Enlarger - first thoughts

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Matus Kalisky, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Hi all. I am considering to get and enlarger a longer time already, but finely in the near future (after I move) I should have the possibility to get one.

    The caveat is - I have no experience with darkroom enalrgers so I am lost among all the types and features/accessories.

    - I plan to enalrge BW only.
    - According to what I have seen I would be preferably using glossy fiber based papers (how to dry them properly ?)
    - I will probably not have a separate darkroom so the space will be a concern.

    I shoot 4x5 and 6x6 and maybe 6x7 in the future (depends whether Fuji will bring their new camera or not). Up to now - all my printing was done from scans or in the case of 4x5 also with contact printing (a bit small for my taste). I am aware of the fact that 4x5 enlarger will be bigger/heavier than 6x6 (6x7) and I am not sure whether I should limit myself only to enlarging of the medium format.
    The print size I would like to be able to get is up to 16x16 or 16x20, although I would probably start with 8x10 only.

    My problem is - which types and what are all the needed accessories and parts? What to look for and what to aviod? Any help or direction to a good general information source would be helpfull.

    thanks


    P.S. I am located in Germany
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 19, 2008
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I think the safe thing to do is pick up a complete 4x5 system, in good functioning condition, including lamp, a few spare bulbs, a simple timer, and a minimum of two enlarging lenses- one short and one long.

    I don't know how things are over there now, but in the States, I have recently acquired two fully-functional 4x5 enlargers for about $300 each. You will save a *lot* of money if you can find somebody who is packing up their darkroom, there are a lot of little tidbits that can cost you a lot of time and money to track down, it's best to invest in a fully functioning system that was in fairly recent use.

    RE: glossy papers, I like them for quick prints but for my "real" prints I much prefer matte fiber. Now, those are somewhat harder to work with in terms of washing and flatness and drying etc, but IMHO they are well worth it in the long run. Anyway, go ahead and start with RC glossy, it is the easiest and you can learn quickly and do processing very quickly with no special washing or drying procedures. For matte fiber you will probably eventually want a proper easel, an archival washer and a dry mount press.
     
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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  4. Dietmar Wolf

    Dietmar Wolf Member

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    Durst, Kaiser, Leitzfocomat. All good stuff. Buy the best one you can afford. If you buy a enlarger of a good label which is suited for 6x7, you cannot make big things wrong, they are all professional tools.

    A condensor makes harder light, so for pure bw maybe better, a color head has the advantage of no extra filters needed and softer light.

    Buy at a auction which offers the "tools", too. Not only the enlarger. It is really frustrating, time consuming and costly to buy all the things (esp. lenses, easel, tanks, tongues, darkroom light...) seperate.
     
  5. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Member

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    Hello Matus,

    I'd recommend going for a used 4x5 outfit. For B&W printing, probably your best bet is a color head or a cold light head depending on which papers you plan to print on. The color head will work great for VC and a cold light is typically used only for graded papers. I noticed that Kevin Saitta has a Besseler 45MX w/coldlight head listed in the classified...you may want to check that out.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    If the poster is not currently shooting medium or large format I would not recommend a 4x5 enlarger. Twice I have explored large format and found it was not for me. A good LPL MXL enlarger or something similar is a good compromise. That said, I still enlarge small format with a Leitz 1C.
     
  7. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Thanks. Just a few points.

    - I do shoot 4x5 and 6x6 right now
    - I am located in Europe - Germnay so an enlarger from US makes little sense

    Some more questions:

    - You say - get the best - but which ones are "the best" ?

    - Which models are more stable / easier to align ?

    - What are you experiences - what do you use - likes/dislikes ?
     
  8. Mike Kennedy

    Mike Kennedy Member

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    Hi Matus.
    RE:Finishing prints.I picked up a nylon sweater drying rack that fits across my bathtub.Perfect.Lppk for one at your local shopping mall (wal-mart type shop).

    Mike
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2008
  9. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    4x5” enlargers are in most cases made for professional use and most are of high quality. If you use VC paper I would look for an enlarger with a VC or colour head - they make printing a lot easier.

    I use a JOBO/LPL 7450. I’m content with its performance, and the VCCE head is very good for variable contrast paper, but it is hard to align properly and I do think that other brands may be better.
     
  10. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I would agree with Uhner: 4x5 enlargers were mostly intended for professional use so are pretty much all of high quality (when they were made at least). A 4x5 enlarger is perhaps three times heavier than a 6x6 enlarger. The lightest one I have had is an LPL but even that really would not like to be moved around. Dursts and DeVere's are very heavy indeed: a two-man job to move safely.

