Beseler 45S + 45MXT = alignment issues?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by PKM-25, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So I am really liking the ease of dial in yellow / magenta filtration with my 45S for Ilford MG fiber, pretty much the way to go in my opinion unless you can get ahold of a dedicated VC head. But....this seems to be coming with a price tag that I am not sure I can pay. The 45S head is not light, in fact it I think it might be putting strain on the upper / neg stage of the enlarger making it appearing impossible to get proper alignment. I use a Parallel laser alignment tool, get the head perfect and then check the lens stage and it is out by at least two turns of the screw that aligns front to back for the whole head.

    So I go nuts using my critical grain loupe and get it as close as I can then have to crank my lenses down to F/11 instead of my desired F5.6-F8 range with Apo-Rodagons. Has anyone else had issues with this?

    I love my 45 system and have a ton of lens boards, carriers etc that took awhile to acquire, but I am seriously considering dumping it all and finding a good used LPL 4550XLG / VCCE and starting over.

    I'm taking John Sexton's The Expressive Black and White Print workshop in a few weeks and I have a feeling I am going to really take a liking to his fleet of LPL's...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2013
  2. frotog

    frotog Member

    Messages:
    749
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Location:
    third stone
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    If funding is an issue, an adjustable lens board (either beseler, calumet or the old zone vi) costs less than a saunders enlarger.
     
  3. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Won't work with a 150 Apo-N, would need like 4 of them as I keep my lenses on boards for workflow reasons not to mention that won't easily solve the bent light path between the neg and lens stage as the axis of adjustment is triangular...

    I have about ten different prints to make this week so I will take a much closer look at it tonight. If I can not figure out a way forward, spending a grand to $1,500 on a different enlarger with associated neg carriers and lensboards is a drop in the bucket compared to what else I have invested in this operation not to mention a tax write off...

    It gets to the point to where you have simply have had enough and that VCCE head would be a dream to print multiple grades on the same sheet without having to figure out the exposure change all the time...
     
  4. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

    Messages:
    2,057
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Location:
    Nicholasvill
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Have you tried bracing the top of the column to the wall to prevent it from flexing under the weight of the head? Another option is to add a washer to the screw behind the adjustment to make up for the flexing.
     
  5. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't have an option for bracing the head unfortunately and when I measured the chassis before and after the placement of the head, it did not budge. Have not tried the washer though, will take a look at that although I am not sure how that will work as the front of the neg stage flexes down so shimming near one of screws is just going to make it worse?

    I just really need some higher level of build and precision and the LPL / VCCE might be a small price to pay over the long run.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2013
  6. boswald

    boswald Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just change chassis to a 45vxl(veryextralarge). Let people know where you are, one will turn up; or just buy one new. They really are a whole different world from the compact(45s) beselers.
     
  7. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If the price is right, I might consider that. But, two things, the distance from my enlarger table to the ceiling is 60", the LPL will just fit and the V-XL might not, I am not sure as I can not find any specs on it. Also, I would rather have a good used VCCE setup than use my current color head on a new chassis, just my preference as it seems to be a more refined manner in which to print VC papers in my opinion.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,817
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Beseler can be hard to contact, but in case you don't have it: http://www.beselerphoto.com/contact-us/
     
  9. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Score, one mint condition LPL 4550XLG / VCCE with a 6x7 carrier, 4x5 Anti-newton carrier and two 39mm lens cones. I think I am going to keep the 45MX with the cold light for workshops, sell the color head.

    Had to get another enlarger anyway....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2013
  10. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,597
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have this same combination and don't have your alignment issues. :blink:
     
  11. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So you don't see the weight of the color head making the stages sag? Oh well, I am keeping the enlarger but will sell the color head with my nifty remote fan mod. I hope to have at least one more enlarger for workshop participants once I get the space so all is not lost....
     
  12. frotog

    frotog Member

    Messages:
    749
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Location:
    third stone
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Calibrating a 45mxt, regardless of the lens you're using, should not be too difficult even for those who are technically challenged. I'd try calling the technical assistance at Beseler - they can lead you through it over the phone.

    The weight of the head on this enlarger is borne by the chassis, which is extremely rigid, not the lens stage as you have surmised. Think of the 810 conversion for your enlarger which weighs significantly more than your color head. Plenty of photographers who shoot 8x10 and don't have room for a floor-stander resort to this solution, without experiencing alignment issues.

    Are you sure you have the adjustable struts at the right height? 3/4 of a turn out of wack can result in an mxt that's out. This detail is often overlooked by mxt users and it's essential for proper alignment when using this enlarger.
     
  13. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,597
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No. And I don't find the 45S color head significantly heavier (or lighter) than the condenser head. I haven't actually made a comparison, (the condenser head could actually be heavier) but have never noticed a weight difference when changing out the heads.

