The film bug has bit...

Joined
Apr 19, 2012
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45
Location
Hesperia, CA
I need some advice from the film crew...

In an attempt to 'slow myself down' a bit, I picked up a very clean and well kept Nikon FM2n on eBay a couple weeks back for a song. After this past week of shooting with it, I've fallen in love with film again after taking a nearly 15 year hiatus; so much in love that I want to setup my own basic darkroom to process B&W prints.

So the last few days, I've been scouring craigslist and eBay in search of CHEAP used darkroom gear. I've gathered a few bits and pieces... trays, tongs, mixing bottles, etc. I still need to find a reel and developing tank but have a friend who might have a few stashed away in his dads garage. Throw in some chemicals and I should be nearly operational within the next week or so.

My question is two parts on the printing side. I'm torn between going with a decent negative scanner and then run them off through a printer or keeping it 'old school' and going with an enlarger. I'd love to do both but $$$ will just not allow for it right now. I do already have a decent Canon flatbed scanner that does an acceptable job with prints, if I wanted to digitally manipulate any of the enlarger prints. Any good words of advice between the two?

Second part would be about enlargers themselves. Mind you, I have ZERO darkroom experience and haven't a clue as to what I'm looking for on a used one. I've come across a few in my search that seem like a good deal but the sellers usually find them stashed somewhere and know nothing about their history or even how they work. Would I be better off buying a new one or waiting for a clean one from an established darkroom user before I bought one from someone who has as much of a clue as I do? Can you guys give me some pointers on looking at used ones?

Hopefully the medium or large format bug doesn't bite... :rolleyes:
 
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
Messages
475
Location
Munich, Germany
Definitely +1 for wet printing, which is part of the fun, and will help you even further to "slow down":wink:. Scanning & inkjet printing just is not the same - the resulting look is completely different, and the scanning usually enhances grain.
As for starting out wet printing:
  • The way to go today is with VC paper (variable contrast). There are very few papers with fixed grades left.
  • Therefore, look for a color enlarger w/dichroitic head. This makes printing with VC paper much easier than using slide-in filters on a b&w head.
  • When looking for a used enlager, it indeed is better to buy a working unit from a user than some garage found item from somebody completely clueless. This way, you should be on the safe side that the gear is complete and useable. Especially, since missing parts may be difficult do acquire.
  • Buying new, OTOH, does not make sense at all, IMHO. Prices for used enlargers are on the bottom, and you can get a good kit for a fraction of what it would cost to buy new. Some (very few) brands, however, are still available new - and prohibitively expensive.
  • As for specific brands, I'll let others chime in, as my knowledge is more specific about the brands available here in Europe, some of which may be irrelevant elsewhere.
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2007
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5,742
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El Cajon, CA
There are some members of tis forum in the Berdoo/Riverside area who might be able to help. I guess that would be just over the hill for you. This forum is a terrific resource, I'm sure they will be willing to help. :smile:
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
Messages
45
Location
Hesperia, CA
There are some members of tis forum in the Berdoo/Riverside area who might be able to help. I guess that would be just over the hill for you. This forum is a terrific resource, I'm sure they will be willing to help. :smile:

That would be AWESOME! :smile:

I don't mind a little bit of a drive if someone is willing to take a little time to show me the ropes and give some tips/pointers.

Our local college offers darkroom classes but they're usually packed and I'm not even sure if they offer summer courses; I'm being fairly ambitious and would like to start this ASAP( i.e, not waiting until fall). I've got a fair amount of downtime this summer and putting together a fully operational darkroom and starting on a B&W portfolio is going to be my self-improvement project for the next 13-ish weeks.
 
Joined
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Messages
45
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Hesperia, CA
Enlarger wins (for now)!

I got a SMOKING *free* deal on a Beseler 23c II a few days ago from a very kind local gentlemen from another photography forum... came with two Beseler lenses (50 and 75mm), a box of Beseler filters, 35mm and 6x6 carriers and a timer. I found and printed the manual this afternoon and spent some time familiarizing myself, cleaning and aligning it; everything appears to be fully functional and in tip-top shape. Looks like a medium format camera isn't out of the question now. :Love:

Made a quick trip to Calumet in Santa Ana yesterday in hopes of finding my tank, reel, safelight and chemesty. I walked away with several Kodak bottles/bags and a few Ilford products but no tank, reel or safelight.

Amazon to the rescue... :smile:

While there, I picked up up some Ilford HP5 400 and Kodak T-Max 100 to play with, as well as some Ilford papers (MGIV in glossy and satin). If all goes well, I'll have some of my first efforts to share sometime next week.

I still MIGHT invest in a negative scanner if I find myself doing a LOT of printing and if that's the case, does anyone have recommendations for a basic, no frills scanner?
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
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1,000
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Arizona
Real Name
Chris
23CII is da bomb. I've got one sitting right here. I have both a scanner and the capability of making wet prints. I MUCH prefer wet prints for film work, but the inkjet prints are constantly improving. A basic no frills scanner will probably not do what you need. A decent scanner/printer combo will be expensive, and just as time consuming as the darkroom work.
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
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Hesperia, CA
HaHa! Success!! :biggrin:

185178_3352027041328_1022702919_n.jpg
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Tomorrow... We enlarge!
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
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Location
Hesperia, CA
Also...

