 20CC magenta colour cast that I observed in my Fuji Velvia tests- refer to my preamble above. To make up the sodium hydroxide solution I use sodium hydroxide crystals from Mechanics brand drain cleaner purchased at the local supermarket. Although not chemistry grade please note that brand is 98% sodium hydroxide crystals and does not contain aluminium metal. To make this solution I dissolve 32g of sodium hydroxide crystals into 1000mls of water.

Sheoak Canning River- Tetenal E6
Sheoak leaves in samphire swamp Perth CBD Canning River- Tetenal E6

Re-using 300 ml working solutions to process two batches of 6 sheets. Working solution is discarded after second batch. I discard the 300ml chemistry first by neutralising in a waste bucket.

Re-Use Technique: First 6 Sheets of 4×5 – Equiv 1.5 Rolls

StepDescriptionTempMinutes
1Pre-heat drum38ºC5
2First Developer38ºC7.5
3Wash38ºC3
4Colour Developer38ºC6
5Wash38ºC3
6Bleach Fix38ºC6
7Wash 38ºC6
8Stabilizer in tray38ºC1
9Warm air drying38ºC

Re-Use Technique: Second Batch of 6 Sheets of 4×5

StepDescriptionTempMinutes
1Pre-heat drum38ºC5
2First Developer38ºC8
3Wash38ºC3
4Colour Developer38ºC7
5Wash38ºC3
6Bleach Fix38ºC7
7Wash 38ºC6
8Stabilizer in tray38ºC1
9Warm air drying38ºC
West Australian Christmas Tree - Tetenal E6
West Australian Christmas Tree Nuytsia floribunda – Tetenal E6

Australian Suppliers

Suppliers of Tetenal E6 chemistry in Australia (I have no affiliation with any of these businesses, it is presented purely for your information)

Processing my own Velvia 4×5 with Tetenal E-6 has been a joy. I love pulling the film sheets off the processing reels and seeing what has been developed. But it is not until you take the films out of the dryer that you can really appreciate films’ wonderful ability to record colour.

I still have that 500 watt bayonet photo flood globe I used for E3 all those years ago. If you have a use for it let me know.

Eclipse Island Albany - Tetenal E6
Eclipse Island Torndirrup National Park Albany – Tetenal E6

Reader Comments

  1. Marie

    This is very interesting, thanks for sharing! 🙂
    I have not tried E6 yet, but I do my own C41 (and b&w), I think I’m on my fourth litre now, and I’m very pleased with the results.
    Tetenal has an excellent instruction leaflet enclosed, and in that I found that I can develop at 30C instead of 38C, which is very helpful for me. Is it the same with the E6, with the temperature?
    I would love to do my own E6, though it takes about two weeks to get the film back from the lab, and it cost me about €10 per roll of film….
    This would be so much better!! 🙂

    • Alex Bond Photography

      Hi Marie,
      You can process E6 at 30.6C according to Tetenal, but this would be for “Pull” processing of slide film where you have overexposed the film. For example, using a 200 ISO rated film and deliberately exposing it as a 100 ISO.

      • Marie

        Hmm, strange…
        But I guess it is still worth doing it at 38C.
        I’ve bought an small aquarium heater to keep the temperature, and it is hard for it to keep the 30C, but maybe I just could buy one more, that could help to keep the temp steady at 38.
        I don’t know why I never tried to do E6, but thanks to you I just might try it…
        Thanks a lot for the info!
        Have a nice weekend! 🙂

        • Alex Bond Photography

          Hi Marie, With reversal process the more you develop the greater extent of bleaching occurs that creates the highlights or clear film base. I guess what they are implying is that you could process at a lower temp, but you would have to overexpose you film to start with. Of course this may lead to compromises in overall image quality ie film grain size, colour or contrast. I’m not sure if aquarium heaters go as high as 38C. Good luck!

  2. Peter

    Hello Alex

    I’m very interested about your next experiments!
    I was in contact with the Tetenal technical support department, they told me its not possible to dilute the first developer to over 20% without getting a higher D-min, also with longer development times.

    • Alex Bond Photography

      Hi Peter, yes dev times will need increasing. It will be interesting to see if constant agitation plus sufficient chemical activity will result in an appreciable change in film base plus fog. I am a little way off my next dev session of E6.

  3. Peter Campbell

    Hi Alex
    I couldn’t agree more with your opinion of the hypersaturated colour images that are commonplace on computer screens and in gallerys. I love the colour images that I have seen on your website. They may be a little more subdued but the colour is rich as well.
    Peter

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