Enlarger choice

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by eric.tung, Aug 13, 2009.

  1. eric.tung

    eric.tung Member

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    Hi all,

    I am new to this group. I would like to ask if anyone here could give me some advice on choosing enlarger. I am going to build a small darkroom at home for b/w printing. Any resource from the internet that I can do some comparison on brands and most importantly my budget is limited ~500USD for enlarger.

    thanks in advance,
    eric
     
  2. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    You start with the size of the negative you want to enlarge and then you look around.

    Enlargers are heavy, that means high shipping-cost.

    I would look around localy first and see what is available.

    The enlarger should be complete, check that all the negative cariers are there, it is a nightmare at times if you are missing one.

    As important as the enlarger itself is a good lens ! I prefer the Rodenstock Rodagon's, but that is personal.

    Good luck,
    Peter
     
  3. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    If the second hand market in Hong Kong is anything like Europe and North America any enlarger will propably cost more in shipping than purchase. Start looking locally as Archphoto suggests.
    You may want to start with small format, but many enlargers can take 6x6 without being very much bigger and more expensive so even if you do small format today it might be nice to have the ability to do 6x6 (when you move up to 6x9 and beyond the enlargers become much larger).
    Make sure it is complete and that you still can buy lamps for it. This is very important. Spare parts may be very hard to find.
    You will want to have a good lens, but you don't have to let the lens decide what enlarger since they are easily interchangeable and you can get the lens of your choice later.

    If you use multigrade paper, and you don't want to use separate filters, get an enlarger with a colour head.
    A lot of labs are closing down and schools are switching to digital. If you are lucky you will get what you need for free just because the euipment would have been scrapped otherwise. Look around.

    Good luck
     
  4. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I think it would be wise to buy an enlarger that can handle at least one size format larger than your use. For example, I shoot 35mm and 120 film, but my enlarger can handle 4"x5" film. Therefore I could grow into 6x7, 6x9, ... 4"x 5" formats. So if you are shooting 35mm, consider buy an enlarger that can print 120 film.

    Buy the enlarger locally through Craig's List or eBay. Not only are shipping costs high for long shipping distances, the enlarge may require a lot of work to re-align it after the move. Besides, people and photofinishers are dumping enlargers for practically nothing. [They cannot image that anyone would want one, so they are happy to part with them easily.]

    Steve
     
  5. shotgun1a

    shotgun1a Member

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  6. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    US$500 is a lot for a used 35mm or MF enlarger; these often sell for $100 or less. IIRC, I got my Philips PCS130/PCS150 for $25 plus $24 shipping. If you want to do large format, you might need to pay closer to the $500 price you mention. $500 might also be a reasonable budget for everything you'll need -- the enlarger, trays, tongs, safelights, developing tanks, chemicals, etc. New enlargers can also easily hit the $500 mark, but with used enlargers in excellent condition flooding the market, why buy new?

    As you're a beginner, I'll add this: Options in enlargers are many and varied, and some major design differences are matters of personal preference. For instance, some people get quite worked up over the difference between diffusion vs. condenser enlargers. (This has to do with how the light is "smoothed out" to illuminate the negative evenly.) Since you're just starting out, you have no way of knowing what you'll prefer. Thus, given today's market, I'll provide an opinion that's contrary to one that's been given earlier in this thread, at least if you're tempted to buy a big expensive enlarger: Buy something that's just adequate for your needs. When you get the hang of it, you'll be better able to judge what you want and need, and you'll be able to make a better-informed choice about a bigger and more expensive enlarger if and when you decide you need one. It's better to spend $50 today and $300 in a year on enlargers than to spend $300 today and $300 in a year because you buy something today that's not right. That's not to say you should buy something that you know is way too little for your current needs, though; if you currently do 6x6 photography, for instance, be sure to get an enlarger that can handle that format. OTOH, if you currently do 35mm and 6x6 photography, why pay the extra for a large format enlarger that may not be the best for your needs if/when you get into large format?
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi eric

    i would go to photo labs that have usually done
    darkroom work. more than likely they are getting rid of
    their enlargers and you can pick something up very inexpensively!
    i say this because where i live a handful of labs have gone under
    ( or switched over to digi printing, and gotten rid of their traditional stuff)
    and they have sold off the contents of their shop for very little.
    i agree that you should probably look for at least a 4x5 enlarger ...
    if it is distant from where you are, have the person ship it intact ..
    boxed ( bubble wraped ) in the belly of a bus. that is usually inexpensive
    and easy to do, no matter where you live :smile:
     
