Best equipment for Develop & Print

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Nicole, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Hi everyone

    To help me set up a darkroom (processing and printing) and before buying all the equipment, I'd love to hear your suggestions/experience as to what equipment works best for:

    1) Ease of use
    2) Speed
    3) But most importantly: artistic ability!

    I really appreciate your help and have learnt so much already through APUG! Big thanks to Sean and to everyone for their input.

    Kind regards
    Nicole
     
  2. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I suspect this will become a long thread as most folks are partial to what they use. I'll leave it to others to recommend equipment, but will suggest you buy the best you can and anticipate the evolution of your work to the highest level of which you are capable. Specifically, buy an enlarger that will handle the largest negative you can ever imagine yourself someday working with and the largest 'wet' side of your darkroom you can afford the space for. Get the best enlarging lenses, easel, grain magnifyer etc. you can buy...even borrow if need be. Consider the outlay to be an investment. You can always resell the stuff someday if you choose to, but the finest equipment will sustain the most value. Good luck!!
     
  3. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    You need to tell us more about what you want to do. What formats specifically. 35-mm enlargements require much different equipment than 8x10 contact prints. What kind of budget do you have? New or used?

    Artistic ability is in you, not the equipement. Remember that Ansel Adams apparently used every camera and enlarger ever made (only a slight exaggeration) while Edward Weston used an old 8x10, an old lens, and contact printed with a light bulb. Both produced exceptional work.
    juan
     
  4. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    I shoot with 35mm and 6x6. Budget is limited to second-hand equipment but on the better end scale.
    Cheers
    Nicole
     
  5. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Cheap, simple, quick & easy for roll film is a Paterson daylight tank & universal plastic reel(s). If using colour, temperature regulation is even more critical as it is run at a higher temperature, so then you are looking at maybe spending cash on a Jobo CPE-2 (you can do it with the Paterson, but you will need a water bath to keep the tank in during processing and some trial and error. The CPE-2 does it all for you - I use mine for B&W just because it's so easy (and because I also use 4x5")).

    Speed is more a function of your darkroom setup. Using either the Jobo or Paterson tanks takes much the same time. If you are borrowing the bathroom for a couple of hours then that will obviously slow you down as you need to move your gear in and out, let people use it for it's primary purpose, opening the window to let the fumes out (you can help yourself here by using low-odour Stop and Fixer). If you have a purpose built room with running water, wet side with sink & a dry side, all the cupboards and shelves you need, effective ventilation, a door you can lock from the inside etc etc then things tend to go a lot faster. Using one of the Nova slot processors can save time as you can keep the chemicals in the tank between sessions: I've not used one but lots of people swear by them and the smaller surface area keeps the smell down too.

    I prefer an enlarger with a colour head, even for B&W as it lets me dial in VC filtering for different papers, and its diffused light does not show up every tiny little scratch as a condenser head tends to do (although there are plenty of people who prefer condenser heads I hasten to add!).

    Artistic ability I can't help you with (as any of the few people that have seen my prints will testify)... What you want I guess is maximum flexibility that allows you to express yourself. Flexibility comes at the cost of materials and equipment; but mostly experience. Once you have the basic setup, you are set to do 95% of whatever you can think of - all you need then is time.


    Happy hunting... Cheers, Bob.
     
  6. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    To start, opt for a second hand enlarger, but spend on new or nearly new lenses for it. Agree with Jovo, you should build the darkroom to handle the largest negs and prints you think you'll want to make. Good luck!
     
  7. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thanks everyone!!!
     
  8. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    My suggestion, Nicole, would be to look for an older Omega enlarger, as they are plentiful and still have parts support. I use an Omega D2V variable condenser that handles all film sizes up to 4x5. I'd also suggest concentrating your darkroom budget on good lenses - the best the budget will allow, as that allows you to get the most from your negatives.

    I prefer stainless steel tanks and reels. For 35mm, get the Hewes reels from Calumet. Their patented film-gripping design will make your developing life much easier.

