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  1. #1

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    The ins and outs of used densitometers

    Hi,

    I wonder if some could comment about the ins and outs of buying a used densitometer please? I'd like to know whether they last a lifetime or whether they need parts regularly. I'd like to know whether the calibration bits and pieces are really needed and whether they are readily available (or worth their cost). It seems the XRite brand is very widespread and into other markets also. Are they the ones to go for? Are there any special gotchas involved in buying - are there any tests to run beforehand etc.

    I'd like to hear about any other issues you can think of too.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2

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    About 6 years ago, I picked up a good-condition Eseco Speedmaster TR-90C for $75 on eBay. I've been told that the TR-90's are the only ones that Eseco still supports. X-Rite made a lot of different models, but I don't know enough about any of them to recommend one over the other. X-Rite may be more available outside the US. If you just need B&W your choices expand greatly. If you're doing your own color, and want a color one, there are fewer choices. The TR-90 that I have can do transmissive (film) and reflective (prints), with both Status M (color neg film) and Status A (slides and prints) filters.

    The "calibration bits and pieces" are absolutely necessary, in one form or another. You can get suitable calibration references from Stouffer, as well. You can have them (for a price, of course) read the values (in color or B&W) of their strips, and you would then use those values as your calibration targets. Store them carefully, as they may shift with time, temperature, and environmental exposure.

    As for tests to try before you buy, bring along an ND filter or 2, and you can read the values of the filter (1 stop = 0.3 density, 2 stops = 0.6, etc.). You'll at least know you're "in the neighborhood", though the calibration might be off by a bit, depending on how long it's been unused. Color is harder, as you have no way of knowing whether the internal color filters have deteriorated unless you have a calibrated reference to compare to.

    Hope this helps a bit...

    --Greg

  3. #3
    Barry S's Avatar
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    It seems crazy to buy a new densitometer these days. I spent $30 on mine and the seller told me I was the only person that even called. When I tested it with a calibrated step wedge, it was very accurate. The earliest generation electronic densitometers had circuitry that was more prone to drifting, but if you buy something made in the last 25 years or so, it should be in good shape.

  4. #4
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    Watch for some brands that incorporate a small battery in the circuits to hold the settings when shut down. As they age the battery will go bad and calibrations won't hold. I solved mine by replacing the battery in my Xrite reflection densitometer, it took a pretty thorough disassembly to find and solder in the new cell.
    Gary Beasley

  5. #5
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Tobias units were US made and some parts are still available for the older models. New ones are still being made.
    I can't speak for the other brands, but the Tobias units are easier to repair than say a hand-held exposure meter or a rollfilm camera.

  6. #6
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I used to have a very old Macbeth densitometer that worked quite well until a capacitor blew up. I tossed it and have been thinking I should pick up one eventually, but one effect of owning a densitometer is that it helps you develop a better sense of what a good neg should look like, so it hasn't been a high priority.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  7. #7
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb View Post
    I used to have a very old Macbeth densitometer that worked quite well until a capacitor blew up. I tossed it and have been thinking I should pick up one eventually, but one effect of owning a densitometer is that it helps you develop a better sense of what a good neg should look like, so it hasn't been a high priority.
    I don't understand that one. Would this not be a reason to get one? Why the 'but'?
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  8. #8
    outwest's Avatar
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    I paid $10 for my Kodak Color Densitometer. No frills, just works.

  9. #9

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    Thanks guys,

    I thank you for the reference to Stouffer - I was wondering where to get them.

    The units also seem to last a while without needing parts. I was afraid that they'd need lamps or some such on a semi-regular basis to stay within tolerances, so it looks good on that front.

    Cheers,

  10. #10
    jeroldharter's Avatar
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    You can get Stouffer step wedges at the View Camera Store, and I believe at Freestyle. I have the 21 step 4x5 step wedge. The various types can be somewhat confusing.

    I picked up a used X-Rite 810 densitometer for ~$95. Make sure it comes with the instruction manual and the calibration materials. You would then use the Stouffer step wedge for calibrating film exposure and development.

    I recommend that you pick up a copy of Beyond the Zone System by Phil Davis before you get a densitometer. It is a very informative book that I review often.
    Jerold Harter MD

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