3 years ago, on 2015, I’ve decided to experiment with analogue photography after I got comfortable with digital photography. And I had a simple plan, although without an explicit timeline :
Get into a pin hole photography workshop to see if I really liked the analogue process, before committing more resources into it.
Get started into B&W photography. I chose medium format because I liked the negative size (6×6).
Learn how to develop my own B&W film at home.
Note that in processes that require some investment in tools or equipment such as developer tanks, trays, chemicals, enlargers, etc I prefer to take a workshop first before buying any equipment, should I decide that my time and resources should be spent elsewhere.
However, after becoming comfortable with developing my own B&W film, it only became obvious what the next step should be : printing.
After taking a workshop on B&W printing, I’ve decided to setup my own darkroom.
After deciding to make my own darkroom, several questions had to be answered before investing time and money (and its nothing new for someone who is looking into building one):
Must be easy to be made light tight
Must have room for the enlarger to be permanently assembled
Must have room to have 3 trays + assorted materials for enlargements
Equipment (Bare minimum)
capable of handling 6×6 negatives
capable of handling contrast filters
Bottles to keep the prepared solutions ready for use.
Thankfully, my garage workshop had the space and was easy to be made light tight without much effort (only 1 small window, a vent and a door), with enough room to spare.
Materials / Tools
Some of the equipment, such as the trays and RC paper, I’ve already had from my pinhole experiments.
However, the enlarger had to be sourced from a store 50 Kms away – I was unable to source it locally. The multigrade filters was also purchased from the same store.
I was able to source an Meopta Opemus 6 enlarger, with an 80mm lens. The Enlarger was in a very good state (it was brought a trusty store). With a bit of maintenance, it got even better.
As for the safe light, I sourced a RGB Led strip locally. So far, when set to red, no fogging was observed on the enlargements.
I’m still lacking some equipment, that although it is not crucial, it will make my life easier :
A focus finder.
An timer for the enlarger (probably going to build my own).
For the time being, for the first darkroom, although usable, there is still some more work such as :
Better separation between the dark and wet areas.
The enlarger should be enclosed, probable with a curtain
For quite a while, since I began to feel more comfortable with using my DSLR on manual mode, I had the desire to get into film photography of a while, being pinhole photography the first milestone.
However, for me to deal with film photography, the only practical choices were 35mm film or 120 film, in regards to availability. My main choice was 120mm due to the fact that the negatives are larger, making it more practical to handle and to make contact prints in the future. The unfortunate side effect is that it is harder to load into the film spiral during film development preparation. And, of course, way less exposures per roll than 35mm film. Another point to consider is camera price. A 120 film camera is, in general, more expensive that a 35mm camera.
My budget for the camera was set to 120€. In one hand I could get a Holga 120N pretty cheap and call it a day. Lets just say I quickly changed my mind.
The other choice was to get a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera. But due to most if the cameras on my price range being used cameras (and 100% mechanical), I was wary of getting then on ebay, therefore I’ve decided to source the camera locally, at a store that could sell me a clean and tested camera. Unfortunately such stores are 50Km away, in a neighboring town.
The camera that fulfilled my criteria without looking like a dug up, rusty fossil, or a plastic toy was the flexaret VII automat.
On paper, 1/500 sec maximum shutter speed sounds quite nice, but it also means that the camera uses a more complex leaf shutter design.
After being in a workshop on pinhole photography (held at offo, in Aveiro), and getting a grasp of the development process, it was time to actually start to build a simple camera, as well as to start developing its pictures.
But the initial results were not quite what I expected in terms of sharpness.