Theory &
Technical Specification


The Optima System works on many principles but there are four major principles that we believe are fundamentally new in the darkroom:

1. Adaptability

The OptimaX and Optima12, 16 and 20 base units have no use on their own, they are simply a means to add a wide range of peripheries that allow the photographer and chemist the greatest flexibility and adaptability in their work. Other than an enlarger, you don't need any other hardware. We know of no other system that is as flexible as this.

2 Simplicity & Reliability

As a result of 40 years of darkroom design and manufacturing the Optima System is in many ways very complex. The production methods to make the Optima have only become available in recent years with CNC machinery and modern bonding agents.

Yet despite the functionality, the operation is incredibly simple. Maintenance is essentially zero. Every component is replaceable in a matter of seconds.

3. Comparative Density of Oxidised Chemicals

When photographic chemistry oxidises it becomes around 5% less dense and rises to the top of the container it is in. Oxygen can only penetrate around 15mm beneath the liquid surface. This means three things.

1. If you are using a tray, 100% of your chemistry will quickly oxidise if left open to the air.

2. If you are using a deep slot tank, the adverse will be true - you will find your chemistry will not readily oxidise beyond the top 15mm even if left open to the air. In a 35cm deep tank (such as the Optima12) that is left to settle (so that the lighter oxidised chemistry rises to the top) oxygen can only readily react with less than 5% of the volume. In the Optima20 this reduces to around 2.5%, well below any threshold that is likely to be possible in normal use..

3. Because the inert chemical sits on the top surface of the tank it is possible to selectively remove oxidised chemical. Removing the top 10-30mm of the tanks contents with a syringe removes a far higher amount of oxidised chemical than pouring and replacing.

4. Diffusion in Print Washing


Processing chemistry can be removed in three ways:


1. Droplets of chemistry can be removed from its surface. This can be done with a 2 second dip into a water bath. This is the most effective (removing around 90% of the chemistry in 2 seconds) but it is the least thorough, leaving 10% of the chemistry in the print.

2. Chemistry is to be washed out of the image. The image emulsion penetrates into the first few microns of the print, staying in contact with water for a few minutes achieves this and reduces active chemistry by around 99.9%. This can be done quickest by immersing in moving water (which slightly agitates or 'scrubs' the print). This is effective but for fine art prints and for longevity of images it is still not thorough enough.

3. Trace chemistry can be removed from the inner fibres of the print only by diffusion. Diffusion is a very slow process and essential for the longevity of prints. In many ways this is the the least effective process but the most important and thorough. Diffusion is the net movement of molecules from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration. Diffusion is driven by a gradient in concentration. The water outside the print must be cleaner than the water inside the print, the greater the difference the quicker and more thorough the process. Water movement has no influence on diffusion.

If in a washer with high water throughput the chemical is released from the print and agitated by water movement, quickly mixing it with the water in the tank. High water flow essentially dilutes the toxin but never fully removes it. This method becomes exponentially less efficient the closer to purity you get. If you put 1 litre of fast flowing water into a 1litre tank you only remove around 1/3 of soluble toxins. You can reach water purity by removing 1/3 of the toxins..

However, if the chemical is instead released from the print into still water, the heavier chemical is no longer actively transported by agitation. Stillness allows an environment in which comparative liquid density is the primary motivating force on any molecule (greater than both water flow and diffusion). The result is that toxins fall to the bottom of the tank and are taken away by a slow stream of water. The liquid removed is always the least pure. Whats more, removal is not a percentage of the impurity. It is every molecule that falls through the liquid. It is possible to get 100% purity this way, all while using considerably less water and applying less stress to the print.

With Optima use all three processes are possible

A. Dip the print into the first slot two or thee times to remove 90% of chemistry.

B. Immediately dip the print into the second slot two or three times. Leave in this slot, the agitation will continue to move chemicals over the prints surface for up to 90 seconds.

C. When you place another print into the washer move the first to the furthest slot along and leave as still as possible for as long as desired. 20 minutes is adequate.

1. Workmanship Guarantee

The are provided with a lifetime workmanship guarantee. We will repair or replace any Optima12, Optima16 or Optima20 base unit free of charge if the fault it in any way due to design or manufacturing.


2. Lifetime Repair Warranty

The OptimaX, Optima12, Optima16 and Optima20 are all covered by a lifetime warranty. Any damage of any kind will be repaired by us for free, This does not include parts or shipping but includes all labor.