5X4 Enlarger advice?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Bill Banks, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. Bill Banks

    Bill Banks Subscriber

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    I am looking for a 5X4 bench top enlarger for black and white printing and I was wondering if experienced users can make some recommendations. From my research so far it seems wise to avoid cold cathode heads (difficulties with multigrade), DeVere as a make (complicated and too much to go wrong) and Ilford multigrade heads (unreliable and expensive).

    Am I on the right lines? If so, it seems I should look for a Durst or LPL - or are there others?

    I'd be grateful for any thoughts, experiences, recommendations people can share and (especially) if anyone in the southern half of the UK has one to sell.

    Bill
     
  2. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I don't think there is anything wrong with DeVere. The 504 is quite a common 5x4 enlarger. I have the much older DeVere 54 which did have a cold light until I changed it to LED (due to the tube being broken on delivery).


    Steve.
     
  3. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    I have 12 working enkargers in my darkroom and of them all, the LPLs stay perfectly aligned. There's just no fiddling around with them and they use the most modern light bulbs. The VCCE is just excellent, I have two of them...E Clarke
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Something I discovered when I was looking was that enlargers of this size are common in the US and they are subsequently cheap to buy - they are even regularly given away. Over here they are fairly scarce and usually sell for a good price (good if you're selling, not so if you're buying).


    Steve.
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    De Vere's were very cheap about 6-7 yeras ago here in the UK but the markets been drying up, they are the most reliable, also simplest to maintain, there's less not more to go wrong I've been using them since the 1970's.

    Ian
     
  6. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    The DeVere enlargers have the advantage of focusing controls mounted at the front of the baseboard and is quite popular.

    The Durst L1200 (which I have) can be fiddly to focus accurately when doing big enlargements. If you get a model with the dangly fine focus control, the flexible coupling can break and is expensive/difficult to find replacements. That said, I wouldn't hessitate to grab another one at the right price.

    Can't really comment on the LPL, but if if the 5x4 versions are anything like the C7700 I had, they should be a fine choice.

    Regardless of the make and model you finally decide upon, make sure it comes with mixing boxes (diffuser heads), masks, and carriers for the sizes of film you intend to use. If you choose a condenser head, ensure to get a full set of condensers as most (all ?) models are next to impossible to find second hand and will be hideously expensive. Finally, be prepared to travel as most are on a "buyer collect" and always seem to be at the other end of the country.
     
  7. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I'll second the note from eclarke. The Saunders/LPL works very well. I have the 4550 XL with VCCE head. It's solid, easy to use and comes factory aligned. Easy to replace bulbs. Very little can go wrong with these, as opposed to some other more fiddly enlargers like the Beseler. The only thing it doesn't have is lens board tilt, but I've never needed that anyway.

    The Saunders/LPL model numbers in the U.S. are different than in some other countries. For example, the Saunders 4550 XLG in the U.S. = LPL 7452L elsewhere.

    People love their DeVere machines too. I've never used one.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2012
  8. Bill Banks

    Bill Banks Subscriber

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    Thanks, everyone, for your advice so far. Yes - I'm pretty much resigned to paying 'good money' and having to travel to collect my purchase!

    Steve - I'm very interested in your LED modification to your 54. Are these relatively easy to construct? Also I assume this light source works well with modern VC papers and filters. Are you able to expand a little, please?

    Bill
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Another vote for the Devere enlarger. Though I do not like the negative stage, the focusing is excellent with the drop table and knobs in front.

    IMO every type of enlarger is good , if it is well maintained and aligned, I use three different types here and like them all.
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    It's documented in a couple of threads here. Do a asearch for LED enlarger. If I get time I will find them and put links in this thread.

    Basically I used the PCB from an LED stage light which has 153 LEDs, 51 each of red, green and blue. All three are used for focusing then the blue and green are used in varying proportions to get the change of grade. A range of about 1 to 3, possibly 3.5 is possible. Others have managed higher grades by using UV LEDs but I haven't gone that far.

    EDIT: That was easier than I thought!

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/...rger-light-source.html?highlight=led+enlarger

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/...rger-light-source.html?highlight=led+enlarger

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/79213-led-enlarger-head-update.html?highlight=led+enlarger


    Steve.
     
  11. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    I agree about the DeVeres, they are ery good too. I have a 504 and an 8x10.. They are easy to align and don't get misaligned very easily. My second choice behind the VCCE LPL. With the VCCE there are no changes in exposure time when changing contrast grades..a powerful tool for manipulations..EC
     
  12. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Pretty cool, I have some enlarger carcasses which could serve as platforms for this and I'd like to jabe a go at building an 11x14 unit..EC
     
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have a De Vere 504 with a dichromat head and find it to be one of the best enlargers I have ever used.
     
  14. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I've been using a Beseler 45MX with a dichroic head for 30 years and it's a great enlarger. If I had to do it differently, I'd probably get a Durst Laborator. They're gorgeous enlargers.
     
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    In keeping with those recommendations I'd also advise you to avoid condenser enlargers (too much dust will show) and avoid dichroic heads with halogen lamps (too much heat, some bulbs hard to get, power supplies can be non-repairable) and avoid closed loop heads (too complicated for general use) and avoid Elwoods (too old, if glass diffuser is broken the enlarger is junk etc.) and avoid LED enlarger heads (homemade, non "CE" approved, potentially dangerous)...

    Seriously, there are very few 'bad' 4x5 enlargers. Enlarger selection comes down to availability, how far you want to drive or how much you want to support your favorite shipping company and enlarger condition and number of hard-to-find accessories in the deal.