Absolute darkroom beginner

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by nocturnal, Oct 11, 2013.

  1. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Hello,

    I just bought a second hand 'new' unused development kit.

    Everything was unopened including the chemicals which date back to 1996:

    Ilford Wetting Agent 250ml
    Ilford Stop Bath 500ml
    Barclay Black and White Developer 1 litre
    Barclay Black and White Universal Fixer 1 litre
    Barclay Black and White Paper Developer 1 litre

    I have been advised that everything but the developer (and perhaps the paper developer) will be OK including the photographic paper.

    Therefore I ordered Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer with 4 rolls of film I haven't tried yet

    Ilford: FP4+ 35mm, Delta 3200 Pro, Delta 100 Pro, and Pan-F+ 50

    I have most other equipment except graduates which a friend of mine is supplying.

    I was wondering if the Ilford developer will be Ok with the Barclay fixer.
    This is my first time posting here so I am all excited about developing and printing. I only used XP2 before and the lab results weren't great which brings me here... :whistling:

    I also will be looking for an enlarger (2nd hand/used) and need advice about this or pointed in the right direction.

    And... I wonder about a good quality scanner. I know the Epson V500, V600, V700 are all good although a bit expensive for the time being. Are the mini ones complete garbage or should I just save for an Epson?

    Many Thanks,

    nocturnal
     
  2. dances_w_clouds

    dances_w_clouds Subscriber

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    I have been looking through Google & Yahoo and could find very little info on the Barclay products so I would very very cautious with the usage: (eg fixer) If you already have the Ilfosol developer I would not risk the any damage to the film using an outdated fix. By eliminating the possible problems by using new products you will be more satisfied with the results. Keep looking in Craigslist etc in your area you should be able to find an enlarger. With me I use mostly Beseler enlargers. The 23CII and 45MXR which I found free or very cheap but they will be operating flawlessly for longer than I am around. Some other things I did was to stick with one brand of film and developer (Agfa & Rodinal) while I was just starting out so I could see the differences with using different speeds and agitations and time. Your best bet would new scanner as I use a V500 with great results.
     
  3. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    The Barclay fixer even after all this time may still be usable. It may have re-crystalised and if so just dump it If it hasn't then you will be able to use it with any film/developer combination.

    The paper developer and the universal developer will almost certainly have gone off. Normally they are almost colourless, or a very pale straw tint, but after nearly 2 decades they will probably be a dark brown and useless. The stop bath and wetting agent will be OK to use, they don't seem to have any finite life.

    Ilford Ilfosol developer was said to be a liquid version of the powder ID11, but in my experience with it they are different. Ilfosol in a part used container will quite rapidly 'go off', whereas ID11 when made up and stored in glass bottles will stay usable for at least 12 months or more. I don't actually know how long because mine doesn't last that long, it gets used.

    I have learned from experience that the development times for Ilford films which are printed on the inside the box, or come with the bottle of developer, may not be accurate. Ilford, when asked referred me to their website where up to date development times can be found. The reason being they do change the makeup of the film from time to time but don't always change the printed instructions that come with the film or developers.

    When buying an enlarger most of them will perform far better than our capabilities will stretch them to, What does matter, is to buy the best enlarging lens that you can afford. Look for makes/designs such as the Nikon EL50/2.8, or EL50/F4, Schneider Componon , or Rodenstock Rodagon, or at a push the Minolta F50/2.8. A poor quality enlarging lens will not allow the best of your negatives to be reproduced.
    Being a little bit technical here and I apologise if it isn't clear,, but if you are doing only black and white an enlarger with a condenser set up will give you shorter exposure times and visually sharper images. The down side is it will show up any defects/dust more readily. A colour enlarger will work but it isn't (in my opinion) the best for B&W work.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2013
  4. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Have a read through the FAQ in my signature. With B&W you can mix n match brands of chemistry as much as you like - I use Ilford fixer and both Kodak and Agfa developers, to process mostly-Fuji film.

    Shake the fixer up. If it's still clear and doesn't smell like rotten eggs (it should smell vinegary and a bit weird, but not rank), it should be OK. If it has pale yellow precipitate (floaties) in it or smells really bad, then it's gone off. Fixer is really cheap though, so I'd just buy 1L of fresh Rapid Fixer if I were you.

    The paper may or may not be OK. If I were you, I would test a sheet by developing+fixing it in the darkness, with no image exposure. It should be totally white; if it has any grey then you want to go buy some fresh.

