PMA International
Darkroom Products


Probably the most important message from PMA 1999 was that you have even more choice and versatility than ever when it comes to producing images. There is more and more integration of traditional silver halide technology with digital technology. Even Luminos, well-known for their premium photographic papers, liquid emulsion, toners, and alternative process kits, are now in the digital market with ink jet papers and inks. Although these are covered in other PMA reports, it is an important point that these products incorporate advances in ink jet technology which will make your images more stable.

In traditional printing papers, Tura U.S.A. announced that they will soon be importing resin-coated monochrome papers, both variable contrast and graded. The graded paper will be available in grades 2, 3, and 4.

Kodak Select Black and White + chromogenic film.

Oriental, too, is making a strong comeback, with new distribution by International Supplies in Los Angeles. To emphasize that there has been no loss of quality, they showed me two sample images. One was printed on Oriental paper six years ago, and one was printed on the new generation paper. There was no difference. Although there were no new items since last PMA, they are considering bringing their panchromatic black and white paper into the US (it is already available in Japan). Panchro-matic paper is designed for printing color negatives as monochrome prints without the grainy, harsh contrast and odd tones that you get when you use conventional black and white paper.

Ilford had no new paper introductions, but they did have a new publication called Ilford Multigrade Papers, A Manual for the Darkroom. It covers such topics as darkroom setup, testing, pre-flashing, monochrome printing from color negatives, combination printing, toning, spotting, and more. It is a good reference book for anyone who uses variable contrast papers.

Kodak Select Elite Chrome Extra Color.

Rumor had it at the show that Kodak would be producing a new color paper called Ultra III in the next month or so, so it may be available by the time you read this. There were no samples at the show, but it is going to be a high contrast material, available in rolls and sheets. It is not a replacement, but rather a new paper to fill out the line.

China Lucky Film Company showed some black and white paper, but unfortunately their printed samples had disappeared. I have a sample to try, but the intriguing wrapped two-sheet sample (a black origami wrapping inside a black bag) gives no clue as to what kind of paper it is. By the feel, it is a semimatte, resin-coated paper, possibly grade 3, judging by the label.

Ilford Multigrade paper manual.

Because 1998 was a photokina year, most of the film introductions were announced at that show, and PMA was the US debut for them. There were a few additions though. The Kodak Select Series now includes a chromogenic monochrome film. This is closely related to the professional T400CN, but not identical. One of the most significant differences is that it is balanced so that minilabs can use the "Gold channel" (for regular Kodak Gold color films) rather than having to set up a special channel for chromo-genic film. The Select film is also designed to have more latitude than T400CN (plus three to minus two stops), and is optimized for printing on color materials. For those hobbyists who want to print their own negatives on black and white paper, T400CN is still the recommended film.

The Select Elite Chrome Extra Color which was introduced at photokina should also be in the stores by the time you read this. The first shipments were due in mid-March. All of the other '98 introductions, including the VS100 and the Portra series, should also be available in the stores by now.

Imation's Advanced Photo System film.

Kodak is continuing their policy of making it easier for the customer to choose the right film, by simplifying the names. Kodak Gold 400 has now been renamed Kodak Max 400. This film still uses the Kodak Gold technology which is particularly good for people pictures.

Like Kodak, Fuji had very few new film introductions since photokina, though (surprisingly) their Provia reversal film has been updated, and is now edge-marked RDP III. This is very fine grained, finer even than Velvia: quite possibly the finest grain ISO 100 film on the market. The Fuji instant materials which were shown at photokina are not yet available in the US, and as far as I could tell there are no plans for their introduction.

Polaroid Joycam.

In instant films, Polaroid's new tiny format should be on the market sometime this summer. They decided on the Japanese name "Joycam." The actual image is a print the size of a 35mm slide. A new variation on the Polaroid 600 is a greeting card variety pack which contains five standup greeting cards, five envelopes, and 10 exposures of Polaroid 600 instant film. Each card has a base which unfolds to allow the picture to stand up on its own.

Ilford's newest black and white films, XP2 Super and Delta 3200, have already been reviewed by Shutterbug. Their new color films in ISO 100, 200, and 400 were announced at photokina and are now available in the shops. An interesting item in the press pack announced that SFX 200 extended red film is now available as motion picture stock in 16mm (100 and 400 foot lengths) and 35mm (100, 400, and 1000 foot lengths). This should provide some fascinating effects.

Tiffen/Saunders Quick-Print Enlarging Easel.

Imation announced their entry into the 24mm Advanced Photo System with an ISO 200 color print film. It is a medium speed, daylight-balanced film, which can cope well with mixed lighting and flash. The edge markings are optical and magnetic.

