how necessary is a timer?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by stradibarrius, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Is a time for the enlarger a real necessity or is it something that is really nice to have?

    Can you time the exposure with a stop watch or a timer with a bell?
     
  2. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    It is very nice to have a timer, but you can just count, helps to have a metronome or something that beeps once a second.

    Jon
     
  3. Ponysoldier

    Ponysoldier Member

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    You can get by without one but the difficulty when trying to make "matching" exposures is a real pain! There are some who use a metronome and count the exposure time in seconds or beats (Ansel Adams used this approach) but I could never get that comfortable with it - other than for burning and dodging. Bottom line - for repeatability they are worth the money.
     
  4. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    There are people who don't use them, but 10.5 seconds and 11 seconds are very different exposures. Buy a timer.
     
  5. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Many photographers simply count.... 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, or elephants or whatever. Many use a metronome. But many more print to 1/10 second and use somewhat sophisticated digital timers. There are on the market very sophisticated timers that alow you to print in fractions of an f-Stop.

    The question becomes how precise in your printing do you want to be?

    I use two timers, one for printing to 1/10 second and a large sweep hand for processing to the 1/2 minute.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    Personally I grew up listening to a miniature grandfather clock tick away in my mother's kitchen so I can count off seconds like a champ. But for more or less identical printing results I am going to use a timer.
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    If you're prepared to use a dimmer bulb or smaller apertures, using a metronome or even a clock with a second hand is practical. One or two seconds' error on a 60-second exposure isn't going to result in a noticeable difference in results.

    However, I find that with some of the paper I use, at smaller amounts of enlargement it's not impossible to have a four- or five-second exposure at f/8. I don't want to stop down further than that because it creates diffraction, which reduces sharpness, so I use an electronic timer.

    So... you can do it. If you need to buy time to be able to get a proper timer, you can certainly work around it. But eventually you'll want a proper timer.
     
  8. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Used darkroom stuff like this can be bought for some bucks on Ebay.
    I use a timer and don´t want to miss it. It makes things much easier.
    Mine is a very simple one which goes from 1 to 60sec in 1sec steps.
    If you use the watch, metronome or counting method you have to concentrate
    yourself too much and this is often annyoing. Darkroom work should be relaxed ;-)
    Greetz, Benjamin
     
  9. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    To state the obvious, it's certainly a convenience. How important it is depends on how long your printing exposures typically are. For example, if they're 25-30 seconds, the "slop" from manual control is likely to be small relative to the overall exposure time and having a timer is not so important. If they're 5-10 seconds, it's very difficult to be precise enough without a timer.

    If you tend to make small prints on "fast" enlarging papers - for example, prints up to 8x10 on Ilford MGIVFB or MGRC Deluxe - you'll generally be better off with a timer.
     
  10. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    The first year I print I just counted out seconds. Was ok. I did a couple of postcard exchanges that way, around 50 cards at a time, and exposure was relatively well matched.

    Then, I moved to the college's darkroom and their timers. Much easier. It's also nice not to crouch over the bath tub.

    I just recently got an StopClock Pro and it's pretty cool. So I'd say, if you have the money, get a decent timer.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    A timer, plus a foot switch, certainly leads to better experiences with test prints and dodging and burning.

    For print development, a clock with a sweep second hand works fine for me.

    For film development, I like my new (to me) Gralab 300 timer, but the timer on the microwave works pretty well too (I develop film in the kitchen):smile:.

    Matt
     
  12. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    Yeah, for processing I have that old red Kodak timer that is in every older Kodak book ever published. Works fine for me. I have a new (to me) Gralab timer that I use for printing.
     
  13. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Do you need a timer to start printing with – No, definitely not

    If you have good eye sight and can watch the second hand on your wrist watch by safelight and keep the minimum print time above 10s then you will be fine.

    Mechanical timers (those with rotary dials) seem to have so much slop in the mechanism - you are as well off with your wrist watch

    Electronic Timers are great & even better with a foot switch (then you can use both arms to dodge & burn)

    Most of us end up with a Timer or Timers - of varying levels of sophistication - but if you are just starting out you don't need one - but they are right up there in the "nice to have" darkroom luxuries.

