Carbon Journal, Day 24

Day 24: Do I Need a Densitometer?

Throughout my entire journey of shooting film, getting into large format, and evolving my process to carbon printing, I've been habitually avoiding things that are overly technical. For me, once photography extends past the creative effort and into the technical, it becomes less and less the experience I desire. Examples of the overly technical include   MTF charts, film/paper speed testing, and other heavy applications of math and/or science to photography. But now that my shooting and developing habits are more or less under control, my final frontier lies in a more consistent, predictable printing process. For carbon transfer printing, this means being able to accurately measure the density and contrast range of my negatives, so that they may be paired with the correct amount of sensitizer.

Which brings me to my opening question, "Do I need a densitometer?" 

The facts thus far:

  • I'm capable of producing a good working carbon print within one or two sessions, but from only one negative. This still means days of work. 
  • Pigment concentration, tissue thickness, and exposure for Dmax are under control, the only variable left is sensitizer.
  • Looking at two different (pyro) stained negatives on the table, I can "ballpark" guess their correct sensitizer concentrations, but still needs testing.
  • Many of my older negatives are noticeably thin compared to more recent negatives, and make carbon printing a nightmare.  
  • Since I'm using negatives stained with a pyro developer, if a densitometer is needed, UV transmission readings will be necessary.

What do you guys think? Is this something that would benefit my workflow, or add an unnecessary learning curve to what should be an entirely creative process?