Darkroom 101: Second Round.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Stephanie Brim, Aug 30, 2006.

  1. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I'm going to get an enlarger if it kills me, so now I need some other things. I put an ad up in the classifieds for darkroom printing supplies, but I want to make sure that I don't miss anything and ask for some advice.

    Is a print washer necessary or can I do without one for low volume printing?

    If I plan to do prints that are anywhere from 5x7 to 11x14 in size, should I get trays or go with tanks for developing the prints?

    What is the best paper/developer combination for a beginner?

    And any other advice you can give me, especially on lenses, would be good. I'm starting on a journey...and what a journey it will be. :smile:
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    1: Print washer is not necessary. I've gone for 30 years without using one. I have one now, but no place to put it...

    2: Trays are easier. With very large prints you can do it with one single tray - develop, pour off developer, pour in stop (or water), pour off, pour in fixer, et cetera. With smaller trays it's more convenient to have at least three.

    3: Any combination should be good. I'll recommend starting with a good variable contrast paper, like Ilford MG IV RC. That does well in any developer.

    Lenses are a whole different subject, especially with the low second-hand prices now. If you were buying new I'd recommend Meopta Anaret-S; but a second-hand Componon or Rodagon can be had for about the same.
     
  3. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Do you use a lot or only FB? Then it might be a good idea. I use mostly RC and only do a rare print in FB now and then so I haven't had a need for one (especially since I can't find one).

    With tanks, like the jobo 2800 series you will be able to develop many prints at once but you wouldn't be able to see them being developed (bad for lith) and you would have to roll them all the time (if you lack a jobo rotary processor to do it for you). But you will save on chemicals for the larger prints. Maybe you should start with trays and see how it develops (pun?)...
    You can't really go wrong with anyone.
    I use Ilford Multigrade as paper and developer and I have been quite satisfied. Sometimes I will use Agfa Neutol WA for warmtone papers. Unlike film developers, paper ones don't have that much difference unless you go for the advanced two-bath ones, warm or color tone ones, etc.

    About lenses.
    I use a Nikon and a Rodenstock Rodagon lens. They are both excellent. Along with Schneider, they form the Top Three. Generally, a five element lens, usually a name that ends with -on is usually of the highest quallity. You wouldn't need an APO(chromatic) one unless you do large prints and especially in color. Take care that the lens covers your format. 50 for 35mm, 80 or 90 for MF and larger for LF. Best apperture is usually two steps from the smallest one.

    The best enlarger timers are made by RH Designs. I couldn't live without an F-Stop timer now that I know how to use it and the Analyser helps a lot. They are bit expensive though, but much better value for money than any other simpler ones.

    Anything else you want to know?
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't have an enlarger timer, and I don't have an Analyser. Instead I have a cheap electronic metronome, and sometimes use an Ilford EM-10 exposure meter as "analyser".

    If a metronome was good enough for Ansel Adams, it's good enough for me. Besides - like Ansel, I had one already. :tongue:
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I don't have a print washer. I usually put my fixed prints in a tray and take them into the bathroom and wash them with my shower set to cold.

    I have often wondered if I could wash them in warm water and if there were any benefits or disadvantages to doing this. If anyone has an answer, please let me know. I am talking about RC paper only.


    Steve.
     
  6. Lachlan Young

    Lachlan Young Member

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    Trays - get yourself 4 x 11x14
    Washer - track down a kodak tray siphon & a large tray & some hypo-clear

    Minolta 50mm f4.5, 75mm f4.5, 105mm f4.5 enlarging lenses are outstanding and cheap

    Paper/dev combination - what tonality do you like? I mainly use FB paper as I find it easier to use than RC - just make sure you fix and wash thoroughly!
    Also bear in mind that some papers have much less of a 'dry-down' effect than others - ADOX Fineprint has very little dry-down in my experience and can be persuaded to go from a coolish tone in Fotospeed PD5 to a still neutral but rich tone in Agfa Neutol WA.

