f/stop timers: Darkroom Automation or RH Designs?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by wrench, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. wrench

    wrench Member

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    So my timer finally kicked the bucket, and I've decided that if I'm going to buy a new one, I'm gonna bite the bullet and get an f/stop timer. The trouble is, I'm not sure which to get. From what I can tell, I have two options: RH designs stopclock pro, and Darkroom automation.
    Aside from the obvious difference in user interface, are they substantially different in function? I can't really tell from the manuals.
    I'm also confused about installation with the RH designs. If I'm reading the manual correctly, I have to drill a hole in the lamp housing and insert some sort of sensor. I would really rather not be using power tools on my enlarger. Do I also need some sort of plug adapter since it's a UK product?
    The enlarger I have is a bessler 23dga dichroic color head, and circuitry is definitely not my strong suit. Can I just plug either of these timers into the power supply like I did with my old one or is there some special way that I would have to connect them.
    Sorry if some of these questions seem ignorant, I just really have no idea about these things and I'd rather not bust something for lack of knowledge on how to go about using it. Thanks for your help.
    Best, Laura
     
  2. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    The DA timer is simplicity itself. Plug the power cord of the enlarger into the timer, the timer into the surge suppressor, and away you go. One can also plug a foot switch into the timer and have complete functionality. I don't believe the RHD timer needs any special wiring into your enlarger, but best ask someone who really knows. Might I suggest that you read the manual again?

    Both products are great, and work well. I have no experience with the RHD products, but those who do speak well of the unit, and Dr. Ross who represents the company elegantly and with honesty. Nicholas Lindan runs the DA shop, and is similarly helpful, honest, and easy to deal with. You wouldn't go wrong with either unit. The RHD unit times intervals in, I believe 1/12th F stops, and the DA in 1/10th F stops...not sure such matters at all. There are some other differences; such differences have been discussed almost ad nauseum here. I think if you do an APUG search that you will likely find out more then you ever want to know!

    I use the DA timer, and I would never go back to a conventional timer that did not use the FStop method.

    Best of luck.
     
  3. mwdake

    mwdake Member

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    You can view the manual for the RH Designs stopclock at the RH Designs website.

    http://www.rhdesigns.co.uk/

    I am pretty sure they make a 110 volt version.

    Richard Ross is a pleasure to deal with, he sometimes posts here so he may well answer your questions. If not contact him via his website.

    Sorry, I don't have any experience with the DA Products but heard many good things also.
     
  4. OP
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    wrench

    wrench Member

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    Thank you for the suggestions.
    I did a few searches about these timers, but I couldn't really find anything directly comparing the two, and after lots of reading praises for both, I was even more confused.
    I did go back and read the RH manual. It turns out that the pdf layout is a bit weird and the drilling part only applies to the vario version for cold light heads. So, that clears up that problem.
     
  5. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    I'm also confused about installation with the RH designs. If I'm reading the manual correctly, I have to drill a hole in the lamp housing and insert some sort of sensor.

    This is the stopclock vario which requires the installation of a sensor to compensate for variability in the output from cold light sources. I use one and it is brilliant. I don't think it is the stopclock version you would be interested in. I would recommend the Stopclock Pro, or the Analyzer Pro. The analyzer it by far the most useful thing I ever purchased for my set-up.
     
  6. Stefan Findel

    Stefan Findel Member

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    I have the StopClock Pro and the Process Master II. I love both! The Stop Clock has quite a few features, a bit confusing at first, but once you use them regularly, they become 2nd nature. And yes, Richard is very nice to deal with. I am not really happy with the foot switch, a bit thick and too short a cable (ca 5').
    But wait... These are digital, not analog. Maybe I better not post this...
     
  7. waileong

    waileong Member

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    I have the stopclock pro. 110v definitely available. No drilling required. The timer has power points for you to plug in your enlarger power plug, so that it can turn on/off your enlarger lamp according to the calculated timing.
     
  8. edtbjon

    edtbjon Member

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    The specific RH Designs timer that you've been looking at has a feature which is used for cold light (flourecent light) heads, where the light output isn't stable at startup. You don't need this feature, so the Stopclock Vario isn't the timer you need. Nor do you need to drill any holes in your (enlarger) head. :smile:
    The Stopclock Pro is connected to the enlarger just as any other darkroom timer. Just see to that you order the 110V version. Apart from that just get the adaptors needed so that you can plug it in (according to the FAQ on the RHDesigns page).

