Le Blog Argentique

by Damien TROLARD

B&W, C41, or E6, which process to use with your film roll?

B&W, C41, or E6, which process to use with your film roll?

In film photography, there are several development processes. When doing film photography, we sometimes speak about black and white, C-41 and E-6 process, but what do these names really means?

The films are divided into 3 types: black and white, colors, and reversals. To simplify it for everyone, we can summarize it by saying that every process are made to develop a single type of films.

The black and white process

Kodak TMAX 400
A black and white film

The black is white process is, as its name suggests, the process used to develop black and white films. It produces negative images, so the colors are reversed on the film. With most black and white film, it is possible to add a reversal step to turn negatives into positives, but this is a very uncommon practice.

It is a very simple process. It can even be made at home with few tools as we were talking about in this other article:

Be careful though, there is some exceptions. For exemple, the Ilford XP2 as a black and white result, but have to be developed with the C-41 process, but these exceptions are very rare, and it is generally mentioned on the film.

The C-41 process

Kodak Gold
A C-41 film

It is the most common process in film photography. It’s used to develop most of the color films. Like the black and white one, this process also produces negative images, we obtain once again images with inverted colors. When a film use this process, we find on it the mention “Process C-41”.

It is a more complex process than black and white, but it can be done at home with a bit of practice. Here is the tutorial to learn how to develop your own C-41 films:

The E-6 process

Kodak Ektachrome E100
An E-6 film

This process is used to develop color reversal film. This one produce positive images, that we also call slides. As for the C-41, when this process must be used, the mention “Process E-6” is specified on the film. It’s not offered by all laboratories because it requires a lot of work and precision, and the demand is quite low because of the cost of reversal films.

Once again, this process can be done at home, but it is much more complex to set up, and it’s very easy to miss a development.

The others process

It’s good to know that there are a lot of different processes. But beware of the traps, many of them are the same. For example, the C-41, so named by Kodak, is called CN-16 at Fuji, CNK-4 at Konica, or AP-70 at Agfa, even if the Kodak name has largely taken over and is always mentioned on rolls, regardless of the manufacturer.

The process also evolved over the years, so their names have changed. For example, the C-22 evolved into the C-41. The E-3, became the E-4, before becoming the E-6. But for these old versions, as for many others processes, most of them are no longer manufactured, and make it almost impossible to develop certain old films. For example, we can say goodbye to the K-14 process, necessary to develop Kodachromes, very widely used in our old Super 8 cameras.


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