    If you can find a permanent home for the enlarger but move the other equipment in as needed, that would probably be the best solution. I have read of people moving their enlarger on a wheeled trolley, but I do not know if any were 4x5 enlargers. I imagine it would need to be a very strong trolley for that.

    You could get a 6x6 enlarger relatively easily and cheaply and see how that goes. You can then obtain a 4x5 enlarger when one becomes available at a reasonable price as they are rarer. This also allows you to make sure you enjoy the darkroom before the effort involved with buying and finding room for a 4x5 enlarger.

    When buying the enlarger try to make sure it has the negative carriers for the sizes you shoot (or will shoot) and that it has the corresponding mixing boxes if it is a colour enlarger, or all the condensers if it is a condenser enlarger. Some have "universal" ones, some have different ones for each format - it depends on the enlarger model. I prefer a colour-head even for b&w as it allows you to dial-in the contrast rather than using separate filter gels.

    I'd also recommend buying a complete darkroom setup - they appear regularly on the auction site (in the UK at least - I do not know about Germany) for little money (I'd bought at least 3 of them when there was a particular item or two that I wanted in the job-lot). Don't pay over the odds - a full outfit should be available for well under 200 EUR - possibly under 100. Look out for "Buyer must collect" adverts as that greatly reduces the number of people who will make an offer :wink:. 4x5 Enlargers however will cost more than this even now but it's difficult to say how much because the prices fluctuate widely. I saw an Ahel with all the trimmings go for under 80 GBP a few weeks ago but have seen DeVeres and Dursts go for several hundred.

    Drying fibre paper is always a bit of a pain. I dry face down on screens (takes a few hours) but they then need flattening in my heated mounting press. Do a search here for drying methods - lots of people do lots of things...

    Even if you intend to use fibre, I would suggest starting with RC (resin coated) as these are processed much faster and dry flat within minutes. This makes them ideal learning material - and some people prefer them for the finished product too of course.

    Good luck, and have fun! Bob.
     
  11. haris

    haris Guest

    Lucky you, you are in Germany, That means, beside secondhand enlargers, you have option of atleast two manufacturers which make new enlargers located in Germany. One is Kaiser and second is Kienzle. Kaiser is cheaper and their enlargers for me look simillar to Durst(I didn't use them, so it is just by appereance on pictures) , and Kienzle is not that popular, is expencive, but whenever anyone talked about them, you can hear only the best about their enlargers.Then you have two German manufacturers of enlarger lenses, Rodenstock (under Linos company) and Schneider-Kreuznach. For other stuff nedded for laboratory you have Kaiser (trays, washers, timers, easels, and everything else), Jobo. And there are of course Rhdesigns from UK (exposure meters, timers, flasher, etc...) Heiland from Germany (exposure meters, timers, motorizes filtered heads for your enlarger - Splitgrade system, etc...), Paterson from UK (stuff for darkroom), Novadarkroom from UK (everything for darkroom).

    So, if you by new, there is atleast one German manufacturer for whatever you need, and if you can't find something made in Germany, there is in some other European country manufacturer for that. If you buy secondhand, situation is simillar. My first look would be at www.leicashop.at and www.fotoimpex.de, and of course manufacturers web sites.

    In Germany, for buying, you really have limitless options...

    Me personally use Meopta Magnifax 4 and Opemus 5 (not manufactured new anymore), Rodenstock and Schneider lenses and other stuff for darkroom made by different manufacturers

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2008
  12. haris

    haris Guest

    Oh, one more thing. Europe (Germany included) is about 1/3 more expencive than USA, no matter buying new or secondhand. So, price difference will cover expences of importing custom/tax. But, when you include cost of transport of sometnig as heavy as enlarger, I think it is better to buy atleast enlarger in Germany.
     
  13. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Matus I would suggest a 5x4 enlarger, within reason any 5x4 enlarger will be reasonably made, with reasonable alignment built in. That said, there are some enlargers that seem to be better at alignment than others.

    I have personally owned and used a variety of enlargers and some thoughts for you are here.

    The cheapest and quickest and smallest way into enlarging, would be the Meopta enlargers. Whilst they do have a 6x9 enlarger, it is largish and will not do 5x4. Their 6x6 enlargers will get you going for your 6x6 negs. You can get a B&W model and use filters in a filter draw. You will need a 75 or 80mm lens for 6x6 negs.

    Currently in many parts of the world, Ilford has a special box of 8x10 B&W RC paper with a set of B&W enlarging filters. The box has 75 sheets of paper and the rest of the space is taken up with the filters. It is incredibly cheap because these filters do cost a fair bit of money. This filter kit will work with any B&W enlarger with a filter drawer.

