Arista UV Lightsource 20x24 review

February 10, 2015  •  3 Comments

AristaUVAristaUV Ever since I have been getting into alternative processes it's been clear that I needed a UV source of my own. It seems there are a few different options, from cheap and cheerful to quite expensive:

  • Use the Sun - it's free but not particularly reliable in some places (like foggy San Francisco) or replicable for precise timing
  • Buy a Mercury vapor or metal halide bulb - cheap but you have to fashion some sort of frame to hold the bulb and this gets hot, coverage can be uneven
  • Make you own UV unit with tanning bulbs - not too hard to do, there are plenty of directions on the internet.
  • Make your own UV unit with UV LEDs - quite easy to do, here are some directions.
  • Buy a new purpose built UV unit made with UV bulbs - vary in price but since they are purpose built tend to work well.
  • Buy a used plate burner or graphic arts printer - can be hard to find, expensive and they are large units to install.

You can read an exhaustive review of the options here at the Unblinking Eye.

I decided that I didn't want the hassle of making my own unit and so searched around for something reasonable and robust. Fortunately, I found the Arista UV Lightsources available from Freestyle. It comes in two sizes 20x24 for $699 and 30x36 for $1,999. They are pizza oven style boxes made of aluminum with a front flap that lifts up to accept the contact printing frame. They use relatively little energy and with such a large heavy metal box, heat is well dissipated even after the unit has been on for several hours. My unit, the smaller of the two, appears to power up nice and quickly. The unit comes with a metal sheet that covers the bottom but once you put the box on a flat surface I don't think its really worth putting in place. I doubt this will cause any problems but I wouldn't place the unit on a nice wooden table! There is a 3/4" lip of metal around the bottom on all sides but the front. This could get in the way with larger 16x20 contact frames.

The internal dimensions of the box are 25" wide, 20 1/4" deep and 2 1/2" tall. You could actually use a frame that was 3 1/2" thick if it were 20x23" maximum external dimensions. My 23 3/4 by 19 3/4" frame (external dimension of the 16x20") fits but the pizza oven flap doesn't quite close completely. That's fine. I'm not planning on leaving my fingers around the opening to get a tan. I've had nothing but even exposures with both cyanotype and platinum prints.

Alternative UV printing boxes that are available tend to be made of wood and are a little pricier. I'm sure they work since they are sold by Bostick & Sullivan but I suspect that the Arista units are better value for money and appear to be more robust in design.



Angus Parker Photography
There are now UV emitting LEDs that come in tape strips that can be easily arranged on a board and powered by associated plug in power sources. This seems like the cheapest home made option these days. I'll add it to the list above when I find a good source of information.
Angus Parker Photography
Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Looks like the bigger version also went up $100. Still think they are great buys though.
Great post, Angus! I'm considering purchasing the 20x24 light source, but I think Freestyle bumped the price to $799 now.
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