The big deal about enlarger timers?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by AlbertZeroK, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. AlbertZeroK

    AlbertZeroK Member

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    Okay, i get it, I can make the same print again and again with a timer, but other than that, why should I have one? And what's with the analyzer / timer combos or interfaces?

    Is it all really worth it?
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Timer is JUST that.... Turns on the power and shuts off when the time is up. The "interface" is an AC outlet.

    You don't really need one, if you are content with using your wrist watch or a metronome and manually turn on and off the enlarger. Some people prefer that way. I don't. Is it worth it? Maybe?

    As to analyzer, I do not have one and don't intend to get one for a while partially due to cost.

    Is that your question???
     
  3. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    I have worked for years as a custom printer and never once have I felt the need for an analyzer. I do use a good timer, but that is for consistency more than anything else. I have used a black card and a metronome before with very good results.
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    A timer means you are not reinventing the wheel with every exposure. NO ONE is able to make that perfect print the first time. A good timer eliminates the need to track time and allows you to concentrate on burning and dodging. At least that is what I used one for.
     
  5. Brook Hill

    Brook Hill Subscriber

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    An f stop timer is a great aid. It enables you to make increments in exposure in equal steps at the press of a button, something which is more tricky with a a basic second timer. Wouldn't be without mine.

    Tony
     
  6. Zathras

    Zathras Subscriber

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    I remember seeing some incredible prints up in Yosemite that were done by some bearded old guy from Carmel, California. :D He never used an enlarger timer either, just a metronome. Some of his images sell for more than I make in a year.
     
  7. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I have lived at both ends of this discussion.

    Last summer printing at a pal's cabin. Power from solar cells and batteries and an invertor. The electronic timer hated the harmonics from the invertor, and the mechanical one very cranky also. The solution was to stop the lens down, and steal the metronome from the next room. Base exposure count 9, start dodge, coutn 12 cover lens. Set up for burning in, light on, count 3, cover lens, light off.

    About 20 years ago, print the grad photos for the faculty of engineering at my uni. over 160 portraits, all shot by me under the same light, same film, same development. Dial in the contrast on the first one at 8x10, crank the head down for the small print sizes required, open the lens up to f/8 and let the auto repeating time do it's thing. Exposure time was 3.1 seconds, and repeated as fast as I could shift the negative to the next frame selected for exposure, and swap in a fresh piece of paper.
    The 36 exposure 35mm film was not cut and sleeved until after all of the prints were made, to make it faster to move on to the next needed neg.
     
  8. mark

    mark Member

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    And how many of those bearded people do you know? I've used the metronome. Timer much better. JMO
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It is really difficult to accurately add 1/3 of an f/stop of exposure to a 6 second main exposure without an accurate timer.

    And I don't know about you, but the accuracy and repeatability of my "inner" clock is at least partially related to whether or not I have had my morning coffee.

    I have worked without a timer, but I certainly prefer having one - with a foot-switch!
     
  10. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    A metronome is just a timer without a power chord.

    I use a timer because I get sick of counting all the time. I still count when I'm over the wet side and it gets mighty boring.
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    If being able to have predictable and repeatable prints matters to you, then it is almost a necessity to measure the time in some way other than with "instinct." It does not need to be a traditional enlarger timer. It can just be you watching a ticking clock, or counting beats on a metronome. One can count 1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, and I would argue that this is a sort of "timer." But one will not be able to count identically from exposure to exposure.

    If you like freewheeling and just coming up with Whatever by chance/guess each time you make an exposure, then you don't need one.

    If you want to print without a timer and get the best repeatability, you might want to stop down so you can use longer exposure times. That way small variations in time don't have as large an effect on the print.

    You really don't need one with lith printing. Small exposure variations don't really matter, and the times are so long that you can just use a clock.

    But enlarger timers are so ridiculously cheap on the used market that I would just pick one up. You should be able to get a Gra-Lab for next to nothing. They are a hassle, as they are not repeating timers. But they are cheap and get the job done.
     
  12. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Ive only used counting, and cheap timers before (time o light, and gralab 300) and Ive been looking for a nice digital timer for cheap as well. Timers are just so useful, esp when doing test sheets. A timer with a metronome is even better!
     
  13. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I'm a bearded old guy without a metronome far from Carmel, and often make do with a quartz clock that ticks once a second. That's really handy when dodging and burning. It even has a dial, great for longer times. An electronic kitchen timer is convenient for developing film in trays. Counting seconds is a useful tool for the complete photographer in the field as well as in the darkroom. It can tell one how fast a thunderstorm is approaching. I've heard that Arturo Toscanini know within a second or two how long the music he was conducting would be, and he wasn't even a photographer!
     
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  15. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    For me a digital timer with a foot pedal and an electric metronome set to one "click" per second for dodging and burning. Memory is not always as accurate as we think especially when the phone rings or someone knocks on the darkroom door in the middle of an exposure.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  16. RPC

    RPC Member

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    With my enlarger, when I make small prints (5x7 or smaller), the exposure time is often less than 5 or 6 seconds, often requiring tenths of a second accuracy to get exposure just right. That would be difficult without my timer.