    If the budget will allow, I'd also recommend an enlarging meter from RH Designs in the UK. I use the ZoneMaster II, which gives you both a suggested contrast grade and the exposure time. It's great for getting to an optimal exposure more quickly. Cost is about £150, but worth it.
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Nicole

    A vertical washer will be indespensible for your work,
    I agree with Ralph , an Omega 4x5 enlarger is an excellent choice.
    A good water panel for tempature control
    You can make a good sink out of wood if required
    A nice set of 20x24 trays x6 will allow you to do a very good process
    a good sterio for the darkroom
    Build a drop table for your enlarger( I can send you the plans for one that works with a omega enlarger once you decide on your direction)
    Room for a second light source for flashing, solarization ect.
    Home depot can supply most of the goods for print drying.

    I know this is a lot of stuff, but if you plan on printing for a long time these items will help.
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Nicole

    Actually the very most important thing for a new darkroom is a well thought out plan for disposing of the photographic chemistrys after you have created your magic.

    I do not know the guidelines for your neck of the woods, they are very tough rules here in Toronto,

    There are companys that will help you out with this, just go to any pro lab and ask them for some advice on this issue.

    do not dump fix or selenium down the drain.
     
  11. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon, Nicole,

    I agree with the suggestions for getting a 4 x 5 enlarger first; otherwise you'll probably end up buying at least two enlargers eventually. In addition to Omegas, I'll put in a vote for a 4 x 5 Beseler.

    I don't think you will regret getting stainless steel processing reels; a lot of people start with plastic, but eventually end up with stainless steel. In addition to Hewes, consider Kinderman stuff which is usually available at good prices on E-Bay. Avoid any reel with a spring device in the center; a spike or clip is far preferable.

    Consider a four-blade easel instead of a two-blade. The Saunders Universal is a good example, but there are others. Get one which will handle up to 11 x 14: you'll grow out of anything smaller, and the larger ones are bulky, heavy, awkward, and little-used.

    Buy only high-quality enlarging lenses, which, again, are available at rock-bottom prices on E-Bay.

    Konical
     
  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I'm going to disagree just becuase of this "Western Australia". How common are Beselers or Omegas down there? How about parts?

    My suggestion take advantage of what falls into your lap. In todays world quite a bit of high quality stuff from all makes is being dumped.

    Devere,Omega,Durst,Beseler are all good. Some are better. Some are worst. But a used one in good condition with all the parts will be better then one that's not in great condition or that you can't find parts. If somebody offers you a 5x7 enlarger and you've got the room take it. OTOH if somebody offers you a nice complete MF enlarger grab that.
     
  13. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I agree on a used enlarger--as long as you can locate one that has all the parts with it. Getting a discontinued enlarger without all the condensers, negative carriers, anti-Newton ring glass plates or a lens board can lead to a lot of frustration. Luckily, there are lots of good quality enlargers out there at bargain prices these days. A 4x5 enlarger is a good choice only if you intend to go to 4x5 film later on or if you can get one cheap. There are a number of enlargers that will print up to 6x7 or 6x9 that are well-made and, usually, less expensive.

    A good easel is important. A 4-blade easel can make impressive photos but a 2-blade is a lot less expensive and will work.

    Get a set of trays that are a little larger than the prints you are making. Believe me, if you don't you will quickly understand why you should have.

    Start simple. Use easily obtained, standard chemicals. Don't experiment with a lot of different photo papers until you figure out how one paper responds to your negatives. Variable contrast papers can save you money and offer an advantage with split filtering techniques. It may be best to start with RC papers to save time in processing. You can always try fiber based paper later.

    You can wash your prints in just about anything as long as there's water available. A Kodak tray siphon is pretty cheap and it's efficient to use with an oversized processing tray. A dedicated archival print washer is even better but not necessary in the beginning.

    For processing film, you can choose plastic or steel. Plastic reels are easier to load than steel. If you step on one, it will break. Steel won't break but it will bend. A broken plastic reel and a bent steel reel are the Steiglitz "equivalents" to useless. I'd say start with plastic and switch to steel if you decide to. Both work.

