safelight vs. plain old red bulb

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by curiousart, May 15, 2011.

  1. curiousart

    curiousart Subscriber

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    Hi Folks,

    I'm very nearly ready to do some printing in my very first darkroom...

    I'm wondering if someone could tell me what advantage a large safelight has over a plain red bulb in a light socket? So far, in all my reading, I can't seem to discover why people use them over the old fashioned ruby light. Sorry if this has been discussed to death, I couldn't seem to find an answer in older posts.

    Best,
    Art
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    A red bulb may not block the right bands of color and therefore black & white paper may get fogged. Go with a safelight or safelight bulb.

    Steve
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Art

    Steve is right. Also, I've seen the paint slowly come off, creating 'unsafe' lighting. The purpose of a safelight is to protect your paper for as long as possible. No safelight does that 100%, but typically, a good safelight protects for 20-30 minutes against fogging. To be sure if a simple and inexpensive light works, one needs to test.

    I can offer a free chapter from our book which explains the test in detail:

    http://www.waybeyondmonochrome.com/WBM2/TOC_files/SafelightTestEd2.pdf

    If you want to keep it simple, start with the coin test on the last page.
     
  4. curiousart

    curiousart Subscriber

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    Good points. I guess after all the bread I've put out on other gear and materials, it doesn't make sense to cheap out on the safelight! B+H has the Arkay 5x7 for under 30 bucks.
     
  5. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    Originally, all photographic papers and films were orthochromatic. That meant that they were partially blind to red light. Consequently, these materials could be used in a darkroom with dim red safelights provided that the exposure was limited in both time and intensity.

    Later, films and papers were made sensitive to all, or nearly all, colors of light. These modern materials sensitive to all colors are called panchromatic. Panchromatic papers are somewhat insensitive to the amber-colored light passed by a Kodak OC safelight filter.

    The Kodak OC filter is the correct filter to use with panchromatic black-and-white papers. Black-and-white panchromatic films are too sensitive to use under any safelight in most cases.

    Just about all printing papers are now panchromatic and should be used under a relatively weak OC-filtered safelight. There are still a few orthochromatic papers from Europe, such as Foma that require a dim red safelight filter.

    In general, panchromatic papers are not safe under red filters and simple red bulbs generally don’t have the accurate filtering properties of a safelight and a Kodak OC filter.
     
  6. curiousart

    curiousart Subscriber

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    Ian, thanks for the lucid description. That's exactly what I was looking for in the few books I've read so far that simply say "get a safelight" (What's a safelight? What kind? Why won't a red bulb work?)

    Ralph, I've been reading the excerpts from your book for awhile, the book looks like a must-have. I'll check it out.

    Best,
    Art
     
  7. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    True!

    Ian

    There are no panchromatic papers (only film) unless you're are talking about direct-positive papers.

    OC filters have nothing to do with orthochromatic vs panchromatic. They are just a compromise between safelight protection and maximizing human visual sensitivity. OC filters are great for many modern papers with very limited red sensitivity (true orthochromatic papers). They are not so good with red-sensitive papers (Foma). A red safelight is always 'safer' than OC filtration, but not as bright to us humans as OC filtered light.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2011
  8. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Bulbs are about five bucks. You don't necessarily need a can. I put my safelight bulb in a regular wall lamp socket. You could use a thrift store lamp somewhere in your darkroom if you don't have a wall fixture in there. A dual fixture overhead with separate wall switches for the red light and the regular light is ideal IMO.

    And it should be a "proper" safelight bulb, not one of those Halloween red lights, so that the proper frequencies are blocked.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'm afraid I have to differ a bit with Ian.

    As far as I am aware, no regular black and white paper is panchromatic. Only the now discontinued Panalure was panchromatic, and that was designed for making black and white prints from colour negatives. Panchromatic means sensitive to all visible light.

    Older orthochromatic materials were sensitive to blue light mainly, with some lower sensitivity to green. You would use a red safelight with them, but that isn't ideal, because our eyes aren't particularly sensitive to red. Our eyes tend to be more sensitive to the light from a Kodak amber (OC) safelight, so we would like to be able to use those safelights (the darkroom seems much brighter), but as most orthochromatic materials were not designed for use with an OC safelight, one needs to test whether they are compatible.

    The newer (and now more common) materials that are designed for an OC safelight have a narrow band of insensitivity that matches the light output from that safelight. Most of them are also insensitive to the red light emitted by safelights designed for orthochromatic materials, but again it is very important to test.

    Other manufacturers make safelights to the OC standard.

    Regular "red" bulbs aren't necessarily sources of sufficiently narrow spectrum red light, so they cannot be relied upon without testing.

    It is possible to use some of the single spectrum LED lights that are new to the market for safelight use, but because they aren't tested or marketed for that purpose, you end up doing the testing yourself. I'm currently using two of those red LEDs, but I have older safelights to fall back on.
     
  10. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I have been using a double layer of Rosco R-27 gel as a safelight filter and it has done well for me.

    My darkroom has a recessed fixture in the ceiling. It has a regular 50 watt incandescent bulb. I took the frosted glass out of the frame sandwiched two layers of R-27 gel in there before putting the glass back in.

