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Dark Room - opinion wanted

River99

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I hope this is the right place to post this.
I don't know much about developing film, but I wanted to buy something for my boyfriend's darkroom as a birthday present.
I could use some advice.
When googling for ideas, I wasn't sure what was so basic that he'd already own it, and what would actually be wanted. For example a film squeegee, I don't think he owns one but are they actually useful?
 

Southern Gent

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Boy, a lot different after 40 yrs of marriage. DW usually tells me to go buy myself something. :grin: Might help if you gave a budget for the gift
 

Ozzie_Traveller

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G'day R99

Firstly - Welcome !! ~ as your first post to the site, you have started out in the right direction :)

From many years of darkroom "occupation" there are many things that can be useful and many things that are a bit of a waste :(

Q- presuming he already have a developing tank - does he have pencil-shaped thermometers to check temperatures inside the developing tank & chemical bottles? - does he have film drying clips (that attach to the shower rail, and =only= to be used in a very air-quiet room with no dust coming through the window?

Your mention of a film squeegee is a good one - but if / when he gets one, tell him (gently) that it needs to be used carefully ~ if he squeezes too hard he will damage the soft emulsion and put tram-line scratches into the film :(

Q- does he have an enlarger for printing images? -does he have a focus-scope to help exact focus for those enlargements? ... and the list could continue

Hope this helps
Phil
 

River99

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Boy, a lot different after 40 yrs of marriage. DW usually tells me to go buy myself something. :grin: Might help if you gave a budget for the gift
I haven't tied him down yet so still got to pick out the gift lol. Not sure on a budget yet, as long as it looks thoughtful ish and isn't too pricey.

G'day R99

Firstly - Welcome !! ~ as your first post to the site, you have started out in the right direction :)

From many years of darkroom "occupation" there are many things that can be useful and many things that are a bit of a waste :(

Q- presuming he already have a developing tank - does he have pencil-shaped thermometers to check temperatures inside the developing tank & chemical bottles? - does he have film drying clips (that attach to the shower rail, and =only= to be used in a very air-quiet room with no dust coming through the window?

Your mention of a film squeegee is a good one - but if / when he gets one, tell him (gently) that it needs to be used carefully ~ if he squeezes too hard he will damage the soft emulsion and put tram-line scratches into the film :(

Q- does he have an enlarger for printing images? -does he have a focus-scope to help exact focus for those enlargements? ... and the list could continue

Hope this helps
Phil
Hello :)
I think so if a developing tank is the basics. I think he has thermometers, definitely has chemical stuff. He always has film hanging up so think so.

I did wonder if squeegee caused scratches, is it worth using with the possible risk? I mostly liked that idea due to being pretty sure he doesn't own one.

Yes I think he has an enlarger. No idea what a focus scope is.

He's extremely camera and developing nerdy, I feel very out of my depths.

Thank you for your advice
 

Southern Gent

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Just throwing out some things. Graduated beakers come in various sizes, always handy for mixing chemicals. A universal darkroom timer. Amber storage bottles for mixed chemicals. Or maybe a contact print frame?
 

BrianS

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I did a lot of Darkroom work in High School and college (the 1970s, add echo 70s, 70s, ...), had a Paterson Exposure meter similar to the one above- they pop up on Ebay. Saved me a lot of guesswork with making enlargements, paper was expensive for a teen ager.

Another one- from a seller in the UK.

 

River99

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I did a lot of Darkroom work in High School and college (the 1970s, add echo 70s, 70s, ...), had a Paterson Exposure meter similar to the one above- they pop up on Ebay. Saved me a lot of guesswork with making enlargements, paper was expensive for a teen ager.

Another one- from a seller in the UK.

You said they were to do w enlargement, if he has an enlarger already will that still be useful?

Just throwing out some things. Graduated beakers come in various sizes, always handy for mixing chemicals. A universal darkroom timer. Amber storage bottles for mixed chemicals. Or maybe a contact print frame?
I don't think he has a timer, I think he might use his phone, can you use phone's in darkrooms tho cuz maybe he has a timer not mentioned. Sometimes he uses water bottles for chemicals so that's a good idea.
What is a contact print frame.

