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  1. #1
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Roll film contact printing on the cheap?

    I was scouting around that other site for darkroom material, and while looking for developing tanks, I saw a thing called a contact printer. Looks like a little light box in which to put paper and the negs in. I suppose some people here have had some experience with those things, because I was wondering if it was worth finding one to make my own contact proof sheets at home. I am shooting only rollfilm for now (135 & 120), I am not even up to the point of having a tank and soup ready, but I like some planning.

    Is it worth investing in this? I don't need extra high quality, I just want positives of my shots that I could develop in the bathroom for quick examination, and I can't afford/don't have the space for an enlarger and a real darkroom. I read somewhere that Edward Weston did his contacts prints with a glass plate and a lightbulb, so how much does one really need for my purpose?

  2. #2
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    Contact printing machines are pretty much a novelty these days unless you want to do contact prints in high volume. The light source is probably pretty powerful becuase they were meant for rapid exposing of very slow contact printing papers like Azo. A single light bulb is more verstile and inexpensive.
    Semper Fi & God Bless America
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  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Contact printers can be handy, but you really don't need one. You could just use a glass plate and a light bulb for what you're doing.

    Those proofers usually have an array of bulbs that can be switched on and off individually, so that you can have some rough control over exposure, and some have separate layers for masks which can be made out of paper or ND lighting gel material, so that you can even burn and dodge. They are handy for doing things like producing sets of 100 contact prints from a large format repro neg, as for a performer's head shot.

    In any case, the proofer still needs to be used in the darkroom under safelight.
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  4. #4

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    You can do contact prints at home, with really just a plate of glass, and a light bulb, and you should really have a timer...but a timer is not totally needed.

    Since you cannot use finter really, you should be using GRADED paper. Also, you want to be careful that the light is even light. If you use a household light bulb, usually the light is uneven.

    Its really simple! Soon you will be shooting large format so contact printing is ALL you do! Its really nice to not have to deal with an enlarger.

    Ryan McIntosh

  5. #5
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    The contact printers were so cheap, but I think I will refrain for the purpose of not having to suffer the quirks of old equipment.

    What would the one-bulb setup look like? Just a dangling bulb from a wire above the glass plate? Any thoughts on distance/light power/bulb type ?

  6. #6
    kwmullet's Avatar
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    You might also want to cruise over to michaelandpaula.com to the azo forum and see what's in the archives over there as well as asking the same question.

    Lots of folks, even with high-falootin' multiple-enlarger big-bucks darkrooms still do their contact sheets with not much more than a lightbulb suspended over a sheet of glass. Frequently, they use contact printing frames, to ensure that the negs are pressed more tightly against the paper.

    Shop around your local hardware or dollar store and look for one of those clamp-on silver reflectors with a bulb socket in the middle -- the ten or twelve inch reflectors are the ones I"m thinking about.

    Mine has raised rings around the inside. I've always thought I'd get smoother lighting if I got one without the rings, but I never saw any ill effects from them. To further ensure smooth lighting, you should probably find one of those bulbs where the end is silvered so all the light goes up against the reflector. I think the kind I got was an "R40".

    Plug the reflector in, screw a hook into your ceiling (into a joist, or use an expansion bolt or molly screw... whatever's necessary), and either hang the reflector right off the hook or off a string hanging from the hook so you have smooth, even coverage over a level, flat surface where your contact printing frame or glass will go.

    I think you'll eventually want to get some Azo. If you can afford some right off the bat, give it a try. If not, get a low-wattage bulb so your exposure times will be as long as possible with fast enlarging papers.

    Metronomes work just fine as timers. Alternately, you could use your wris****ch, since you'll be timing while the light is on.

    GEt a big, thick, opaque piece of cardboard and cover your paper when you first turn on the light, then pull it off to one side, time your exposure, and replace the cardboard over the opposite side. This way, you've got more predictable exposures.

    In the beginning, you could probably plug and unplug the lamp to turn it on and off, but you would probably be well-advised to get one of those extension cords with a switch on it (US$5 or so?) so you can switch the light on and off without knocking it around or messing with the outlet. I got a heavy-duty inline electrical switch and installed it just south of the plug on the electrical cord for the reflector lamp.

    ...some thoughts off the top of my head. hope they're helpful.

    -KwM-

  7. #7
    c6h6o3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhv
    What would the one-bulb setup look like? Just a dangling bulb from a wire above the glass plate? Any thoughts on distance/light power/bulb type ?
    This topic has been flogged to the point of putrefaction both here and on the Azo forum. A search in either place on "lamp", "bulb" or "light source" should quickly exhume the unfortunate equine's rotting carcass.

  8. #8
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c6h6o3
    This topic has been flogged to the point of putrefaction both here and on the Azo forum. A search in either place on "lamp", "bulb" or "light source" should quickly exhume the unfortunate equine's rotting carcass.
    1,3,5-Trihydroxy-benzene, I appreciate your detailed recommendation and will put on my rubber gloves to exhume the bacterial details of such an issue.

  9. #9

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    once upon a time, to save getting my enlarger out a cupboard and setting it up I used to do contact sheets using the bathrooms room light... I'd replace the bare 100W globe in the ceiling fixture with a 40W (which was still too much), load my negs into a contact proofing frame and sit it on the floor under the light. Flick the switch on and off (was about 2secs which I timed by counting 1 alligator... 2 alligator...) and develop! A seperate bulb in a simple holder is probably a better idea.

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Contact Printer - and my Dad

    My father started my darkroom experience with a contact printer. He had the technicians at work (he worked for Canadian Kodak for 36 years) refurbish an old Kodak 616 folding camera, and we shot beautiful large black and white negatives. Then we tray developed them.

    To make the prints, we used Kodak contact printing paper (it wasn't Azo, but I can't remember what it was) and a then new contact printer to create contact prints, which we developed in a temporarily converted bathroom, one of the most crowded darkrooms I ever worked in.

    The contact printer was the size of a toaster, turned on its side.

    It had a frosted glass surface, of about 5" x 7" (I think). The negatives were held on top of the frosted glass, by the edge, using built in clips. The light was built in (it was probably an enlarger bulb) and was inside, under the frosted glass. The paper was placed on top of the negatives and the lid was closed, which pressed the paper into contact with the emulsion. Latching the lid turned on the light. Releasing the latch turned it off. We had an old electric clock in the bathroom, with a second hand, which served as a timer.

    The prints were then processed in 5"x7" trays (probably in Dektol).

    I was 11 - and this was almost 40 years ago. I've always been grateful to my Dad for introducing me to the world of photography, and for continuing to share his enjoyment of it with me. He doesn't do much photography any more (he is in his 80s, and his sight isn't what it used to be), and all my darkroom equipment has been in storage for longer than I'd like, but we still like to talk photography.



 

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