Starting a darkroom in Australia

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Green_Blue, Jun 24, 2011.

  1. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    Hi,

    I'm not too sure if this is the right place to post this. But anyway I have recently gotten into film photography and I have decided to start developing my own film and hopefully make my own black and white prints. In my research it seems like for a beginner to start a darkroom at home the initial start up price are quite exorbitant for example looking at a reputable Melbourne shop the price of a single tank is $50, and a patterson changing bag costs ~$50!

    Would it be true to say that the best way to start is to buy second off gumtree or ebay? I just find it strange that a developing tank would cost $50, surely it would be one of those items where the retailer would do a bit of loss leading so as to encourage people to begin and hopefully return and resupply with chemicals and other equipment. It's frustrating that it seems impossible to be able to walk into a shop and get all the equipment and chemicals needed to do black and white developing for under $100; or am I missing something?
     
  2. amedway

    amedway Member

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    most of the bits and pieces I've picked up have been through ebay, I haven't really looked at shop prices for darkroom hardware for a long time, if you keep an eye out you can get some good bargains if you want to get the basic stuff.

    Ashley
     
  3. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Go second-hand.
    I picked up an entire darkroom, including medium format Durst enlarger, light meters, cameras, film, paper etc.... for 60 bucks.

    Not saying you'll get a deal like that but you should buy second-hand if you're worried about cost.
     
  4. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    Not sure if I can make a link to ebay, but I am looking at this an auction which includes a Durst M302 colour enlarger with Schneider Optik Componan-c 3.5/50 and a developing tank. I'm only going to be doing black and white prints, from what I've read you can still use a colour enlarger to do b+w?

    Maybe I should wait for more bargains.
     
  5. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Colour enlarger can definitely do B&W; the colour wheels let you adjust contrast quickly and they're particularly nice for split-grade printing. You also don't need a darkroom and enlarger until you want to print; a changing bag and daylight tank is enough for development. While it's sacrilege on apug, low quality scanning is very cheap with a flatbed to start you out but wet prints will be much better.

    Definitely just be patient on eBay. I got a new LPL7700 and 3 good lenses for $60; I was the only bidder. Occasional deals on Paterson tanks can be had too.
     
  6. frontdrive34

    frontdrive34 Member

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    Ebay all the way. There was a guy listed he was getting out of printing and had some amazing benches with cupboards, one with a sink and taps another with a huge lightbox built in listed on ebay a few months back for $60 - 80. They didn't seem to sell so keep an eye as there are lots of good 2nd hand stuff turns up. Was tempted to just use tham as fancy garage benches.
     
  7. NDP_2010

    NDP_2010 Member

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    ebay will have a basic setup for under $200, enlarger, paper, trays, tanks etc. Most are really cheap. I bought some chemicals for b/w for about $80 and it has lasted for quite alot of rolls. I think you can get at least 50 rolls from a 500ml bottle of ilford lc29.
     
  8. Leigh Youdale

    Leigh Youdale Member

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    There's a magazine called "Photographic Trader" which has a lot of interesting stuff. No chemicals, but redundant darkroom equipment aplenty. And it's all in Australia!
    Look for a bright yellow cover in the camera section of your newsagent.
     
  9. MattC

    MattC Member

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    Also don't forget to put the word out about what are planning on doing - you may be surprised by the amount of people who have darkroom equipment stored away, or know some one that does - that is how I managed to get hold of most of my equipment at dirt cheap prices to boot!
     
  10. samcomet

    samcomet Subscriber

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    I second Photo Treader as a great place to find second hand stuff but in my humble opinion the prices are a touch more than that auction site so well canvased....may I also suggest that Photo Trader has listings for Camera Marts held in capital cities every few months...I am in Sydney so I don't think I remember where or when the Melb one is (Camberwell?)....anyway the the mag is out every second month....good luck and happy darkrooming! cheers, sam
    PS we have a place called Reverse Garbage here in Syd that has 12, at last look, Beseler 23C II enlargers going for $80 ea. They are all in great to good nic as well....some with lenses (el nikkor f2.8 50mm) if you find yourself in a car in Sydney....
     