    //Björn
     
  9. Jerevan

    Jerevan Member

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    Yes, I thought so, too. But you can buy an extension cable on the RHD site. Or, I think it is a standard stereo plug, so it may be possible to get one more locally. But don't quote me on this, I've not tested.
     
  10. RH Designs

    RH Designs Advertiser Advertiser

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    It's designed to be downloaded and printed out, making a booklet, rather than reading on-line. Maybe I should add an on-line-readable version as well?

    As others have said you don't need to modify your dichroic head. The StopClock has a finest resolution of 1/24 stop.
     
  11. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    Yes, add an online version please. Sometimes its nice to have a pdf available even though you have a hard copy.

    I just went through this decision. They both seemed very nice and fully functional. The DA timer seemed a bit more intuitive in terms of programming many steps, with lots of burning and dodging. The RHD timer has a more complete interface in terms of a bigger display and making more buttons available. It also has the capability of being augmented by the Zonemaster II. They were about the same price due to the dollar being stronger.

    I went with the RHD timer and love it. I think you could/would be happy with both.
     
  12. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    If I were to buy one I would pick the analyzer from RH Designs
     
  13. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    I'm sure you could select either brand and be elated. I bought the RH Designs Stopclock Pro, and ZoneMaster II. It was a chunk of change, but not only do I have no regrets, but it literally paid for itself in my own operation within two months--just from material savings!!!

    I'll give up Black & White Photography before I give up my RH Designs gear. The best photographic equipment purchase I've ever made.
     
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  15. RH Designs

    RH Designs Advertiser Advertiser

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    OK, an online version is available at
    http://www.rhdesigns.co.uk/darkroom/StopClock Pro+Vario UM v85 online.pdf

    I'll put the rest up and update the Manuals page in due course.

    Something seems to have happened to the APUG editor as it wouldn't let me add a link myself (or use any of the other tool icons for that matter) but I see it's done it for me!
     
  16. OP
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    wrench

    wrench Member

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    Richard, thank you for the new version. After trying for a while to make sense of the pdf that I had, it finally occured to me to look at the page numbers.

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts. I've read and reread the manuals several times now, and I think either timer would make me happy, but I think I decided on the DA timer for two reasons. 1) it's smaller. I don't have that much counter space around the base of the enlarger, and mounting it to the wall is not practical,so when I'm printing things get cluttered pretty easily. And 2) the wood casing on the DA timer looks really nice. I know this seems a bit silly, but I like having things that aren't made of just black plastic. My husband is a woodworker, so I've gotten used to having nice, functional hardwood pieces around the house, and its nice to bring that into the darkroom too. If the timers really are so similar in function, then why not get the one that looks nice?

    It seems like not too many folks use the DA timer here on APUG simply because fewer folks have them compared to the number that have the RH designs. So, once I get it up and running, I'll let you know how it goes.
     
  17. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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  18. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    I think this is essentially the difference. The Stop Clock seems to have evolved from a print makers concerns and the DA from an engineering/scientific approach to the same issues.
     
  19. Stefan Findel

    Stefan Findel Member

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    Thank you Jerevan.
     
  20. OP
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    wrench

    wrench Member

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    Bruce, could you please elaborate? This is really what I want to know.
     
  21. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    I don't know what more I can say. It comes down to 'six of one' or a 'half dozen of the other'. I guess, evaluate their manuals and decide what you're most comfortable with. They both will accomplish the same thing and neither will make you a great photographer.
     
  22. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    <They both will accomplish the same thing and neither will make you a great photographer.>

    Not much else to say....admirably done, over and out.

    Ed
     
  23. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    I'm not so quick to agree. I felt that my skills as a photographer greatly improved after buying the RH Designs gear. I realized that so much of my issues in the darkroom were created when I clicked the shutter. Before the darkroom upgrade, I had no idea how variable my photography techniques really were.

    Not only that, but my darkroom artistry greatly improved because the technology opened up a new world of image-manipulation which really wasn't practical before. I never did a split-grade print until I learned the technique from the RD Designs manual.
     
  24. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I had a hard time understanding the RH Manual without actually using the Timer

    When I bought the Timer and started using it – wow – utterly intuitive.

    The more I use Stop Clock Pros features the more I realise that it’s able to do everything I want or need it to do.