Thank you for the ideas.

Hi, I managed to get him to ramble about it on call today without making him suspicious. My findings is he owns an enlarger but could use a new one and his other enlarger is broken which was a leica one; he doesn't have a red light but just a desk lamp and room light; he has a developing tank and a machine; he also mentioned photo paper.

As someone who will buy the wrong thing lol, what should I look for when looking for a red light or photo paper, and pls tell me there is only one type of leica enlarger.

He eventually wants to turn his dark room into a proper developing lab, what items would he need to get it to a higher standard/

Thank you for all the responses so far!
 

BrianS

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You said they were to do w enlargement, if he has an enlarger already will that still be useful?
Yes- you use this device with the enlarger. You set this meter in place of the print paper, and take a reading. You then time the enlarger to the setting indicated by the exposure meter. Think of it like a hand-held light meter for a camera that does not do everything automatically. Take a reading of the light, set the exposure to that indicated by the meter. This saves wasting paper from trial and error.

BUT- A mechanical timer and SafeLight would be more useful at this point. He is just getting started. I bought the meter when i was 17, had been developing film since I was 14.
Your boyfriend is very lucky.

Just a Random Ebay Example-


A simple mechanical timer- what I used.

And the electric type-

 
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Southern Gent

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I don't think he has a timer, I think he might use his phone, can you use phone's in darkrooms tho cuz maybe he has a timer not mentioned. Sometimes he uses water bottles for chemicals so that's a good idea.
What is a contact print frame.

Thank you for the ideas.
Dark room timer can provide multiple functions with outlets to turn on and off other things like enlarger.
 

River99

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Yes- you use this device with the enlarger. You set this meter in place of the print paper, and take a reading. You then time the enlarger to the setting indicated by the exposure meter. Think of it like a hand-held light meter for a camera that does not do everything automatically. Take a reading of the light, set the exposure to that indicated by the meter. This saves wasting paper from trial and error.

BUT- A mechanical timer and SafeLight would be more useful at this point. He is just getting started. I bought the meter when i was 17, had been developing film since I was 14.
Your boyfriend is very lucky.

Just a Random Ebay Example-


A simple mechanical timer- what I used.

And the electric type-

That sounds useful, I'll try and see if he doesn't have one already.

He's not a beginning, he's been developing for years but only recently moved back home which is why he's doing up his shed as a dark room.

I'll look at both, thank you for the suggestion!

His birthday is in July so I still have a bit of time to think this through.
 

Andy 0

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If you want some amber bottles, don't worry about paying crazy money from a photographic supplier, just ask your friendly local pharmacy for some 500ml bottles, I usually pay 50p each for them.

I used to work in a pharmacy and they're used for dispensing liquid medicines from large containers, they come from the medicines wholesaler and they cost a few pence a bottle to them. I don't think the chains will sell them, but an independent pharmacy will be glad to make a few quid on the sale. Or see if they will order you in a whole-sale box of six for a few pounds.

You can never have enough brown glass bottles! Just tell them they're for photographic chemicals if they ask, but there's no reason they can't see you bottles OTC, as they're just that... Glass bottles.

Probably not worth "putting your Boots on" to go and get some if you get my drift though, I know they refuse to sell them.
 

BrianS

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High Quality enlarging lenses such as the "El Nikkor 50mm F2.8" used to be very expensive, now are so cheap that I've been buying them just to get the lens cap and "bubble" (plastic storage case) that they came in.

Another "random Ebay Example" so you can see the item:


If your boyfriend has a good lens like an El Nikkor or Schneider Componon, he will not need a new lens. These lenses used to be $150 and more, where the common lenses were more like $20. I had the latter when doing this years ago. If he has the "common" lenses- this would be an upgrade, meaning sharper 8x10 and bigger enlargements.
 

River99

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I've just been paid, so going to buy him something now.
I really appreciate all of the suggestions on this post, I'm going to read back through them now before deciding.