Konica Centuria films, which were announced at photokina, made their debut in the US market. The ISO 800 speed film is the really exciting one, incorporating all the most recent advances in film technology to make the film better able to cope with difficult mixed lighting situations.

Tura U.S.A. has new 8-shot and 12-shot short load package sizes available in E-6 compatible ISO 100 and 200; C-41 compatible ISO 100, 200, and 400; and black and white ISO 100 and 400 films. Short load films can come in very handy for testing lenses or cameras, or if you just want to take a few pictures at a time.

Rotatrim Mastercut II from Tiffen/Saunders with gridded base.

Although quite a few companies who produce photographic chemicals attend PMA, they mostly produce commercial chemicals for minilabs. New introductions for end users tend to be few and far between.

Oriental already sell chemicals in Japan and because many of their customers ask for chemicals to go with their papers, they were testing customer reaction at the show. If there is enough interest they may start importing Oriental developers. The liquid developers, called Super Oritone, come in PB (for Pure Black) and CB (for Cold Black). The standard recommended processing temperature is 24°C, although they can be used at lower temperatures with an attendant increase in time.

Miniature 4x5" light box from Omega/Satter.

Falcon Safety Products, who make Edwal chemicals, announced that their Antistat Film Cleaner has been reformulated to meet EPA standards. A new ink jet fix is available from HP Marketing. This protects against moisture and fading.

Marshall's Photo Oils haven't changed, except for their packaging. New packaging includes the Pencil and Oil Activity Set, The Learn to Color Set, and the Portrait Set. The Learn to Color Set comprises nine tubes of transparent photo oils, a tube of extender, P.M.S. solution, skewers, cotton, and instructions. It also includes three photographs printed on semimatte paper for you to learn on. The Activity Set contains five tubes of oil, six pencils, a vinyl eraser, P.M.S. solution, skewers, and cotton. The Portrait Set is made up of 10 tubes of oil, six pencils, extender, eraser, skewers, and cotton. All of these sets come with instructions.

Kinetronics Antistatic Cloth.

If you are interested in handcoloring, but don't have a darkroom to make your own prints, or if you aren't sure how to print for handcoloring, you can get sets of prints to color. These are printed on semimatte paper and come with instructions as well as "before" and "after" pictures. A new catalog features all of Marshall's products, along with hints and tips.

As often happens at PMA, there was a product which was new to the photo industry, although it has been around for a while. It is called "un-du" and it can be used to un-stick self-stick adhesive. For anyone who has old photo albums with self-stick pages, this product is great. It has a combination scraper/applicator which helps you get underneath the sticky page and then between the page and the pictures. The liquid dries quickly and leaves no stain. It is made by Doumar Products.

Marshall's Portrait Set.

There weren't many introductions in darkroom equipment, but one of the most notable was a brand new version of the classic De Vere 203, manufactured in En-gland. One of the most convenient features of this enlarger is that the controls for head elevation and focusing are on the front of the baseboard. The enlarger chassis can be fitted with a choice of four light sources: cold cathode, condenser (Varicon), and Ilford Multigrade, plus the Dichromat color head. The monochrome lamps will all handle 6x9cm, though the color head covers only 6x7cm (and of course smaller formats). Information on all De Vere products, including spares for old enlargers, is available from TruTrack.

Air purifiers by Alpine Indus-tries have been gaining in importance, and two portable units from Alpine Industries caught my eye. The Bora is a cream colored plastic unit which can be set on a table or mounted to the wall. It is small and compact, light enough to carry from room to room, or even when traveling. The Peak is designed for traveling and can even be used in vehicles: it has a power supply which plugs into the cigarette lighter.

Accu/cut cutter dresses up pictures for scrapbooks, greeting cards, and displays.

Tiffen/Saunders, who carry Wein flash slaves and remote control systems, showed me another of Wein's inventions: the Air Supply, a personal air purifier which you can wear around your neck. The idea is that the unit cleans the air in your breathing space and eliminates airborne pollutants, allergens, and even viruses. Tif-fen has not yet decided whether to distri- bute this item, but they can give you information. I have ask-ed for one for evaluation, as this sounds like a brilliant idea to me.

A new series of Quick Print enlarging easels from Tiffen promises to be very useful. The series includes six sizes from 4x5" up to 16x20". The easels have a fixed border of 3/16" which locates and holds the paper flat. The finish is the Saunders' trademark "focal yellow" and the base of the easel is made of cork to prevent slipping.