Can anyone give me some insight as to why my FM2 seems to only partially actuate for a frame or so mid-ish roll? You can see what I'm talking about in the picture. Second row of negatives down, on the left hand side; the mish-mash of about 3-4 frames. I can get you some better examples if it will help diagnose the problem.

It's done it almost consistently at the same spot with the last 3 rolls of film I've shot. :rolleyes:
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
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Hesperia, CA
:biggrin:

These were mostly testing for exposure times but at least I can say I've successfully made my first set of prints!

421435_3355340524163_596160121_n.jpg
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I still have a LOT of fine tuning/tinkering to do but I'm very pleased with my first results. Can't wait to get back at it later tonight!
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
1,000
Location
Arizona
Real Name
Chris
Also...

Can anyone give me some insight as to why my FM2 seems to only partially actuate for a frame or so mid-ish roll? You can see what I'm talking about in the picture. Second row of negatives down, on the left hand side; the mish-mash of about 3-4 frames. I can get you some better examples if it will help diagnose the problem.

It's done it almost consistently at the same spot with the last 3 rolls of film I've shot. :rolleyes:

It looks as if there may be some slippage of the winding mechanism, or perhaps the roll is loose and moves at that point through the roll. One thing I do is use the rewind knob to tighten the film in the roll after I take the first frame to secure the take-up spool.

Your result looks great other than that!
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
Messages
45
Location
Hesperia, CA
One thing I do is use the rewind knob to tighten the film in the roll after I take the first frame to secure the take-up spool.

Your result looks great other than that!

That's generally what I do... It very well could just not like this particular film (Arista 100). I have half a dozen rolls of Ilford HP5 that I plan on shooting over the next month or so and I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully it's not one of those camera quirks as I really enjoy this body but having it do that is a bit unnerving.

Appreciate the comment though! :smile: My first and second set of prints are FAR from perfect but I'm just thrilled to get some results on paper. Seeing those prints come to life in the developer was an experience that I'll never forget.

After doing some more tinkering, I've discovered that I have a negative 'popping' issue with this old Beseler. I have a couple work arounds to try before I scurry over to eBay and blow another 50 bucks on tiny piece of heat absorbing glass. :rolleyes:

Sure is fun stuff though! I really enjoy the experimentation and trial/error aspect and have learned a wealth of information in the last month or so. Other than paying jobs, I haven't touched my DSLR's since I picked up the FM2 a little over a month ago. Honestly, I don't really miss them, or the bad habits they engrained in my brain, much. The automation is nice but having to do EVERYTHING yourself is proving to be a much better tool for developing skill. I'm already starting to see some progression and I've certainly slowed down to the point that I am being much more methodical in my technique and composition.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2009
Messages
388
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USA
:biggrin:

These were mostly testing for exposure times but at least I can say I've successfully made my first set of prints!

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/421435_3355340524163_596160121_n.jpg

I still have a LOT of fine tuning/tinkering to do but I'm very pleased with my first results. Can't wait to get back at it later tonight!

That just warmed my heart to see *handmade* prints like that.

One cool tip I got from a book by a British master printer (whose name escaped me at the moment) is to cut strips of paper and use those strips to do exposure tests at the same spot in the picture.

That way you're comparing apples to apples, not apples to the next apple on the basket. So to speak :)
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
Messages
45
Location
Hesperia, CA
That just warmed my heart to see *handmade* prints like that.

One cool tip I got from a book by a British master printer (whose name escaped me at the moment) is to cut strips of paper and use those strips to do exposure tests at the same spot in the picture.

That way you're comparing apples to apples, not apples to the next apple on the basket. So to speak :)

Excellent info! *writing that one in my book of secrets* :wink:

I'm loaded with a freshly exposed and developed roll of HP5, a grain focuser and a temporary work around for the negative popping issue. Grain focuser confirms it is a problem and I even saw (and heard with the radio turned down) the 'pop' happen right before my eyes while looking through it! Just enough to cause a slightly soft print but not enough to be entirely noticeable with the naked eye. It certainly explains the softness issue I was having though I'm not sure if it's just from that particular film from my last printing session, Arista Premium 100. The Ilford negatives I experimented with this evening don't seem to suffer from the problem.

Very excited to put this roll of HP5 to paper. It's my first time shooting it and the negatives look nice. Tomorrow evening, we make MORE (and hopefully MUCH improved) prints! :biggrin:
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2012
Messages
45
Location
Hesperia, CA
Here's a few prints that I developed and scanned last night...

HP5_.jpg
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HP5_0001.jpg
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HP5_0002.jpg
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HP5_0005.jpg
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HP5_0004.jpg
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All of these were on Ilford HP5 except the first image, which was Arista Premium 100. The Ilford is grainier than I thought it would be but still gives some pleasing results.

The grain focuser has proven to be WELL worth it's minimal cost and, in my opinion, is a dark room necessity if you want sharp prints. My first set of prints was eyeballed and the difference between those and the ones I did last night with the focuser was night and day. I think I'm going to start looking for a different enlarger though. After doing some extensive research, I'm not entirely convinced that the heat absorbing glass is going to solve my problems and the work around for the negative popping issue is a pain in the rear. A cold head enlarger might be in my future...

Also looking at Yashicas on eBay... :rolleyes:

:biggrin:
 

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