  8. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    All good advice so far. I'd try to find one locally that is reasonably common and will fit into the space you are going to use as a darkroom. I own or have owned a Besslar 23C, a Leitz V35, Omega D2 and an LPL 6700VCCE. If you are always going to shoot 35mm, the Leitz is hard to beat. If you are unsure, an LPL is a great choice too. Lots of people like Durst too, but I couldn't find what I wanted in the US so I decided on the LPL. I'd also recommend getting an enlarger with a color or variable contrast head. I've used condenser heads with VC filters, color and VC heads and I'd definitely recommend using a color or VC heads.
    I'd have to disagree with SRS5694, though. Get a decent enlarger. I spent $300 for my Leitz and about the same for my like-new LPL and $50 for the D2. All of them came with multiple carriers and lens boards. It is not hard to get a good enlarger for not much money.
     
  9. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    You make it sound like I was advising the purchase of junk. I wasn't. I was simply saying that there's little point in spending a lot now on an enlarger that other people like when the poster doesn't know what he will like. Personal preferences are so important in enlargers that it's easy for a newbie to spend too much on something that'll turn out to be suboptimal for the purchaser, even if it's the best enlarger in the world for somebody else's purposes. Factors like diffusion vs. condenser design, color and B&W filter options, and the presence of exotic features like Scheimpflug correction, can all be important for some people. A newbie today can't know what will be optimal on these factors, since they're subjective.

    Given the prices of used enlargers today, it's a reasonable strategy to buy something that's adequate, but not optimal, today, with the intention of learning on it and then buying something more capable in a few months. That'll be more cost-effective than buying a much more expensive model now and having to ditch it in a year because it's not what you need. This is particularly true when moving from medium format to large format enlargers, since the latter are still pricey compared to the former.

    IMHO, the advice to buy the "best" enlarger you can afford is a holdover from 10-20 years ago, before enlargers started turning up in dumpsters outside every photo studio, high school, and newspaper. In those days, even a low-end enlarger cost a couple hundred bucks, so buying a unit with the intention of learning on it, but not keeping it long-term, was impractical.

    One other point: Eric hasn't said what sort of space he's using as a darkroom, or what formats he's currently shooting. Some people are blindly advising the purchase of large format enlargers, but enlargers get larger as their intended negative sizes do. A large format enlarger might not fit in a small darkroom. For very cramped conditions (such as a bathroom that's used part-time as a darkroom), something specialized on the other end might even have advantages. For instance, there are enlargers that fold up into suitcases. These tend to be limited to 35mm, though. In short, before recommending specific models or enlarger formats, I think posters need to learn more about Eric's specific needs and environment.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Eric,

    We can help you much better if you can give us some background:

    1. What format do you shoot now? [35mm, MF, LF]
    2. What format do you think you might grow into?
    3. Are you planning on doing any color printing? [If you get a printer with a color head and a diffuser, the built in color filters will allow you infinite variation of black & white contrast in variable contrast paper][Note: other posters please do not confuse the issue with a discussion on whether color filters will allow the highest levels of contrast.]
    4. How much space do you have available for your darkroom?
    5. Will you have to set up the darkroom every time you use it? [Meaning: will you have to store your enlarger when not in use?]
    Others, please add more questions for Eric so that we can help him converge on the type of enlarger he should be looking for.