    Any B&W enlarger you purchase should have a filter drawer above the enlarger lens; I would stay away from older enlargers without a filter drawer.

    The Meopta enlargers also take a colour head, the B&W head lifts off and the colour head goes on. I had a Meopta 5 enlarger, which I bought as a B&W enlarger, later I bought a Meochrom 3 colour head and started doing all of my B&W and colour work with this head.

    The Meopta enlargers are around in huge numbers and will be cheap, they come from Eastern Europe so they are very well made and can be adjusted and fixed by the user. The Meopta enlargers will fold down and can be stored into a standard 600mm wide kitchen cupboard, I’ve done it.

    With 5x4 enlargers you start to get into some large and heavy units, generally you will require a solid base to sit any of these on.

    For 5x4 negatives you will be well off using a 150mm lens, some people use a 135mm lens, I have, but I prefer the 150 lenses for this format.

    The LPL Japanese sourced enlargers are really good value for money, however there is no adjustment possible with these enlargers. The factory matches the column and enlarger head for a perfect fit. You should check that the serial number on both of these is identical. I owned the first model they manufactured called the LPL 7541, it was an excellent enlarger. The head can have different modules attached, which takes a few seconds to do. There is a dedicated B&W module and a colour module.

    The DeVere 504 bench top models are in my humble opinion, the best small 5x4 enlargers ever made. They originated from the UK, still do, but not at any price most of us could afford. The alignment possibilities of these enlargers are the best I have ever seen, simple, quick, and rigid. The alignment is done with two tools, a screwdriver and a sechskantschlüssel (Alan Key) and is brilliantly logical.

    Secondhand DeVere enlargers are now quite cheap, compared to what they cost new. My current enlarger, which is a DeVere 504 free standing model from 1981, was bought by me for $2,000.00 7 years ago. The lab that purchased it new paid $23,760.00 without any lenses. Bench top models in my country are now selling for the $500 – $750 these days. They are a steal at that price.

    Living where you are, you should find a plethora of Durst enlargers. Durst enlargers are often considered the absolute best by many lab workers, their top models were, but most of these were really large freestanding models. Their bench top models were also around but were a bit thin on the ground in 5x4 size. Durst enlargers were manufactured in Italy.

    I have used an array of top enlargers in an industrial photo lab I worked in, I also moved around in industrial photo lab circles. What I saw in this country were mainly DeVere, followed by Durst then followed by Beseler in number of enlargers being used. There were other enlarger brands, but their usage was tiny by comparison.

    In another country it will be different again, so I think you will find that there will be plenty of Durst, DeVere, LPL 5x4 enlargers in your part of Europe.

    If you live near Tübingen, there is a camera shop in that town that specialises in Leica equipment, they are an official seller. They once had a thriving darkroom section, which is not so thriving these days. Down the back there were two old enlargers for sale, one was a 6x9 and the other was a 5x4. Both B&W, the 5x4 should be able to do everything for you. It took filters in a filter drawer. I saw these in July last year, they may or may not be sold, and you will be able to find them with a google search.

    Mick.
     
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  15. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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  16. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    I agree David, would be nice to know what kind and size the Zeiss lens is though.

    Mick.
     
  17. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Bet it's a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar!
     
  18. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I can wholeheartedly agree with those who like the DeVere 504 bench enlargers. I am very happy with mine and the Ilford 500H head which works pretty well with variable contrast and graded papers. The enlarger is relatively small but quite heavy, so it is better to have it in a permanent location rather than hoist it in and out for each printing session, as I had done that with my previous one, a GEM504 - it was doable but not fun.

    Best of all, the guys who made and serviced this machine are still in business and happy to answer questions or help you on the phone. Parts are available, but not cheap. They are at www.odyssey-sales.co.uk. I bought a refurbished one a while ago and I was impressed ever since.

    Perhaps the only thing I would like to change or solve on this enlarger would be a slight light leak around the negative carrier. It is in a horizontal plane, so if it does not bounce off some angled surface or a sloping wall it should be of no problem. I did Kodak K4 safelight tests with the enlarger on (test paper in other parts of my darkroom) and did not find it to be a problem, though.

    Rafal.
     
  19. Renato Tonelli

    Renato Tonelli Subscriber

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    Get an enlarger to print your largest format: 4x5 If you buy something smaller you will regret it every time you would like to enlarge a 4x5 negative. Keep an eye on ebay.de where there is usually a Durst L1200, or similar, for sale for relatively little money. You will not need another enlarger ever again unless you start shooting larger than 4x5. Good luck!
     
  20. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Oh, thank you very much. That is a lot of useful information.

