Darkroom Automation Enlarging Meter, anyone?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by brian steinberger, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I've never used or played around with an enlarging meter before. I'm thinking I might like something to help me make quick small prints of some family shots and other things to give to family and friends. Of course I wouldn't like to guess contrast and run test strips for these kinds of prints. DA's Enlarging meter looks simple and is not very expensive. Anyone have any experience with this meter? Is it worth it?

    http://www.darkroomautomation.com/em.htm
     
  2. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I've had one since early Dec 2008. I haven't had any real printing time since then, but I have run a number of film tests and used the DA enlarging meter for densitometry. The readings are extremely stable (seldom vary by even 0.01 stop over 15-30 seconds) and repeatable, and the response appears to be very linear (or perhaps one should say very smoothly logarithmic). Nicholas is great and very forthcoming with tech support.

    It reads in stops to two decimal places, designed for direct use with the DA timer, and stops can easily be converted to seconds for other timers by raising 2 to the displayed stop number, e.g. a reading of 4.30 would give you 2^4.30 = 19.7 seconds. I keep a calculator right beside my timer for this.

    I think the real limits with an enlarging meter arise from your own ability to visualize the final print, and where you want the tones to fall.

    That being said, the DA enlarging meter is an excellent, very high quality and accurate tool, beats my old Beseler Analite 500 by miles for stability and accuracy, and I would suspect does the same to other meters like the Ilford EM10, which I haven't used. The data sheets that Nicholas supplies for several papers are also very useful for determining contrast and exposure.

    I consider it well worth the price.

    Lee
     
  3. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Thanks Lee. I really just want the meter to print non-archival print kind of stuff. Pictures of my family and such. And I think going into the darkroom and having a meter where I can pop the neg in the enlarger focus then take readings of the shadows and highlights and have the meter give me a starting point will be nice to get me close enough. Again, these aren't prints that I'm framing for exhibition. For my more serious work, I will continue to use the methods of test strips and split grade, although I'm sure the meter would help find a good starting point contrast and time.
     
  4. Obtong

    Obtong Member

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    I use a R. H. Designs "ZoneMeter" which I bought in the late 1990's. I'm not sure on the operation of DA's Enlarging Meter, but the ZoneMeter is very easy to use. The ZoneMeter doesn't have a numerical display, but instead a row of LED's.
    1. Place sensor under the darkest part of the negative (the highlights with detail)
    2. Adjust the lens aperture until the first light on the row of LED's just lights up. This setting is supposed to give you a 10 second exposure w/VC filters 1-3. I find that 15 seconds is about right for my paper/developer/enlarger combination.
    3. Place the ZoneMeter sensor under the thinnest part of the negative (the shadows with detail). The LED's give you the suggested paper/filter grade.
    I find that the ZoneMeter gives me a very good ballpark place of where to start, or if I just want a straight or proof print. If I want a very good print, I use the ZoneMeter's suggestions to make a test strip which includes 15 seconds somewhere in the middle of the strip, and then change the paper/filter grade if needed.

    I would imagine the DA unit would work in a similar fashion. I could definitely live without an enlarger meter in the darkroom, but for me it does save time and paper.

    ~Dom
     
  5. steckmeyer

    steckmeyer Member

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    BEWARE! Once you use the Darkroom Automation meter you will never use anything else. You will only make one test strip per print.

    I bought the meter in November 2007 and use it exclusively with the companion timer. I highly recommend both especially if you are inclined to any flavor of the Zone system. With the Darkroom Automation meter you effectively have a very clever transmission densitometer right on your enlarger easel. Add the f stop timer and VueScan software for your flatbed scanner and you have a reflective densitometer and a very accurate and precise system to produce the tone values you desire. You do have to spend an afternoon making a paper curve. I think I saved enough paper in the last year to pay for the equipment. Next to Howard Bond’s printing work shop this equipment has done more to improve the quality and consistency of my prints than anything else. Unfortunately is does improve composition.

    Nick Lindan is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable people around wet darkroom photography today. He is an active member of APUG and has attended some of the bi-monthly gatherings sponsored by John Powers in Akron OH. I highly recommend him, his process and products.
     
  6. steckmeyer

    steckmeyer Member

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    BEWARE! Once you use the Darkroom Automation meter you will never use anything else. You will only make one test strip per print.

    I bought the meter in November 2007 and use it exclusively with the companion timer. I highly recommend both especially if you are inclined to any flavor of the Zone system. With the Darkroom Automation meter you effectively have a very clever transmission densitometer right on your enlarger easel. Add the f stop timer and VueScan software for your flatbed scanner and you have a reflective densitometer and a very accurate and precise system to produce the tone values you desire. You do have to spend an afternoon making a paper curve. I think I saved enough paper in the last year to pay for the equipment. Next to Howard Bond’s printing work shop this equipment has done more to improve the quality and consistency of my prints than anything else. Unfortunately is does NOT improve composition.

    Nick Lindan is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable people around wet darkroom photography today. He is an active member of APUG and has attended some of the bi-monthly gatherings sponsored by John Powers in Akron OH. I highly recommend him, his process and products.
     