    Expensive – but worth every penny

    Martin
     
  25. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have the Stop Clock Pro and I love it. But it did not improve my skills as a photographer, it simply made things more convenient and easier to keep track of. I split grade printed and used f/stop timing before I had the timer, so those are the features that are most important to me. Making test strips in 1/2 stop increments, or changing printing times in 1/2, 1/3, or some other f/stop increment is more efficient with the timer, but can be done just as easily with a calculator or chart. The dual channels are great for split graders, but again, can be done with any timer. Same with being able to program separate burn sequences for the hard and soft exposure...can be done manually, but is easier with the timer. And the most convenient feature of all: if after determining the soft and hard exposure times with separate burn times for each, I decide the print needs to be, say, 1/3 stop darker, or I decide to make a different sized print, the timer cannot be beat!

    Before I had the timer I needed to keep very careful notes of what I was doing as I worked up a print, and it was easier to get lost. I still make notes, but now the timer keeps track of many things. Again, my prints don't look any better, they are just arrived at more effectively. It is not the violin, but the fiddler that brings the music to life.
     
  26. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    That was attempted a few years ago. The resulting religious wars and hissy fits were enough to cause Sean, the proprietor of APUG, to ban product comparison posts in perpetuity and delete the whole wretched mess.

    You can’t find any direct comparison on APUG as there isn’t one.

    That said...

    They obviously both evolved from a print maker’s concerns - just different print makers. But in all it is a pretty fair statement.

    At the system level the DA system uses a seperate meter and timer, while the RH Designs units integrate the timer and meter. In keeping with it’s name (not), the Darkroom Automation system has far less automation than the RH unit. On the other hand, the DA system gives greater control in placing print tones where you want them and allows precise control of midtones and midtone contrast; obviously this takes more time and effort than the RH approach of scanning for the brightest and darkest points and letting the timer pick the paper grade and exposure. The metered RH products have a really slick zone-scale that shows where the timer thinks the currently metered spot will show up. With the DA system you have to consult a grey scale you make specifically for the paper you are using. Stick-shift or automatic transmission - take your pick.

    RH Designs has many more variations available and provides control for split-grade heads and integrating probes for cold-light heads. DA doesn’t.

    The RH timer has keys dedicated to different functions. The DA timer has just the one menu key that steps you through the steps in making a print: base exposure, dodging, burning, progressive burning etc. Each push of the key takes you to the next step. In either system you press a key to go to the next step in making a print: with the RH it is a different key for each step; with the DA it is the same key.

    The DA’s display is simpler, with no indicator lights for various modes as the menu system doesn’t need them. On the other hand the DA’s display gets a bit cramped and cryptic when programming memories.

    The DA timer has more memories, assuming you buy the model with memories.

    If you live outside of the Americas the choice is simple: get the RH Designs timer as DA doesn't make an export model.

    The major philosophical difference may seem a bit obscure but is important.

    The RH timers set and display the base exposure in seconds, which are adjusted by fractional stop intervals. DA’s parent firm, Cleveland Engineering Design, produced a graphic arts integrator/timer for the nuArc corporation in the late 80’s/early 90’s that worked on the same principle of decimal seconds adjusted in fractional stops.

    The current DA darkroom timer takes the stop paradigm a step further and works entirely in stops. Some find this a bit quirky, but it turns out to be more intuitive once you let go of the concept of seconds and start thinking in terms of exposure. After all, it is exposure you want to control not seconds per se. For consistency all base exposures, dodges, burns, progressive burns, test strip intervals, adjustments are all displayed in uniform decimal stops - this is also a break with the tradition of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 ... stops.

    As a result the DA timer looks less like the timer you may be used to, but looks an awful lot like the EV number window on a Rollei or Hassy and the EV numbers on a light meter.

    The DA timer works in conjunction with the DA enlarging meter. Most sales of the meter are to people who use it only as a densitometer - it will read negative density to 1/100th of a stop (0.003 OD). However measuring negative density in stops has great appeal as it makes it easy to relate field exposure readings in stops to negative density in stops to paper exposure in stops. It is easy to control local contrast with the negative contrast index in stops of scene luminance to stops of negative density and the paper contrast in stops of negative density (the same thing as stops of paper exposure) to stops of print luminance.

    By working entirely in stops the DA system integrates seamlessly with the work of exposing and developing the negative. This makes it a natural for people who are Beyond the Beyond of the Zone System. And this is the importance of this seemingly obscure philosophical point.

    Thank you.

    Appearance and materials choice in product design is not silly. The look and feel of an object contribute as much to the enjoyment of its use as its function.

    Appearance does count - hard for any photographer to argue otherwise when practicing an art that is about nothing but appearances.