tools of the trade

A 1980 film darkroom

Toronto. In  this era of digital photography we need a computer and printer (and what house doesn’t  have at least one of each) to “process” and print the digital images. Not so in the recently departed film era.

The film had to be developed and then printed – usually with an enlarger, timer, thermometer, darkroom trays, safelight (if B&W), easel, and perhaps a focussing aid. And most homes DID NOT have a darkroom and enlarger, etc., etc.

Only professionals and dedicated amateurs possessed the necessary darkroom. Others resorted to community darkrooms (usually camera clubs) or used commercial services. As a youth, I used a high school camera club darkroom, later building my own. The photo here shows my set up in the fall of 1980. To save money I bought 8×10 photographic paper and cut it to a smaller size either before, or as shown, after exposure and processing in a drum (Colour) or trays (B&W).

The enlarger was a Durst M35, the top of the line 35mm enlarger featuring all the details noted by Gilbert Durst in Italy. The enlarger takes colour filters which I kept in a Rollei slide box and tray (2.25 in square slides). I used a Variac and a “true RMS” iron vane meter to keep the voltage to the enlarger bulb constant (Toronto power seemed okay but Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s had terribly unreliable voltage levels).

The Gralab timer was modified with a fuse, relay, start button, etc. The Heathkit Colorval was also modified to have a digital binary timer built-in to match the enlarging lens f/stop settings. The timer uses a 555 timer chip and a tantalum capacitor to control the chip. Switches and resistors determined the exposure time of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 seconds (using two or more switches gives 1 to 63 seconds in 1 second intervals for the truly anal).  I made all the modifications at home.

The inexpensive pictures in an hour shops pretty much eliminated home darkroom colour processing other than for those who wanted to crop or enlarge to a size bigger than the 4×6 or 5×7 prints of the commercial shops like Eddie Black’s or Japan Camera.

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