View Full Version : Before I drain the bank acct...
As an introduction - I am a complete novice when I comes to film developing - however I do have a PhD in chemistry so I'm thinking I can figure this out (and enjoy myself).
Anyway - the goal is to setup a B&W darkroom in my basement - easy to blackout and I've got both running hot/cold water and a drain.
-I'd love a reality check about how much money I will sink into a basic setup (no bells/whistles) that will allow me to develop film and do prints up to 8x10 - nothing exact required here - just a ballbark figure.
-Likewise how do people find the cost of development and printing (ignoring the initial investment) relative to taking the film to the local photolab?
-Finally, I'd appreciate a few recommendations on books which are useful references when setting up a darkroom.
Many thanks! Oh - and feel free to point me to a website if there is a place which answers these questions.
"The Art of Black & White Enlarging" by David Vestal is an excellent book for your interests. This book will take you through your initial setup and serve as a reference as you continue. It is difficult to discuss cost because you can spend a lot or a little, depending upon what you want. You can certainly get started for less than $1000, and then as in all things related to photography you can continue to spend more!
I can not relate the cost of doing your own work to lab work because they are not the same with me. On one hand sending film to the lab is the cheapest way to process, but when you consider all of the personal control you have over development and printing (dodging/burning, cropping, contrast, etc.) in your own darkroom then it would be extremely expensive to have a custom lab carry out this work, perhaps many times over until it was just right.
P. S. With a Phd. in chemistry you will probably revolutionize the entire process, and before long digital will be history and film will regain top honors!
Now is a perfect time to set up a wet darkroom. Enlargers are being sold off for pennies on the dollar by people switching to digital photography. You should be able to buy an enlarger with lens, easel, trays, and film developing tanks anywhere from $50 to $200.
As for books, just go to your local library and check out their phtoography section. I haven't looked but I'm sure there has got to be info on darkroom work in the internet.
Film processing and printing costs will be way down from the commercial route. The best part is the control and sense of accomplishment you will attain by doing your own darkroom work. Your photography will also improve as you develop a sense of the entire process from conception to completion.
Good luck in this endeavor! You will have a blast!
i would second the vestal book. i used it from the beginning.
i have read that 'real' darkroom equipment is pretty cheap these days as folks sell off to but scanners and printers.
the biggest investment is the enlarger usually, and the lens.
of course some of the 'extras' can cost a small fortune. i remember buying my peak brand focussing scope, wow that was pricey! but what a difference to old, tired eyes.
Start off by looking in your local newspaper for a 2nd hand enlarger. Sometimes a complete darkroom kit of equipment is offered. Another source are garage sales in the summertime. Often you have to ask, because people just forget about this stuff if they stopped doing it years ago. Last summer I bought a Durst medium format enlarger with 50mm f2.8 EL-Nikor enlarging lens, for $20. It wasn't put out, but when I asked about photographic stuff for sale, they remembered.
that was good find frank!
i think 'kits' are a good idea also. people who no longer do darkroom work might want to see it all at once. i've seen ads in the local paper on occasion.
I second Frank's suggestion. In my town there were recently a few for around $50 complete -- both were nice Omega enlargers with Nikkor lenses. You might even end up with chemical bottles, safelights, etc. The miscellaneous accessories can add up, but they can also be acquired over time as you decide what is important to you.
Certainly a good time to buy into a wet darkroom, 50/f2.8 enlarging Nikkors are going for $25 these days, Can't really get much better a lens than that.
Ilford Monochrome Darkroom Practice
Excellent guide to all aspects of setting up and running a B&W darkroom. Everything you need to know is in this one.
The Negative & The Print, both by Ansel Adams.
Even if you have no intention of using the Zone System, these books are valuable for the detail of their discussion of how the photographic process works, and why.
Darkroom and Darkroom2, Lustrum Press, Eleanor Lewis & Jain Kelly - editors.
Probably out of print but your library may have them. Collected interviews with photographers (Eugene Smith, Wynn Bullock, Duane Michals, Lisette Model are some of the better known ones) about their approach to the darkroom. untechnical but inspirational.
I too second David Vestal's books. In my case it is called "The Craft of Photography". What a personality David Vestal !!!. From him I learned not only a deep initiation to darkroom work, but loving it as well.
As for myself, as a kind of introducing myself to this forum, and also as an answer to the "initial cost" issue, I would say that my first 5 years in Photography were a constant struggle against the dogma that you "must" buy this or that. This is specially true regarding darkroom life.
What you really need is to understand the purpose of each stage and then use your imagination and creativity for your setup to the fullest, wether you have money and specially if not.
(Member of the Russian Camera user forum of Beststuff.)
So if I understand this correctly - if I can pickup an enlarging lens (such as a 50/f2.8 enlarging Nikkor) then I can basically hack together the rest of the equipment as needed (or pay ~$50 for the misc gizmos via ebay). Again - this is not with the "professional" in mind - I'm diving in to have fun.