    Get a good thermometer and check it against one you know is correct. I've been using the same thermometer for 30+ years and adjusting other thermometers to match its readings.

    You don't need a film washer. You can buy one of those cheap shower sprayers with a hose like those at Home Depot. Take the shower head off and throw it away. Keep the hose and the rubber slip-on connector. It makes a good film washer when used with your processing tank. I dump the water occasionally just to be sure.

    You're gonna get a lot of advice. Good luck.
     
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  15. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I agree with most of what has been suggested. I'm not sure how cheaply 5 x 4 enlargers are found here though, but I'd suggest starting with an enlarger such as the LPL C7700 MX which will take you up to 6 x 7 cm and into colour. I started with a second-hand 35mm enlarger and various other bits I got for about $150 AUD. Personally I've never tried stainless reels, so I'd recommend starting with plastic. And that clear plastic tubing you buy by the metre at hardwarde shops works fine for washing.
     
  16. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I think that you should get an enlarger like Sean's. It leaves plenty of room for expansion. :smile:
     
  17. edz

    edz Member

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    People in these forums time and time again keep suggesting 4x5 enlargers to EVERY-AND-ANYBODY. Silly! If one does not do 4x5" then one does not need a 4x5" enlarger. Why stop with 4x5"? Why not 5x7" ? Or why not 8x10"? Hey.. you never know..

    With very rare exception nearly all 4x5" enlargers are less comfortable and more hassle for handling 35mm negatives than enlargers that have been more optimized for the format..

    On the other hand. going even to large format does NOT even tend to demand an enlarger.. Let us recall that many of the photographers held so strongly in esteem in these forums did/do contact printing. Sure some of the 4x5" cameras offer a lot.. but then that's why most people use them with rollfilm backs (and that's 6x9cm and not 4x5").. and if the urge is really to larger format then I'd say skip that 4x5" and go to (at least) 8x10".... You see it really is not so clear-cut where one may go.. better to follow the path of where one is..

    Just as one tends not to get just that "one camera" (because there are NO IDEAL for every application cameras) one should be prepared to accept the notion that one may, over time, replace an enlarger or maybe get another one or two depending upon one's needs.. In my little darkroom I have, for instance, 3 operational enlargers: A Focomat Ic I use for 35mm B&W, a Minox I use for B&W Minox negatives and a Durst 900 I use for everything else (to which I have colour head, cold light and various condensors etc.). . I don't do large format at this time so I'm set up to handle nearly everything up to 6x9cm.

    To add "insult to injury" as Nick as pointed out.. not only do you guys keep chiming in with the 4x5" disinformation (which does little but confuse beginners that really don't understand what 4x5" entails ) but then keep throwing out these "local" brandnames (often not terribly good ones at that) as if the world was these America brands--- which are, compared to some of the brands more widely available in many countries are vastly inferior (Agfa, Durst, DeVere, Homrich, Leitz, etc).
     
  18. lee

    lee Member

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    ok Ed what do you propose we should do? Since we here in the great unwashed only can "give" of our experiences, I will leave this to you to tell everyone what it is YOU want them to use. I had not ever heard of any enlargers but Besler and Omega until I started reading on the internet. It is still hard to get some of the brands you mention in your blast. As to 4x5 disinformation, I have used a 4x5 machine for 30-35 years and it is not anymore inconvienant than any other machine of a smaller size and is generally more stable.

    lee\c
     
  19. 127

    127 Member

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    Don't get hung up on getting it perfect - build it, use it, replace it.

    It's easy to spend years putting together the perfect equipment, and in the mean time defering from ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING. In a previous thread this was identified as loading to "darkroom anxiety" - you won't print until it's perfect, and of course it never is. Once you start doing stuff you'll quickly figure out what YOU want from a system. You'll also be in a better position to grab bargains as they turn up rather than having to buy stuff right now.

