Enlarger recommendations, please

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by gnashings, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Hi,

    I am a relative beginner to the dark room side of this photo-hobby (I have been playing with it for years, but only a few months ago did I get a make shift set up of my own). I shoot a lot of medium format and would like to shoot more - unfortunately, the hand-me-down enlarger I have (thanks to the generosity of a friend who shares my affliction with photography) is only suitable for 35 mm. It is a MeOpta Axomal 1a, a rather elderly Czechoslovakian product (that country no longer being one in and of itself indicates the age to some degree!). I believe it is a condenser type (light goes through a big lens then through the neg - that is a condenser, right?), and its inability to print medium format is not a limitation of neg carrier or lens. The actual casting that holds the neg carrier has a round hole in it that "vignettes" a medium format neg as it is not much larger than the neg itself - so I can only print the very centers of the image - which as you can imagine is very limiting. Not to mention, the lense is not exactly ideal for medium format. Well, here is my question:

    I would love to hear advice and/or suggestions as to what to buy next.

    While this old enlarger is OK, I would like to purchase an enlarger that will allow me to print both 35 mm and medium format (6x6 mainly).

    What are the most reliable, bang-for-the-buck options available to me in the used market?

    I shoot B&W almost exclusively at this point - so the equipment will only need to fulfill that role, and budget is a BIG concern. Thanks for all your help in advance!

    Peter.
     
  2. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Hi Peter
    Being in the relative beginner area myself I have had a couple of Meopta enlargers in my darkroom already. All of them being Opemuses that will take 6X6 negs.
    The first was a Opemus Std that don't have a filter drawer but take multigradefilters beneith the lens. That one is quite sturdy and will take a 50mm lens (for 24X36) on a flat lensboard.
    the Opemus 4 does have a filterdrawer looks otherwise like the Std but needs a recessed lensboard for 24X36mm and I have found that it won't take my El-nikor or other 39mm tread lenses
    The Opemus 5 is bigger and more heavy and the one I have isn't as vibration free as the Opemus 4. It has the same lens issue as the Opemus 4.
    In my oppinion the older Opemus enlargers are quite good. They are quite simple and perhaps you may find that another brand is better but if you can get an Opemus very cheap (they are-) or like me for free they are worth every penny :confused: :rolleyes:
    Regards Søren
     
  3. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    The Czech Axomat that you have is a "budget" enlarger from Meopta. The "higher grade" Meoptas are excellent - if bought used, you probably can't beat the price. They are abundant here (Europe), but I don't know about Canada... If you go Meopta route in 6x6 (or 6x9) format, go for the Magnifax (models 3, 3a or 4). Check out manufacturer's site (www.meopta.cz), and see for yourself. The current Meopta enlargers (e.g. Magnifax 4) are excellent, and I suppose, if you get them second-hand, will be relatively cheap.
    BTW, those will enable you to enlarge negatives up to 6x9 size (that's in centimeters), WITH borders :smile:
    I have an older model, Meopta Magnifax 3, and I'm quite happy with it.

    Denis
     
  4. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    Without hesitation I would recommend the Meopta Magnifax with meograde VC head. This enlarger will take negatives from 35mm up to 6x9cm with a negative carrier that will permit printing the whole of a 6x9 negative. The meograde head gives grades 0 to 5 in half grade increments and also allows dialling in to up to two stops neutral density for those delicate burning in jobs where. I had the Opemus 6 with the meograde head and found it gave excellent results with conveniently short exposure times. The negative carriers are superbly made. These enlargers may not be quite as elegant or "slick" as Kaiser or Durst offerings but represent excellent value for money and are more than capable of turning out first class results. I used 6 element EL Nikkor lenses but, by repute, the 6 Element Meogon ranges of lenses are also excellent.
     
  5. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    I Might Have a Lead for You

    Hey Peter,
    I see that you're in Oshawa...I know a chap here in Quebec City who got 4 enlargers from the local community college when it closed its darkroom. I bought a Beseler 23CII from him for an excellent price. He has a pristine Beseler 45 with the colour head and the computer and all that jazz as well as an Omega DII and an Omega B-22. He doesn't know what to do with them because nobody here wants them.

    If you ever come down to QC it might be worth your while...PM me if you're interested.

    Kent

    PS, I have zero gain from this, I just know that the guy has these enlargers.
     
