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History of RH Designs

RH Designs has been operating for 25 years under the management of its owner, Richard Ross. Upon Richard’s retirement, Secondhand Darkroom Supplies ltd purchased the company and bought it under the umbrella of their general operations.  Since SDS and RH Designs are both currently in a period of expansion, it now seems sensible from a sales and administration perspective to return to a situation in which SDS and RH Designs are separate entities, although operating from the same address.

RH Designs was established in 1994 by Dr Richard Ross and has been manufacturing high-quality enlarger timers, darkroom exposure meters and other accessories since the original StopClock f-stop Enlarger Timer was introduced.

Back in 1992, he had read Gene Nocon’s book ‘Photographic Printing’ in which he described a method of printing which he claimed was more logical and predictable than simple seconds timing. He called this ‘the F-stop method’, and it was based on the fact that photographic materials respond to light in a non-linear manner. Basically, the method adjusts print exposure times in just the same way as shutter speeds are adjusted on a camera, and the result is the ability to control print density in a linear manner; if you adjust the exposure time by a given ‘f-stop’ interval, the result on the print will be the same whatever the original exposure time. This seemed to him to be so logical that he immediately tried the method for his own printing, and was an instant convert!

Quickly tiring of the mental gymnastics of working out f-stop time intervals, and finding look-up tables of limited use in the dark, he first of all wrote a program for his Psion Organiser (an early hand-held computer) that would work out the times for him. This however did not control the enlarger and he had to rely on pressing the footswitch whenever the Psion bleeped at him. Nocon had marketed an enlarger timer based on his method but at that time it was out of production and, according to several second-hand equipment dealers he approached, scarcer than hen’s teeth on the used market. Being an electronic engineer by profession he set about designing his own f-stop enlarger timer and the result was the original prototype of the StopClock. He reasoned that he could not be the only one looking for an f-stop enlarger timer and so decided to make a batch of 100 units and try selling them. Thus RH Designs was born in August 1994, and the success of the original StopClock (shown above) encouraged him to go into it full time. Eighteen years on, many of the original batch are still at work!

As a result of a magazine article about the StopClock he was approached by Chris Woodhouse, with a darkroom exposure meter he had designed and patented. It so happened that his Analyser used the same number of keys and displays as the StopClock so they could put it into the same enclosure, thus getting it to the market quickly. It was launched at Focus on Imaging in 1996 through the kind offices of Nova Darkroom Equipment and has gone on to be highly successful. The current range has evolved from these two original products, which have themselves been steadily improved over the intervening years as a result of our own experience and feedback from our customers.

Chris and Richard were both photographers and darkroom workers as well as electronics engineers so they felt they were in a unique position to design and develop equipment which really does perform, addressing the needs of working printers, saving time and materials.

We hope the information on this web site will amply demonstrate the effectiveness of our products but it is very difficult to get across in words and pictures the major benefit of them – which is ease of use. The words ‘f-stop method’ tend to confuse, and disguise the fact that at the end of the day, the principle is quite transparent to the user. All you do is to visualise any changes you want to make to a print, and the timer takes care of the maths. You simply adjust the density of the print in straightforward, consistent steps. Coarse or fine adjustments – your choice. Time and again we hear from customers who are amazed at how much easier and more predictable their printing has become, and the time and paper they’re saving.