Aligning Enlarger

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by kbrede, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. kbrede

    kbrede Member

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    I recently purchased a Beseler 23C-II. I'm the third owner that I know of and it had been setting in a garage for the past couple years. I cleaned it up and printed with it yesterday. I noticed that when the center of the image was in focus, the corners weren't. When the left corner closest to me was in focus the rest of the image wasn't, and so on. It wasn't drastic, just little tweaks to the focusing knob would put the other areas of the negative in focus but I'm assuming the enlarger is out of alignment. The print also displayed out of focus areas.

    I've read in the manual how to align. I've also read people use home made laser aligners and products such as zig-align. My question is, will the method outlined in the manual, using a carpenter square and level suffice? Do the newer alignment tools available do a much better job than using a square and level?

    Thanks,
     
  2. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    I have never used the laser, only the square and level. I suspect that the laser may be quicker, but the square and level certainly worked well for my Beseler 45.
     
  3. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    A laser is the easiest way and most accurate. If you can afford it, get one.
     
  4. Henry Alive

    Henry Alive Subscriber

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    I always had doubts about the correct alignment of my enlarger, even when my squad and the level said it was fine. When I bought the laser I discovered it was quite out of alignment. I really recomend you to buy the laser.
     
  5. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

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    I wish someone would have talked me into a laser device years before I finally purchased one. Fast and easy with results that are easily seen. The 23C series doesn't adjust all planes easily but some shim stock will be a great help and you may not readily see the access points for each needed adjustment but commit some time to an initial set up and only small tweaks should be required after that. There's no shortage of techniques and tools for the task but the laser makes it so simple and easy that you're apt to actually keep your gear more tuned because of the ease of doing it.
     
  6. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Patrick Robert James, as it happens, I was looking for an alignment tool, and so I have been doing a little research. I used to think as you do, that lasers are most accurate, but I have been led to believe than an even more accurate device is one that uses multiple reflections of the test image. Laser reflects only once, from the mirror, and you check if it hits the bull's eye. Zig Align, and similar systems, reflect the image multiple times, against two mirrors, magnifying any alignment errors much more than a single-reflection laser device would. If you have the time, the maker of zig align describes this difference between lasers and his device here: http://www.zig-align.com/zig-align/zig-align_vs._lasers.html

    Having said all of that, until now, I have relied on spirit levels, sheets of flat glass, and a scratched negative that I would check using my grain focuser. I feel I should do it in a better way, but perhaps I will find no effect on my printing at all.
     
  7. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I have a 45MXT and I use a level. First I make sure the bench is perfectly level and I try to make head aligned the neg stage then the lens stage. I also have a negative of some screen I shot. I project the grid on the base board and use a grain focuser.
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Since you can see that it is off, try it with the level and see if it makes a difference. Like others, I recommend the laser.
     
  9. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Laser. Much better than Zig-align, which is better than levels. You won't regret it. Worth every penny. I've had mine for 12+ years and it would be one of the first darkroom items to be replaced if lost or damaged. Very useful for copy work as well.
     
  10. anikin

    anikin Subscriber

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    Another vote for lazer. It's worth every penny and then some. Very quick and precise. You don't know how great it is until you get one.
     
  11. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Maybe I am a tight wad. Maybe I don't care that much for accuracy, but I just use a darkened negative with a series of lines scribed across it. Put it in the neg holder, turn the light on and focus on the board. With a few measurements you can reasonably quickly see how close the alignment is. Sure, you are not going to get it within thou's, but for my style, its close enough (& cheap)
     
  12. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    RidingWaves, may I ask you why did you find the laser much better than Zig-Align? Many thanks.
     
  13. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

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    What "laser" are we talking about? After a Google search, I'm guessing the Versalab one for $189? That's worth more than the enlarger itself.
     
  14. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    the zig that I borrowed was too fiddly, it was also tougher to check the alignment of the Neg stage vs the Lens stage. Lens stage to baseboard/easel was ok, but the Laser (Versalab) is just so much Cleaner in technique. Because it is easier and faster I find I'll do a quick check before a printing session and then check it as I move up or down print sizes and change easels, one of which needs a bit of shimming here and there. Checking it more often means I'll catch any errors sooner, saving time and paper.
     
  15. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Thank you, RidingWaves, I appreciate it.
     
  16. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  17. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I have two Omega DII.

    I tried aligning it with a carpenter's level and a plate of glass. What I found frustrating was that I level something once and come back to measure again, the level shows it is now out of alignment. Did this for a few days... trying to do it in two axis at 3 different planes and having it to agree on level was nearly impossible. I finally got it and used it like this for a while.

    Then my girlfriend bought me a Versalab's laser alignment tool. It took me all 30 seconds to find out it really wasn't aligned right. Took another 30 minutes to align it correctly. (remember this is my first time using this tool). To recheck it takes a minute or so. I then aligned another one of my D-II in about 15 minutes.

    Based on my experience, I don't suggest using carpenter's level. When I tried it, I couldn't be sure what I was reading was right. (and it wasn't)

    I know Beseler has a dedicated level for this purpose. It's $179 at B&H. I'm sure you can align it correctly with this jig as something like this has been in use for decades for this purpose and all masters used something like this in their setup.

    Versalab, by the way, is $189.

    To me, the choice is clear.
     
  18. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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  19. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    The main object of enlarger alighment is to get the four corners of the image on the easel simultaneously focused. For some precise projects such as double sided printed circuit boards or integrated circuit masks, the negative and image should be precisely parallel. In pictorial photography, that rarely matters. A suitable negative and perhaps a suitable focusing aid are about all one needs. Hoffy's suggestion of scribing through a dense negative might work best with a diffusion enlarger. For a condenser enlarger, lightly sand a piece of film with both fine and coarse sandpaper. Some enlargers, such as the excellent old Omega B22, have screws that can be loosened to permit adjustment. Other enlargers may require shimming. Adhesive tape works well enough for this. A problem sometimes encountered is a column that has developed a forward tilt over the years. If so, the base of the column should be shimmed before doing further alignment.