Film densitometer

I’m looking at either a used xrite 301/331 or a new Heiland densitometer to measure film density and wondered if they can also be used to measure reflective density from a Piezography print. Would it be useful ? Any model you would recommend ?

The Heiland transmissive one can switch between transmissive and reflective.


I had a Heiland (forget the model) that did both transmissive and reflective back in the '90s. It was a nice compact unit that met an early demise about 12 years ago when my dog got tangled in the cord and it crashed to the floor. They were not available on this side of the Atlantic for a while, glad to see they are back.

On the other hand, if you are going to be using this film to print in the darkroom with any kind of UV sensitive process, an X-rite 361T, which reads both optical (ortho) and UV transmission, would be your best friend.


Hi Keith,

What kind of process in the darkroom requires UV? I also read about the x-rite being able to measure negative fog - but not the Heiland. I’d also like to use it to calibrate c-41 which I also don’t think the Heiland can do. Is it safe getting an old xrite ? Can they be calibrated and repaired ?


Hi Paul,

UV sensitive darkroom processes are anything that can’t be exposed with the light of an enlarger. Sometimes collectively referred to as alternative processes or non-silver processes, neither of which are entirely satisfactory category names, but in spite of much effort over many years nobody has come up with a better one. The category includes, but is not limited to:

  • Salted paper
  • Cyanotype
  • Kallitype
  • Albumen
  • Platinum and palladium
  • Carbon (and I do not mean of the inkjet variety)
  • Gum dichromate
  • Photogravure

And those are just some of the more commonly (I use that word loosely) practiced today. There are many others in the historical literature and even a few adventurous souls currently working on new ideas.

The thing that they all have in common is that they are primarily or exclusively sensitive to UV light, which means exposure must be accomplished using a UV light source such as metal halide, fluorescent, or LED “blacklight”, or with sunlight.

Any densitometer can read negative fog which is simply non-image base density of the film. Most read optical density; a few such as the Xrite 361T read UV density as well. If you are only going to be making silver prints in the darkroom using commercially made paper (Ilford, Kodak, etc) then you will get no benefit from a UV capable densitometer – the Heiland or one of the other Xrite b/w transmission densitometers will meet your needs.

C-41 and color printing is a whole different beast. A black and white densitometer will not be sufficient. But that is a world I never ventured into so I’m afraid the only advice I can give is that you will need a color densitometer to read color film. I suppose it’s possible that a color densitometer could read b/w film though.

There is a place called Acurad Technical Services ( that services Xrite densitometers. I had an Xrite 400 reflection densitometer (recently sold to another member of this forum) since the '90s that I sent to be overhauled a several years ago. Steve Danielson at Acurad did an excellent job getting it back to like-new. I also sent him my Heiland, but it was damaged beyond repair even if he could have gotten parts.

Hope that answers your questions,

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