    I paid £200 for a complete system with everything in it (A durst - pretty nice), but you can get cheaper on ebay. Sure one day I'll and something bigger (acutally at one point I was looking for something SMALLER as it doesn't handle 16mm negs too good!). £50 will buy a complete setup, and then you can START WORKING. When you need to upgrade parts you've got a basis to work from.

    Ian
     
  20. edz

    edz Member

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    I don't want them to use anything in particular. In Scottsbluff Nebrasha, Oshkosh Wisconsin or Abilene Texas you are going to probably end up finding different gear than in Hobart (Tasmania) or Darwin.. just as the supply is different in Los Angeles, New York City, Sydney or London.. and, of course, Munich, Cologne, Berlin or Amsterdam etc. or Kiev to Turkmenistan or Kabul. Beslers and Omegas might be common in your corner of Texas but they are very exotic, for instance, here in Munich..

    Nicole is in "Western Australia"... Not quite around the corner from your parking space in Texas... Texas might consider itself a big state but its not the planet (even if some Texans believe otherwise).

    The Durst L-1200 is hardly more stable than my DA-900, except that my 900 is 1) Better made 2) uses better materials 3) higher precision 4) has autofocus 5) only goes to 6x9cm 6) Is brighter since the colour head is the same as on L-138 models and is designed for 4x5" etc. etc. .

    But for 35mm.. the handling of my Focomat Ic is really much nicer..


    as 127 said:
     
  21. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Ed

    I have to disagree with you, In North America every photo school as well as every photo lab , as well as professional photographer darkroom that I have encountered has a 4x5 set up as normal.
    For a young photographer, If Nicole decides to intern or work in the professional world , being competent with a 4x5 enlarger is an advantage for her.
    I have been using 4x5 since 1973 photo college days, in fact using the same brands, omega, durst and deveere. all 4x5 and above that I use today.
    They all deliver the power to create decent time and apeture when making fine art prints.
    As Lee pointed out , the question was asked and we responded.
    On a practical note, I recently accepted and young man from sery. small village near geneva (switzerland) to work here in Toronto for 10 months. His first main learning curve was how to set up the various enlargers. We have 17 different analog enlargers all 4x5 - 11x14. I would have been extremely pleased if he knew how to set them up , rather than having to teach him.
    Funny how quickly he picked up on using the gear even though he had never been in a analog darkroom in his 20 odd years
     
  22. Joe Symchyshyn

    Joe Symchyshyn Member

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    I agree with lee and Bob Carnie.

    With what you're interested in Nicole, I would say that a 4x5 enlarger isn't so much about you moving up to large format as it is having a rock solid and stable system. The enlarger chasis could be thought of as the backbone of your darkroom. Nothing worse than having equipment that always shows its limits rather than its potential. This is not "disinformation" just thoughtful advice from people that have walked this road in the past.

    Model type? Who cares... Buy great glass and a great light source. If something local is common, that can be a plus. In North America there are models that undoubtedly are different than in your neck of the woods, but we reference those that we know of and you could easily look them up on the www to see similar types of machines we're refering to.

    The arrogance and rants aren't helping Nicole, and that's what this is for...

    joe :smile:
     
  23. edz

    edz Member

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    Most school photo labs in North America that I've seen don't have gear for 4x5" but were typically set up with something like Omega B-22s, some old Bogen or maybe a Beseler.. OK a few D2s but typically not set up.. School photo labs and "photo schools" are, however, quite different beasts and given the traditional trend to large format studio cameras for commercial use and given that 4x5" is one of its most economical forms, its natural that they'd be set-up for the format.. Those days, however, are behind us.. and these days any photo-school (again don't confuse photo-school with art-school) worth its tuition will have digibacks on their large format studio cameras.. and if they have a darkroom its probably right out of some time machine..

    The "professional world" has moved on.. there is a whole new bag of talents in demand and being skilled on some old Besler 45MX just won't cut it, I'd suspect in Turkmenistan, not to say Western Australia. The jobs have moved on.. that's why all these great large format enlargers have been flooding the market for pennies.. From a commerical view they are hardly more than large, hard to dispose of, trash.. Even some of the last-of-the-breed computer controlled digital closed loop systems are being hauled away, alongside digital copying cameras, to the waste dumps.. They might have cost 10 years ago $100,000 USD but today just trash that is not worth the expensive space they occupy.. and which costs some money to have hauled away-- which is why they get listed on eBay for as little as 1 EURO.