    Plenty of enlargers come up for sale (or free) here and on Craigslist (assuming you're in the USA). Get a medium format enlarger; it will be more rigid than most 35mm enlargers and means you can move up to bigger film soon. Contrary to BMbikerider, I would recommend a colour enlarger - you get the same contrast control, the filters never fade, and it's usually easier to do split-grade. Oh and of course you can print in colour! (don't let anyone tell you that's hard; it's not). An MF enlarger in excellent condition should be under $50 and an excellent lens for 35mm should also be well under $50. Both together, $0 to $70 depending who's selling.

    Shoot the FP4 first; it's the most forgiving of both exposure and processing errors/variations. Delta 3200 is also pretty forgiving on exposure (expose for ISO1600 and develop for 3200), but you need to be more precise in your development time and temperature control for Delta films. Pan-F is beautiful stuff, but requires you to be more careful with exposure as it's very contrasty.

    Asking about scanning on APUG will get you shouted at, but I have this to say: don't buy those little "5 megapixel" scanners, they're total rubbish. Buy a real film scanner if you can, otherwise something like a V600 is really cheap and will get you images good enough to put on the web. Not good enough to print large digitally, but you don't need that because you'll be enlarging!
     
  5. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    If you have space to set up an enlarger, forget the scanner. Question why you might want to digitise in the first place. If it's to archive, just keep the negs. If it's to share the best images, print them and if you must, scan on an ordinary flatbed. Certainly for B&W the best prints will come from traditional wet printing rather than scan neg + print (unless you spend big numbers). If it's to visualise what you have on a strip of negs, just print some contacts. If you have money to spare (!) instead of a scanner perhaps look at an f-stop timer/analyser like the analyser pro from RH Designs (now sold through SDS). Expensive, but has the capability to virtually eliminate the test-strip process to determine exposure and contrast (although you should still learn how to do this).
     
  6. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear nocturnal,

    Based on the Barclay products I am guessing you are in the UK. My suggestion is to go to this site and see if there are any community darkrooms near you.

    Neal Wydra
     
  7. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    You can test the fixer. Cut off a small piece of the film leader and drop it into a small quantity of fixer at the correct dilution and see how long it takes to clear the film. If this happens within say 1-2 mins then I can't think of any reason not to use it unless someone here knows different.


    As far as paper is concerned, if you get a very slight grey look from developing and fixing an unexposed piece of paper then you can try some benzotriazole in the developer which may clear the greyness.

    A bigger issue with old paper might be its loss of contrast. This can be tested with under the lens filters and trying to get progressively more contrast in the prints. If this fails to happen then the paper is probably for the waste bin.

    However if I were starting to print and had to use commercial darkrooms where time is money and good early results are important for learning feedback then I'd invest in fresh paper.

    Keep the Barclay paper for now and try it out after you have more experience

    pentaxuser
     
  8. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Thanks dances_with_clouds (Bob?)

    I wish I had have bought Ilford fixer too instead of maybe using the Barclay one. I just bought 4 rolls of Ilford, all different types.

    I'll take your advice regarding the scanner.

    Craiglist in my area isn't up to much and it never has been, it'll have to be ebay then 95% of sellers aren't posting enlargers!

    Cheers
     
  9. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    BMbikerider,

    The Barclay products including the fixer are all sealed in opaque plastic bottles so that there is zero air in them, I can't even slosh them around. I'd have to open to check!

    I am looking at a Paterson PCS 1000 enlarger simply because the seller is willing to post it. I can't find much info on it although if it has a Paterson lens it may not be as great as the lenses you have mentioned. I have read of those lenses you recommend and you're not being too technical for me at all :smile:

    Can you recommend a crash course guide to enlargers?

    Thanks.
     
  10. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Cheers polygot,

    Looks like I may open the fixer to see what it looks/smells like.

    Yes I would like to get into medium format sometime. Being a Pentaxian I'll maybe be looking at a 67 or something. The lenses can fit onto my other Pentax cameras with an adapter and are apparently superb on SLR too.

    Thanks for the Ilford film advice. I just got these this morning. I've to try a 'new' Pentax Super ME out as another I bought had light leaks or maybe needs a service.

    I'll not mention scanners here again but it would be worth it just to post Full Frame Pentax scans on the forums to wind the DSLR geeks up (Pentax don't make a Full Frame DSLR you see!)

    Cheers
     
  11. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Subscriber

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    I was reading a lot from the links in your sig the other day and there are many, many dead links. A lot.
     
