Every photokina it seems that
fewer and fewer companies show new darkroom products. Unlike film, where
technology is constantly advancing, darkroom technology is more static.
The basic design of the photographic enlarger hasn't changed much
since the earliest days of photography.
Even so, there were enough new products at photokina to furnish a darkroom.
In fact, I found an American product which will become central to my darkroom,
at least for a while. It is a plastic cart that was actually designed
as a computer workstation, but the top shelf will take my enlarger, the
sliding shelf will be used for dry storage, and my Nova tank will sit
next to the enlarger, but on a lower level. If you need any kind of high
quality workstation--for darkroom, computer or projection, contact
Luxor via their web site www.luxorfurn.com.
Very few enlarger companies showed new products and I heard that a couple
of long-established European manufacturers were no longer producing new
enlargers. I did, however, discover a small Indian manufacturer called
KB who were looking for distribution.
Kienzle has expanded their line of basic enlargers, starting with one
chassis design which will take a number of different light sources. They
also have a Split VC which incorporates the Heiland Split Grade printer
described later. Kienzle deals directly with the customer and will ship
anywhere in the world. Contact them through the web.
Digital To Silver
For professional labs, the De Vere digital enlarger allows you to make
high quality silver halide enlargements (up to 20x24") from digital
files. The body of the enlarger is a De Vere 504. The computer interface
slots into the negative stage. All of the composition, focus, and color
balancing is done through the software. Then you simply press the button
and you can make the print on conventional paper. Obviously this is
rather outside the budget of the hobbyist, but technology has a way
of trickling down from high-level professional applications, so it is
well worth reporting. For details contact www.odyssey-sales.com.
Split-grade printing has many devotees and you can do it with a simple
conventional timer and a lot of trial and error. Or you can buy a Splitgrade
Management System from Heiland. This clever machine is an analyzer,
timer, and variable contrast light source. It has actually been around
for a while, but Herr Heiland keeps updating and improving it. It is
programmed for a multitude of papers and it can be fitted on a number
of brands of enlarger. You choose the paper by pressing a button. With
a probe you measure the lightest and darkest areas in which you want
tone. When you are ready to make the exposure, you press a button. The
shutter on the light source opens and makes the exposure with the yellow
filter, then it closes and re-opens to make the exposure with the magenta
light. You can also time test strips and burn-in. For a more complete
description contact Heiland at www.heilandelectronic.de.
Wash & Dry
Other hardware for the darkroom included a new Eco-washer from Nova
which, as the name implies, cuts down on the amount of water you need
to use to get archivally permanent prints. Details are available from
Jobo, Nova's American distributor.
Deville, a French manufacturer of darkroom equipment, had a drying rack
for fiber base. The fiber glass screens can be stacked, but the clever
part is a wall-mounted rack on which up to 10 screens can lie flat for
drying, but are folded out of the way when not in use. Deville has no
American distributor, but sells directly via their web site, www.argentik.com.
Keep It Clean
Kinetronics came up with several new cleaning products which are extremely
useful in the darkroom. Most important of all is the spray gun which attaches
to the top of "canned air." With a combination of basic physics
and clever engineering, this new gun gets rid of the disadvantages of
using canned air (tinned wind) by removing any static charge. Also new
was the SpeckGRABBER (see Roger Hicks' coverage) and the Optical
First Aid Kit. I suggested that they package a special darkroom kit with
a glow-in-the-dark cross, because the small StaticWisk, Tiger Cloth, Precision
Cleaning Solution, and SpeckGRABBER are just as important to the printer
in his/her darkroom, as to the photographer in the field.
Other Darkroom Gear
Herma had a new glue dispenser. It is the same basic design as the existing
one, but the glue strip is permanent rather than peel off. Herma products
are distributed in the US by J-V Enterprises in Utah. Contact them via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keencut had a new Ad-vanced Rotary cutter which has two clamp rollers.
These keep whatever you are cutting in place. With a five-year warranty
and the promise of cutting anything from tissue to non-ferrous metals,
this is a cutter worth looking at.
Loupes and magnifiers included two new professional units from Peak, one
inspection loupe and one microscope and a "spy-glass" style
magnifier with LED lights around the rim, from Heiland.
Paterson have revived their single format easel and their black plastic
"five finger" test strip maker. These had been dropped from
their line-up, but customer demand has made them bring them back.
Papers And Chemistry
There was the promise of four new black and white papers. Two are fiber-base
warmtone papers, one from Oriental, the other from Bergger. Then in prototype
form there was a new woven polyester VC linen from Maco and a new silver
paper from Kentmere. The warmtone papers are both available now, while
the linen and the silver are both (pardon the pun) in development. For
more information contact the distributors. Maco (via their web site) for
Oriental; Cachet or Maco for Maco papers; John Horowy for Bergger; and
Luminos for Kentmere.
Kodak announced Endura (pro) and Duralife (consumer) families of color
papers which have much longer life. Endura is expected to last 100 years
in normal conditions, 200 when dark-stored. Although the bulk of Kodak
papers are produced for labs, you can still buy cut sheets for home use.
There was not much new in chemistry. Tetenal had an updated Super-Fix
and lots of advances in simplifying lab chemistry. Champion, too, has
simplified lab chemistry. If you have a minilab these two companies are
worth checking out.
The most encouraging thing for me was that the darkroom is still alive
and kicking. I ran into Freestyle (the L.A. sales company) at the show.
They told me that they are promoting the sales of traditional darkroom
equipment, and sales are strong! They are putting helpful hints into their
catalogs, sponsoring workshops, and producing a newsletter with "how-to"
articles. So if you are a darkroom aficionado, contact them via their