The film squeege would have been a bad idea on my part because he has a hanging film dryer that I completely forgot he owned!
I want to get him a red light but any suggestions on good ones would be much appreciated or which websites to use. At least it sounds less technical so I shouldn't be able to go too wrong with it.
Like I bought him film the other day in medium format which is his favourite type... Then he tells me he sold all his medium format cameras to make money for rent when he was at uni... XD
 

River99

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Looking at red safelights, is it better to get a dome lamp or a bulb for a current lamp?

Looking online do the bulbs have to be 15 watts?
 

BrianS

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I just checked my Safelight: it uses a 6watt clear bulb, and is behind a plastic filter, maybe 4in x 6in. And after 45 years, it still works.

15w is on the high end, I would go for 7.5w. I suspect he is not working in a big room.

Too bad about his medium format gear. When I was his age, I ate peanut butter for a month rather than sell gear for university expenses. I still have my Nikon F2a that I bought while in school. It was new, now we are both old- but it is in mint condition.
 

River99

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I just checked my Safelight: it uses a 6watt clear bulb, and is behind a plastic filter, maybe 4in x 6in. And after 45 years, it still works.

15w is on the high end, I would go for 7.5w. I suspect he is not working in a big room.

Too bad about his medium format gear. When I was his age, I ate peanut butter for a month rather than sell gear for university expenses. I still have my Nikon F2a that I bought while in school. It was new, now we are both old- but it is in mint condition.
Ah okay, 7.5 watt thanks!

For most of uni, he practically didn't eat because had no money, it was quite worrying lol.
 

BrianS

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I understand that- I was on the PYO program for college. Pay Your Own, worked 3 jobs during part of it. But no debt on graduation.
 

River99

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I have 40 pounds left over from my budget and I've seen several enlarger lenses in my price range. I know he shoots 35mm which means lens between 40-60 I think. But he'd probably already own one as he uses his enlarger, but he has mentioned needing some. Is it useful to have different types or is he wanting different sizes for different sized film?
 

BrianS

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The lens on the enlarger must be matched to the size of the negative. Typically you use a focal length for the lens that is the same as the "Normal Lens".

You need a 50mm lens on the enlarger to cover a 35mm negative.

A 75mm lens is used to cover Medium format 2.25"x2.25".

A 150mm lens will cover large format.

You stated before that he sold the medium format equipment. He can use a 75mm lens for 35mm negatives, but- he will not be able to make as big of an enlargement. He cannot use a 50mm lens for his medium format negatives: the edges will be cut off. SO- your job is to find out what focal length lens he owns, and what sized negatives he is shooting.

Prices on good 50mm and 75mm enlarging lenses are way down. A Nikkor 50mm F2.8 is well within your budget.
 
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River99

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The lens on the enlarger must be matched to the size of the negative. Typically you use a focal length for the lens that is the same as the "Normal Lens".

You need a 50mm lens on the enlarger to cover a 35mm negative.

A 75mm lens is used to cover Medium format 2.25"x2.25".

A 150mm lens will cover large format.

You stated before that he sold the medium format equipment. He can use a 75mm lens for 35mm negatives, but- he will not be able to make as big of an enlargement. He cannot use a 50mm lens for his medium format negatives: the edges will be cut off. SO- your job is to find out what focal length lens he owns, and what sized negatives he is shooting.

Prices on good 50mm and 75mm enlarging lenses are way down. A Nikkor 50mm F2.8 is well within your budget.
You have been so helpful with your replies!
So, once I find out which focal lens he owns, how will I know which one to buy?
Would his negatives be 35mm if that's all he can shoot?
He is developing/scanning other people's negatives, so would a different size lens be useful for that?
Sorry all the questions, quite out of my depth here
 

BrianS

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I am very happy that your boyfriend is into classic photography, and happy to help. He is very lucky.

Find out which focal length lens he currently owns, and try to find out who made it. Report back the Name/Company, focal length, and "F-Stop".
SO, a Nikkor 50mm F2.8 or Schneider Componon 50mm F3.5 are high end, "Spiratone 50mm F3.5", lower end. Names and numbers like that.

Then- try to find out what sized negatives he enlarges, or at least the film size that he uses and that he enlarges for other people. Most likely it is 35mm negatives and 120 film. That means he needs a 50mm lens and a 75mm lens.
 
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