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I bought an Arista E6 processing kit some 6 months ago, but never got to using it because the idea of doing an elevated-temperature process was just too daunting for me. Well, on a Friday night a couple of weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and developed my first sheet of 4×5″ E6 using the BTZS kit. In case you don’t know, BTZS stands for “beyond the Zone System” (referring to Ansel Adams’ famous Zone System for exposure, of course). The kit consists of sturdy, black plastic tubes that BTZS tubes can be purchased from The View Camera Store. The really nifty part about this kit is that the capacity of the caps of these tubes is exactly the amount of chemistry needed to process a single sheet of 4×5 film (I also have a set for 8×10 sheet film but have yet to test it out). They are also sealed with an o-ring to prevent leakage. With one spare cap per tube, one is able to prepare the next solution (e.g. stop buffer) while performing a particular step.  It also has a tray that can hold the tubes during development, as well as the tube caps that can be pre-loaded with chemicals.

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BTZS Tubes sitting in the processing tray. Notice the free cap sitting in the cap holder third tube from right).

Now, the system was designed for black and white development processes, not E6 as I was attempting. A small complication of using E6 process is that the solutions have to be premixed and warmed up, and thus cannot be prepared on-the-fly. It is also recommended that the different solutions not be mixed. Taken together, this means that one needs more than one spare cap per tube. I was able to get around this as I purchases 6 tubes and had 12 caps, and was only developing one sheet (you need three tubes to develop one sheet. See the videos on the View Camera Store website linked above). One should also note that the plastic material is very thick, and it is advisable to prewarm the solutions in, say, a stainless steel tank, before pouring into the cap right before use.

Arista E6 Kit
The Arista kit is a simple E6 kit, with only 3 steps – First development, color development, and blix.  Some have complained about the color fastness of the kit, but I’ve obviously not had enough time to verify that information.  Mixing the solutions is easy enough, though one of the components of the color developer had a very strong, pungent smell.  The most difficult part in the kit are the two wash steps, which require water at 105 degrees Fahrenheit to be quickly filled into and poured out of the developing tube 7 times.  The key is to fully submerge the film during this step.  The difficulty is in getting clean, warm water in sufficient quantities.  I just use the warm water straight from the tap, and fill out a large Folgers container with it.  I use 110 degrees water, and let it cool down naturally to around 105 during the processing step.  I am not sure it is in fact sufficiently well-controlled, but it seems okay from the first try.

Temperature Control
To get the water temperature to 105 degrees Fahrenheit I used a cheap Chinese aquarium heater with an analogue temperature control – that allows me to force the temperature to be higher than the default maxiumum (~ 95 degrees) by adjusting the high/low stops on the control knob (better-built heaters will have fail-safes that prevent such tempering, so cheap Chinese goods FTW!).

Cheap aquarium heater

Cheap aquarium heater

I have also purchased a submersible water pump to distribute the heater water.  This is because the heating element gets pretty hot and without redistribution, the heated water becomes too hot, and touching the element can become dangerous.

Following the instructions closely, I was able to get a half-decent 4×5 E6 image.  Here it is!

First ever 4x5 E6 image self-developed using Arista E6 Kit

First ever 4×5 E6 image self-developed using Arista E6 Kit