Can someone give advice for purchasing a densitometer
for B&W use. I've looked through ebay and such, but what would
be a good model and make, which is not too expensive?
Edit: Hope this is a right category, maybe Darkroom equipment??
Some years ago, I bought a used Macbeth TD902 which is a transmission densitometer. It was initially quite fascinating just to look over film curves on combinations that I had been using and having some pleasant moments of discovery where I could interpret issues that I had struggled with and attach some meaningful numbers to the situation. I then realized that I should really have a way to interpret the "on-paper" results of what I was discovering on the film and subsequently bought an old Macbeth RD series for that. My darkroom timer/analyser has a densitometer module for reading projected negatives and has color channels. This has proven helpful as I've been using staining developers that function more realistically on the blue channel. For this duty, the ultimate solution is a unit with UV capabilities but I haven't been able to rationalize the relatively high cost of one these units.
What I'm leading up to in a long-winded manner is that if I were to start over on a densitometer purchase, I would get a combination unit (transmission/reflection) and would also look for a color capable unit. As I've tuned my processes, I've learned to trust my eyes more and rely on the machines less but this is partly from the validation that the machines provided as I worked toward these ends. I find I'm cranking up the machines when something seems a bit confusing or when trying something completely new or different but, in truth, they might run once in a 3 month period. My guess is that my experience is likely a common one for hobbyist darkroom folks. I think that most darkroom enthusiasts with a technical fascination would enjoy owning a densitometer and as they're floating around at quite affordable prices, it typically isn't too forbidding financially.
I have a Heiland TRD2, bought new some years ago, and the only criticism I would make of it is that I occasionally wish it had a longer arm. It's white-light only, which is theoretically limiting but less so in practice.
My sole advice apart from recommending the TRD2, however, is not to buy something too old, as the older they get, the less reliable they are and the more often they have to be calibrated. This will probably not be an issue, as most of the densitometers now swilling around are reasonably modern solid-state devices.
My own view of its usefulness is slightly different from Craig's, however. I bought it because of what I do for a living -- writing for the photographic press, as well as for my own website www.rogerandfrances.com -- and I really don't think it's done my photography any good at all. It confirms a lot of things I can see visually, and it allows me to construct film and paper curves, but so what? As a means of quantifying information for an article, it's useful, and lends an air of (sometimes spurious) authority. But taking pictures and printing them is a lot more use.
I have a Heiland TRDZ in fact a TRD2 with some extras to construct film and paper curves very easy. Very usefull to try out new and unknown new films and developer combinations which we are also selling through the internet.
Same advise: Buy it not to old due to the calibration problem. If you have a reference instrument which is not working well you are better off with no densitometer.
About the arm, you can make it longer with some options, same is valid for the adjustable apertures. (0,5mm - 3mm)
I went for years without a densitometer, but I always thought it would be fun & useful to own one, for those times when I am trying out a new film/developer combination.
Much more accurate for establishing correct exposure index & developing times than trying to eyeball the results.
Got lucky earlier this year & nabbed an Xrite 810 for $50.
It came from a mini lab that had closed down.
I was told they were around $4,500 new (Aussie dollars)
Even at $150 I would have still bought it.
Higher than that & I'm not sure as I won't be using it all the time.
So decide what it's worth to you & keep looking.
I'm very happy with mine, I only use it for B&W negs but it will also do colour & reflection.
It's already given me plenty of help.
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How about a homemade version.
While you are looking for a good deal, maybe you might want to give this a try. Once you calibrate this against known densities, it works great.
I take density readings in the UV mode with pyro negatives. By finding a DR in this way it makes determining the mixtures for Pt/Pd printing so much easier. My questions is.. Can this same technique be used to determine negative densities that would print well with silver. And what would the DR ( in UV mode) be for a good pyro negative for projection type printing? Naturally it would need to be a thinner negative than a negative used for contact printing with PT/PD. I'm guessing 1.05 DR? I'm sorry I don't mean to get off topic. Thanks, Robert
You may want to consider Analyzer Pro (RH design). It is not cheap, but it works really good as both analyzer and densitometer.
Originally Posted by RobertP
First, I am fairly certain that if you plan to determine negative densities as they will print in silver you will get a more accurate indicator by taking the reading with Blue mode rather than UV. Silver graded papers have their spectral sensitivity primarily in the Blue wavelengths at about 400nm to 450nm, whereas VC silver papers are sensitive in Blue as well as green.
It is reasonable to conclude that the indicated DR will vary a lot according to the exact paper used for the test and the method of enlargement, say condenser or diffuse light source. However, in recent testing myself I determined that the DR needed for Ilford Galerie FB Grade 2, using contact printiing, is about 1.40.
Thanks everybody for the replies. I'll try to find one.