    Steve
     
  11. eric.tung

    eric.tung Member

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    hi all, sorry for my late response while i didn't expect the forum is so helpful comparing with local forum. so many thanks to you all giving me many informative advices. special thanks to Ian C for a long message which gave me idea to rethink the necessary of dichro enlarger head. i still haven't decided which to go yet. but before i make any conclusion, i would better tell you all about my background and customized advice would be definitely helpful for my decision.
    i take both 35 and 120 with 6x6 and 6x7. though larger format like 4x5 and 8x10 gears become more affordable for amateur like me in this digital century, i don't see i would get into it in near future while i still have a lot to learn from 35 and 120 and they are relatively easy to manage in taking street photos, that is my major interest. i take 99% in b/w and the 1% color that would go to photo shop for printing. for b/w, i do washing at home. that requires minimum setup although temp. control is a bit difficult in hong kong. however, having a printing process at home is my dream. i occasionally had chance in experiencing b/w photo printing so i have little knowledge in printing process which is learnt by myself. previously, i usually used graded paper with white light enlarger head. knowing that graded paper becomes difficult to find in hong kong, so color head may solve this constraint.
    about my space, it's a small room as you all can think of how small hong kong is. that room was my bed room which is not longer used now and most importantly, that room has air-conditioner installed. i plan to keep the things there and use the free space ( ~ 5 x 6 sq.ft free space) for holding enlarger and processing tanks. what my concerns are:

    1) build a light tight curtain to stop the sunlight coming from the two large windows.
    2) no water source can go into the room unless another 3000USD is spent, so i am thinking the possibility of having two containers (2-bath) and each of them has adequate volume of clear water for the rinsing step.
    3) minimum modification as the room may be changed back to bed room one day.

    when most of you tell me about how cheap and how easy darkroom equipment can be found in the America/Europe, it doesn't happen in hong kong. although the market no longer grows, the price including second hand market is still high. recently, i came across a used Durst M805 which is color head with light density control. That's expensive one which costs me ~900USD (out of my budget in fact). what do you all think about that enlarger? is this price reasonable?

    again, thanks to you all!
    Eric
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    There's a thread here on APUG entitled "darkroom portraits," IIRC, that may give you some ideas about layout, blacking out windows, etc. It's a long thread and I don't claim to have read the whole thing, though.

    Blacking out windows is certainly possible. You'll probably use a combination of a solid block of something (styrofoam, wood, whatever) and a black cloth or plastic sheet.

    Water is more of an issue. You can develop film in a kitchen or bathroom, and just load the tank in the darkroom, so that's not a big deal. For making prints, though, running water is very helpful. As an interim setup, I used a sinkless darkroom, and I was constantly running prints from the developing trays in the darkroom out into my laundry room so I could put them in a print washer. Depending on the layout of the rest of your home, you might be able to get by with a similar arrangement, but my experience was that it was a hassle. You could also hold prints temporarily in a dishpan of water, but resin-coated (RC) papers delaminate after a while in water, so you'd probably want to hold prints there for just a few minutes to an hour or so. Using tanks of water might be an acceptable workaround.

    Temperature control may not be as important as you think, especially for paper. There are developers that are formulated to work at high temperatures, so you may be able to use one of them, if necessary. You might be able to use a more conventional developer even at significantly above the usual optimal 20C temperature -- say, 30C or 35C. Temperature control is more important for film, since film development must be terminated before the process is chemically complete, and this time depends on the temperature. Cold or hot water baths do a good job of this.

    An eBay search on "Durst M805" didn't turn up anything for me, and I'm unfamiliar with that specific model, so I can't comment on it specifically. Certainly very few used 35mm or MF enlargers would command that sort of price in the US, although some exotic LF enlargers might (I'm less familiar with that market). If US$900 is typical of enlarger prices in Hong Kong, it might be worth disregarding the advice that most people have given about buying locally. I don't know what it would cost to ship an enlarger from the US or Europe to Hong Kong, but I suspect it'd be well under that value, at least if you select slow ground/sea shipment. At the very least, it might be worth asking a few eBay sellers about shipping options.
     
  13. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    I don't know how the used market is in Hong Kong, but I got an Omega C760 enlarger for $25 at a local thrift shop.

    At any given time, there's at least one available at the many thrift shops I frequent. Sometimes they sit for a long time, and are marked down.
     
  14. eric.tung

    eric.tung Member

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  15. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    It is an excellent choice. I used an older version of that enlarger in a darkroom about the same size as you have with no water. The price seems a bit high, but it is nearly new and they are willing to ship internationally. I'd suggest looking at the completed auctions on ebay to find out what an appropriate price is (next to search window, click advanced search, then one of the click boxes is for completed auctions). I sold mine locally for about $150 with several negative carriers. Carriers are pretty easy to get.
     
