Thursday, January 05, 2006

No Margin for Error

I have in my photography library a 50-year old book dedicated to the venerable Omega Enlargers. I've been using various models for years, ranging from the low-end C700 to the unstoppable DII 4x5 version.

The book, Omega Enlarger Guide, by Dr. Kenneth S. Tydings, copyright 1954 (that's nearly 52 years old for the mathematically challenged) is basically a 120 page press release for Omega enlargers. While there's some good information about the old enlargers and about darkroom practice in general, what's even more interesting is the previous owner's marginal scribblings.

I bought the book used (naturally) and in the margins of some of the pages the previous owner scribbled his/her thoughts in pencil.

For instance, on page 13 next to this passage: "It is axiomatic that only an excellent enlarger can bring out all the infinite middle tones inherent in a good negative," the previous owner commented "The hell it is!"

No doubt he/she does not buy Omega's boasts that its enlargers are the only ones that can bring out all the nuance in a negative.

On page 36, under an illustration of various negative carriers, next to one called the "35mm Kodachrome Negative Holder," the previous owner wrote: "There is no such thing as a Kodachrome negative."

And, of course, he/she is correct. Since Kodachrome is reversal film (better known as slide or transparency film) there are no "negatives." The result of developing reversal film is a "positive," not a negative. Hence the name reversal film.

It's snarky comments like the previous owner's marginal rantings that make the book infinitely more interesting than Dr. Tydings could ever have imagined.

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