Durst L1200 / CLS 500 or Beseler 45MX / Dichro 45S ?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by frobozz, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    I always hate forum posts that ask other people to make someone's decision for them. Nobody can do that for you! But here I am, in need of some sort of guidance, so... hate me if you must.

    I'm setting up a darkroom again after about 3 decades of having to have other people print my pictures. I've been gathering pieces for a few years now, and will likely begin construction later this year. I have a Beseler 45MX with the Dichro 45S color head (the simpler one without all the balky LED displays.) I have every mixing box for the head. I have every negative carrier I could ever need, including the Negaflat (I much prefer glassless carriers). I'm completely set in the enlarger department.

    ...and then yesterday, as part of a deal for a bunch of darkroom stuff, I picked up a Durst Laborator 1200 with the CLS500 head. Oh my word, that is one sexy enlarger. It's in gorgeous condition, but it only has the 4x5 light box, and the 35mm masks for the carrier (plus the full size glass to put back in if needed, and the built in sliding masks of course.)

    Even without having actually used it, it's pretty clear to me that the Durst is going to win most polls of "which of those two is the better enlarger"? That thing is a beast. The question is, at what cost? From what I can tell, Durst parts are much harder to come by (read: more expensive) than the Beseler equivalents. I could print all the non-35mm formats using the glass in the carrier, but I generally don't like using glass. And I could not buy the 35mm light box and just suffer the longer print times when using 35mm.

    So, existing dream configuration 45MX, or basic configuration L1200/CLS500 with the everpresent spectre of dumping big bucks to improve it down the line? Which do you think is going to make me happier? (What will really make me happy is to get this darkroom going so I can make prints, even if I have to use a Lucky enlarger!)

    Duncan
     
  2. Richard Wasserman

    Richard Wasserman Member

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    I can't speak about the Beseler enlarger as I have never used one. I do have a Durst 1200 with a CLS500 head and it is easily the finest enlarger I have ever used. I print 35mm, 120, and 4x5 with it, all using the 4x5 mixing box even though I have the others, and exposure time is not a problem or me at all. Often in fact I need to add neutral density to make the times longer–I think a lot depends on what size you are printing and paper speed. My largest prints are 16x20. Negative masks are simply aluminum plates with the appropriate size opening and can be made by any machinist, or it could even be a DIY project with a hacksaw and a file. For 4x5 I always use a glass carrier, and with smaller formats I use a mask on the bottom and glass on top to keep everything flat.
     
  3. ishutteratthethought

    ishutteratthethought Subscriber

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    I agree with Richard, the L1200 is a fine fine piece of equipment – best I have ever used. After I got the L1200 the 45M went to charity.
    I was fortunate enough to get all the condensers and a number of other components with mine as well as a series of neg plates (I machined a 35mm carrier to 4 x 5).
    There are components out there, just have to be patient.
    Steve
     
  4. Renato Tonelli

    Renato Tonelli Subscriber

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    Another vote for the Durst - any Durst! My L1200 is a pleasure to work with - I is 10 years old, give or take a couple of years. I still have a Durst PRO from the 1970's that is now being used (and abused) mostly by students - still works like when I bought it, still properly aligned, etc.
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Duncan

    None of the two for you! People who call enlargers 'sexy' need therapy, not a darkroom! :smile:

    Just kidding.

    Can you keep both? If not, work with both for a while and then decide. I'm afraid, you'll opt for the Durst in the end. The Durst L1200 is the best enlarger, I've ever worked with. Mine is wall mounted ('anchored' is probably a better term).
     
  6. hspluta

    hspluta Member

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    Ah ha - so you got that enlarger, I saw the ad on Craigslist and was trying to buy just the one enlarger from the guy ( I assume this is the one on Craigslist ) and at the last moment he told me he sold the whole shooting match to someone else.

    I am in Oak Park, IL, not far from you, let me know if you decide to part with either unit, perhaps we can work a deal.

    FWIW, I had the same Beseler 45MX setup you are describing and made great prints for many, many years with it. I really like how easy it is to align that unit. I sold off my wet darkroom 15 years ago and am just getting set up again as well.

    -Harry
     
  7. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Yeah, that's the craigslist ad! And that's me, buying up darkrooms in the Chicagoland area and ending up with way too many enlargers. Maybe I should open the Lake County Enlarger Museum.

    Despite his ad including the words "Oak Park," the stuff was really all in the other location he listed: Oregon, IL. I had never heard of that, which is because it's off the edge of the earth. It was nearly 6 hours after I left home that I returned with all my goodies. And some of the goodies he said he had he couldn't find - I paid him anyway, and he'll supposedly get them to me, but we'll see. And the amazing pile of paper which was stored in the basement to keep it cool... turned out to be in the attic with the enlargers. So this was probably all a fool's errand this time, but if I keep the Durst maybe I can rationalize it as having been all worth it :smile:

    Sometime this week I'll get the Durst all set up and checked out. If I make a final decision on it, I'll let you know if I'm ready to sell one or the other. You sure you wouldn't like a nice 23C II? (Also in this deal.) Or a fantastic DA-900 (from the previous deal)?