  12. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Mr Rusty,

    I need to learn what contact prints are. I have seen this mentioned but I need to go and read a FAQ section or something for beginners. The scanning would not be for printing purposes and that is why I want an enlarger. I'll need to pick a suitable enlarger first and I don't know much about this.

    What do I need an easel for? What is the biggest scan I can do with a certain enlarger? I have a ton of questions.
     
  13. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Neal,

    I'm in a University club. They have darkroom equipment but no darkroom!

    Yes this Uni has 26,000 students and it doesn't have a darkroom (for us anyway!)
     
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  15. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Pentaxuser,

    I am a pentax too! I have 2 Super ME's, 1 x s1a and one of those modern digital things... K30!

    I'll try that with the fixer to see if it works. Do you mean an 'exposed to light' small piece of film leader?

    I can use the barclay paper for experiments anyway. I am a novice although I seen the original price of it and the paper was the most expensive part of the original darkroom kit (no enlarger!)

    Thanks
     
  16. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    By dead do you mean 404, or sections that say "TBD" ? There's a lot in there that I've not got around to writing yet. Consider this a call for submissions - if anyone wants edit rights to the FAQ to add new content, please just ask me!

    If you're getting 500 errors, try shift-reloading. My web host has been having bad trouble lately.
     
  17. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    nocturnal: a contact print is where you press the film and paper in a sandwich using a sheet of glass and expose it that way. The print is the same size as the negative - real hard to see for 35mm, but actually quite pretty on larger formats. A good practise to get into is to make a "contact sheet" of every roll of film you shoot. You cut the film up so that it fits into an 8x10 sheet of paper and contact-print the whole lot in one go. It will tell you a lot about how good your exposures are, etc.

    An easel is a thing that holds your paper down in the enlarger; they have a couple of metal blades on the edge that hold the paper down and are adjustable so that you can make different sized prints. If you want to scan your prints, then print to 8x10" or maybe 8x12" as that's about the largest size that a cheap scanner can accept.

    If the uni club has equipment but no darkroom in which to use it, you should definitely make them an offer for some of it. They may be very glad to reclaim some storage space and/or see it go to someone who will use it.
     
  18. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    So I need an easel to attach/sit on the enlarger base plate?

    I'll have a look on youtube for contact print tutorials.

    Someone donated a lot of equipment to the Uni club including studio lights etc. They are still trying to get a darkroom set-up although I don't think they are too serious about it.

    Thanks
     
  19. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Enlargers often come with easels, but basically yes, you need one. If you're feeling ultra-cheap then you can use a sheet of steel resting on the enlarger baseboard and some strip magnets to hold the paper down to it. A proper easel is much easier and more repeatable though.
     
  20. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Thank you, I shall get an easel too. Ultra-cheap? Me? :laugh:
     
  21. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    The fastest way to learn the basics is to get one film, one film developer, one paper and one paper developer rather than trying 4 different films. Although made by the same company, each will be very different in response to light and processing.
     
  22. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Received the enlarger

    Received the enlarger and I may have been sold junk!

    The red protective swivel filter was broken off (I may be able to glue it). He included a thermometer which was smashed too as was another one from the first batch of darkroom purchases.

    The 'Paterson System 1000' timer doesn't appear to time anything and it only switches on the enlarger.

    The 'Paterson PCS enlarger' does switch on although it appears very dim (There is a flourescent bulb in it).

    The enlarger came with a Rodenstock Trinar 50mm 1:3.5 lens, although it is dirty inside (fogged under the front element). It doesn't look like it comes apart so I can clean it like I have done with camera lenses.

    The enlarger has a filter tray but I have no filters (I don't even know what these are for! Paper grades?)

    The seller did 'throw in' (bloody literally judging by the smashes) some measuring cylinders, collapsible containers and some used STOP (is yellow but says it is OK until it turns purple) and FIXER ( this is clear and smells vinegary so should be OK despite 2008 expiry)

    I also have a Paterson Micro Focus finder, I have no idea how to use it.

    One other thing, can I use Ilfosol 3 developer as paper developer? I bought a new one of these.

    Great fun! :whistling:
     
  23. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Ignore the red filter, they're not very useful.

    The timer does in fact switch on the enlarger, that's what it's for. While I don't have that model, timers usually have two purposes:
    - to switch the enlarger on for focusing (usually a dedicated button), until switched off, and
    - to switch the enlarger on for a finite time. You set the time somehow (buttons/dials/whatever), press Go and the enlarger should come on for the specified time.