    Martin
     
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  15. DBP

    DBP Member

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    For printing I now have a pair of old Gra-labs - the second of which cost me less than $20 IIRC. But when I was a teen I used the elephant system (see "Gregory's Girl") with decent results. For developing film I have a talking kitchen timer which was around $20 new. It helps me remember to agitate, which is important because I usually read or watch TV while developing film.
     
  16. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I have timers but only because I get them for nothing or build one myself out of my junk parts. If I have to buy a timer I would buy an metronome instead.
     
  17. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I have two timers for the enlarger, but I no longer use them. I have a clock near my ear, and I count the seconds. I start with my print covered, uncover at the count of 4, and cover when done. I aim for base exposure between 12 and 24 seconds. It is much more relaxing for me to work this way, and dodging and burning is easier. I got the idea from Michael Smith, but I think he use a metronome. I use a footswitch to turn the bulb on and off, which keeps my hands free.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2009
  18. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    Metronome works great for me. I use a card to block the light, keeping the enlarger bulb on all the time. When I want to put the card down, I slip in the red filter. Simple.
     
  19. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    I could never find any proprietary product that I really liked so a few years ago I bought a battery electric clock with about a five inch diameter face for a couple of quid from a cheapy shop. I made a new wide sweep hand out of white card so that it's very visible and stuck it over the clock's original (invisible by safelight) red sweep hand. For longer exposures I watch the sweep hand and for shorter ones I use the audible ticking. I also fitted the clock with a switch so that I can easily kill it when its loud ticking would otherwise annoy me!

    Steve
     
  20. hywel

    hywel Member

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    I can't even begin to imagine how much trouble it must be to use a timer. I use a metronome and can quite happily do a sixteen sec exposure with a four second dodge to that face, a couple of seconds off that side and a couple off that corner, waving my hands around whilst counting, then it's a card in and, with the metronome still clicking, a couple of extra seconds for that side and a couple for that bright spot and I'm done. How do I even do that with a timer? Eight separate exposures? Button pressing, programming? Or do they click or beep as well, in which case are you not really doing anything different? I'm quite happy to agree that I never really try for exposures under about eight seconds, just in case the variation makes a difference, but it never does, just get in the groove and it's fine.

    Oh, and I did, when I started, try using a stop watch. A disaster once I started burning and dodging, no way you can look at what you are doing and look at the watch as well.

    Hywel
     
  21. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    I am a violin maker so I have a metronome. Of course I am just starting out so I was trying to get a feel if I absolutely need a timer in the beginning or if I could start out some other way and decide if I would like a timer or not. I also have a large face clock in my shop that I can easily hear the second hand as it ticks off the seconds. Dodging and burning will not be part of first few prints. I will just be trying to get a good clear print.
     
  22. hywel

    hywel Member

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    Go with the metronome or the clock and count. Card in the hand in and out of the light path, it's just a little easier than turning the switch on and off right on the beat, and get in there and make some prints. They'll be just fine. No, they'll be your first prints, they'll be wonderful, you'll love them.

    If after a while you notice that you've not got the control or the consistency you desire then buy a timer, but for now just get the enlarger set up, use what ever you have to hand, improvise if necessary, and get some prints out.

    Good luck and enjoy,

    Hywel
     
  23. RH Designs

    RH Designs Advertiser Advertiser

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    I suppose I kinda represent the two extremes here - I started by pressing a footswitch and counting elephants, and finished up designing a timer and setting up a business to market it!
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I worked alongside a very successful UK commercial / advertsing photographer for a number of years, he was a superb printer and never used a timer. On a number of occasions I helped print long runs of B&W prints and the consistency was excellent, sometimes we swapped over and I printed & he processed, you learn very fast. We batch processed maybe 5-10 prints at a time that made it easier to control the development times.

    For my own work I've gone back to a timer, but I still count when I'm dodging & burning even with the timer cotroling the base exposure.

    Ian
     
  25. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Richard I went to your website and you work is very good!!! You shot the type of things I like.
     
  26. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Richard makes a fabulous Enlarger Timer - but he is too much of a Gentleman to mention it

    It Bleeps as it counts the seconds (realy its more of a Tock)

    I still count the Tocks it makes as the Timer counts the seconds - a force of habit - but I find it useful for when I have forgotten to change Timer Channel (again!)

    Martin