    Duncan
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Let me get this straight, you already HAVE the Durst? I'd just use that. If you don't use a glass carrier for 35mm I presume you are just making small prints, in which case the 4x5 mixing box should be just fine. Durst parts are harder to get in the USA but I don't see that you need any :smile: Plus, if it ever breaks and is permanently un-usable, I suspect you will ALWAYS be able to pick up a "D" Omega for cheap (unless you move outside the USA :smile: )
     
  9. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    I had the Beseler 45, and just last night got the Durst, thus the decision. I'll use glass carriers when I have to, but prefer to run without it. For instance, the Beseler Negaflat carrier for 4x5 seems to have no equivalent in the Durst line.

    Duncan
     
  10. RobertV

    RobertV Member

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    I have a complete Durst L1200 with Multigraph head and all Femoboxes 35mm, 66, 69 and 4x5" for sale. Incl. Rodenstock/El Nikkor 150mm, 80mm, 50mm. Mint condition.
    I think it's one of the best enlargers in the market. Very solid and heavy (50kg) and therfore only for picking up.
     
  11. frotog

    frotog Member

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    What lamp does the cls500 head take? I had a cls301 for a 57 Durst. This head is configured with two 300watt lamp fixtures, one on either side. The opposed lamp configuration made this thing as uneven as a Aristo head. My Chromega E-6 was far more even than that head...But then I found a cls 1000. Besides testing light output you might want to consider whether or not the Durst can be calibrated. I'm not familiar with the 4x5 Durst enlargers but I do know that 57 Durst heads cannot be calibrated at the lens stage without a special adjustable lensboard.
     
  12. raizans

    raizans Member

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    use the beseler until you have all the bits and pieces you need for the durst, then keep the beseler for the 8x10 conversion you're planning on getting someday. you are planning to go 8x10, aren't you? =)
     
  13. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    For the moment I'm stopping at 4x5. This passion is expensive and unwieldy enough there, I can't even imagine 8x10 !

    I haven't even opened up the Durst and checked out the innards or operation yet, so I can't answer about the bulbs and alignment possibilities. Though from the construction I don't know how it would ever get out of alignment, if they made it right in the first place! Probably tomorrow night sometime I'll dig into it.

    Duncan
     
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  15. hspluta

    hspluta Member

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    RobertV,

    That is just a little too far for me to travel, unless I get sent to the home office in Zurich, then it would be a nice day trip!

    Duncan,

    I was wondering if it was here or the other side of the world, lol. The NegaFlat carrier is one of the reasons I would consider the Beseler 45 again, it is a clever little piece of engineering that allowed me to go to poster size with no problems. The other thing I like is the variety of heads available for it. I was doing Cibachrome printing and the ease of setting the color computer up and making consistent prints was a dream. ( Then I discovered PhotoShop and large format roll printers....)

    Well drop me a PM when you decide what you want to do and we can go from there!

    Best, Harry

    BTW, with the gear you have now the 23CII would make a really nice door stop, lol.
     
  16. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I've used the Beseler 45MX with the condenser head, and I was pleased with the operation and the results.

    But when I bought my own 4x5 enlarger, I bought the Durst L1200. I have both the condenser head and all the condensers, and the CLS501 dicro head with all the different mixing boxes. Plus all the glass-less masks.

    For the last several years, printing everything from 35mm through 6x7 and up to 4x5, I have only used the basic CLS501 and the 4x5 mixing box, and the glass carrier. I love my Durst L1200 in this simplified configuration, and it seems perfect for all sizes.

    So I don't think you'll ever need to get the other Durst parts. Use the Durst as it is for awhile, and then decide.
     
  17. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Durst 1200...great piece of equipment. My power source became finicky a few years ago, and I had Mr. Jensen from Durst Pro USA supply one of his new power sources which has been perfect. I use the enlarger for 4x5 negatives AND for making contact prints from 8x10 negatives using the CLS head on variable contrast FB paper.

    One of the other reasons to get the Durst....Ralph uses one, and many of the tables and data he has generated in his Way Beyond Monochrome standard book ( along with Mr. Woodhouse of course ) have been done on the same enlarger as I have! :} Although I use different developer and paper, having his book as another "Durst Instruction Book" is very "convenient", and quite fortunate.

    By the way....diffusion color head, 4x5 Femobox as well.

    Best of luck.
     
  18. frotog

    frotog Member

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    I've owned four Durst enlargers and worked on several others in various labs from ny to la. I've never known one to be in perfect alignment. Until you check it with a laser alignment tool I'd assume it is out of alignment. Not that this is a huge issue with most printers - it isn't, especially if you're used to stopping down 2-3 stops. But if alignment is critical (e.g. working with wide open aperatures and over 10x enlargements) the Durst can be most vexing. The problem is the lens stage - it cannot be adjusted fore and aft. Jensen has a solution (the prola) but unfortunately it will set you back $600-700.

    You can't really answer your question until you've confirmed two things...