  6. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    I have a Beseler 23 II... it's a condensor enlarger and I love it dearly! I can enlarge both 35mm & 6x6 med. format. I got it on ebay for a song and I have been a happy camper ever since!

    I used mostly Omegas at school, and liked them, too. Many people like using the diffusor head that lets you 'dial in' filtration, but I find the resulting image a wee bit too mushy for my tastes.

    It's really a personal preference. Hope you locate one you like! :smile:
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Peter
    I would follow Kents lead on these omegas, they are great , it will allow you to move up in size. KHB in Missisauga has all current parts and accesories for these units.This could be a very good bargain for you .
    best regards
    Bob
     
  8. Rlibersky

    Rlibersky Member

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    If you drive to Quebec think about one of the 4x5s. I know it seems large but the day may come that you move into this format. Omega and Beseler made alot of these and parts are easy to get. I have an Omega II that is 45years old and still going strong.
     
  9. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Before you make buy I recommend that you consider:
    1. How much do I have to spend?
    2. What foot print does the enlarger need to fit, and how much ceiling height do I
    have?
    3. Do I plan on printing color?
    3. Beseler, Omega, and Drust are quite common, but some of the older Drusts will
    be hard to find parts for, how much time and money do I have for repairs and
    support?

    I have always liked Omega, grew up on them, but the D (and E and F) needs lens cones, so if you have going print anything larger than 35MM you need a cone for the longer lens. Try to buy a complete outfit. I have not used Beselers very often, but I found that are more difficult to aline and need a genital hand on the positive side they don't require cones or condensers. The Omega's were the enlarger I used in the Military and in College Darkrooms and they are quite rugged. Both have lots of options, cold light, point source, and color heads. Options for other brands are very limited. Durst need seperate condenser sets for each format.

    Good Luck
     
  10. KevinR

    KevinR Member

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    I have used the besselers quit a bit, but when I went to buy one, I opted for an Omega and have been very pleased with the decision. Got it on ebay for a good price and can find parts for it easily.
     
  11. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your input - I have learned a lot and at least have some direction now. I think I will look into these Meoptas and Omegas and see what fits my budget - I already have the contrast filters so that is one thing I won't have to buy.
    I do think that one day I will be able to try large format - but that is not in the near future - so the enlarger will do 35mm - 6X7 at most duty. And I print exclusively B&W, and do not plan on moving into colour any time soon. For now, something not much bigger than my Axomat would be perfect since I do not have a permanent dark room and each printing session requires clean up and moving of equipment...Thanks again for all you responses, as usual I am overwhelmed with the number and thorough nature of your response - the community here has been very, very helpful!

    PS. Just one more thing - I would need two lenses for best results, right? Can anyone recommend which to look for =, and if you feel so inclined give me just a quick and dirty explanation of why I want these lenses? Thanks!
     
  12. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    To print 35 and 6X6 you need a lens that will cover the negative. 50mm is considered normal for 35 and 75 or 80 is considered normal for 6x6 and 90 for 6x7 or 6x9. Some printer (people not the enlarger) use a longer lens than is normal such as 60 for 50 and a 105 for 6X7 or 6X9. There are many very good lens on the market, I use Wollensak, Nikkor, and Schnider. Buy the enlarger then check to see what lens and lens mounts you will need. Buy the best lens you can afford. I would use an older enlarger in order to get good lens. If the trade off is good glass vs the basic enlarger I would look at a Federal or Dever, any enlarger is only as good as the lens.

    Paul
     
  13. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    I'm with jeanette on this one. If you've got a choice, go for the condensor type. They're dead easy to use with (Ilford) multigrade filters and IMO you get a punchier image. Regards, BLIGHTY.
     
  14. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Thanks Paul, that is exactly what I was lookig for. I knew that different lenses were required for best results, but now I know the size to look for.
     
  15. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    You might want to check out Ebay, I saw a Federal model that is 35 to 6x9 that comes in a case for storage. For someone who needs to store an enlarger it could be really cool. Needs a quailty lens.

    Paul
     
  16. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    You can get Beseler 67s, 23Cs and 45 Ms very cheap on eBay. I recently purchased a pristine Zone VI modified 45 MXT with a cold-light head. The 23C XL that I bought new in 1977 has just been converted to a Zone VI cold light (another eBay item). The Beselers are built to last forever and can be outfitted with a number of different printing heads. The 45 MX enlarger is about 80 lbs so shipping is high but they are easy to disassemble and put back together requiring only a screwdriver. New or used parts are easy to obtain if needed and the enlargers are easy to align. You can get a complete 23C for $150 or a 45 MX for about $300 (or less) and that's only a small fraction of what they cost new or would be charged if bought used from a dealer.
     
