Aligning an enlarger with a laser, quick idea..

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Phillip P. Dimor, May 18, 2013.

  1. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I can't afford a Versalab Parallel.. but there are these rifle boresight laser alignment tools.. basically a cartridge with a laser pointer built in.
    I'd imaging the 12 gauge one would work particularly well, just rest it with the laser pointing upwards, place a mirror in your carrier, etc..
    Easier than building a laser diode driver for one of those cheapies, easier than mounting a laser diode perfectly 90deg. to your baseboard, etc.
    Cheap (from China) on the *bay*.. just a thought.
     
  2. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Also imagine fitting one (not the 12 gauge, a smaller caliber) into the battery compartment of a top-rf mounted speed/crown graphic.. press the focus button and instead of the lightbulb for focusing, you've got a laser dot. Same with the side-mounted kalart if you can figure a way to mount it into the top of the case (where the original attachment went)..
    Also would make for calibrating your kalart extremely easy (i've done this before, calibrated an aero-ektar perfectly, then a week later a 7.5" anastigmat, perfect every time.. near and far.)

    Just some thoughts, coffee is finished..
     
  3. jerrybro

    jerrybro Subscriber

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    First you'd have to ensure that the base was perpendicular to the beam, or come up with a precise way of aligning and holding the laser.
     
  4. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Very true.. And much more difficult than it sounds but i'd imagine that the cartridge would stand flush/flat on the baseboard. A shotgun shell is pretty wide in diameter..
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I bet a shotgun shell version would work. I use a 3-way laser torpedo level on the baseboard with a mirror in place of the negative carrier.
     
  6. okto

    okto Member

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    Why do you need your enlarger aligned this precisely? A bubble level will get you within less than a degree; unless you're printing wide-open (and why would you?), that slight a mis-alignment should be covered by depth of field, no?
     
  7. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    "Why do you need your enlarger aligned this precisely? A bubble level will get you within less than a degree; unless you're printing wide-open (and why would you?), that slight a mis-alignment should be covered by depth of field, no? "

    most high-end APO lenses were designed to be used wide open, same with point-light heads. Than again some children like to play with their food.

    two things I just don't get:
    1) an optical lens does not bend/move a laser beam so you're not aligning the lens to the carrier or baseboard
    2) the alignment changes up and down the column

    the best choice is a Salthill Tri-linear alignment tool but they are rarer than hen's teeth.
     
  8. Noble

    Noble Member

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    I believe laser alignment is a lot faster and easier. And if it is faster and easier you are more likely to do it.
     
  9. Noble

    Noble Member

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    You can align the lens with something like the Delta 1 Bes-Align used with a laser alignment tool. As far as the column is concerned I would have to check to see how much that varies. I'm not sure but I stumbled across a thread somewhere where someone said aligning the negative and the lens was far more important than aligning the negative/lens to the baseboard. I don't know if that's true so don't quote me. Just a post I saw somewhere. I would have to research it or test it myself... not very inclined to do the latter. It would be good to know what the deal is though.
     
  10. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    the Delta 1 Bes-Align assumes the rear mounting flange is exactly aligned with the lens axis, the Versalab Parallel assumes the front flange is exactly aligned. Maybe, maybe not. It is still best to check on the easel with a micro-sight and test negative.

    "As far as the column is concerned I would have to check to see how much that varies. "

    moving the head up & down to change enlargement AND refocusing the lens for different distance will need to be checked for each enlarger and lens.

    if you need to be that accurate, you need to be THAT accurate, should only be needed for big (20 - 30X) enlargements.
     
  11. Noble

    Noble Member

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    I am not sure what the "mounting flange" is. Are you talking about something on the lens board (or Bes Align) or the actual housing of the lens itself?

    I have to say enlarger alignment is one of the areas in photography that fills me with the most doubt. Any light that can be shed on that topic is much appreciated.
     
  12. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I've just aligned mine using ZigAlign, which is a mirror-based system, no lasers. A parallel plate screws into your lens filter thread, another one goes in the negative stage, mirror on the easel, and a 45 degree mirror alignment tool completes the kit. You align the lens stage to the easel, and then neg stage to the easel, at the usual column height. Seems very precise. http://www.zig-align.com/zig-align/Enlarger.html
     
  13. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I'm not trying to get focus perfect, just shape perfect. If you print a photo and the verticals are messed up or you want to show it uncropped and window mat it, you want it to be a proper rectangle/square, not some skewed rhombus on the paper. Even if your 10x10" print is off by 1/8", it shows bad when put in a mat where you want exactly 1/4" all around.
     
  14. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    You are right IF you are talking about alignment between lens/film stage and the baseboard. Any mis-alignment will be covered by DOF. But, between film and lens stage alignment is very critical. Carpenter type levels aren't nearly sensitive enough for this purpose. I tried it....
     
  15. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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  16. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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  17. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    The shotgun shell (I have a 20ga. one) indeed DOES sit perfectly flat. The beam certainly appears to be centered and there is an adjustment screw that I haven't fiddled with..
    This works very well for me and it was like $12 shipped from California. Now to figure out how to align this Beseler 23c (shoot me). I need to bore out these two screw holes that hold this bracket in the back of the enlarger, you can see that one screw is higher than the other.. thus the head is just tilting to the left. Sloppy.
     
  18. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I use a large mirror that fits in place of the negative carrier and remove the enlarging lens to align the negative stage to the baseboard.
    Sometimes I will take a smaller mirror and place it in the negative carrier and double check that it is still aligned.
    I align it with the head fairly close to the baseboard and then repeat it with the head extended fully. I double check with the head lowered as well.

    Then I remove the mirror and tape a mirror to the inside of a lens board so I can repeat the process with the lens stage.
    I don't print wide open. I don't even print larger than 11x14. I don't trust bubble levels, at least not the ones I own. Using a laser is more precise, simple and quick for me at least. It's very visual, you just get the dot to reflect back into the laser diode.
     
  19. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    One assumes that a glass neg carrier is being used (else the neg won't be flat anyway) and in my experience the glass surface reflects enough laser light to make mounting a mirror unnecessary during alignment. If you get secondary reflections from further up the optical system (maybe a condenser for example) then just put a piece of masking tape on the top of the neg-carrier glass.

    It might simplify starting off with a re-housed enlarger to have the work-table level, the column vertical and the baseboard level - all before checking the head alignment, up and down the column, and finally the lens mount alignment. To check the lens mount, put a microscope slide (or 6x6 slide glass) on the mount, then reflect the laser off that. Some enlargers have no built-in alignment screws, so those are perhaps not the easiest type to start alignment experiments with.

    I'm not sure of a reliable way to prove that the elements of a lens are in the correct arrangement regarding the lens-mount - apart from actually trying out the lens of course and/or comparing results to a known good one on the same well-aligned enlarger. One hopes that a Componar-S or Fujinon-EX (and similar standard lenses) would leave the factory in good condition, but a secondhand lens may have had a troubled life, as it were.

    How do other people do their routine of checks, and how often?
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I aligned mine by eye.