dark room equipment

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Thanks for the help and information on my selection of first camera and lens. I have a couple more questions. Can I get good results developing in trays till I can purchase a JOBO? Can the JOBO or an equivelent be bought used? Is the 45 MXT a condenser? Most of my reading leads me to believe that most darkroom techs are using a color enlarger. Can you get good results with out the added expense? If so, I have seen D2's available for very good prices. Are these good tools? They are not cold light heads. Is it best to have a cold light head in a condenser? Again thanks for your help in making these decisions.


-- tim kimbler (starman2@gte.net), January 15, 1998


All the famous landscape photographers earlier this centry got good results tray developing their negatives, so I don't see any reason you couldn't. It's just much easier in a Jobo or other rotary tube processor. And yes, Jobo are available used. Check out the classified ads at http://photo.net/photo/ and other places. I recently saw someone buy a Jobo CPA2 with a bunch of print and film drums for just $600. If I had been at that store 30 minutes earlier that would have been my processor.

Most black and white enlargers are condensors. You remove the condensor head and place the cold light in the empty space you just created. Takes about 30 seconds. The D2 is a very good enlarger. If you find a good one at a good price, go for it. Don't accept a used enlarger in anything less than excellent condition. You can add a cold light head any time for about $200 new or half that used.

And yes, for black and white work cold lights beat condensors every time. This has been debated elsewhere on this forum, but no one has ever named a good black and white printer who uses a condensor head. You can also get excellent results with dichroic color heads, but at a much higher entry price and higher maintenance.

-- Darron Spohn (sspohn@concentric.net), January 16, 1998.

You can do anything with the most basic of gear. Tupperware containers and shuffling the film by hand in the dark. An older enlarger used with good technique and negs processed to match its characteristics will give good results. If you work with your gear and use carefully you are assured of good results. Having said that, get the newest and best stuff you can. A lot of times it is not the cutting edge stuff, but the standard quality gear we have all been buying for years. Take a good look at what the best people in the business use and those you particularly admire use. Most of them did not start with the finest gear money can buy and many never buy that in later years as their results with the familiar is better in most respects than they can get by suddenly switching to the unfamiliar and recalibrating everything. If you do buy gear and are hankering to switch to something new, make sure you have a real reason to get it. Changing for the sake of change is normally counterproductive. Changing for a specific reason, such as 'this particular thing' will be better, easier, faster, lighter, whatever, will help you keep from becoming a gadget freak & wasting all your money on stuff that doesn't improve your results. A lot of shooters use tri-x still. "Old" technology film. But, it works. A lot use TMax or Delta-"new" technology film. For them, it works. So, guide your purchases with what you think will work & it is hard to go wrong. Once you know what does actually work for you from experience then you will know if trying something else will really result in improvements. You will also find yourself trying fewer things because it will be easier to determine that it isn't really any improvement at all for your style of working. And your style & comfort is what it is all about. If it works, do it. And no matter what someone else uses successfully, it might not work for you.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), January 17, 1998.

Uh, two exceptions to the "no great printers use condensers": Paul Caponigro uses a Durst condenser and Brett Weston used a variety of condensers--sometimes even a point source! (See article "The Quality of Light in the Dark" by Joe Englander in PhotoTechniques a couple of years ago.) But I won't argue with the superiority for most negs of diffused light (although I prefer tungsten diffused to flourescent cold light for VC paper; John Sexton has written about this distinction somewhere). The ideal, I've found, is to have both kinds of enlarger heads availabe for different negs; if you can only afford one, I agree that diffused, if not cold, is the best option.

-- Bill Daily (WRDaily@aol.com), March 30, 1998.

You are confused about equipment. Knowing the enlarge model does not tell you what type of light source it has. You can put a dichroic, condenser, or cold light on almost any enlarger chassis. You can't use a cold light with a condenser. You use one or the other. Yes, you can get exellent results with and type of light source. But, if you are printing black and white, I would recommend either a cold light or a dichroic head. If you aren't planning on printing color, there is certainly no necessity of buying a color head. One thing to consider though, is what type of papers you will be using. VC or graded. It's best that your light source is optimized for the paper you will be using most often. For example, if you are using an Aristo cold light with VC papers, you should get the V54 tube.

-- Tom Johnston (tajohnston@lucent.com), November 24, 1998.

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