Methods for producing B&W slides

Black-and-white slides seem to be of interest to more people than just me — the topic comes up with some regularity on and the various photography-related USENET groups. I decided to collect a list of methods on this page to refer people to. More links to follow. If you have any more information to provide me with, PLEASE send it along and I’ll add it.

Please bear in mind that I haven’t tried most of these. I would be interested to hear your comments, though! I encourage all who are interested to check and the archives for more info about these processes, as well as the sites I link to below.

I do not mean to infringe on any trademarks or copyrights in this page. All product and process names are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Technique Description Pros and Cons
Agfa Scala film A special 200ASA B&W film developed by Agfa for reversal processing. The film was developed via a proprietary process by a few labs, and Agfa offered mailers (about $6 each). Except for some specialty products, Agfa films — Scala included — are no longer being made. This effectively eliminates Scala as an option for B&W slides, unless you have old stock lying around. Some labs are still running the Scala process, but I couldn’t find a list of them. The DR5 Lab in Colorado will develop any Scala in their own process. Pros: Results are reportedly very good. Someone else does the processing (this is a con for many people) which can be relatively cheap. Cons: Film is expensive. Process is proprietary. Reliance on mailers unless you have a lab nearby. Only one type of film.
DR5 process A small lab in Denver, Colorado (USA), DR5, has optimized reversal processing and offers a process which turns ordinary B&W films into positive transparencies. They are also able to develop Agfa Scala in their process. Pros: Everyone who has tried this process reports excellent results. A wide variety of B&W films can be used. Different options available (push, image tone, etc.) Cons: Only one lab does it. Process is proprietary (you cannot do it at home). Quite expensive (about $13 per roll plus shipping).
Reversal-processing B&W film at home Normal B&W film is exposed and then developed in a sequence tht gives rise to B&W transparencies. The B&W film is developed, the resulting negative silver image is bleached away, and the remaining silver halide is then exposed to light and developed to give a positive.

There are tons of DIY formulas for this process out there, and they are all variants on the same basic theme — a Google Groups search on this topic should turn up a lot of recipes from the USENET archives. Searches at sites like and APUG will also turn up useful info. Formulas and kits from commercial sources are also available.

Pros: Many recipes available that can be used at home and fine-tuned. Chemicals purchased in bulk make it inexpensive. Cons: Requires familiarity with standard B&W film processing. Need to be able to mix chemicals at home. Some are very toxic (bleach in particular). Only slow films work well in this process. Gray tinted film base reduces contrast in final positive.
Cross-processing Ilford XP2 in E6 chemistry Ilford XP2 chromogenic B&W film is cross-processed in E6 chemicals to produce B&W positives. Pros: Film and processing are relatively cheap. Cons: Resulting positives are reportedly green in colour. Labs may balk at cross-processing. Results seem to be variable.
Copying negatives onto a duplicating film Negatives are either re-photographed or contact-printed onto a duplicating film designed for this purpose. The preferred films for this are Kodak Fine Grain Release Positive film, available for about $16 per roll as a 100′ 35mm bulk roll (Kodak 5302) or in 8×10 sheets for much more, or Kodak Technical Pan film. Re-photographing can be done using a slide duplicator or macro lens (exposures need to be bracketed, and the duplicating films are slow). The duplicating film is developed in a paper developer. There is a lot of information at Luca de Alfaro’s page, plus in the archives. Pros: You get both a negative for printing AND a positive for viewing. Versatility to select which frames to duplicate. Results are sharp and fine-grained (I tried it). Duplicating film is cheap. Cons: Image quality depends on optical quality of duplicating device. Overall losses occur due to ‘losing a generation’. Dust may cause problems. Duplicating film may be hard to find (electron-microscopy supply houses worked for me).
Modified E6 processing of colour slide films Regular slide film is processed in three-bath E6 chemistry, substituting a toner for the colour developer. The process is outlined at The silver halide left undeveloped by the first step is toned in the second step, and the unwanted silver negative image is bleached away at the end. This is a variation on the standard B&W reversal process. Pros: Slide film has a clear base, unlike B&W negative film. Process uses commercially available chemicals (the toner comes from sepia toning kits). Results are sharp and rich. Cons: Standard quantities of silver solvent in E6 first dev are insufficient and lead to fogged highlights in this process. Requires E6 kits and home development, which can be a pain. Developer has a short life. Slide films are more expensive (not if you get them outdated for cheap, though). I have tried this method, and while it looks good on paper, it’s more difficult in execution. Apparent film speed is very low due to the general staining of the silver negative with sulfide sources. The tin(II) chloride method would probably be superior.
“Slides from negatives” service from chromogenic B&W film A commercial lab makes positives out of chromogenic negatives such as XP2. John Eyles reports that Dale Laboratories will do this work at the time of processing. The cost is about $8.50 per roll over and above the film development cost. Pros: Commercial lab does all the work. Film is readily available. Relatively inexpensive. Cons: Produces unpredictable colours — anywhere from blue to sepia.
Polapan film Polaroid made a 35mm black-and-white positive film that was processed using a Polaroid auto-processor (basically a black box with a crank) and a small processing pack — the auto-processor winds the film around a chemical-coated plastic strip from the processing pack, which initiates an “instant” development process. The film is/was sold with the processing pack in a single box. This film had been discontinued even before Polaroid went out of business. I was given some old film by a friend and found a processor at a photo-outlet centre. Pros: Fairly simple to use. Very fast process. The slides have nice tonality and are relatively tolerant to overexposure. Cons: Users must track down a supply of the film and a processor. Film is very grainy and has a blue tint. Film base is very fragile and prone to scratching.
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