  17. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Thanks to all who responded - blighty, I have heard that opinion before, I am gald someone chimed in on the subject!

    Paul - I definitely will look into that - portability would be a bonus in my current "domestic" situation!

    Now, as to the various "printing heads" - there I am totally green. I know that a condenser "gathers" teh light through a big magnifying glass - looking device and then "shoots" it through the neg where as the other kind uses almost like a matt screen to project evenly on the whole negative (more less) but the "cold light" heads and all the terminology is quite foreign to me. Can anyone expand on that, or perhaps point me to a resource (enlargers for dummies - no, wait, that's my email junk mail box..:smile:)?

    I saw a Omega B22 with two Rodenstok lenses and a variety of neg carriers at a very decent price - is that a decent piece? It looks tiny compared to most... (the head part)...

    Thanks again for all your help

    Peter.
     
  18. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    I have professionally used both Omega and Beselar in 4x5 sizes. I used an Omega Dichroic when I worked in a colour lab doing customer enlargements. For my own use, I purchased a Beseler 45MX and then put an Aristo cold light head on it. I HATE condensor enlargers and am with Ansel Adams regarding the "chalk and soot" tonality it gives.

    Yes, the Beseler 45 is more than you need right now, but they are built like tanks, are very flexible in terms of installation, and will likely outlive you. If it were me, I would drive to QC in a flash. A trip to Quebec City in the Spring? What's not to like? ;-) Even if you don't make a purchase, you've had a good road trip.

    Earl
     
  19. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Ansal Adams The Print is a good starting place. Condenser heads use condensers to focus the light, increases printing speed, contrast, and is very sharp, but tends show dust and other negative defects. Diffusion is softer, the light is not focused, slower, less sharp, but with less contrast it is easier to print both shadows and keep texture in the highlight, and shows less dust. A cold light is diffusion with a florcesent or neon light. Very diffuse and does put out the heat of a tunston light so negatives don't buckle in long exposures. Down side is depending on the make of the head may be slow and you need to print on graded paper. A Point source is a condenser on steroids, very very sharp, uses a very small clear very bright blub. Ansel Adams printed most of his 35mm on point source. A color head is a diffusion system that uses a halogen bulb for light, a mixing chamber, and colored filters to print color ,it can also be used as contrast filters for black and white.

    The Omega B 66 is a very good enlarge, small footprint easy to take down, the only draw back is that is only take up to a 6X6 negative. At some point you may to shoot
    6X7.

    Paul
     
  20. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Earl - too true about the trip to QCC!!! Unfortunately, the thingymajig watchamacallit you know what that pays for this stuff - the evil "J" word, does not permit! I am in touch with the gentleman who has these, and am waitning his reply!

    And this is something I think I spoke literally 5 minutes before typing this reply:

    "Honey, I promise no more searching eBay for cameras."

    I LAUGHED SO HARD, my sides still hurt and the neighbours may think someone is trying to kill me....

    Paul - I am going to have to start paying you a tutoring fee - thank you so much! I wonder how the flourescent lights up and shuts down on time...must be some engineering trick! You are right - a Mamiya RB is on my wish list, hopefull in the near future, 6x7 will be something I will have to worry about - for now, well... see quote above :wink:

    Budget is shoe string!

    And, by the way, the Ansel Adams Trilogy is on order!!! I have read something by him called I believe "Photography Basics", but I don't remeber much about the book now (as to when it was published, etc - the content stuck like glue, even though I had little time with it!). I do remember it had a huge credit foe "editor" so I suspect it might have been a mass market dilution of the three books - or Ansel's attempt to give back to the "little guy", hehehehe:smile:
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    After Ansal Adams passed away John Schaffer (President of the University of Arizona, now retired, who brought Ansal Adams and Eugene Smith's negatives to the U of A Center for Creative Photography) brought out several texts which were called The Ansal Adams guides to Photography Basics with updated information. I think that Schaffer keep true to Ansal Adams ideas. But there are many good texts, just by browsing on E Bay you can get an idea of the makes and models of enlargers are available and get recommendations from users before you buy. Look for good lens, no matter what the make of an enlarger is without good lens it doesn't matter.

    Paul