What is the aversion to using a proper safelight?
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?
Oh, and don't get me started on safelight testing - whole 'nother thread ...
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?
"There is very limited audience for the arty stuff, and it is largely comprised of other arty types, most of whom have no money to spend because no one is buying their stuff either. More people bring their emotions to an image than bring their intellect. The former are the folks who have checkbooks because they are engineers, accountants, and bankers—and generally they are engineers, accountants and bankers because they are not artists."
— Amanda Tomlin, Looking Glass Magazine, 2014
I actually have an aversion to safe lights in general.
Since I started color printing I haven't used any lights.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
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.
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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.
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.
"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.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
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.
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.