What is the aversion to using a proper safelight?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by David Brown, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I just read a thread on another photo forum from a guy that went to all the trouble to build a darkroom from scratch, do all the electrical and plumbing, and go so far as to custom wire duplex light fixtures for both white light and safelights. He then bought 20 cent red light bulbs rather than actual safelight bulbs and discovered they were not, in fact, safe.

    There have been numerous threads on this forum over the years with similar things. People will spend money on cameras, film, paper, chemistry, tanks, trays and enlargers, and then want the best lenses, but won't buy a proper safelight. Seriously, they aren't rare. What is the deal?

    There is also the LED school. I understand and appreciate the fact the the right LEDs will work, but I perceive that many folks end up spending as much on obtaining and testing the correct LEDs as they would have on just getting a real safelight. Safelights can be had used, just like the enlargers, lenses, tanks, trays, etc.

    Seriously, I don't understand. With all the money and time investment in getting everything one needs to have a darkroom, what is the deal with saving $20 and possibly fogging prints? :confused:

    Oh, and don't get me started on safelight testing - whole 'nother thread ...
     
  2. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    My DIY safelight consisting of six 635nm red LEDs reinforced with a single layer of Rubylith to suppress tiny slivers of non-red emission spikes, is hideously safe, as well as quite bright. Pre-flashed to just below threshold, Ilford MGIV FB & RC tested absolutely safe—to both the eye and a reflection densitometer—out to a 60 full minutes, at which time the test was voluntarily terminated as being pointless beyond that.

    And the LEDs were far, far less expensive than a traditional safelight. And are rated for 50,000 or so hours of continuous use. That's 10,000 5-hour darkroom sessions.

    What's not to like?

    Ken
     
  3. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I actually have an aversion to safe lights in general.

    Since I started color printing I haven't used any lights.
     
  5. voceumana

    voceumana Member

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    I got a Thomas Sodium Vapor duplex "safelight" and discovered it was too much light for my darkroom. Then I found a used Aristo Red safelight for very little money and love it. It uses a discharge tube and produces mono-chromatic red light--lots of truly safe light. Only available used, now.

    I don't understand the deal to save a little money, but if you looked at Kodak safelight fixtures (when they were last available new) and filters, they are extremely expensive. A 5-1/2 inch round OC filter is now $54 at B&H.
     
  6. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    LEDs are safer than incandescent safelights because there is no filter to fade or have imperfect performance, not to mention they're much cheaper. Modern safelights are LED-based, so why should I pay for one that's been warehoused by an expensive photo distributor with huge markups instead of just buying a couple of red LEDs at the right wavelength?

    Using red party bulbs is just stupid though I agree.
     
  7. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    I've had a Thomas Duplex Sodium Vapor safelight for many years. It works great in my darkroom for graded and VC B&W paper. I dread the day I will need to buy a new bulb for it, as they are quite expensive. When that day comes, I may just retire it and go the LED route.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    "Proper" safelights make much more sense when one has a reliable local source for things like safelight filters and safelight bulbs.

    My safelights have to be set up and taken down for each printing session. For me, the inexpensive red LED bulbs in clamp on gooseneck lamps work really well.
     
  9. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    Gosh, I use four antique Kodak safelights with 15 W bulbs in my darkroom and they are fine. I test things maybe once a year, and find no problems. If I were to buy new, I probably would go for the LED's too, but the old ones were bought for practically nothing, and 15 W bulbs last nearly forever too.
    In any case, I agree with David Brown. Why risk fogging and other problems after you've spent all that money and time to get good negatives. Don't make sense.
     
  10. nexus757

    nexus757 Member

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    The classic Kodak "bullet" safelights are a dime a dozen on ebay and there are 5.5" round filters for just about any purpose. Use the amber OC filter for most b/w enlarging papers; the red 1A for ortho litho films; and the dark green #3 (sparingly) for handling slow panchromatic materials. The filters swap out in seconds and they take a standard inexpensive 15w bulb. Maybe too small for a commercial darkroom but perfect for home darkrooms.
     