    RPC
     
  17. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    That has to be frustrating and wasteful of paper and time. It would be to me. I would seriously consider adding some neutral density and/or getting a lower-output lamp. Then you won't need to deal in fractions of seconds.
     
  18. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I used to use a timer but now use my clock with audible ticking seconds as a metronome. I really like this method.
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    When I'm doing multiple small prints from the same negative (think APUG postcard exchange) I really appreciate the ability to use short exposure times, adjusted to the nearest 0.1 second.
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I definitely see why you do that in this special case, but I was referring to the poster, who sounded to me like he was not doing postcard exchanges. I wouldn't call post card exchanges the norm. Most people don't need to bang out 50 near-identical 5x7's as quickly as possible. And many timers (including my own) cannot do fractions of seconds. So I think 5 or 6 second exposures are not generally desirable, hence my comment above.
     
  21. Existing Light

    Existing Light Member

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    I'm making due with no safelight and a cheap Stirling and Noble wall clock from Target. The only real hassle is not hearing well enough (or not having a loud enough clock :D) to hear from more than a few feet away. I have to put the clock on the table by the enlarger so I can hear it. The table with my trays are literally 3 feet away on the other side of my outdoor shed / darkroom, so I can hear it when developing the paper without having to move it from beside the enlarger.

    My exposure times when enlarging are around 20 seconds with 35mm film at halfway between 5.6 and 8 on my lens, so exposing a second longer while I fumble for the switch on my surge protector isnt a problem. I use my enlarger as a light source when contact printing 5x7; the exposure times are between 4:30 and 6:00 minutes, so a second or two is even less of a problem. A couple of seconds too long in the print developer isnt too big of a problem for me. I know that little bit of inaccuracy that doesnt affect my prints, or has so little effect that I cant tell, might be a problem for someone else. Just posting what works for me :smile:

    BTW, before anyone gives me crap about not having a safelight, I broke my last one. Apparently the Arista brand safelights cant tolerate being dropped from more than a few feet. I knocked it on the floor and the light shot. I cant find a bulb that fits in any local stores, so I have to order a new bulb from Freestyle. the problem is I can never remember to do it when I make an order. Maybe I'll just get a safelight that takes standard size bulbs so I can just go to Lowe's whenever I knock my safelight on ther floor.... or I could just mount i to the celing, but that would be too much trouble... :D
     
  22. RPC

    RPC Member

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    No, it is no more difficult dealing with fractions of a second than it is seconds. My timer has controls for both and is very accurate. If the print needs a correction I simply add or subtract fractions of a second as needed as I would seconds, based on experience. It is just as easy.

    RPC
     
  23. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    I'll never set foot in a darkroom again without my RH Designs gear. It's THAT good. Metronome? Yeah, Saint Adams used one--but he started out before there was electricity.
     
  24. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    The question isn't "Do I need a timer?", but "Would a timer make my time in the darkroom more enjoyable and productive?"
     
  25. Existing Light

    Existing Light Member

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    Sometimes after I open the aperture on my enlarger lens all the way open to focus, I forget to stop it back down. That makes my darkroom times less productive and enjoyable. (but I do that waaaaay less than I used to)

    Sometimes when counting the seconds while exposing or developing my print, I lose count and either trash the print or just guestimate what second I should be on. Sometimes I screw up so badly I end up with a print that's too bad even for my low standards; that makes my darkroom time less enjoyable and productive

    If I had a timer, I'd probably ocassionally set it wrong or lose track of time with it somehow*. That would make my darkroom time less productive and enjoyable.

    I'm being a little cantankerous here, but I think a timer would be nice, and I wouldnt turn down a good deal if I found one and actually had a bit of spare money.

    I have a surge protector that my lamp and enlarger plug in to. It sits on a table (the surge protector) next to the enlarger and is plugged in an outlet under the table. When I'm ready to expose a sheet, I flip the switch on the surge protector and the enlarger light comes on. I count the seconds until I get to however many it takes to properly expose the paper (when I contact print, there's enough light for me to see the clock as a guide if I lose count. counting 20 seconds is so easy I can do it 99% of the time without screwing up).

    When developing, I just listen and count two minutes, which really isnt too hard if I concentrate. I might be more productive with a timer, but I'm a bit of a clutz, so that's just something else for me to try not to break or set wrong. :D

    *at the school darkroom, we have enlarger timers for each enlarger. There's a Gralab timer on a table at the end of the sink. We usually set that to 59:59 minutes and let it run until it stops and then reset it. It's pretty easy even for beginners (at least at UAH) to watch the timer for a few minutes to make sure the print is fully developed and fixed. However, some uf us (me included) have got to talking to each other without realizing the paper has been in the developer for 5 minutes :D
     
  26. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I was making a few post cards last night, same problem. My gralab timer for an exposure of 4 seconds on two consecutive prints, resulted in one perfect, and one with shadows just a bit too dark. Hard to get perfect consistency with those short times without a nice timer.