    I think frotog is on to something here. Although, to be fair, I think the OP says neg stage and not lens stage. Even so, this should not be a problem unless you have a defective chassis or your alignment method is not quite right.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2013
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The lens stage is fine, it is the negative stage that is flexing under the load of the color head, I can actually see it. It's not much but it is enough to make it hard to pin down when aligning baseboard to neg stage then baseboard to lens stage depending on enlarger height which could indeed mean that one or both of the support struts for the chassis is off. Last night I did a truly marathon printing session that went from 5PM to 9AM this morning, non-stop. I took my time in checking alignment in every way imaginable and did prints as large as 20x24 and they all came out fine, so there really is no rhyme or reason let alone consistency here...

    That said, the LPL is on it's way and will replace the 45MX as my main machine by the end of next week. In regards to ease of use when doing things like multiple grades on a single sheet, the VCCE head will be a nice step up from the 45S head in terms of ease of selecting filtration on more complex prints. Not to mention I can use my 150 Apo instead of my regular 135 Rodagon when doing 20x24's from 4x5 negs.

    I still think a well tuned and setup 45M series is a great value enlarger and I will not only keep mine but likely get a second one to pair up for workshop participants. But for my needs and considering what I have invested in everything else in my workflow, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade my primary enlarger for the long run....
     
  16. frotog

    frotog Member

    Messages:
    749
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Location:
    third stone
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I believe the spec on the strut set-up calls for an inside angle of 85.5 degrees or 86 degrees, can't recall which one. Beseler tech can provide you with the factory spec should you desire to confirm this.

    Regarding flexing stage.... the mxt is unusual in that bottom half of the negative stage has a spring-loaded opening to accept the carrier. Notice how when you open and close the negative stage you are not lifting the weight of the head at all. You don't have to be a mechanical engineer to plainly see that the weight of the head has zero effect on either the lens or the negative stage in this design. It's clear as day man! However, if you try to calibrate the negative stage without a carrier in the closed position you will experience alignment issues.

    The saunders is a pretty slick enlarger. I've used them in rentals before - nice negative carrier. But unlike the Beseler, they cannot be aligned without major cludging - think machine shop retrofits (and you think you were having problems with the mxt!). They are permanently "factory aligned" which is why I don't care for them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2013
  17. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

    Messages:
    1,098
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I agree a 45VXL would be a nice step up, and better than the 45MXT or any Saunders. I've used all of these, and have a 45VXL at home. It has numerous alignment points, and can be exactly aligned (using a parallel) even with heavy color heads. I don't know the height offhand but can measure if need be.

    good luck, keep us posted
    -Ed
     
  18. Marco Buonocore

    Marco Buonocore Member

    Messages:
    365
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    Location:
    Toronto
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    PKM-25,

    Strange problem you're having with the Beseler. Too bad. I guess you've already got the Saunders. Beautiful machines, except for the fact that you can't align them; that alwasy did my head in. The two that I've used were out of alignment, and the only option was to use shims. I use the versa lab tool as well. Love it.
     
  19. EHM2

    EHM2 Member

    Messages:
    5
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2008
    Location:
    Savannah
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    The later Beselers, after the original 45M, can align the negative stage to the base easily with the supplied hardware, which allows back and forth and side to side motion of the whole focusing rail. You need an adjustable lens stage to finish the job. Zone VI and Delta both make (made) one in Leica thread size. However, making your own for any size does not take machine shop expertise. (Briefly) Take two Beseler lensboards that hold your lens and clamp together. Drill three holes 120 degrees apart of tapping diameter for three machine screws or allen screws around the hole. Tap three holes on one board and re-drill screw clearance holes on the second board and assemble a sandwich with the board with clearance holes board holding the enlarger lens and the filling of the sandwich a piece of dense foam with an appropriate circular cutout, and screw the two together. When mounted on the 45 you can now easily align the lens stage to negative stage and base of the enlarger with a screwdriver. If you are using a glass negative holder you can align in seconds for any print with the Versalab laser thingy. Unfortunately, for the Beseler 45, you will find that you have to do this almost every time you change the negative height! (i.e., you can nitpick if you want to - for 4x5 this probably will not improve quality as much as you hope. Alternatively, by obsessively aligning you can shift blame of any technical shortcomings of your prints to some other cause.) If you are using Cold light or a color head and you are somewhat handy, you can remove the upper bellows and use 1/4 inch plywood to make a box to hold the head, which screwed upon the upper negative stage will make the upper assembly more rigid.

    As regards the Saunders, you can shim the column to square it to the baseboard as measured with Versalab bouncing off a glass negative holder. Unlike the Beseler, this fix will probably work well for a range of heights, but make sure your baseboard is as level as you can get it before playing this game. The lens stage is "factory aligned", which means that, by the time you can get one you can afford, it is not likely to be very well aligned. Nonetheless, on the later models, the fixture that holds the lensboard can be removed and shimmed and quite likely an adjustable lensboard holder could be fabricated, although I have not tried this. The various rollers that hold the head in place on the column have to be clean and in good adjustment (they are adjustable) for this to work at all.

