End of E6 in Toronto?

On a recent canoe trip down the Mattagami River, tucked into my drybags amongst the fleece and flannel were seven rolls of Fuji Velvia 100, one of the most brilliant 35mm films ever made. Velvia is transparency (or “slide”) film and requires a unique chromogenic process known as E6 to develop the images exposed.

[This post has been updated on Sept 9, 2014. See below.]

E6 processing involves up to six chemical baths for development, several of which are unique to slide film (as opposed to negative film that nowadays is mostly C41 processed). As a hobbyist I’ve never ventured into E6 and have always taken my slide film to a lab.

As of this summer, I’m told, the company that supplied Toronto’s photography labs with those chemicals has ceased importing them from Japan. (I also learned from one lab that one of the parts used in the process, made by a German company, is also out of distribution.)

Thus, Toronto’s major labs — including Toronto Image Works, Northern Artists, and Downtown Camera — have ceased to offer E6 processing.

But there is still hope, for now. An enthusiastic Toronto photographer named David Nardi is offering E6 processing service by mail order. Check out his website e6it.ca for details.

Earlier this month I met him in the lobby of his High Park condo amid nearly a dozen others dropping off orders of either 35mm slide film or 120 negative film, which he also develops. I’m still waiting for the results — his lab is out in the country and he is just one person, after all — but I’m as curious about his developments as I am contemplative of the end of an era.

Results to be posted soon. In addition to David Nardi, the labs also recommended Borealis Lab in Montreal, which accepts E6 orders by mail for processing.

Meanwhile, if any readers have any news or further details about E6 in Toronto, please comment or contact me.

Update September 9, 2014: David Nardi at e6it.ca has announced on his website that he is suspending services due to demand. The site also points users to labs that, for the time being, are still offering E6 processing: VCG Creative Imaging in Toronto and Borealis in Montreal.

This has always been a one-man, part-time, low-volume, batch processing operation. My machine is wonderfully versatile, however it cannot support the large quantities of film that I’ve been receiving. My throughput is quite low and my last run has taken a week to complete: this, combined with a relentless full-time work schedule has hampered my ability to offer reasonable and timely runs in the future.

Viva Velvia.

Photos by Richard A. Johnson