DarkRoom Wizard Functions:

DarkRoom Wizard®

Camera Arts Magazine

Review by: Dave Howard, Camera Arts Magazine, April/May 1999, pg. 62-63


As generally enjoyable as darkroom work is for most of us, there are admittedly some aspects of the craft that qualify as at least tedium, if not a downright pain-in-the-neck. Such chores as calculating a new printing time for a different size print, figuring correct dilutions, coming up with a particular volume of chemistry by percent and converting various measurements from one form to another are classic examples.

Over the years there have been umpteen charts and tables published, many of which probably cling to your darkroom walls with brittle, yellowing Scotch tape. You also most likely have a box or drawer full of cardboard calculators, magazine articles, and manufacturers' poop sheets, none of which you can find when you need them, or remember how to use if you do.

Now there's an easier way. For those workers who have a personal computer, and running Microsoft Windows, a new software program called DarkRoom Wizard is the answer. System requirements: 12 MB free hard disk space; 8 MB RAM minimum; x86-Pentium Windows platform. A 16-bit version of the program is compatible with Windows 3.1, 3.1 1, Windows 95, and Windows NT Workstation 3.51 or higher. A 32-bit version works with anything from Windows 95 or later. Database compatibility: 16-bit, Microsoft Access version 2.5; 32-bit, Access 3.0. It is available on CD ROM on by download from the PhotoSoft website. Sorry Macaholics, unless you have one of the few Power Macs or clones that are PC-compatible, once again you're left with your noses pressed to the window looking in. A program called MacLink Plus, or a new one called Virtual PC, might let you run DarkRoom Wizard on your Mac, but I haven't tried it myself.

(2010 update -- works well with Parrells and built-in Boot Camp running Windows XP and Windows 7 on the newer Intel based Macs)

The major features of DarkRoom Wizard are as follows: film and paper test databases, process control, mixture calculations, measurement conversions, printing time calculations, data graphing, six independent timers, four alarm clocks, and a printing notes database. The program is not only a fancy calculator but also an aid to testing materials, and a means of organizing information. Now let's take a brief look at some of the more significant functions.

Reduction or enlargement from an original print size requires an adjustment to the printing time. After entering the data (f/stop, time, length) from the original print, plus the length of the new print, hitting the "Calc" button gives you the new printing time. A slider bar can be used to select a different f/stop or time combination; for instance, when an overly long or short exposure would lead to reciprocity problems with some materials.

A particularly useful function is as a process controller. It is great for processing C-41 and E-6 in small tanks and rotary tubes, being capable of 24 steps, with a drain time between each. You can enter and modify any process desired. As each step counts down, the "current step time remaining" is displayed, along with the total process time remaining. A user-selectable sound denotes drain times; you can have the program pause during any drain period. During a given step, data for the next step is displayed so that you always know where you are in the process no matter how prone to daydreaming you may be. Anytime there's risk of materials fogging from the monitor screen, clicking on the Screen Blanker icon will cause the screen to go black; clicking the mouse or hitting any key will restore the image.

When mixing chemistry from concentrates, such as figuring ratios for developer dilutions, or when calculating a volume of chemistry by percentage (e.g. you need 16 fl. oz. of 1% acetic acid, starting with 28% acetic acid), DarkRoom Wizard can really make life easier and avoid ruined materials resulting from incorrect calculations.

As an extension of the preceding paragraph, it's even worse when you need to mix chemicals from bottles marked in different systems (e.g. liters and ounces). You can convert fluid, dry, linear, and temperature measurements. Values can be entered as decimals or fractions.

The six timers available can count up or down from a preset time and can be saved and recalled; a metronome can be selected for dodging and burning. Zone System buffs and anyone wanting to get a real handle on film development will appreciate the graphing capability of DarkRoom Wizard. You can create line, log/line, area and bar graphs, using grids with only horizontal lines, only vertical, or both.

There are facilities for keeping film and paper development notes, and an article database for referencing information from magazines, books, newsletters, etc.

The program is very user-friendly, with none of the you-can't-get-therefrom-here gridlock common with some software. Within the text of any heading, you can click on any green colored item to take you instantly to that specific subject.

DarkRoom Wizard, in conjunction with an enlarging timer that monitors your enlarger lamp and compensates for fluctuations, and a development timer that monitors and compensates for changes in developer temperature, will go a long way toward eliminating the frustrating variables that lead to inconsistent results and wasted materials. It will save you valuable time formerly spent experimenting or searching for information, either getting you out of the dark sooner or leaving time to make more prints. It is equally applicable to amateur, professional and industrial environments.

Dave Howard is a photo industry and former industrial photographer and color printer, involved for more than a decade with NASA's space and /7i.ght research programs. He is a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, having majored in motion picture production. Howard was also Technical and Executive Editor of Camera and Darkroom magazine. He has work in the Permanent Loan collection of the Photographic Art and Science Foundation, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers. He is a panoramic specialist, and a longtime member of the International Association for Panoramic Photographers.

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