    1. How even is the light source?
    2. Are all three stages in alignment?

    I can put up with slightly wonky design (i.e. Beseler 45mxt) so long as it is set up right. But if I can't confirm that the machine is aligned and that the light source is even, well...I don't care who made the enlarger and how great the reputation. IMHO, the two bulb Durst color heads suck as they're terribly uneven.
     
  19. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    OK, I got a few minutes to play with it... It uses one of those little quartz overhead projector bulbs, and just one of them, so no problems with uneven light from that issue. I have a pretty decent eye for uneven light, and this looks pretty darn even as near as I can see under the less than optimal conditions (dark garage, looking at light on baseboard, no lens installed.)

    There are a lot of alignment adjustments - probably too many, from the standpoint of more things to screw up! The lens stage can slide left and right, and tilt left and right. The entire head can also swivel left and right. If things were out of alignment by being tipped fore and aft at all, then I don't see an obvious way to adjust that.

    Some questions about the head, for those who know these things:

    What is the "supplemental filter" that slides in an out with a lever on the left side of the head? Looks to have a slightly yellow tint to it when in.

    What is the squarish area with metal guides and two clips on the top of the 4x5 Femobox? Am I missing something that goes there? The other two clips hold the guts of the Femobox in, I get that.

    Is it weird that the head simply has one power cord and no control cord? It's been a while since I fired up the Beseler Dichro 45S head but I remember that having a control cord that let the light go through the enlarger or not, while the head itself stayed powered up the whole time. It seems to thwart repeatable results to turn the whole head on and off this way.

    Other notes:

    I have the Femoneg AM, which is good, right? That has the bigger mask area for some of the better 4x5 masks or glasses?

    Are the red levers on either side of the chassis for locking and unlocking the head swivel? They have a very odd feel to them, as if they are slipping on their shafts, when they reach the end of travel. And I was tilting the head and now I can't, and I was messing with those levers, but I can't mess with them and make it able to tilt again. Time to become a paying APUG member and take that one member up on his offer of L1200 manual reprints to members...

    Duncan
     
  20. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Congrats for becoming a subscriber.

    I have used the Beseler 45's for years and really like them. Sure, there are better machines, there always is. However, just like owning a Leica won't make your pictures any better, neither will the most expensive enlarger.

    That said, it is a pleasure to use well designed and manufactured photo tools. I recently picked up a Beseler CB-7 and a 45MXT. I don't expect them to necessarily work any better than my old, Beseler 45 with front struts (first 45 model) but they are nicer if not newer.

    Meanwhile, I have a Durst Pro 4x5 that I took in trade 20 years ago and have never used. I got this about the time I moved to a new home and am just now getting around to resurrecting my darkroom, and am interested in trying it out. I should of sold it 5 or 7 years ago when it still had some real value but thought, I should try it out first.

    My plan now is to set up the newer Beselers and the Durst, and see what I want to keep. If you got the room, even if only a backup machine, keep the Beseler until at least you know you will never need it again.

    JMHO
     
  21. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I believe it is to compensate for different “orange masks” of certain color negatives. I think it was discontinued on the later enlargers, and my CLS501 doesn’t have that filter.


    I wish I had a picture, but from your description, I think you’re talking about the metal spring clips that hold the Femoneg in place.


    The CLS500 has a power cord that plugs into the transformer, and then in to a timer or the main wall outlet. Durst has a delay built into this transformer, to allow for the time the lamp requires to come up to max. In my case, the delay is about a half-second. Some timers can be set to compensate for this.


    The AM version is the USA version for 4x5-incih film. When you buy masks, be sure to get those designed for the AM version.


    Yes, those levers lock and unlock the head swivel. I turn the levers to the - and then release or unscrew the black locking knob on the right side. Then carefully swivel the head. I’m not too familiar with this, as I never have to swivel the head.
     
  22. Renato Tonelli

    Renato Tonelli Subscriber

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    :sad: I am not familiar with this book. Search I must!
     
  23. Renato Tonelli

    Renato Tonelli Subscriber

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    Correction - I am familiar with it - I just don't have it. I will wait for the forthcoming second edition.
     
  24. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    As long as you don't mind a picture taken with a camera-that-uses-no-film, then here you go:

    [​IMG]

    It's about a 3.5" square section inside the raised pieces around the input window, and those inner two clips are clearly meant to hold down whatever goes there. The upper two clips are the one that hold the guts to the Femobox in place.

    Duncan
     
  25. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I'm looking at my Femobox now, and it is slightly different, with no raised areas around the upper diffuser. To be honest, I don't know exactly what that area on your Femobox was designed for. Several years ago I did have an old Femobox for the 8x10 Durst enlarger, and I remember that it had some type of clips on top (but no raised edges), and I thought the clips were there to hold a supplemental diffuser that I didn't have. So I never thought any more about it, until now.

    I wish there was a complete, comprehensive catalog of the Durst system, much like the Nikon Compendium or the excellent Nikon books by Uli Koch. Oh well... I guess we'll just have to keep asking questions on APUG.
     
  26. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    I think you'll find the clips are for holding a secondary diffuser or ND filter in place - At least, that was what I was told when I picked mine up last summer.