  7. makanakijones

    makanakijones Member

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    Hi pal.
    What's the way you make the tone curve using vuescan?
    Thanks.
     
  8. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    I don't have the DA exposure meter so I can't comment on its use. I have read its instruction manual and it looks very good. I use a Jobo Colorline 5000 although I have not calibrated it for precise exposure and contrast predictions. I do use it for measuring exposure differences when I am printing a negative in one size and then decide on another size and don;t want to do all the test prints again. You could certainly use the DA timer for that also.

    I am tempted to buy one now that I someone posted how to convert the stop value to seconds. I wish that function were built in. It is much smaller than my Jobo unit.
     
  9. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    I hear rumour there is a timer that will do the conversion for you ... :rolleyes: [Gawd I hate smileys] There are also printed tables http://www.darkroomautomation.com/support/stopstable.pdf

    The conversion from stops->seconds rightly belongs in the timer. The value you convert to seconds is the paper speed in stops (i.e. the number of stops of exposure required to produce the tone you desire) minus the meter reading in stops.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2009
  10. steckmeyer

    steckmeyer Member

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    Basically you project a step tab negative on your enlarger easel and read the various tones with your Darkroom Automation meter. You make a print at each of your contrast settings and use the flatbed scanner with VueScan to measure that actual tone values printed. With this info you can make paper curves. I discovered (as predicted by Howard Bond) that my Beseler Color Head did not actually print the grades forecast by the paper manufacture. After a little work I now have settings that actually allow me to print predictably and precisely from Grade 0 to Grade 5 and allow for toning.
    Once you have the paper curves you can project a negative, use the meter to read the negative density range and the absolute density. That information along with the Darkroom Automation Timer allows you to make a very presentable print on the first try.
    In actual practice I read the negative density, determine the exposure and print a test strip comprising the area that has the tone values that are of interest. I dry this in my microwave and measure the tone values in these areas on my trusty flat bed scanner with VueScan to determine what if any changes I need to make. Sometimes this causes a change in contrast or base exposure but more often I use this information to determine the dodge and burn times I want. This is easily integrated into the work flow with the Darkroom Automation Timer.

    See http://www.darkroomautomation.com/support/index.htm for examples.
     
  11. LikeAPolaroid

    LikeAPolaroid Member

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    Do you know if they are still in business? I sent a couple of emails to inquire about the meter but got no response.
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    in my view, the more expensive f/stop timers are really worth it,some others not so much but you can ease into darkroomm timers by getting the very in espensive EM10 from Ilford and take it from there:smile:
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  14. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    You have a good understanding on how meters are used,Yes, they get you close quicklybut for optimum print qualitythe test strip and fine-tune method are still the best.Also,don't forget to investigate the RHDesign products.They are very sturdy and also work as f/stop timers or as linear timers.I use one since 2001 and wouldn't want to ever miss it.It gets me a work print quickly and I usualy get a fine print in a couple of steps from there.I think they would be ideal for what you want a timer for.all the best:whistling:
     
  15. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    What do you mean "Non-archival" and then refer to family photographs. The most treasured images you, or I or anyone else will ever make are of family. 50-100 years from now your descendants will probably care little for your exhibition prints, but they will treasure the family pictures. These should be processed in the most archival method you know!
     
  16. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Wow, revival of a very old thread of mine. I did buy the DA enlarging meter and used it for a year and so. It is a great meter but in the end found I doing traditional test strips the way I'd end up doing it anyway. So I sold the meter. I do have the DA F stop timer and love it.

    And yes Jim I have realized that family pictures will be the most important photos going forward and treat them and my fine art prints the same.
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I happen to use the relatively rare ZBE easel densitometer, which cost about ten times as much, and was probably the best such instrument ever made, and has been worth every penny over the years. But it's something I never use for ordinary black and white printmaking. Ordinary test strips are all I need for that kind of thing.
     
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The poster who revived the thread was asking in relation to the enlarging meter.
     
  19. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Yes the meters are still available - but the demand has been so low that I only check that mailbox every week or so.

    They are now made to order, so lead time is about 5-10 days.
     
  20. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    Hi Nicholas,
    I'm interested in getting me a f-stop timer to see if this system can help me getting fine prints.
    I read your note on your website:

    But then again this might be an old announcement and maybe there is a small possibility that you can make one "to order" as well? (I would need a 220 V, EURO version).

    Or maybe a used model will be fine also (anyone?)


    Thanks,
    Bert from Holland
     
  21. Marco Buonocore

    Marco Buonocore Member

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    I've already got one, but would happily buy one as a back up. It's a beautiful piece of equipment, and I rely on it more than anything else in the darkroom. I would even by another unit as a gift. So mark me down for two if you ever get around to making more, Nicholas. I'd front the cash too.
     
  22. ChrisFairfowl

    ChrisFairfowl Member

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    image.jpeg I use a DA enlarging meter, it's a really consistent accurate meter under the enlarger, and when I read print tones with my home made Gizmo, two small bulbs, fibre optic and a regulated voltage supply it's an excellent comparitor. I use a test neg. for paper calibration.