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Assembling a darkroom

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Leonila, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. Leonila

    Leonila Member

    Hi, I have been trying to transition into b&w film from a digital SLR since a while and am currently facing the challenge of putting a darkroom together. Any ideas on where to find decent but not too pricey enlarger and other darkroom equipment somewhere in/near London? No specific requirements, but making sure that the justice is done to a fairly nice 35mm camera and lens.
     
  2. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    You could try these people. http://www.secondhanddarkroom.co.uk/ or there's always Ebay. If you want to do justice to your camera and lens then one vital component in the chain is a good enlarging lens.
     
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member


    You will have great fun! Things to think of - have enough space - it is so much easier if you are not all crammed into a corner. Have enough height for enlargements. Consider if you will likely to use a format larger than 35 mm because this will influence the enlarger you get.
     
  4. Grierson

    Grierson Well-Known Member

    Like you I have also started to process B & W film but I have resisted going the whole hog and setting up a darkroom. I won't be buying an enlarger as I am scanning all my negatives so a changing bag is all I need. :) Most of my kit came from Silverprint of 120 London Rd, London, SE1 6LF but as I live 'up north' all my purchases were via their website http://www.silverprint.co.uk/

    They do seem to have comprehensive stocks of everything you will need(including enlargers) and a picture on the website shows a large shop so it might be worth a personal visit. As Rob has said you will have some great fun!
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Go to any camera club within range. Ask around. I would be astonished if you could not put together a darkroom for little or nothing. See also http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subscription/darkroom.html

    And the very best of luck! Let us see your pictures. Do not be misled: scanning is as close to wet printing as... well... I'd better not say. Not as good, anyway!

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  6. connie

    connie Well-Known Member

  7. Leonila

    Leonila Member

    Thanks for all the suggestions!
    @Grierson: I planned on scanning negatives too, but having looked at the forums discussing scanning, I am under the impression that a full-fledged darkroom may be both more fun and more cost-effective, plus it does not go obsolete as fast as scanners (or rather it can't go obsolete more than it already is :)).
     
  8. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    This is an excellent point, but there's also something else; producing prints the traditional way is labour intensive (to a greater or lesser degree); one moves around a lot more compared to sitting in front of a computer screen acquiring a cauliflower a**e, way more if, like me, your running water is downstairs! Good luck.
     
  9. Grierson

    Grierson Well-Known Member

    Can't but agree although I'm not too sure about the 'cost effective' bit. Roger Hicks' contribution to the thread seems to imply that the quality of the print will be significantly better. I'm not in a position to argue since my last 'hands on' experience with an enlarger was with a humble Gnome back in the '60s. :)

    Clearly the style and photographic outcome you seek to achieve will have some bearing on how you go about it. I mean by that, do you intend to produce a lot of beautiful quality prints to hang on the wall or do you simply want to post lower res. pictures to the likes of flickr? Personally I don't claim to be a capable photographer but more a recorder of pictures as anyone viewing my website or my flickr postings will testify to. In such circumstances scanning the negs. into Lightroom or Photoshop gives me more satisfaction and the opportunity to correct my shortcomings.:(

    Either way I'm sure that you will enjoy it. Best of luck. - John
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
  10. Leonila

    Leonila Member

    I realize analogue dark room is very unlike a digital one. But then I have never been keen on photoshop (mostly cropping and adjusting exposure) and actually look forward to something more physical. Re the style of photography, I have mostly done documentary, and for that I doubt I can ever cope without the convenience of a digital SLR. So, for the time being, my film rangefinder is more for random travel and family photos - something I would rather see on my wall than online.
     
  11. Leonila

    Leonila Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    If I may ask the people who have kindly responded to my initial question (and whoever feels like commenting): how critical is it to have a timer that controls the operation of the enlarger or is it possible to manage with a simple mechanical timer like durst coltim (http://www.secondhanddarkroom.co.uk/product.php/durst_coltim_timer/?k=:::4892500)?

    Also, am rather confused re darkroom exposure meter - unless it is integrated with a timer, is it any different from any other stand-alone exposure meter? I hear people printing with no exposure meters at all - either using testing strips or simply a trial and error method. Does an exposure meter make it any less hassle than the other methods?
     