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  11. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    So a brief update, I have discovered that a mate has a darkroom that he wants to get rid however I think I will just see if I can get a developing tank off him to make sure I am prepared to go all in with b+w developing.

    So I had a brief look in vanbar and I was thinking about which developer to get; I think I would prefer I liquid developer that keeps for at least 6 months as I will be going overseas at the end of the year. So I think that has left me with a choice between adonal (i think this is rodinal) and ilford dd-x. Is any of these better for a beginner? I will mostly be shooting at iso 400 I have a couple of rolls of hp5, neopan and tri-x, although I might consider pushing the film for low light shots to something like 1600.
     
  12. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    I picked up the Eurogon Dichroic 35mm -> 4x5" colour enlarger with stabiliser, inserts, ANR glass, neg carriers, light mixers, everything apart from lenses for $60 off ebay.

    Adox Adonal is Rodinal, I picked up 3 bottles of it on monday from Vanbar that I had on back order.

    It's very good for neopan and Tri-X, and Tri-X @ 1600. HP5+ I don't think is crash hot in it.

    I've also gotten back onto Xtol and like it again, that's a powder you mix into a developer, 5L bag, mix and separate into 5 litre containers, and just use it replenished, should last.


    What do you want out of your developer? Ilford call DD-X a full-speed fine grain developer, which would be more ideal for 400 speed films and pushing technically.


    There's also tetenal Emofin at Vanbar, which is one of the fine grain full speed developers (along side Xtol (powder), DD-X (liquid concentrate), Microphen (powder) etc etc, it's a powder, but unlike the others it's a split bath developer etc.

    Depends on what you want :smile:
     
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  13. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    All the developers work very well and the differences between them are subtle. They all have pros and cons and you'll need to try a few of them to get some idea of which one you like (i.e. which one best executes what you want out of your final image), then stick with just one or two and get to know them really well. I've settled on XTOL and Rodinal myself but I could probably get by with just one of those and I'll happily use D76 (at 1+3 for no solvent action) if it's laying around.

    I would recommend trying Rodinal, D76 (ID11 is practically identical) and XTOL. Rodinal keeps practically forever as concentrate and the powder developers likewise if they remain as powders. D76 stock in full, properly sealed PETE (softdrink) bottles will last for a year or more. XTOL, a few months, so perhaps try that once you get back and your D76 has run out. There are many others to choose from and they all have some special benefit (better speed, "finer" grain - usually means more solvent action and softer images, longer life, foolproof processing times, whatever); it's up to you whether any of these is worth it over a general-purpose developer.

    If you're buying Rodinal from Vanbar, beware that they generally don't actually have it because it's kind of hard to get hold of now; you usually have to preorder and wait a few months until they get a batch in.
     
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  15. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    DD-X is an excellent general developer and works well with a wide range of film speeds. I would choose it in preference to Rodinal for 400 speed films, but DD-X does often tend to be a bit pricey...

    Ian
     
  16. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys, I have come up with a list of the chemicals I will be buying from vanbar (if they have stock) on Friday. I picked liquid developers because although I'm sure it would be straight forward to mix powder developers I thought I would just minimise the amount of things I could stuff up. Also I do intended to give push processing ago and from what you guys have said either these developers should be able to push film up to 1600iso.

    Developer - either rodinal or dd-x 1L
    Kodak stop bath 473ml
    Ilford rapid fixer 500ml
    Kodak photoflo 473ml

    Would it be better to get all the chemicals from the same company or are they basically the same thing? Also would the quantities I'm getting be enough to go through 30 rolls of film?
     
  17. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    You can mix and match suppliers within a B&W process freely.

    Don't bother buying stop bath, just use 3 changes of water with vigorous agitation. Photoflo may last you 500 rolls. Put one drop in with your dev too to help prevent bubbles on the reel and use about 1/500 dilution (depending on water hardness) for your final rinse.

    If you want to push, Rodinal is in general bad for that unless you do semi-stand. I recommend not doing that until you've done at least 20-50 rolls with normal once-a-minute agitation and have everything well under control; if you need to push in the meantime, use a speed-increasing dev (xtol, ddx) and longer processing times.

