how necessary is a timer?
Is a time for the enlarger a real necessity or is it something that is really nice to have?
Can you time the exposure with a stop watch or a timer with a bell?
It is very nice to have a timer, but you can just count, helps to have a metronome or something that beeps once a second.
You can get by without one but the difficulty when trying to make "matching" exposures is a real pain! There are some who use a metronome and count the exposure time in seconds or beats (Ansel Adams used this approach) but I could never get that comfortable with it - other than for burning and dodging. Bottom line - for repeatability they are worth the money.
There are people who don't use them, but 10.5 seconds and 11 seconds are very different exposures. Buy a timer.
Many photographers simply count.... 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, or elephants or whatever. Many use a metronome. But many more print to 1/10 second and use somewhat sophisticated digital timers. There are on the market very sophisticated timers that alow you to print in fractions of an f-Stop.
The question becomes how precise in your printing do you want to be?
I use two timers, one for printing to 1/10 second and a large sweep hand for processing to the 1/2 minute.
"Print with #3.5 and burn with #1.5." B.J. Confucius
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Personally I grew up listening to a miniature grandfather clock tick away in my mother's kitchen so I can count off seconds like a champ. But for more or less identical printing results I am going to use a timer.
"Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti
If you're prepared to use a dimmer bulb or smaller apertures, using a metronome or even a clock with a second hand is practical. One or two seconds' error on a 60-second exposure isn't going to result in a noticeable difference in results.
However, I find that with some of the paper I use, at smaller amounts of enlargement it's not impossible to have a four- or five-second exposure at f/8. I don't want to stop down further than that because it creates diffraction, which reduces sharpness, so I use an electronic timer.
So... you can do it. If you need to buy time to be able to get a proper timer, you can certainly work around it. But eventually you'll want a proper timer.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
Used darkroom stuff like this can be bought for some bucks on Ebay.
I use a timer and don´t want to miss it. It makes things much easier.
Mine is a very simple one which goes from 1 to 60sec in 1sec steps.
If you use the watch, metronome or counting method you have to concentrate
yourself too much and this is often annyoing. Darkroom work should be relaxed ;-)
To state the obvious, it's certainly a convenience. How important it is depends on how long your printing exposures typically are. For example, if they're 25-30 seconds, the "slop" from manual control is likely to be small relative to the overall exposure time and having a timer is not so important. If they're 5-10 seconds, it's very difficult to be precise enough without a timer.
If you tend to make small prints on "fast" enlarging papers - for example, prints up to 8x10 on Ilford MGIVFB or MGRC Deluxe - you'll generally be better off with a timer.
The first year I print I just counted out seconds. Was ok. I did a couple of postcard exchanges that way, around 50 cards at a time, and exposure was relatively well matched.
Then, I moved to the college's darkroom and their timers. Much easier. It's also nice not to crouch over the bath tub.
I just recently got an StopClock Pro and it's pretty cool. So I'd say, if you have the money, get a decent timer.