    Yes, enlargers are very dim. Paper is pretty sensitive stuff. You will need to focus your image with the lights OFF, preferably with the safelight off too. You will want a focus-aid/grain-magnifier to see proper focus (edit: Ok you have that).

    Ignore the Trinar lens if you can't clean it (cleanliness in the lens is important or you will get a flat image). Go spend $20-$40 on a 50/2.8 Rodagon or Componon-S or EL-Nikkor.

    The filters change the image contrast when using variable contrast (VC) paper. You will need a set, but they're pretty cheap and easy to find. Plenty appear on APUG, and probably there are several sets in your local camera shop for like $5 each. I'd send you a spare set that I have except that postage from AU will cost you 3x more than what you'd pay for a set locally.

    The stop and fixer will be perfectly fine. No you can't develop paper in Ilfosol; go get a 1L bottle of Ilford Multigrade.

    To focus the enlarger, you put the easel under it and then put the focus finder on top of the easel. Approximately focus the image onto the easel with the lens wide open, then make fine adjustments while looking into the focus finder. You should see the grain snap into focus - that's where you want it. Then stop the lens down about 2 stops (probably f/8 will be best on your lens) and start making test strips and then a print.
     
  24. nocturnal

    nocturnal Member

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    Thanks polyglot,

    So more money to eeek out on a lens, paper developer and a set of filters. I seen Ilford multigrade filters on ebay although my filter holder only measures 75mm x 75mm. I read earlier that the filters go off with age or use, is this true? Is it possible to try the enlarger without the filters as the whole damn thing might be junk!

    Thanks for the offer although sending them 1/2 way around earth would be slightly impractical :smile:

    I was going to buy a test strip machine, basically a thing with slots on it but I think I can do without this. What about a contact printer?

    I'm glad to hear the actual enlarger being dim is normal and hopefully I'll get some use out of this batch of stuff! The problem is the timer dial doesn't seem to do anything and it certainly doesn't switch it on and off! The timer has a60 second dial, a switch with 'light' and 'standby' modes and a start button (which clicks when the timer is plugged in).

    I'll look out for a 2.8 lens in those you mentioned. I think an APO lens is way out of my league for now and certainly not with this contraption!

    Cheers
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2013
  25. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Yep, stuff costs and it will continue to cost. I think I've exposed about $1000 of film this year alone and that's without mentioning the chemistry or capital equipment. Film photography is not cheap except compared to racing motorbikes :wink:

    The filters come in a couple of sizes, so at least you know which ones (3") you need. The ones I have are too small for your enlarger. Yes, they do fade with age and lots of use. Make sure you can inspect them before you buy and make sure they all look nice and uniformly coloured (uniform within one filter; each filter will be a different colour). If you find a colour enlarger, the dichroic filters in those do not fade.

    You certainly can use the enlarger without filters, the contrast will probably be somewhere around grade 2 on VC paper depending on the particulars of the lightbulb in it. You can also print at higher grades (higher contrast) using graded papers (grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 are usually available), but that's a fair bit more work than just using a single VC paper. The quality is arguably better too with graded paper.

    If you're feeling really hardcore, pale blue or magenta gel filters (say if you had one handy) can be used to increase contrast. How much though is guesswork.

    You don't need a test-strip machine or contact printer. Cut your paper into 1" strips and expose those under the enlarger one at a time to make tests. Contact printers are handy for previewing a whole roll, but certainly not necessary. You can make contact prints by using crystal-clear (polyethylene) sleeves for your film and sandwiching an 8x10" sheet of paper under the sleeved film, under a sheet of glass under the enlarger. You do really want to find an easel though if you don't have one. A simple 2-blade 8x10" easel should be about $10 secondhand and it's what I use for 90% of my prints.

    You might want to try googling for a manual for your timer. And don't bother with APO lenses on 35mm B&W, there is absolutely no point to it because the basic lenses can resolve down to the grain of all but the most crazy-fine (CMS-II) films. The lens you have will work fine if you can clean it - there's probably a locking ring that needs to be undone (metal thing with a tiny notch on two opposite sides), but the lens-spanner to undo them is also going to cost you too... You should be able to make grain-sharp enlargements to at least 11x14" with your cheap lens, so definitely have a good go at cleaning it.
     
  26. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    By itself the enlarger at full aperture with no neg in the neg carrier shouldn't be noticeably dim. Check the wattage of the bulb and if this is right for the enlarger then as long as the lens aperture dial is working and it opens up as you go down from say f16 to f 3.5 then it suggests that the lens may have very serious fungus or needs a very good clean on the outside of the lens.

    pentaxuser