    Quantities...1L of fixer mixed up to 5L of working strength (make 1L at a time though) will do about 100-120 rolls if you're careful and do 2-bath fixing; datasheet. DDX I don't know the capacity but you'll find datasheets by googling. Rodinal you use about 10mL per roll; 6mL is possible but the highlights suffer. LC-29 is another easy liquid option, uses about 10mL per 35mm roll.

    Go to your local pharmacy and get a few 5mL and 10mL syringes for measuring the liquid concentrates; should be about 50c each. 10mL is more convenient but won't fit into some bottles.

    The trick they don't tell you for mark-free drying is to peg the film at each end at about 30 deg from vertical so the drips run down the edge of the roll instead of running halfway down the face of the film and leaving a mark in the middle.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 29, 2011
  18. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    Ok so I have finally got some of the equipment. A friend has given my LPL 66-SII enlarger unfortunately the astron lens seems to have a bit of fungus and haze but I haven't been able to test it out to see how it works yet. However since at this stage I am only going to be doing 35mm what would be a good lens to get? I know that it is generally recommended to get 50mm but some people say to get a longer lens and to be honest I have no idea why! The max enlargement of this enlarger is x12 if that is important, I think the max size I would consider printing would be 11x14.

    Although all this wet printing stuff I will be leaving on the side for now because I will practice a bit with the developing of negatives first.

    In regards to developing I have a patterson system 4 which is 290mL, the chemicals I have got are rodinal, ilford stop bath, ilford rapid fixer. I haven't got any beakers or measuring cylinders yet but I thought maybe I should do some preliminary calculations to see what I would need.

    I was thinking of getting 3 500mL beakers to store the developer, stop bath and fixer. In order to measure the rodinal I would get a 10mL pipette, for the stop bath a 50mL measuring cylinder and for the fixer a 50mL measuring cylinder.

    I made some calculations for developing one 35mm tank. I thought instead of making amounts for 290mL it would be best to dilute for 300mL just in case.

    Developer - rodinal 1:50 so 6mL rodinal and 294mL water
    Stop Bath - ilfostop 1+19 so 15mL stop and 285mL water
    Fixer- rapid fixer 1+9 so 30mL fixer and 270mL water

    Have a made these calculations right? Also do you think that practically speaking just being able to develop one roll at a time will get frustrating and I well eventually have to get a bigger developing tank and therefore I should invest in larger beakers and measuring cylinders?
     
  19. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Try and unscrew the lens elements in that enlarger lens. Sometimes it's just a matter of twisting one end. You may find you're able to to clear that fungus.

    Also, in my kitchen, I use rapid fixer 1:4 just to be safe.
     
  20. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Yes, definitely do the 300mL thing. I just use a 500mL pyrex kitchen jug for measuring water out, it's close enough and since I always use the same jug, it's consistent. Cheapest place to buy measuring stuff is the kitchen section of Kmart/Target/Big-W I think; just a single 500mL container with markings every 50mL will be OK. Another option is a $20 5kg/1g electronic scale off eBay and keep in mind that water is 1g=1mL; fixer is a bit denser.

    Rapid Fixer must be at 1+4 dilution for film, not 1+9. The higher dilution is an optional thing for RC paper only; not recommended for film or FB paper. The usual approach is to store the working-strength rapid fixer in PETE softdrink bottles (1.25L coke bottle), very clearly labelled with permanent marker. The economy you get from it is by reuse anyway, so there's no benefit to diluting it further. You get about 20 rolls from 1L of working strength.

    Don't pour fixer out of that coke bottle until AFTER your film is developed, which will help prevent the possibility of you putting in fixer before developer, which will destroy your images. What I do to prevent chemical-ordering stuffups is:
    - mix up dev in jug
    - develop
    - stop with water (you don't need Ilfostop but it will work fine)
    - pour fixer straight from coke bottle to paterson tank, fix film
    - rinse the jug out
    - pour fixer into jug (it's big and you won't spill any)
    - wash film
    - pour fixer back into coke bottle
    - wash the jug really thoroughly before next use as the tiniest fixer contamination will ruin the next developer put in there

    Likewise for fixer, you reuse the stop. Mix up about 1L (50mL+950mL) and keep reusing it until it changes colour.