Another new item from Tiffen is the Rotatrim cutter with a registration grid on the baseboard. This is called the Mastercut II series and the trimmers are available in eight sizes from 12" up to 54". The rotary cutter blade is made of hollow ground Sheffield steel. It is self-sharpening and enclosed in a safety housing. The grid is marked in quarter inch increments, with heavier lines every inch. An adjustable paper stop makes it easy to cut photographic paper in safelight, or even in the dark.

Kodak Select Elite Chrome Extra Color.Fitted aluminum attaché case for slide display. Beside it is the Lektra 741A Digital Photometer/Timer.

Tiffen showed a new digital timer from LPL called the ET-500. It is micro-processor controlled and can be used as an enlarger timer or a process timer. Timing can be measures in seconds (from 0 to 999) or tenths of a second (0 to 99.9). The variable brightness LED display can be turned off if you are working with color. You can choose between a "Count-buzzer mode" which beeps every second, or an "End-buzzer" mode which indicates the completion of the process. There is a plug-in outlet for a safelight, so that the safelight is on when the enlarger light is off, but it turns off when the Start button is pressed. The ET-500 can be wall mounted and an optional foot control switch is available.

A handsome and rugged enlarging exposure meter and timer was shown by Lektra, the Lektra Model 741A. The probe which is used to determine exposure does not have to be oriented in any particular way: readings are accurate from corner to corner, without any special tilting or angling.

Kodak Select Elite Chrome Extra Color.Copy stand and copy lights from LPL.

The combined Jobo/Durst stand was a veritable toy store for any-one interested in the darkroom. The newest items (which previewed at photokina) were three handheld, battery-operated printing accessories--the Protime, the Comparator 100, and the Colorline 100. The Durst Filmetta and the new Variolux enlarging exposure meter were also drawing a lot of interest.

Beseler had no new introductions since photokina, but they did tell me about an upgrade kit which will modernize any 4x5 enlarger of any age, and can be installed by the customer in half an hour. They also have a conversion kit which can be used to transform a 4x5 enlarger into an 8x10 enlarger.

HP marketing, who distribute Kaiser products, had a book holder for their copy stands. This consists of a heavy glass cover and adjustable foam pads which give excellent flatness. They announced, too, that Kaiser enlargers are now more competitively priced. The medium format enlargers cover up to 6x9cm, and they now have fine focus adjustment.

StackFrame is available in four kits.

LPL had their own booth, showing a small copy stand for digital and conventional copying with a small camera. The arm on the copy stand has an adjusting screw which allows you to cantilever the camera out over the baseboard. The top of the copy arm is fitted with a ball-and-socket at the top. The max- imum load it can support is 500g (rather over 1 lb). The baseboard is 250x350mm (about 10x14") and weighs less than a pound. They also showed a copy stand column which can be clamped to a table or desk. This is a conventional geared copy arm which can support about 3 lbs. A double clamping system holds it firmly, and the clamps can be reversed so that the floor can be used as a copy platform. Option-al baseboards of 300x600mm (about 12x14") and 450x600mm (about 18x24") are available.

To go with the copy stands is the optional Sun Light lighting kit (SL230), which clamps onto the side of the copy stand. A bigger version of the Sun Light is available in another kit (SW-270) which can clamp to a lighting stand or table. The Sun Lights are photographic fluorescent lamps with a color temperature of about 5000K, and are suitable for color negative and daylight-balanced films. The clamp and long arm arrangement allow almost any lighting angle. LPL enlargers are distributed by Tiffen/Saunders, but the light stands and copy lights do not yet have US distribution.

The new "Film Developing Cookbook" by Stephen Anchell and Bill Troop, from Silver Pixel.

Climax, who distribute various darkroom items including Texa-Sinks, had some small, high (and low) intensity gooseneck lights called Littlites. For anyone who needs high intensity light for close work these look ideal. They can be fitted with a "Snap Mount" which is self-adhesive hook and loop pads, or with a weighted base, or an adjustable clamp. You can get all sorts of variations, with or without dimmer, and even with a cigarette lighter adapter so you can use them in a vehicle. They are available in several different lengths: 6, 12, and 18". The slotted hood of the high intensity version can even take filters: dark or light red, amber, or blue. The light source is quartz-halogen, either 12 volt 380m A, 5w for high intensity or 12v 230m A, 2.4w for low intensity.

A small stainless steel dip and dunk processor caught my eye, made by Linear Processors. These machines are really intended for the minilab market, but for the professional who does a high volume of processing this looked like good news.