    My Durst DA-900 I think was made sometime around then.. And I use some gear like my Focomat Ic that is from the late 1950s.. So?

    Among those brands really the DeVere is about as closest to an enlarger that is still fun to use in smaller formats. Since I like to have different kinds of heads and go between B&W and colour I don't see why not have multiple enlargers. If I needed to do 4x5" I might get a DeVere 504.. But I'd probably just get another Durst Laborator run it parallel to my other enlargers--- to "near" parallel.

    Sure.. that's why I don't bat an eye using half-a-century old gear.. I'm using technology that was well developed decades before even that gear was made.. So if it was good enough in 1960 why should it not be good enough in 2004.. OK.. I do have some more "modern" devices.. but..

    Experience has shown that even IF someone thinks that they "know" how to do something they often don't.. I look at the computer trainees we've gotten.. (and they all came from a year long course before we got them).

    Its not funny but its to be expected.. The gear is pretty straightfoward and easy to use.. (unfortunately, often was is expected and what one experiences from trainees is quite different).
     
  24. edz

    edz Member

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    There ARE pretty solid 6x9 enlargers out there.. and there are some junk 4x5" enlargers out there.. They are loads of 4x5" enlargers that are horribly out of alignment--- and where the main tool to set them up into alignment is a big hammer and a method of wacking 'til its OK.. Don't confuse the format with "stability", quality or alignment.
     
  25. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Hi Nicole,

    I was like Lee, believing the only enlargers in the world were Omegas and Beselers. They were/are extremely popular here in the USA, all fifty States, not just Texas and Kansas. As others have observed, nearly every school, from high schools to universities, was equipped with 4x5 enlargers, even though the preferred format for teaching students slid to 35mm many years ago. Maybe the penchant for 4x5 enlargers is a lingering legacy of the USA's tradition of the Speed Graphic camera.

    I will offer another plug for starting out with a 4x5 enlarger if you can. I started with an Omega B8 allows up to 6x9 MF sizes. Then along came a 4x5 Beseler which had served many years at the local newspaper. Of the two, I like the 4x5 best. Overall, its easier to work with and has greater flexibility. The 4x5 uses a 150 watt bulb while the B8 uses a 75 watt. This means shorter exposure times, particularly when doing 11x14 and larger enlargements. Its still small enough to be moved around if necessary. That was important for me since the darkroom is also my general Fix-It shop, and a very small space at that. Not hardly an optimal set-up, especially in the Germanic tradition of optimizing everything, but I make it work.

    Contrary to what some believe, the brand name on the equipment is not important at all for making good prints. Profociency in using your equipment IS important, so buy some and get crackin'!

    As far as paper is concerned, the Adorama brand can't be beat, in my opinion, for learning use. Its cheap, in both RC and FB, high quality, and extremely close to Ilford MG IV in performance.
     
  26. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Ed

    once again I must disagree with you.

    My lab is solidly based with old gear, as well we have high end digital gear,
    My experience over the last 8-12 months is that I personally am in the darkroom 26 out of 30 days per month , making traditional prints.
    Actually our buisness has soared over the last few years and I attribute it to the digital world. My clients do prefer a hand crafted image and as well enjoy the magic I can provide with wet chemistrys and the experience I have gained over the years. We basically are printing each and every day because ( profesionals have not moved on ) .
    I think Nicole and other young photographers should be encouraged to learn every aspect of photography and it does start with analog methodology.
    Photo shop is a simple by product of photo-comp, If you don't believe so look at the great master printer/photograher Jerry Uelsmann pre dating photoshop
    Ed if you have moved on so be it but I think your comments are totally off base and misleading, I am constantly producing photographic shows and meeting young photographers , thrilled to learn how to make a georgeous silver print by hand.