  11. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    HAHHAHAHAHA.....man--it's like there's this mindset of people that are smarter than everyone else and don't want to spend good money on proper equipment because they feel they're being ripped off when they can get the same thing from the dimestore. Same people that are p proud of shooting xray film with their expensive equipment...they use the justification that they don't have money to shoot real film...so they are "trapped" into using xray---then they complain about getting scratches and bad images....

    it's like they all want to be inventor/mcgeyver's and ALL hipsters have to do it "on the cheap" because it shows you're not stupid and you're nobody's fool...

    they're all imbeciles who end up either getting something on the cheap that works so they can brag about it and show off their genius or they get somethig that don't work and ask tons of question on the boards to fix the problem "on the cheap"...

    anybody who can't afford the proper equipment should not have photography as a hobby--it just doesn't work.

    If you count your own time, you're way ahead getting the proper stuff--you can experiment along the way and find cheaper alternatives, but why waste your time from the get go with something iffy--film photography, to the beginners, is a crap shoot anyways.

    yeah--not to say I wasn't guilty of that myself at one time--I was--we all are--that's why I understand the mentality so well--but the smarter ones see that their time is worth more than any money and act accordingly....the others...continue....and continue....and brag with the successes--that's what it's all about for them..the recognition...I seriously doubt without these message boards to post brags that any of these "on the cheap" types would even be doing photography.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Hmm, "imbeciles"..????

    After 40+ years of using, designing, outfitting, adapting and modifying darkrooms:

    I use and recommend "proper" equipment when it is available, appropriately priced and suited to the circumstances.

    And I adapt other products, or help others do the same, when it makes more sense.

    And I always weigh the value of the time involved before I decide what to do.

    Do you suggest that I change my approach?
     
  13. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    It is what it is, whether you choose to recognize it as such, or not...

    :cool:

    Ken
     
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  15. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I've used a Thomas Duplex safelight for over 20 years, with excellent results. Darkroom is for black & white only.

    It's unbelievably bright. I can read a bottle label anywhere in the room, even in my shadow.

    - Leigh
     
  16. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I have had the same thoughts. I have plenty of 'proper' incandescent safelights with Kodak filters in my darkroom, and they were very inexpensive. However, I saw this ad for a Kodak "Bullet" style safelight in the UK for almost 200 pounds. So, maybe not everyone lives in a location where high quality darkroom equipment is essentially free for the taking.
     
  17. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    I don't like safelights that are too bright. The Thomas safelights fit into that category for me, although I know they are adjustable and they are great for large spaces. The best safelight I have ever used is now a regular overhead fixture wrapped in rubylith. It is totally safe, and just exactly the right brightness to read by, evaluate the projected image in the easel and even bright enough to evaluate the print in the developer.

    I have used just about every safelight imaginable at this point. My old favorite was a large bulb I bought at Calumet years ago called a "Fireball". I used LEDs for a while as well as a regular "blood red" gel over a clamp fixture before that. Every time I have changed darkrooms over the years there were new challenges. A safelight to me only needs to be safe regardless of what it is. It just so happens that my current safelight only cost $12. I also have rubylith over a hole in the cover of the window in the darkroom. It is nice to be able to see outside or just to have some natural light in the daytime so I don't feel like a vampire! Try that with your fancy safelight!

    Whatever works, use it.

    By the way, I had a couple of those old Kodak silver bullet safelights. I tried to sell them a while back and no one wanted them so I turned one in to a lamp! Makes a great lamp....
     
  18. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I really don't agree with this.... Photography is my hobby. For it is a hobby, I try all kinds of weird things just because I can and it's fun. Sometimes having a proper equipment is the only way. A lot of times, not. If it takes twice the time necessary, so what - as long as I'm having fun or learning. It's a hobby. It's not an efficiency constrained money making venture.

    For my job, my employer gets me the proper equipment (sometimes very expensive) that gets the job done most efficiently. I take care of the business and go to the next. It is not a time to try-this-or-that and waste time.

    I dunno... I like experimenting. If someone wants to do that, I'd encourage it.
     