    Good luck!

    Lachlan
     
  7. Lachlan Young

    Lachlan Young Member

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    According to my bottle of Fotospeed wash aid you can get away with a wash of only 5-10 minutes after hypo clearing if you use 20c or warmer water. If your water is non temperature controlled then the bottle says to give 20 minutes for DW paper.

    Hope this helps,

    Lachlan
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    For B&W get trays. Get some extra for washing in.

    For colour get drums.
     
  9. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    go to ilford's website they have several goood pdf files that will be helpful , one lists materials and equipment necessary.

    get a good book, Les' comes to mind , or Larry Bartlett's book on printing, or both.
    they will be good references for you since my sense is you don't have anyone to work with one on one .

    a tray siphon is nice, but you can also use the soak and dump method for washing.

    ilford MC RC paper would be a good place to start, and you will get a wide variety of answers of which developer. We use LPD, long shelve life and by varing the ratio you can control the warmth, or coolness .
     
  10. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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  11. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    Use trays. Trays are for paper or LF film, tanks are for LF film on hangers. You will want at least 6, more will be better.

    #1 developer
    #2 stop bath
    #3 fixer
    #4 hypo clear
    #5 wash (tray with some small holes makes a good print washer)
    #6 Toner (toner tray is only for toner)

    Find someone in your area who will teach you, learning on your own is hard.
     
  12. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Not necessary unless and until you get into high volume production. Soaking prints in several changes of fresh water washes them just as well as an expensive and water-wasting "archival" washer.

    Trays - I suggest finding a selection. You will need at least four - developer, stop, fix and holding/rinse. At the end of the session, you dump them all and then reuse them for washing and toning. I suggest getting a set of 11x14 trays AND a set of 8x10 trays to have some flexibility. Trays are readily available in the used equipment market, and if necessary, you can use Rubbermaid containers from Walmart.

    Stick with something relatively ordinary and, more importantly, available. If you can find a local store that carries darkroom supplies, standardize on whatever they carry. Yes, there are advantages to some exotic developers, but there's an even greater advantage to being able to purchase something locally so that you don't have to deal with the hassle and cost of shipping liquids.

    My local dealer seems to have standardized on Ilford and Spint products - either is fine, although Sprint is a bit less expensive.

    As the Nike TV ads used to say - - - just do it. Time spent in the darkroom doing stuff is far more productive than time spent on the internet asking questions about what is the "best" thing to do.
     
  13. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    Ditto: Just do it. You will be expanding and up-grading for years. If you wait until you have everything you will never start. 30+ years ago I started with 3, 4X5 trays at the bathroom sink, but it was a start.
     
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  15. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I did my first few without a washer, just holding the prints under running water. I found it to be a pain (or at least a bore), so I bought the sort to which Matt Miller points. If you need inexpensive, you might try taking a tray (even a cheap Rubbermaid product) and drilling some holes in the side. Put it under a tap and it's a print washer.

    Most people use trays for B&W, at least up to that size. After experimenting with both trays and drums, my preference is to use 8x10 trays for prints up to 8x10 and an 11x14 drum for 11x14 prints. This preference is identical for both B&W and color. The 11x14 trays are just a little on the awkward side and require a lot of chemicals. Because I seldom do 11x14 prints, I prefer to use the drums, which require relatively small volumes of chemicals, for my 11x14 prints.

    If cost is a factor, keep in mind that you don't need true photographic trays; you can process your paper in Rubbermaid containers, trays bought at Home Depot, etc. Photographic trays are sized for photographic paper and they've often got convenience features, though. For instance, mine have ridges that make it easier to grip the paper with print tongs when you remove the sheets from the tray.

    Whatever's available and/or inexpensive. I recommend starting with a variable contrast (VC; aka multicontrast, multigrade, or perhaps other terms) resin coated (RC) paper. You'll need an appropriate filter set or filters built into the enlarger (a color enlarger works well) to adjust the paper grade. RC papers are easier to handle and dry than are fiber based (FB) papers, and VC papers enable you to adjust contrast without having a stock of several different types of paper.