    Summary: Beseler easy to adjust but seems to need it constantly; Saunders maintains reasonably constant alignment after some fairly tricky and time consuming fiddling. This is my experience based on owning one of each.
     
  20. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use this enlarger on a near-daily basis for work, I certainly know my way around it. I have taken all kinds of measurements with steel rulers, digital calipers, etc. The bottom line is that for some reason, with the color head on, the enlarger behaves differently and inconsistently in terms of alignment. I will have it out of the darkroom over the weekend as I swap enlargers out. Like I said before, I am not only keeping it but likely adding a second one for workshops in a year or two.

    As far as the issues people have with the Saunders, it's the way it goes, some are perfect, some are not, what else is new? The thing with the 4550XLG is that aside from a L1200 with a proper VC head, it's one of the best out there, so trying to pin down a VC head because it often has one as mine will. I have been talking with John Sexton on and off for a couple months about these enlargers. It's not going to be that hard to align it, I have all the tooling, use aluminum tape for shimming for other things. The goal is to get it aligned and get to work, not keep futzing with it like the Beseler.

    I need as much consistency as I can get and since putting the color head on the 45MX, I am not getting it. I'll get it figured out and it will be great for students...
     
  21. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

    Messages:
    624
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Once they are aligned, they stay aligned. Welcome to easy street.
     
  22. J Drew

    J Drew Subscriber

    Messages:
    32
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2009
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    This may not be a reasonable or fair thing top say; but I gave up on Besslers in the 60's when I printed (B&W) for a couple of fairly well known photojournalists in Chicago. This might have something to do w/ the fact that the main 4X5 enlarger I had used from the time I was 8yrs old was an Omega usually a II or 2. But @ ~ age 22, I found that I was constantly fighting the Besslers. I was constantly running in to the standards w/ the easel or they were doing some flaky thing that took way too much time to work around. When I finished their darkrooms sessions, I would be ready to scream. I now suspect that Bessler has improved their enlargers. I can see that the columns are more slanted to move the easel away from the columns base as the head is raised.
    Having said all that, I tend to believe that many Bessler users of your model haven't had your problem. I find the angle / tension of the tension members very interesting, but have no idea if that has anything to do w/ U're problem. Having worked in machine shops, including in a nuclear reactors, worked on cars, built precision racing engines, worked on motor cycles, & bicycles, I have usually found that when a truly long term confounding problem appears, it's usually that I failed to figure out the exact operation of mechanism(s) behind it's operation, or that some structural part had partially of fully failed, & I couldn't see it. It could be due to ware of mechanical parts (too much slop) or distortion ( bending) of a structural part. Or just out & out unseen failure (cracking / tearing), softening of the part to do repeated loading. (Although that's supposed to, to work harden the metal) but it doesn't always go that way. There is usually something I didn't see until I let all preconceived ideas go of what the problem is. I have often gone to sleep asking relevant questions & bingo, the next morning the answer popped into my mind.

    Now I have a probably unanswerable question: What are the most stable enlargers for holding alignment? I suspect Durst, (For the experience I’ve had w/ Dursts), I love them, but expense & difficultly getting parts here in the US eliminate them.
    2. When aligning various brands/ models, which are the most reasonably easy to align & keep aligned? I suspect when all is said & done; Omega; but that may be my > 60 year predijust ;-/
    Thank you for your thoughts, Jay Drew
     
  23. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I got the LPL 4550 about 8 hours ago, assembled it, aligned it, tested and it is now in my darkroom. It was pretty close right away even with the fact that the seller took the head off of the carriage instead of following the directions of taking the whole head assembly off of the column. After about 30 minutes of testing and shimming, it is pretty close to perfect at any height.

    I took the head assembly apart and cleaned everything real good, including the fan which had some but not a lot of dust. I am still waiting on a 50mm lens board for my 150 Apo-N, but wow, even using my regular flavor 135 Rodagon the image looked perfectly sharp corner to corner and side to side....what a relief!

    I took care of the light leaks that were no where *near* as bad as the 45MX with a glass carrier. I got my Stopclock hooked up, all seems good and I am really glad I made the move.
     
  24. J Drew

    J Drew Subscriber

    Messages:
    32
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2009
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Wow that drew a rousing response. Let me put the question another way: How many of the readers of this forum have had to align an enlarger? Was It easy? Or was it hard bordering on impossible. How many hours did it take to align? What model enlarger & what alignment equipment were used?
    For the 2nd part How long in terms hours of use did it stay in alignment? I'm sure no one kept exact records of the times, just your best guess.
    This information would be of great use to me & I suspect many others.
    Thank you, Jay Drew
     
  25. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

    Messages:
    2,004
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location:
    Enroute
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It took me 30 minutes to assemble and align the 4550XLG. In terms of the 45MX, I'll have to think about it.
     
  26. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

    Messages:
    624
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    PKM-25- I am curious what you had to shim.