View Full Version : Safelight suggestions

Calamity Jane
6-Sep-2005, 09:34
My old darkroom was a small area (not much more than 8x10) with a high ceiling (9 feet) and I used a single BrightLab "Jr" bulb (11 Watts, red) - it seemed good - nice subdued light, no fog, safe for polycontrast paper and just about anything else.

My new darkroom is large (12x16) but the ceiling is LOW (6' 6") irregular (where it dips under beams, pipes, etc.) and black (a sheet of black builder's plastic so I don't get any dust from the floor and joists above). I put standard lamp bases in 4 different work locations for safelights (wet side, dry side, one over the Jobo, and one by the enlarger) since the low ceiling doesn't lend itself to a single lamp.

With the low ceiling, I am finding the 11 Watt BrightLab Junior awfully bright! I don't feel inclined to install 4 of them to spread out the illumination.

Is there a lower wattage bulb that is safe for polycontrast paper???

(Maybe I'll have to wire the Juniors in series to drop the light level????)


George Hart
6-Sep-2005, 10:06
I have no connection with this firm but I recommend a 2.5 W OptiLED bulb (www.optiled.biz). I use the B22 amber but the red and possibly others will also serve the purpose. Both bayonet and Edison screw fittings are available. These bulbs emit a surprising amount of light through a very narrow spectral window. It's a major improvement over the Paterson 15 W tungsten bulb plus filter that I used previously. Others have done testing (search this group) and found them to pass fog tests; I haven't through lack of time, but I have no reason to doubt. They are not cheap, though.

Paul Butzi
6-Sep-2005, 10:13
My darkroom safelights are all LED lamps. The safelights were actually built by Tim Shoppa years ago, and include current regulators so that the output of the LED's is throttled back a bit, which apparently produces a narrower spectrum of light emitted (if my memory is correct).

I have the LED's aimed UP at the ceiling from a distance of six inches or so - the ceiling is painted flat white and the lights produce a nice, diffused illumination that fills the entire darkroom.

I like LED safelights. You aren't dependent on filters which fade (and are expensive), and by picking the center wavelength of the LEDs carefully, you can balance safety against human visual response very nicely. My darkroom seems brighter with the LED safelights than it did with a Thomas Duplex sodium vapor safelight, but tests out much safer. In addition, the LED safelights are instant on, instant off, and can be cycled over and over without any problem

It would not take very many LED's to illuminate 12x16 darkroom. My 9 x 18 darkroom safelights total up to 32 LED's, and I have five of them covered over with gaffer's tape to choke the light output down a bit right near the enlarger. And remember, my LED's are aimed at the ceiling. If you aimed them directly at work surfaces you could probably get away with fewer LED's than that.

Tom Westbrook
6-Sep-2005, 10:26
I have a similar sized set-up in my basement, incl. low ceiling) and use two of those cheap 5x7 lights in grey metal housing and bounce the light off of the walls at either end of the darkroom. They are dirt cheap used and come with brackets you can screw into the wall, though I built a couple of little shelves to set them a bit further from the wall. Works well for me. I replaced the plastic filters with Kodak glass OC filters, but that was only because the plastic ones were old and no longer effective.

Calamity Jane
6-Sep-2005, 11:57
Thanks for the suggestions.

The OptiLED looks interesting but considering I need 4 of them at $30 each I decided to go with the BrightLab Juniors ($9 each) and wire them in series in groups of 2 (the way I have wired the room makes this easy to do). If that's still too bright, I'll stick a diode in series which will drop the light to about 40% or switch to 4 lamps in series.

Thanks again!

Brian C. Miller
6-Sep-2005, 12:10
You could always make your own safelight. A box with a Tiffen red filter that goes over a nightlight would work OK.

Keith Pitman
6-Sep-2005, 12:44
Whatever type of safelight you decide to use, it's a good idea to test your safelights. Here's Kodak's instructions:


By the way, I use a Thomas sodium vapor safelight in my darkroom with both of the "vanes" all the way down and a sheet of copy paper over the light on the side towards my enlarger. This passes the Kodak test and still provides a reasonably bright work space.

Steve Feldman
6-Sep-2005, 13:01

As Keith, I use a Thomas light. When first acquired I fired it up with both vanes outputting yellow light. It was so bright that I could read a magazine under it. But the down side was that I couldn't see the image projected from the enlarger. Bummer. Now the vane that directs light toward the ceiling and towards the enlarger uses the red glass insert. Works fine for me. YMMV.

Calamity Jane
6-Sep-2005, 13:02
A poster on APUG hit on the simple and obvious solution - so obvious I had overlooked it - put the safelights on a dimmer!

Gonna install the dimmer tonight.


6-Sep-2005, 17:52
I do have a connection to this company. I use one of the red ones in the area where I cut paper. The only problem is where to buy them. I don't think Westinghouse is distributing them to stores just yet. These don't have to be pointed to the ceiling, they are not a spot light. Because of the patented polymer that spreads the light out they have a very even cast to them. Also they are unbreakable, drop it and it still works. I hope to get a green one and send it to someone to test it for dbi.

phil sweeney
7-Sep-2005, 03:35
For a standard lamp base there are 7w bulbs (appx 1.5 in diameter).

Calamity Jane
7-Sep-2005, 10:49
Installed dimmers on the safelight and "low light" circuits - works great!

I always hated the "step change" when changing light levels in the darkroom, especially when going back and forth to "pitch black" for handling film. With the dimmer, I can turn the safelight REALLY low and avoid photon shock to the old eyeballs ;-)