  19. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    The cheapest thing in a darkroom is the photographer?
     
  20. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    Hey, great idea. They are well-built and have a classy 50's retro charm. But the only one I have is mounted over my darkroom sink in my sheet film developing area with a Kodak #3 dark green filter in it. I use it for DBI. It's actuated by a foot switch so I can illuminate it briefly towards the end of my development time to evaluate highlights. The foot switch is a necessity, since my nitrile gloved hands will be dripping developer.

    I've actually got three safelights in my darkroom. I have the Kodak bullet with the #3 filter for DBI. It's positioned at the left end of my sink, above and to the left of where my sheet film developing trays sit. I've got a 5x7 Premier safelight with OC filter to the far right of my sink. It's very dim and very safe, and I use it when I don't need much light, such as when batch processing a lot of prints. And I have a Thomas Duplex Sodium Vapor safelight for use when I'm working with the enlarger or contact printing, and I need a bit more light to see what I'm doing.

    I guess if I were setting up a new darkroom and didn't already have good equipment, I'd look at using LEDs as another option. But I don't really want to have to build my own if I can avoid it. Maybe Ken will start making and selling them.
     
  21. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    +1

    I can't speak for anyone else. I have an embarrassment of "proper" safelights. I'm using a Patterson OC, and I have four or five spare bulbs in a drawer. They're available at Home Depot anyway, just regular 7.5W bulbs that look like old Christmas tree lights except for being clear. I have a Jobo Maxilux LED. I'm using those. I also have a Duka 50 sodium vapor that I am not using because I want to save the tube life for printing color as I know from past use for such that, used carefully, it's safe for RA4. I also have a Kodak safelight I got from someone giving away a load of darkroom stuff. Not sure of the model but it uses relatively huge rectangular filters (8x10 or so?) which I also have.

    But I ordered some LEDs. I figure they can probably be brighter and still be safe. I will test, as I always do, for safety, but I want the most light I can get consistent with being safe.

    I also use an Orion (an amateur astronomy equipment supplier) red LED flashlight, marketed for and originally purchase for night vision use with star charts and astronomy equipment, for a darkroom flashlight. It works great. I wouldn't shine it at full brightness directly on paper, but that's not what it's for. It's great for looking for dropped items, reading print without turning the lights on etc.
     
  22. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    20062111121461577.jpg

    I bought an Ilford safelight for about $20 :smile:
     
  23. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Some of us are smart enough to make the most efficient and economical use of whatever is available, and to post information here for other's elucidation.
     
  24. scheimfluger_77

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    So where does one go to find theses LED's?

     
  25. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    This post of mine from 20 months ago has a link to an online source for the same type of OptiLED red LEDs I used. Interesting that the spec sheet shown claims only 35,000 hours. That's different from the 50,000 I saw from a previous online source. Oh well, 7,000 5-hour darkroom sessions will just have to do...

    I chose these based on wavelength (also not listed by this vendor) and the fact they used a standard socket base, thus making them very flexible to place. I think they would work great in the Kodak bullet-style lamps if an existing filter was reworked to hold a circle of Rubylith.

    These guys are pretty bright even when used individually. Six of them in a row sitting on top of my ceiling-mounted Duplex can light up my 9x11-foot space very nicely.

    [Edit: After looking around a bit just now I think the bulbs referenced in the above link may have been discontinued and replaced by these even more powerful (2-watt vs 0.5-watt) Festival H13-VF versions. This link also provides a chart showing wavelengths. Interesting that the amber LEDs are rated at about the same wavelength as the Duplex sodium doublet (~589.29 nm, albeit nowhere near as tight a spread) making them possible replacements for the Kodak OC safelights, if filtered with a sheet of Amberlith.]

    Ken
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 6, 2012
  26. scheimfluger_77

    scheimfluger_77 Subscriber

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    Thanks Ken. I may have seen some of these at Lowe's yesterday. That internal structure looks real familiar, I'll have to investigate some more. One has to wonder if the blue and green ones could be adapted as a light source for a VC enlarger head.

    Steve