View Full Version : RH Designs Printing Analyzers

scott jones
2-Apr-2004, 21:32
Hi Yall

I have been recently reading about the RH Designs products that are f/stop timers which are combined with print exposure analyzers which purportedly makes it "easy" to get a usable first print without using test strips or test prints with varying exposure stripes. I already use the concept of f/stop timing in my darkroom and it makes sense to me, but I am interested in whether anyone has actually used the exposure analyzer feature for determining exposure of a print and if this really works or is just so much gee-whiz. Thanks for any feedback from the fellow geeks of large format!

ScottJonesPhoto.com (http://www.scottjonesphoto.com" target="_blank)

Ralph Barker
3-Apr-2004, 01:39
Yes, and yes. ;-)

I use their ZoneMaster II enlaging meter, along with an external timer (not one of the RH models available). The unit stores parameters for a number of different papers. Once you've either done your calibration run, or use one of the papers already stored by default, getting the right base exposure is simple and quick. The unit also has a densitometer mode that is useful, as well. I've been very pleased with it.

I ordered over the 'Net, and their service was quick, too.

Hans Berkhout
3-Apr-2004, 07:08
I have used the Heiland Splitgrade unit for about three years now; the idea is similar to the RH design as far as I can tell. It consists of a densitometer/timer module and a filter module to fit in your enlarger's light head. Excellent product, a real time saver for b&w printing. During the first year I only used it for "rough " prints, but now I am versed enough to produce exhibition quality stuff.

You have to learn on which parts on the projected neg to place your (densitometer) probe, and you want to aim for exposure times of 20 secs or more; with shorter times you might run into trouble if dodging or burning is required. You are doing split filter printing here, so very short (e.g. burning ) times would be difficult if not impossible. If that happens I use the white light plus a Ilford printing filter set. ( I don't have the filter module since I use three enlargers, so I dial in my dichroic max M resp. max Y; with the Heiland filter module in your enlarger this burning/dodging would not be a problem).

The company provides updates/improvements which you can download, for free, so far this has been once yearly.

You can set it for silver based film as well as chromogenic.

It's best to avoid teststrips; test patches are much better: make test exposures of the same negative area. You can program the unit for this; test patches with different exp. times and/or different grades.

3-Apr-2004, 07:52
As to the test strip issue, I usually use a full 8x10 sheet, graduated in about six steps. I've found that seeing the whole height of the print helps a lot, and generally only need one or two tests to arrive at a good "straight" print. I've never had a major problem with having different areas of the print at different times, unless it's a very unusual subject.

The Heiland Splitgrade is cool, I've read about it, and it seems like an amazing thing. When I finally have my Fotar, I'll be sure to include one. However, for the purposes of the hobbyist, I believe it is about $1000 more expensive than the RH Designs models.

Leonard Evens
3-Apr-2004, 07:57
In my darkroom days, I used enlarging meters of various degrees of sophistication to measure projected "densities" on the easel. From that information it was possible to get a reasonable print the first time without making a test strip. It was just an application of Zone System principles to making the print. I had made reference strips showing what levels of black were produced by typical measured densities on the easel under standard exposure and print development for different contrast grades. That did require some testing to settle on the proper exposures. Using that I could estimate what grade of paper or which polycontrast filtration to use, and I just used the standard exposure times I had already found.

Although the first print I got that way was usually acceptable, I often had to make one or two additional prints to get just what I wanted. The problem is that one's subjective response to a given shade of gray may depend on how it relates to other shades of gray in the print.

Of course it is possible to have a program which automates this, but it seems to me to not be worth the cost, and not likely to give better results that the method I used.

Hans Berkhout
3-Apr-2004, 09:36
Before I bought the Heiland Splitgrade unit I had 40+ years b&w darkroom/printing experience, and I can assure you that I always considered myself quite proficient and fast in producing "final " results. The Heiland etc. technology just makes it possilbe to achieve this result quicker which is great if you don't want or cannot spend "too much" time in the darkroom.

If you buy the Splitgrade module for "manual" use only, and not the filter module, you can save yourself quite a bit of money. This cannot be used with cold light source, has to be halogen.

Leonard I undestand where you're coming from, I used to print with the same approach and was quite happy with it. Got into this high tech when I started reprinting a zillion negs dating back to highschool years!

Neil Miller
3-Apr-2004, 10:01
RH Designs gear is great - providing you don't have a cold light head. I made the mistake of changing from a dichroic to a cold light and this completely nullified the usefulness of the densitometer and timer. The light output from my setup is too dim for dark areas to register on the densitometer and the head takes so long to warm up and become stable that the timer is rendered useless. Even with my old dichroic set up, the test-strip generator was not 100% - it turns on, turns off, turns on again, etc, to generate the test strips. Turns out that one long exposure time of say, 15 seconds, is not the same as 15 one-second bursts. I now use a cover over the lens and leave the head on all the time to stabilise it and have turned the Analyser Pro on to ticking "metronome" mode. I guess I should have bought a metronome instead and spent the difference in price on (a lot of boxes of) printing paper!

3-Apr-2004, 10:34

I'm currently using the RH Designs Analyser Pro and am extremely happy with it. I don't see any reason to ever return to a "normal" timer again. While the one I have is a variation of the standard Analyser Pro and is dedicated for use with the Ilford Multigrade 500 head, it is operationally the same as the standard unit.

My first printing experience with it produced a completely usable print on the first try. And while that was not what I would consider a final print, the information it provided was very clear as to which way I needed to go in order to improve it. The Analyser Pro is a real tool and it does save time and paper. But I still find myself saying "gee whiz", too!


scott jones
3-Apr-2004, 13:39
Great responses so far. Does anyone use this RH designs device with the Saunders/LPL VCCE head? The head works by using neutral density filters to keep the highlight times the same while switching to differnt filters and I am wondering if this will completely confuse the RH Designs product. Any thoughts??

4-Apr-2004, 08:18
I have been thinking about getting a R H Designs Vario f stop timer for my cold light setup. (Zone VI head, D-2 with V-54 HI). Their information says that the zone thing does not work with this timer. Neil, what model do you have? Does anyone else have any experience, Positive or negative to share about this model? Or any other suggestions re: enlarger timers.


Hans Berkhout
4-Apr-2004, 09:05
Dee, I suspect the problem has to do with how the probe responds to the spectrum emitted by the cold light versus the halogen light source of a dichroic head.

Hans Berkhout
4-Apr-2004, 09:10
If you use a metronome, these would be 1/3 f stops: 8-10-12-16-20-25-32-40 etc secs. Half f stops: 4-5.6-8-11-16-22-32 etc secs.

Chris Ellinger
6-Apr-2004, 15:02
I tried a ZoneMaster with the LPL VCCE light source, and couldn't get it calibrated. (Despite lots of help and excellent service from RH Designs.)

I really liked the idea of the ZoneMaster, but couldn't justify spending any more time trying to make it work for me.

I am now using a (modified) Jobo Comparator 100 meter, and Stouffers TX Exposure Guide.