    In general there are plenty enlargers on the auction site (and I guess even more forgotten in closets), but the problem is that rarely it is stated up to which format does the given enlarger goes. Is there anything like a webpage with overview of different enarlgers with basic specs?

    - Mick -

    - I guess I do not need the constrast filters if I would get an enlarger with color head, right ?

    - by the "No adjustement possible" with LPL enlargers you have in mind no alignment possible ?

    - yes, there are many Durst enlargers here around, the problem is I do not know the differences (age, quality, "class" ...) so it is hard to choose.

    - David -

    I have checked those ones (and others as well too) - but it is just a bit too early for me to buy one. I will be moving beginning of April.

    - Renato -

    6x6 versus 4x5 - I am still considering. I guess that at the beginning I will limit myself to 8x10 prints for economical reasons - that is only 2 times enlargement from 4x5 - does such a small enalrgemement look good at all ? Also the size may be an issue ...

    ****

    At some point I would maybe like to ask about your opninion on particular enlarges on sale, but I would (probably) wait so that I do not have to move it twice.
     
  21. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    As long as the seller states the make and model number it is usually possible to google that information, as well as finding a few reviews – sometimes even from reputable sources.
     
  22. palewin

    palewin Member

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    Since there have been a lot of excellent responses already, I'll keep it short. Similar to since-z-gsi, I shoot 4x5, 6x7, 6x6, and 35mm. In my opinion it makes little sense to get an enlarger smaller than 4x5, since that will limit your ability to enlarge 4x5, and sooner or later you will be back on the market for a bigger enlarger; in the end anything smaller will (probably) be a false economic savings. Probably the two best brands for LF enlargers are, as others mentioned, Durst and DeVere. I've used a DeVere 504 for 25+ years, its an excellent machine, and 150mm, 80mm, and 50mm enlarging lenses cover the entire range of enlargements you mention. Dursts have a similar reputation for quality and may be more readily available in Germany, I don't know. Remember that the DeVere, and I assume most, enlargers de-assemble into several modules (usually the head, the chassis, and the baseboard) so that while they are very expensive to ship, they are not that ungainly to move by hand with a car, as long as you can de-assemble them first. The DeVeres are simple to re-align if necessary, I imagine the Dursts would be too.
     
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  23. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    For the age of Durst enlargers, go to www.durst.it From the service page you can download a pdf file that lists every post WWII product and the dates it was in production.

    Schneider Optics have a similar table on their web site, listing serial number ranges by production year.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Correct.
    1. It will give you an infinite [not really infinite, because the filters on some machines have click stops at each filter unit] range from grade 00 to grade 5.
    2. The filters are above the negative so they will be dust free and in a better optical location.
    Also consider that
    a condenser needs to be rearranged when you change negative size [a wonderful opportunity to drop or chip condenser lenses], ​

    while a diffuser is better for portraits, does not show dust, and has slightly lower contrast.​
    Steve
     
  25. haris

    haris Guest

    slnce-z-gsi

    Have in mind that as already others said, when use b/w head with condensers for your enlarger you need to change condenser lenses when change enlarger lens you use, but also when use colour head on your enlarger you need to change mixing chamber when change negative format you use. As you already could read, you can use b/w or colour head on same enlarger, of course if you get both of them.

    There is also third head for enlarger, usually called VC, that is head for working with multicontrast papers. So, if you work with multicontrast papers and you get VC head then you do not need multicontrast filters for putting into filter drawer or below enlarger lens, and also you do not need colour head. I never used it, but I belive VC head also use mixing chambers like colour head, but, please, check if that is correct.

    VC head have diffused light, simaillar to colour head, but it is used only for b/w multicontrast papers, not for colour papers.

    For example, when I use my Meopta Magnifax 4 with b/w condenser head, there are two condensers, one for enlarger lenses up to 50mm and second for lenses from 60mm up to 105mm. When I use same Magnifax 4 with colour head, there are 4 different mixing chambers, one is for 35mm negative, one for 6x6, one for 6x7 and one for 6x9.
     
  26. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Thank you.

    So it seems that for my needs the VC head that produces diffused light and does not need any changes (well, apart from lens) when I change from 4x5 to 6x6 would be optimal.
    ***
    Concerning the 6x7 enlargers: What is the diference between Durst M670 M370 and M70 models? All of them do 6x7 ... ?
    ***
    Are there any other "reasonable" 4x5 enlargers in 4x5 apart from DeVere 504, Durst 1200 and LPL. Actually - which LPL ? They are quite plenty ... I know about LPL 7452, 7451
    ***
    Ever heard of Durst Pitochrome? (like HERE)
    ***
    Off-enalrger topic - what about the fiber print dryers. I am planning to get some heated press - (at least for the smaller sizes) - what is your experience ?