Javelin Cutters are now imported into the U.S.A. They are high-quality matte cutters, made in England, and can handle foamcore and corrugated cardboard as well as conventional card. Sizes range from 1 meter (40") up to 3 meters or 120".

Dot Line introduced inert, seamless plastic envelopes called Plas-tines, archival polyethylene neg- ative bags which replace the old "Glassine" paper envelopes and allow printing through for proofing. Sizes range from 21/4" square to 20x24". Kinetronics, the company which makes one of the finest antistatic brushes in the business, now has an Antistatic Cloth, and Xyron, who make hand-cranked laminating machines introduced their latest model, the heavy duty Pro 1250.

Small portable light boxes are well worth keeping in the darkroom, even if you have a big light box. You can use them to check negatives without removing them from their files. Omega/Satter had a beautiful new charcoal gray unit with a 4x5-1/4" viewing area. This is called the SV650. The most interesting feature, though, is that it has a color rendering index of 95 percent. This means that the color you see is very accurate. The SV650 comes with a soft vinyl case, and an AC transformer/adapter. It can also be powered with four AAA batteries. Its bigger brother is called the SV650. This is a very rugged light box with a metal back plate and a black finish. The viewing area is 83/4x121/8". Like its smaller brother it has a CRI rating of 95 percent, and it comes with an AC transformer/ adapter and a vinyl case.
Prototypes of a pair of miniature light boxes were shown to me at the Hakuba stand. One of them is large enough to view a strip of four negatives, while the other is big enough for one 35mm slide. Either of these can be carried in a briefcase or a handbag, and I suggested that they include a loop for a lanyard so the smallest one could be worn around the neck. These boxes aren't in production yet, but they look like an item which will do very well.

Cabin Magnifiers from Mamiya America Corporation are real glass, coated achromats with 3x, 4x, and 8x magnifications, while Roden-stock has increased its line of achromatic and aspheric magnifiers which give an extraordinary three-dimensionality to solid subjects such as coins, while retaining astonishing depth of field. Rodenstock also has a new microfiber cleaning cloth, but this was so new I saw only the manufacturer's sample.

Advertiser's Display Binder Company, in association with Lektra, showed a prototype fitted metal attaché case with a light-gathering magnifier, a light box, and a slide holder; a useful outfit for presentations. Itoya Rainbow Boxes are designed more for storage. Described as potentially "the only gift and storage system you need," they are reputedly archivally permanent and come in three sizes, 41/4x61/2x81/2", 43/8x9x111/2", and 41/2x111/2x143/4". Itoya also makes the "Doubleheader" permanent ink pen/marker with a fine pen tip at one end and a broader laundry-marker size tip at the other.

Odds and ends are always fun and like Roger Hicks, I look around for Weird Stuff. I found some, too. One was Signature Ball, baseballs and softballs printed with a players' picture. This is a service which will be available probably through labs, and you may even see trucks which go along to ball games and provide the service then and there.

Stack Frame is an ingenious system of plastic picture frames which slot together, sort of like Lincoln Logs (who else remembers those?) and are made in clear, pastel, and neon colors. A new product from Microseal Industries allows you to make customized, personal mouse pads with most ink jet printers; thoughtfully, each pack contains one mouse pad, two mouse pad tops, and three practice sheets. The Cropper Hopper is a series of storage and filing bins for scrapbook making, and Fiskars has a new circle cutter, but there was no information available at the booth.

Accu/cut is a well established product in the craft market, but somehow I had never noticed them before. The system consists of two parts, a cutter bed and interchangeable dies for cutting out frames, stars, letters, and more; you can even get a box-cutting die, or they will make dies to order. I can think of a dozen uses straight off, including custom black paper masks which actually match the size of my transparencies instead of being woefully undersized.

Trim U.S.A. is not something aimed at the home user, but it may soon be at a store near you. It is essentially a way of putting a hard perimeter--a sort of basic frame--around almost anything, surprisingly economically and very quickly.

Last but not least, I always look around for new books which concern the darkroom. This year Silver Pixel had just brought out the companion to The Darkroom Cookbook. The new book is The Film Developing Cookbook by Steve Anchell and Bill Troop. This book covers all aspects of film development including formula and tips on how to mix your own chemicals, and how to use all developers to get the effects you want.

Another book from Silver Pixel, which should interest anyone who uses digital as well as conventional darkroom techniques, is The Digital Darkroom: Black and White Technique Using Photoshop by George Schaub. This is a workshop format book which applies conventional darkroom techniques digitally. It includes techniques such as toning, colorization, high-contrast (lith derivative), retouching, restoration, and special effects.

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