  16. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Price is high, compared to my location outside Chicago where they go for <$100-$200 usually with a bunch of other dkrm accessories. BUT that one is very clean & new looking.
    Alignment is not easy,because the only adjustment is at the lens stage, side tilt has a thumb screw & groove and fore & aft is beneath the lens stage with a screw & stop nut. These are clear in the first two pictures.
    The negative stage isn't adjustable.
    Millions have been used though, with no problems.
    My concern would be how they pack the condensers They need to be removed from the head(easy) and packed so they don't chip or crack. For lack of a base board you could mount it on a countertop as was done with this one or make a new baseboard from MDF or plywood.
     
  17. Tref Hopkins

    Tref Hopkins Member

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    Ebay or similar is a reasonable bet, and in honesty an enlarger would have to be pretty whacked up or fundamentally poor for re-alignment to be a huge deal if you spend a little while reading about it. A decent ruler, a scalpel, a focus finder and a bit of black film are the tools you need to fix this. Hi tech stuff. Watch out for shipping costs, and if moving anything yourself watch out for powerful springs if it's a larger device tht's had the head removed. I wouldn't want to catch a headless Devere 504 in the chin if the column locks slipped. If that happened, I'd consider myself very lucky to wake up at all!

    As mentioned, you need to decide on format and print size. You also need to decide on light source.

    Given the choice available now, I'd hold out for something like a Devere 504 (think 5x7 Besseler, Omega in US I think?)

    It's a chunky, bomb-proof professional enlarger that takes a variety of heads and will print up to 5x4 film format. (obv 5x7 for a 5x7 model!) Depending on exact model, print sizes will alter, but a UK spec bench top 504 will happily give you a 20x24" print from 5x4 sheet with a 150mm lens. I like to use a 5x4 glass carrier (some hate this idea as it can be a dust nightmare). I often use just the AN part of the glass on top with a filed out metal half below - best of both worlds!

    Light source is hugely emotive. In brief: Condensers will give you big contrast, and show you all the dust while they're at it. Very popular in the 60's. Diffusers give marginally less contrast, but are far more forgiving to work with. Cold Cathodes are revered as the 'light of God' by many who are happy to use graded (not VC paper). There are VC cold cathodes, but expensive and rare. Cold cathodes in general may not be a good place to start unless you are prepared to really work at your neg quality from the word go. Colour heads are automatically diffuser type. Colour heads can be used to control VC paper very efficiently. Some papers may not hit full grade 5 with a colour head. Big deal - you may never notice this.

    Personally I think getting the most powerful light source practical is the way forward, but I print a lot. I have an Ilford MG500 setup on top of one 504 and a cold cathode on the other (with spare colour head under the bench). The Ilford head has two 300W halogens inside it and socks the light out. I lose a stop or so by using a bigger diffuse box per format than required. The MG500 head is something I would recommend to anyone - it is just quite simply fantastic. It can be mounted on a range of other enlargers in the size category.

    If a decent timer is included it's a major plus; and for anything much other than the most basic condenser there'll be quite a heavy transformer box potentially too.

    Make your decisions about formats and available space, and then I'd buy the best enlarger you can get in there. Bigger heavier enlargers make better prints cuz they don't wobble! I'd go colour head or multigrade depending how much you have to spend/how much of a hurry you are in. Colour heads while flexible can be a pain if you ever get into split grading IMHO.
     
  18. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Its is high. Its missing the baseboard. It sounds like the shipping cost, based on the figure above is $200? My guess is a 23C could be found for less than $100 with some patience in searching. Finding someone who will properly pack and ship to you location may be more of a problem.

    JMHO
     
  19. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    If you can find a Lucky or Hansa enlarger locally it would be a great start. There should be a lot of them in your area and they will do up to 6x6 cm.
     
  20. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    If you want a new enlarger the Bessler Printmaker 35 kit at Freestyle is your best deal. I love my Bessler 23C!
     
  21. mrdarklight

    mrdarklight Member

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    You can find enlargers all day long for $40-$50, plus shipping, on eBay. I bought a Beseler 23c for $75 + $50 shipping, but only spent that much because it had the 75mm lens and 6x7 neg holder I needed for MF. All the others would have cost me more to replace the lens and neg holder.
     
  22. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Generally good advice here. When you locate something , ask about specifics for that model. Nobody is going to write an episle on everyone out there.

    Measure your allowable height and table space and shop from there. 4x5 while nice, tend to get tall.