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Starter Kit for developing 35mm only

david pitone , Aug 23, 2000; 05:54 p.m.

I have read several discussions on darkroom equipment for 35mm and medium format. My question is narrow to 35mm only. My wife and I have been enjoying 35mm photography, and would like to get started with developing. Therefore, we would like to pick up some start-up equipment. For example, I have seen kits in B&H, which apparently have all the hardware that one would need to get going, including an enlarger, for around $400 or less. We would only be developing 35mm, and would start strictly with B&W - although, if possible, we would like to get equipment that would be capable of upgrading for color processing within the next few years. Also, we would like to enlarge up to 11x14 if that's possible within this price range. We would be grateful if anyone could suggest a turnkey kit that we could pick on B&H so as to get us started. As a reminder, we would not be delving into medium format. Thanks.


Les Campbell , Aug 23, 2000; 06:10 p.m.

First, pick up a good book on darkroom processes (my favorite is The Essential Darkroom Book by Tom Grill and Mark Scanlon, published by Amphoto and available, I think, on amazon.com). This will give you a list of what you need -- tanks, reels, trays, safelight, etc.

Have you considered buying used equipment? You can definitely get a better enlarger/lens combo for the money this way; otherwise you're kind of stuck with the Beseler Printmaker kit (which isn't too bad; just pretty limited). Folks will often sell a whole darkroom setup as they find they don't use it much anymore; watch the classifieds of the nearest big city newspaper, or check out ebay. A friends of mine got a Beseler 67 dichroic enlarger, tanks, reels, color viewing filters, lens, negative carriers, etc., for about $275 via ebay. That's about half of what the enlarger alone costs new. Just make sure the person you buy it from has lots of positive feedback.

You might also want to take a photography course at your nearest community college, adult education program, etc. Even if you're already familiar with the darkroom, this will be a good refresher. You'll get a better idea of what you want/need, and the instructor should be a good source on where to look for equipment in your area.

Ed Farmer(Mount Laurel, New Jersey, USA) , Aug 24, 2000; 10:20 a.m.


If at all possible, you and your wife should take a B&W class at a college, or night school before investing too much in a home darkroom. This will let you get acustomed to the basic process and procedures involved. There are many choices to make on the types of equiptment you can get and this will let you try some different methods where the supplies have already been purchased.

The next best choice would be a local camera club. Here you can meet and visit with different photographers who have been down this road already. Most are thrilled to have someone ask to see, or even work in, their home darkroom.

Also, go to the library and check out several books on darkroom work. The one recommended above is very good, but there are others. One of the problems that I have seen since the growth of the internet is that to many people see it as a substitute for reading and research and want to get all of their answer off of the computer screen. Book that you purchase or borrow should remain a valuable asset throughout your time in the dark and making friends and showing prints at a camera club will provide invaluable insights that you can't get here.

Last, but not least, by used! Let someone else take the loss on the new enlarger and supplies. Check your local paper. In the Philadephia area there a paper called "The Tradin' Times". There is almost always darkroom gear listed in there. I am sure that other areas have a similar paper.

Good Luck, I hope to continue to see you and your wife around here!

Jeremy Burton , Aug 24, 2000; 01:37 p.m.

When you look for an enlarger get a medium format one (6x6 or 6x7 cm) anyway, and preferably a universal negative carrier as well. They tend to be better made than the 35mm only enlargers.

Get the carrier because after almost 20 years I have just moved up from 35mm to medium format and ended up buying a new enlarger because I couldn't get medium format negative carriers for my old one (it having been out of production for the last 15 years), even though there was nothing wrong with it.

If cost is a factor buy a used one. There is very little that can go wrong with an enlarger and there haven't been any great innovations in the last 25 years.


Pat Kearns , Aug 24, 2000; 02:43 p.m.

I second everything Ed has said. The only that could be added is look on Ebay for some equipment and/or run an add in your classifieds looking to purchase darkroom equipment. Leave your telephone number and let your answering machine take the calls. People go in and out of the hobby and there is always used equipment that can be picked up at reasonable prices. Good luck.

david pitone , Aug 24, 2000; 04:18 p.m.

I see that the consistent theme is to purchase used equipment. And in order to figure out what to purchase, we would need to become familiar with the equipment and processes through both a darkroom class and books. My wife is pregnant now, so the class will have to wait a while. I have the recommended book on order. And the book should list all the types of equipment I would need. Can anyone recommend what particular models I should consider buying used? Les recommended the Beseler 67 as one possibility. And evidently the Beseler 23 may be to limited. Any other thoughts? Thanks you.

Derick Miller , Aug 24, 2000; 07:17 p.m.

The best response you got is "Take a class." A class will help you learn the process, understand the equipment and make a better selection. If you take nothing else from these responses, take that one piece of advice!

Having said that, here is another tip or two. Color and B & White are significantly different.

Note: this is a bit of a simplification -- no flames please ;-). In developing color film, you either get it right or you don't (which is why in most cases it is better to let a lab do this for you). The process involves more temperature control, more chemicals, etc. If you want to do this at home, you might want to get a Jobo processor or the like.

Which leads to another suggestion: consider getting Jobo tanks and reels from the start, so you can use them if you upgrade to a processor later. Jobo products are well designed, reasonably well made and the system is extensible.

Good luck,


Robert Jenkins , Sep 27, 2000; 06:09 p.m.


With your wife pregnant and all, don't you really think you should be concentrating on law school or maybe going hiking with your friends instead of setting up a dark room? You really need to get your priorities straight!

yeasty treat , Feb 09, 2001; 12:26 a.m.

Go digital. Go Big Freedom! Viva las cacahuates!

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