    If you'll be mail ordering your supplies, consider Freestyle's Arista.EDU Ultra line, which is made by Foma. It's about the least expensive paper I've seen. Not everybody likes it (the same could be said for any paper), but some people do, and as paper choice is a subjective thing, it's as good a place to start learning as any.

    For developer, I personally use DS-14, which is a mix-it-yourself formula. A similar commercial product is Silvergrain Tektol Standard, which unfortunately is only available from one source, AFAIK. As with paper, developer choice is a personal thing. One objective feature of DS-14 and Tektol is that they're based on phenidone and vitamin C ("PC" developers). This makes them slightly more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause allergic reactions than developers based on metol and hydroquinone (MQ) or PQ. Agfa Neutol Plus (but not others in the Neutol line) is another PC print developer, but its availability is in flux because of the whole Agfa fiasco. (It's supposedly being manufactured by A&O now, but I don't see it at either Freestyle or B&H.)

    Lenses can be a huge topic in and of themselves. I posted my thoughts on several 50mm lenses in another thread. (Note I didn't start that thread; scroll down about 2/3 of the way for my comments.) Basically, your best bet is to get a 6-element lens. The Scheider Componon, Rodenstock Rodagon, and Nikon el-Nikkor f/2.8 (but not the f/4) 50mm lenses are the ones that are most often recommended for enlarging 35mm negatives, but others (Fuji, etc.) make 6-element lenses with excellent reputations, too. Used, these lenses aren't much more expensive than the less-capable 4-element designs. If you feel compelled to buy something new and can't afford a new version of one of the aforementioned lenses, based on my own experience I'd recommend the Russian-made Vega-11U, but only if your enlarger can focus correctly when using a lens with a longer-than-average barrel. (ZorkiKat's post in the other thread goes into this in more detail.) Note that even a cheap 4-element lens is likely to produce prints that are quite pleasing unless you make huge enlargements or do a side-by-side comparison with a print made with a better lens. Stopping down to f/8 or so should help improve the quality of prints made with 4-element lenses. The 6-element lenses are likely to show less of an improvement when stopping down.
     
  16. mjs

    mjs Member

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    See what you get? A simple question and half a dozen answers. :smile: That's because the answer depends on what you want.

    You *can* start with one tray, as has been pointed out. One tray is something of a pain in the posterior, but it works. More trays (up to six, as has been suggested,) is more convenient. I have the proverbial six 8x10 trays for 8x10 and smaller (film and paper,) I have four 11x14 trays and have never felt deprived, and I have one 16x20 tray for large prints and it works. I put up with it because I very rarely print that large and my darkroom is very, very small. A washer would be very convenient but I'm not sure that it would be $200+ convenient. I don't put out 150 prints a day for commercial customers, or even a dozen prints a day for some gallery. If I get five good prints out of an evening's printing I feel that I have accomplished something and my setup works for that. (Then, of course, a couple of weeks later I look at the older prints and think, 'what was I thinking?' and tear them up, but that's a hurdle you'll have to deal with on your own!)

    There is quite a bit of discusson on the web concerning the merits or faults of this or that enlarger. I tend to think that much of it is the splitting of downy hairs; any enlarger is better than no enlarger and from my perspective, an inexpensive enlarger is better than an expensive one (since my funds are limited and the more I have for paper, film, and chemistry the happier I am.) That said, a decent four-bladed easel to hold the paper under the enlarger is just incredibly convenient and I actually paid money for one of those in the 11x14 size. I couldn't afford one for 16x20 but I bought a used fixed-size easel for $20 and that is sufficient for a size I rarely use. On the other hand, I started with a used Bogen two-bladed easel and it worked all right for years. Ditto on the lens with the caveat that I agree whole-heartedly about the suggestion for Minolta enlarging lenses. Minolta is the Rodney Dangerfield of photography: they produce excellent products but don't have the cachet of the big names and get no respect. That makes many of their product less expensive on the used market and they are often very good buys. You need a decent lens and someday, when you are turning down gallery invitations and trying to juggle your workshop and speaking schedule you may actually care which lens is mounted on your enlarger but many of us wouldn't be able to tell the difference between one of our prints made with the latest multi-coated aspheric wonder and one made with an old single-coated Wollensak from 40 years ago. Sure, there are folks who can (or claim they can, anyway,) but for black and white I don't actually know any of these people.