    If you need a new enlargement lens, I have a good (can't remember the brand, perhaps a Rodagon or similar) 50/2.8 for sale since I don't do 35mm anymore; you can have it for $30. People recommend using a longer enlargment lens designed for larger formats because that means you're using only the central sweet-spot but that's not necessary unless you have a crappy 4-element lens and it reduces the max enlargement you can make: a longer enlargement lens means a smaller image on the paper. It's better just to buy a good 6-element lens of the right length.

    Multiple rolls at once is good, but consider that many people have just the 2-roll tank and put one roll of 120 in it. In my case (6x7), that means just 10 frames at a go, and it's generally OK but it sucks when you come back from a big holiday with 30+ rolls. Either way, you'll probably spend more time making contact sheets or scanning, so development time shouldn't be a huge issue for you.
     
  21. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I took so long to reply that I've edited my reply to remove all the repeatitive stuff I would have said after polyglot's post! So what's left that may be of interest...

    50mm. The major effect a different focal length would have is the height the enlarger head needs to be to make a given print size. A longer lens comes in handy when making very small prints (eg postcards) as it gives more room under the enlarger lens to get your focus scope in or room to do dodging and burning.

    no. However there are times you might want to developer two rolls at once (if you have a two roll tank) so probably best to plan for that (get 1L beakers, bottles). A good source of cheap bottles with wide necks good for pouring back into without having to use a funnel is glass fruit juice bottles available from the supermarket.

    Whereabouts in Melb are you. We have a Traditional Printmakers Group at the Melbourne Camera Club (clubrooms ar in Sth Melb.. look it up on the web) that you might be interested in. One of the guys runs a Introduction to B&W course over a few weeks on a fairly regular basis. Otherwise, the group meets once a month and you can listen to us wise old (also not so old) print makers and query their long forgotten knowledge. Guests are welcome and if you decide it's for you, membership to the MCC (need to be a member to regularly go) is pretty cheap.

    Cheers, Nige
     
  22. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    Hi guys thanks for all the help, I have ordered all the equipment and it should be coming hopefully by the end of the week I guess the only thing left is for me to get out shooting in the mean time so I have some rolls to develop!

    Thanks for the offer polyglot but I'll first have to test out the enlarger to see if the haze actually will have an effect on the prints and its probably best for me to start practicing before spending even more money!

    Nige, I'm in Camberwell, I did have a look at the melbourne camera club when they had that open day going on and even had a look at the intro to b&w course but unfortunately it clashed with my work schedule. When is the next meeting for the printmakers group? Hopefully I would be able to come down.
     
  23. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    it's usually the last Monday of the month but the next one is matting and framing prints for our annual exhibition which is probably not that interesting (unless you want to learn how to cut a matt!). If I remember, I'll post what the next one is about when it becomes known.

    Cheers, Nige
     
  24. derwent

    derwent Member

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    I'm going through the same process. Been developing film and scanning for quite a while but I have been looking on eBay for darkroom stuff. Most if it was mainland located and pick up only but I chanced upon a setup at a market here in HobArt for $60 with no lens.
    As a birthday present my bathroom is being fitted with blackout curtains to make it quickly convertible.
    I look forward to taking the next step...
     
  25. Green_Blue

    Green_Blue Member

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    So I've been developing a couple of rolls and sometimes I get rolls that turn out fine for the start and the end but in the middle there are no numbers on the film. So I assume this means that I haven't developed long enough, or something is wrong with the agitation? Also does anyone have any tips on evaluating negatives?
     
  26. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    No numbers generally means no development. I take it images don't show up in that part of the roll either? Or they show up but are really thin?

    How are you agitating? Assuming you're using a paterson tank or similar, the usual way is to do an inversion every second for 60s at the start, then 10s of inversions at the start of every minute.

    Development time/temp/agitation lead to contrast, and you just need to be shown what a "good" level of contrast looks like. If you have completely transparent patches on the film, they will come out completely black, i.e. are under-exposed. Sometimes (e.g. night scenes with unlit areas) this is unavoidable but for most circumstances, it's undesirable. A common fault is to have black hair become an unexposed black hole (clear on the film) with no detail.