Contact Printing Machines : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Does anyone here use one of those old contact printing machines for LF contacts here--the kind with many bulbs in a box underneath, a diffuser and sheet of glass for the neg(s), and then the paper goes face down on that, and there is a platen to hold the whole thing down? I've used one long ago, but just for small format contact sheets, before I was using LF.

Do you feel you can get enough control over burning and dodging by switching on and off the lamps (compared to contact printing in the conventional way and dodging by hand), or are these devices really just suitable for proofs, and not for fine prints (without making lith masks and such)?

-- David Goldfarb (, February 07, 2002


I use one. I got one primarily because I was really fritzing my eyes with a bare bulb above the printing frame. These do make life a bit easier on that score. Switching off certain bulbs provides gross dodging possibilities. However, most of these printers come with a glass plate between the bulbs and the paper that lies on the top glass plate. On the middle glass plate, you can place dodging tools cut to any shape your heart desires. Also, if you like that kind of stuff, you can play fancy games such as utilizing paint (for example, to dodge with blue light and burn with green light for VC papers, or just dodge with a yellow dye to hold back the blue light with graded papers). I don't like applying paint on the glass, so I cleared a dozen or so sheets of lith film in a fixer, giving me sheets of plain film - I paint the dye mask on the film and life is kind of easy after that. Cheers, DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, February 07, 2002.

I have one too, although it only has 9 lamps...I have used a large Arkay contact printer years ago that had 25 some odd lamps, and would take long rolls of paper as well. I think Stouffer is about the only company that still makes contact printers, although these are really expensive, production lab equipment. The lamps are on rods actually, that you can vary the height on I believe....

Mine has 3 layers of glass as well as an opal type sheet for diffusion. It has a red bulb switched to the platen lock, so when the lid is open the safelight is on, when you shut the platen--the white lights switch on. It has masking blades as well...mine's an 8x10 model. I've used it with VC papers as well, I actually have some old roll-sheets of contrast filters scavenged off a 70's era contact printer...I've used one or two that had the filters on these reel type attachments....

I use it mostly for duping old negs 1:1, but have used it with Azo as well...I run it off a voltage stabilizer, and my exposures are like 10 seconds with Azo. Even with just the 9 lamps, you can get good control switching them on & off individually...I have used small cut-outs of tissue or frosted acetate on the middle stage below, as well as tacking wax-paper to the masking blades on top as well....

I learned some of this stuff from old-timers that I've met from when contact printers were the thing used in the production labs...and they still are in some places...if you can find an old Photolab index from the 50's or a Kodak lab manual of that vintage as well, you can see some of this technique explained.

-- DK Thompson (, February 07, 2002.

Thanks for the responses and keep them coming. I occasionally see these things available cheaply, and they seem like an interesting possibility. I may try one.

-- David Goldfarb (, February 08, 2002.

I've used one for 6 foot long Cirkut negs and the control you get is better than lights on top. Having said that I find them too slow to set up for one off jobs but great for production runs. I now print my Cirkut negs with a dichroic head over the top, much faster to set up, dodging and burning no problem once you get the hang of moving around a big neg, this is good for three or four prints but you can't beat a contact printer for speed when you're doing production runs.

-- Clayton Tume (, February 08, 2002.

yeah, you can find them dirt cheap used now because they're sorta like "white elephants" for used camera shops....mine was crammed under a bunch of junk in the back of a store...I paid about twenty bucks for it...

-- DK Thompson (, February 08, 2002.

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