    One layer of R-27 has a 4% transmission rating and, according to the company's charts blocks nearly all wavelengths shorter than 500-550 nm. The curve doesn't start toeing up until 600 nm. Putting a double layer of gel in the frame just gives a little more filtration.

    The light in my room is a good 6 feet or more from any work area and you would have to stand directly under the fixture for any light to shine directly on anything.

    While I am confident that my safelight is good for at least 15 minutes under normal working conditions I am still careful to bring paper out of its container for only the minimum amount of time needed to perform the task at hand. I have a spare empty box left over from a previous batch of photographic paper that I use as a makeshift paper safe. If I have paper out any longer than is necessary to print and develop, it goes in the box/paper safe.

    I also keep my paper safe in a drawer and my fresh paper stock in another drawer. Those drawers are closed at all times except when I am actually taking something out or putting them in and I never open those drawers unless the room is under safelight or complete darkness.

    Aside from providing protection from safelights that may or may not be completely safe, it also helps minimize damage in case the door gets opened or the white lights get turned on by accident.
     

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  11. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    As Mr. Lambrecht, Mr. King, and others pointed out I incorrectly used the term “panchromatic” to describe modern black-and-white papers. Thank you for pointing out my error. The only panchromatic B&W paper of my experience is the discontinued Kodak Panalure paper for making prints of realistic tonal values from color negatives.
     
  12. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    Using orange bulbs I bought from Ebay with Foma. No issues.
     
  13. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    You may want to take a closer look. Fomabrom and Fomaspeed Variant have a spectral sensitivity up to 580 nm. Kodak's OC filter has roughly 60% transmission at 580 nm. Indeed, Foma makes the following (very sound) statement about these papers:

    FOMABROM and FOMASPEED VARIANT III are ortochromatically sensitized photographic papers. Therefore, a suitable safelighting differing from that for conventional photographic papers should be used. Dark-red safelight filters for orthochromatic materials, e.g. Kodak GBX-2, Ilford 906, Agfa R1, Osram Duka 50, etc. in connection with a 15 Watt lamp, discharge lamp Sodium Vapor etc. are fully suitable. Because of its high speed, these papers should be exposed to this safelighting only for a time prerequisite to handling.

    In my experience Fomatone MG falls into the same category.

    Unsafe safelight are a common cause for a lack of print contrast.
     
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  14. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    Hmmm. Shouldn't I see fogging then, or is it more subtle?
     
  15. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    It may be more subtle. When I first used Foma papers they appeared grey. It was very subtle. I started using a red safe-light and things improved.
     
  16. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    In my case they seem white, not grey.
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    You can only truly appreciate the difference in a one-to-one comparison. Try to process one with the safelights on and one in total darkness. Also, be wary about other sources of light fog (enlarger, white walls, light leaks from doors and windows).

    On the other hand, your safelight setup may not provide much safelight exposure to begin with on and you may be OK because of that. A coin test as described in the pdf above will tell all about the efficiency of your safelight with Foma papers.
     
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  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    The paper base is not the issue. Paper requires a threshold exposure to show any density. After that, it only takes minute amounts of additional radiation to increase the density. That's why a safelight test, such as the coin test, must be conducted with lightly pre-exposed paper. Doing a test with unexposed paper is highly misleading.
     
  19. Hal Reiser

    Hal Reiser Member

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    Way back in the mists of time GE used to manufacture an item called "Ruby Bulbs".

    They were an incandescent light bulb with the glass bulb made from clear natural ruby crystal. They were not specifically designated for photographic use on the packaging but when I started working in family hardware store thirty years ago we had a mixed case of 25 and 40 Watt bulbs gathering dust on the shelf. If I recollect they had already been discontinued prior to my start in the business

    Needless to say I immediately placed the Habes Grabbus on them and have been using them in my darkrooms since that time with absolutely no fogging issuses.

    My current darkroom has four 4" ceramic lampholders mounted on the ceiling controlled by a separate switch mouned next to my enlarger with them installed.

    Hal
     
  20. bwrules

    bwrules Member

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    Thanks. I'll try the coin test.
     
  21. ivanlow

    ivanlow Subscriber

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    In search for safe light information, I came across this post and started reading. I had learn a lot since and was just wondering a person should have one or a few safe light to go with different paper?

    Should I go with this deal? Or this?
     
  22. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Most modern papers, Foma, Ilford use OC safelights, Salvich from Russia is the only paper I know that requires a red safelight. As I use both Foma and Salvich I have both.
     
  23. Kilgallb

    Kilgallb Subscriber

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    When I was in high school I made a safelight by mounting a lamp socket n a coffee can. I placed a 15w red bulb inside then placed the RED plastic cover on the end . Worked like a charm for years. I seem to recall spray panting a light bulb red to do the same thing. I only recently retired them (after 40 years service) when I scored a few Kodak lamps on flea bay.
     
  24. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    Another consideration is whether your enlarger timer will turn off the safelight for focusing. I don't use a timer, and found that when I switched to a deep red safelight aimed up at the ceiling, it made focusing easier than with a brighter OC lamp. Now I only occasionally need to turn it off during focusing. ( And foma papers don't fog )
     
  25. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    These cheap little bulbs have had a huge impact on enjoying my darkroom. It's almost like daytime in there now. (And I do lith printing, where seeing the development through a layer of brown chemistry is critical). Highly recommended.