  12. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers


    I had a timer, the alternative is sitting with a switch in one hand and a stopwatch in the other. 'tis a matter of choice really. I never used a darkroom exposure meter but I did test strips. A meter would (I imagine) get you in the ball park more quickly but I don't know if it would replace test strips. You can (well strictly I could) end up making lots of test strips - it depends on the distribution of brightness across the image as you need to be able to compare the effect of exposure time across the tones - some images I found easy and others hard work.
     
  13. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    The Kodak Projection Print Scale was the best darkroom gadget I ever found.

    Basically a circular step wedge, you placed it on a piece of paper and exposed the part of the neg you were interested in for sixty seconds. Then all you had to do was choose the segment that looked best and there was your exposure. If you had areas that needed burning or dodging, you could test them individually and mark up a print map to plan the exposure.

    I still have mine somewhere and if I get around to doing more prints, I'll use it in preference to an electronic meter.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    I used one of these, matchless for making exposure tests, like you I still have it. Whether I'll ever make wet prints again is another matter, my back hurts when I stand for too long.

    To the poster, exposure isn't ultra critical in mono printing so an electronic timer isn't vital. I used a Smith's manual timer allied to a Meopta footswitch, leaving both hands free for adjustments to the light hitting the paper.
     
  15. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    While it is true to say an electronic timer isn't vital it is important to stress that whatever means of timing you use it must be consistently repeatable otherwise you can't work towards achieving a perfect print(s). A 1 second variation either way over a 25 second exposure probably wouldn't be noticed but the same 1 second variation on a 10 second exposure certainly will. As in all things photographic (certainly in the darkroom) consistency is important
     
  16. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    Simple uncoupled darkroom meters read only light levels. A correct time is found by test strip and this time (say 15 seconds) remains consistent for any subsequent negatives. The variation in exposure to compensate for dark/light negs and/or bigger enlargements is achieved by opening up or stopping down the aperture on the enlarging lens. Before acquiring my meter I always used a test strip to determine the correct exposure and many seasoned printers will tell you this is still the best method for achieving a perfect print. I use a ZonemasterII coupled to a Stopclock Pro and it produces perfectly acceptable work prints if calibrated properly. However, if I want to produce the finest prints I'm capable of I will always resort to test strips and while you're still tackling the basics I think you would learn way more through doing the same. There is also the problem of interpreting what a meter is telling you but that is a whole subject in itself.
     
  17. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    I started doing B&W printing without a timer or meter, using guestimates and test strips, and counting "Mississippi-one, Mississippi-two", etc. That took a fair bit concentration when trying to dodge the shadows with my fingers at the same time, so later I built a basic electronic timer (555 chip, variable resistor and a relay IIRC).

    I did try improvising user my Weston Master III and a mirror as an enlarging meter, but it wasn't entirely satisfactory, being a lot of faffing about to get a reading of the area I was interested in, while still being able to see the pointer, so half the time I went back to the guestimate & test strip.

    There is of course always the temptation to pull the print from the dev if it starts looking as though it's going too dark, but that usually results in a rather muddy print, without proper blacks.
     
  18. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    During my short but eventful time as a printer for a banqueting studio, I learnt that no human can compete with an accurate timer. Try explaining why seven prints are identical and the eighth is different to an angry sales desk lady. That brands the word "consistency" into your mind like nothing else!

    :D
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    10 second + 3 seconds = +1/3 stop.

    !0 seconds - 3 seconds = -1/2 stop.

    So yes, while 3 seconds would certainly be critical, and 2 seconds might well be, I have my doubts about 1 second, especially 1 second of overexposure. A lot would depend on the paper grade, too.

    Counting "one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus..." may not always be very accurate but it is normally remarkably consistent.

    Don't get me wrong. I agree with you: I'm all in favour of as much accuracy as possible. All I'm saying is that some people make a fetish of more accuracy than is meaningful within the system.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    Re: Assembling a darkroom: exposure meters and timers

    Well, I'm told I do have eyes like a s**thouse rat (as we say round here) :)
    It does depend on grade though with hard grades showing differences to a greater extent. I too used a similar system of counting ..one thousand, two thousand etc many years ago but I found it way too inconsistent especially if the radio was on and an up-tempo tune was blaring out.
     

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