Quote Originally Posted by Nicole McGrade
Hi everyone

To help me set up a darkroom (processing and printing) and before buying all the equipment, I'd love to hear your suggestions/experience as to what equipment works best for:

1) Ease of use
2) Speed
3) But most importantly: artistic ability!

I really appreciate your help and have learnt so much already through APUG! Big thanks to Sean and to everyone for their input.

Kind regards

Cheap, simple, quick & easy for roll film is a Paterson daylight tank & universal plastic reel(s). If using colour, temperature regulation is even more critical as it is run at a higher temperature, so then you are looking at maybe spending cash on a Jobo CPE-2 (you can do it with the Paterson, but you will need a water bath to keep the tank in during processing and some trial and error. The CPE-2 does it all for you - I use mine for B&W just because it's so easy (and because I also use 4x5")).

Speed is more a function of your darkroom setup. Using either the Jobo or Paterson tanks takes much the same time. If you are borrowing the bathroom for a couple of hours then that will obviously slow you down as you need to move your gear in and out, let people use it for it's primary purpose, opening the window to let the fumes out (you can help yourself here by using low-odour Stop and Fixer). If you have a purpose built room with running water, wet side with sink & a dry side, all the cupboards and shelves you need, effective ventilation, a door you can lock from the inside etc etc then things tend to go a lot faster. Using one of the Nova slot processors can save time as you can keep the chemicals in the tank between sessions: I've not used one but lots of people swear by them and the smaller surface area keeps the smell down too.

I prefer an enlarger with a colour head, even for B&W as it lets me dial in VC filtering for different papers, and its diffused light does not show up every tiny little scratch as a condenser head tends to do (although there are plenty of people who prefer condenser heads I hasten to add!).

Artistic ability I can't help you with (as any of the few people that have seen my prints will testify)... What you want I guess is maximum flexibility that allows you to express yourself. Flexibility comes at the cost of materials and equipment; but mostly experience. Once you have the basic setup, you are set to do 95% of whatever you can think of - all you need then is time.

Happy hunting... Cheers, Bob.