So before I start tossing out ebay bids - I'm open to purchasing the goods from people on the Forum - feel free to send me a message if you are willing to part with extras you might have.
Certainly a good time to buy into a wet darkroom, 50/f2.8 enlarging Nikkors are going for $25 these days, Can't really get much better a lens than that...(snip)
Oh sure you can -- Zeiss Ortho-Planars still go for around $6000 :D
i'd put my fujis up against most lenses of comparable value.
they are fine.
With the cost of enlargers being what they are (cheap) it would be a waste of time to cobble one up from scratch even though you could do it.
Fujis have excellent reputations.
I would recommend getting the enlarger locally in one piece too. Much of the savings had buying via Ebay is offset by the crazy amount to ship these things. I got the enlarger and almost everything else I needed as a kit from a friend for around 300.
Absolutely, buy a complete kit locally if you can. The beauty of the market right now is that you can buy professional level gear for a song.
thank you d2...
...and my fujis thank you too!
If you are in academic department at a large university just put the word out that you wish to purchase an inexpensive enlarger. You probably find someone that will let a whole darkroom set up go for under a couple hundred bucks, unless it's some elaborate, late edition Lietz Focomat.
I was able to pick up a Durst M601 enlarger with extra lens boards for $50 and that was three years ago. Last year I bought an ancient Durst 609 for twelve bucks. So there are some deals out there. Moving sales usually are a good hunting ground.
I did upgrade all my optics to Schneider Compon S lenses, but that too was "relatively inexpensive" at under a hundred bucks for three lenses.
Do buy an enlarger that is bigger than you need at the moment. By that I mean one that will handle negative carriers up to 6x7, as medium format is currently selling cheaper than I can remember.
Processing your own film and then printing them up yourself will change your composition technique and how you expose your negs. At least it did for me, I rarely shoot 35mm from across the room anymore.
I've got an Omega D Roman numeral Two that was given to me sitting on top of one of my storage shelves at work. Maybe a freebee will come your way.
I got an Omega B-22XL on eBay for $50 but no lens. Bought a Leitz Focotar for $127 and now I'm thinking about setting up. The following is a link to an interesting thread on darkroom design from photo.net:
Tentative Darkroom Plans (http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=009eeZ)
Thanks to All for the comments.
1 - Andrew I am ALWAYS open for hand-me-downs - even if it doesn't happen - thank you for the thought!
2 - The Darkroom Cookbook sounds perfect! I'll definitely pickup a copy.
3 - Getting a kit locally makes perfect sense - in fact I thought I found one last night on Craigslist - just your "entertainment" I'll quote the whacko reply I got - not sure I really want to meet this guy in a room by myself....
"Matthew, You Said: <I saw your ad on craigslist. Do you still have the darkroom equipment? If so, do have list of the equipment?>
And I Say: <Yes I do. And there is an interesting answer to the why of my having the equipment. It is because people on the internet become charlatans. And they develop bladder problems of the brain. If they had brains. Also (you can add to this any time you have a mind to) they turn off the computer and forget who they are and what reality is all about. I know this because I've found most of them (92%) have a small slot in the back of the skull for a card reader.
Another theory is that they have never been out of Philadelphia and the thought of doing so scares the **** out of them. They are fascinated by my equipment (ahem....). But I still have it.>"
oh yeah, maybe bring along a few really big friends if you decide to visit that guy!
That sounds really scary -- take a friend and a "powerful weapon" (in memory of Hunter S. Thompson, rip) :D
Cringe.......... not in a million years. Where is he from, Camden?
I have used the Simmons-Omega B22XL since 1971. It still functions perfectly and you can also do 120 film with it. You'll need to buy a 75mm lens for that in addition to the 50mm for 35mm film. You simply change the condensor setup. Takes two minutes.
XL means that the shaft that holds the enlarger head is extra long. This means that you can make 16X20's easily. It also means that you can unscrew the shaft from the enlarger baseboard, reverse it, and project down to the floor. In which case you can make 30X40's.
Of course, at that degree of projection/ magnification, you are using 120 negs. I have the Rodenstock lenses and they are wonderfully sharp.
Then there's the Besseler 45, so you can do 35, 120, 645, 6X7, and 4X5.
You'll also need measuring beakers (glass is best), a good grain scope, a contact printer, and a good, fully adjustable easel. Plus, of course, trays in various sizes and a couple of NIkkor stainless steel developing tanks (2 reel, 4 reel) plus stainless steel reels. And a whole bunch of inexpensive bits and pieces. Paper safes, etc.
On and on. If you do get a set up I can explain how to make dodging and burning tools.
Go for it. You can buy 100 foot rolls of Tri-X and a bulk loader, so film will cost you about 30 cents per roll.
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