    I forget (I'm at work and have been composing this, in betwixt random help line calls, for a couple of hours now,) whether you are a real beginner or not. Sorry. In either case, recall that RC paper takes *much* less washing than does fiber paper. On the other hand, there are those (and I am one of them,) who dislike RC paper immensely. I don't care for how it smells, feels to the touch, or for how the light reflects off of that polyethelene coating. That said, multi-grade or variable contrast paper is a valuable tool: one box of paper, one set of filters and you are all set. Personally, I like Forte's paper but that's a *very* personal choice: some folks actually like Ilford Multigrade IV, if you can believe it! (That was a joke, don't go all flaming on me here.) I suggest that you chose whatever variable contrast paper you can buy locally and use it for a while. Ditto on the chemistry: differences between most paper developers are very subtle and you probably won't notice them for a while. Buy what is conveniently available to you and get to know it. For places carrying Kodak materials, Dektol is the most common paper developer. Other places carry Ilford and they have some good developers, too. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area giving you an extensive choice, go with the least expensive. Me personally, while I do have a slight preference for glycin based developers, they are expensive and I have to mail order them (intolerable when you've settled in for a nice Sunday afternoon's darkroom session and discover that you're down to your last ounce of developer. Where's the convenience of mail order then?) So I mostly use Kodak's Dektol, since I can get it quickly from one of several local sources, including one open on Sunday afternoon.

    Darkroom doesn't have to (and shouldn't, these days,) cost very much. I wish I had heard your question earlier this year: I just gave away three darkrooms. The problem is, I just can't walk away from a good deal and neither can my wife. Over time we had collected a couple of Omega enlargers and one other (can't remember who made that one,) along with misc. trays, thermometers, timers, measuring cups, safe lights, etc. from auctions and garage sales. I have a couple of Beseler enlargers I use (an old 23c for small negatives and a 45 for 4x5,) so I didn't need them. They've taken up room in the attic and garage for some time now so when someone local asked for them for a school project, I gave them to him. The point is, even here in the wilds of Indiana, I run across this stuff all the time and you ought to be able to do so, too. I got my first darkroom from a garage sale for $25: enlarger, trays, etc. Ok, that was a while ago but I've seen them since. Shoot, I passed up a nice (and reasonably modern) 6x7 enlarger with the fancy color head at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago. I didn't need it. He had an ancient old 4x5 Solar enlarger in the basement he wanted to dump, too, but what the heck am I going to do with that? He probably still has them. My Beseler 45 came from an auction and I won't tell you what I paid for it 'cause you'd cry. Hook into the auction scene in your area (there's always a little newspaper or web site all the auctioneers list with. Around here the little newspaper is called the 'Farmer's Exchange'. Look for auctions mentioning cameras and photography equipment. You should be able to fit out a complete darkroom about twice a year if your area has activity comparable to around here (and this place is pretty rural.) Camera shops also often periodically clear out their back rooms: great places for trays, thermometers, etc. Or, what the heck, this is APUG. You must be nice people or you wouldn't be here. Let me look around and see what I can come up with. Even having given away three darkrooms this year, I've probably got some bits and pieces you can have.

    mjs
     
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The reason I recommended Ilford MG IV RC is that it's increadibly consistent. Any developer, as long as there's still some "life" in it, will give identical results. Perfect for learning printing, and for staying consistent.

    Believe me, I've tried getting a warmer tone in it by adjusting the developer: It can (barely) be done, but not using anything that would develop other papers!

    Easel: I've got a nice 11x14" easel, two blades. If i ever make larger prints, I wipe down the enlarger base with a damp cloth. That makes it "sticky" enough to hold a 12x16" sheet flat during exposure. Smaller papers will curl off, but the great big floppy things stay flat enough! :smile:
     
  18. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Stephanie,

    1) No.
    2) Trays (Paterson 12x16 for your purposes.)
    3) Ilford MGIV RC and Ilford Multigrade Developer.
    4) Enjoy the process. Look for what is good in your prints, others will be more than happy to tell you what they think is bad. ;>)

    Neal Wydra
     
  19. DBP

    DBP Member

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    You can do the same for a film washer. Mine is a Slurpy cup with pinholes around the side at the bottom. It comfortably holds two reels and all I have to do is adjust the water so it flows in at the same rate it leaks out.
     
  20. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    Stephanie,

    You and I are in the same place I think. I'm still fairly new to all this and have been contact printing up till now with a 7watt bulb in the bathroom. I got to the point where the medium format negs started stacking up and two weeks ago I developed my first batch at home. I just couldn't stand it any longer and had to make some prints. Found a great deal for a 23c XL on craig's list (thank goodness for the tri-state area) and the rest is history.

    I'm sure your WTB ads here will produce. I've found the members here to be more than helpful to people like us. Good luck and keep us posted.

    Alan.
     
  21. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Since digital is killing photo labs all over - call some of them - many of them will sell you stuff for pennies on the dollar. I know that my $200 enlarger sold for $3500 new and the lenses can be had on ebay and elsewhere. Try http://www.glennview.com/index.htm - he always has a ton of stuff. Keep it simple. Darkroom timers are cheap on e-bay. Only buy good lenses. Trays - bigger is better usually. A lot of good stuff at http://www.bhphotovideo.com. RC paper is easliy had very cheap on ebay. APUG has everything you would ever want to know about mixing your own chemistries. It is cheaper and better to do that. Don't count on getting anything localy - I have a college near by so there is a local photo store that supplies the college. That is rare. There are a zillion threads here and many good ideas - keep it simple and read read read.
     
  22. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I'd suggest you use trays not drums for you will miss the appearance of the image, still an exciting moment for me even after 30 odd years. More importantly in trays you will learn to assess the image under safelight conditions and after a while begin to reduce or extend development to bring subtle differences to the image. You cannot do this when using a drum.

    An archival washer is not absolutely necessary although very nice if you can afford it and have the space. Someone mentioned a Kodak Tray Siphon, very good advice but don't try to wash too many prints at the same time when using it. I used one for 15 years before I aquired my first archival washer.
     
  23. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Wow...

    I am so happy that so many people responded, and with such good advice. I at least know where to start now.

    I'll be buying from J&C most likely, if that gives you any help on what I CAN get, for papers and developer. May go through B&H for a few things, but not too many. J&C support this site and, therefore, I want to support them. I'll be trying to get what I can used.

    If I didn't have you guys as a helpful group of equally crazy individuals I don't know what I'd do. :D
     
  24. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Stephanie: I wish you were a little closer. I have a like-new condition Beseler 23CIII enlarger set up for both 35 mm and medium format that is collecting dust in my basement since I use my good old Omega D2 exclusively now. I'd love to make a good deal with someone who would put it to good use. Shipping might be pretty costly though.
     
  25. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Well, how costly? I didn't see any used enlargers in Iowa on Craig's List and I haven't seen anything on Ebay close to here either so either way I'm going to have to have one shipped. I KNOW that Beselar is a good enlarger...
     
  26. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Oh, and one other thing. Recommended books? I have The Print by Ansel Adams. I'll try and find Les' book. I'm going to stick with one printing technique at first like I should, but I wouldn't mind reading about others.