Enlarger recommendations...?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by melmoth, Feb 20, 2006.

  1. melmoth

    melmoth Member

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    Hallo there.

    I am based in Europe and about to finally start up a darkroom. I had a good look through previous threads about enlargers but could'nt find a specific thread that dealt with the question.
    Normally, I shoot b/w on 35mm film and would someday like to extend up to medium film - 6x6 etc. on the same enlarger with colour development an option. I have become - for better or worse - quite serious about photography and I would prefer to buy a good quality machine that will last, instead of buying something basic and changing after 2 years. The budget is decent but not unlimited.

    What would should I consider?

    I am grateful for any and all suggestions.

    Thanks a lot. M.
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    The first 20 posters will suggest different enlargers, then after the next 30 posters have rehashed the recommendations, we'll start digging trenches.

    So I'll get mine in early: Meopta. An Opemus 6 with colour head (and 6x6 mixing chamber only) has been my main enlarger for many years. I'm sure it will be just as good for many more years. Even when I did part-time commercial work, I didn't want another enlarger. The only reason I've got a second enlarger now is that my 5x7" films won't fit in a MF enlarger.
     
  3. haris

    haris Guest

    Whatever you find in working condition and are ready to pay for you'll be fine. Seriously, I bought two Meoptas enlargers only becuase I didn't find anything else, and wasn't ready to pay expences for ordering secondhand enlargers from abroad.. Now, when I look at prints made with my enlargers and prints from my friends Leica enlarger larger I can't see difference. Of course I am talking about technical stuff , that is sharpness, ligh falls etc.. not artistic stuff...

    Buy enlarger with coulour head mounting option (for colour and multicontrast b/w paper work) with up to 6x7cm or 6x9 cm (or bigger negative size if you have room for it and money), negative carriers for negative sizes you will use, condensers and mixing chambers for negative sizes you will use, Schneider Componon-S or Rodenstock Rodagon or Nikon enlarger lenses for negative sizes you will use , etc... and you are OK. I dont see you will go wrong with Leica or LPL, or Dust or DeVerre, or Meopta, or Vivitar, or...

    But, I belive other will have more precise and better answers.
     
  4. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Most people will recommend the same make that they use, so I will recommend Durst, but I know Meopta are good also. Get a colour head as it will give you the option of colour printing. I suppose a good 6 element lens should be high on your list too. Good luck.
     
  5. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    My advice is simple: Get one with a decent column (design), which kind of forces you to look into the high-quality models, not the basic/budget ones.
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I'd be inclined to talk to a reputable secondhand seller such as Nova darkroom or Secondhand Darkroom Supplies. Yes the enlargers will be more expensive than e-bay but you'll get good advice, a machine that will have been checked and made serviceable and Nova for one does a very good deal on a set carriage charge of about £5-6 whereas an e-bay seller will have to charge full cost. I'd hate to think what my Durst M605 would cost to transport by parcel post given its weight.

    For what its worth there are a number of 6x6 machines out there such as the M605 but if I had my time over again I'd want an enlarger that covered 6x7 as there are a number of 6x7 MF cameras worth considering.

    Pentaxuser
     
  7. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Seems like the biggest concern for you is availability. There are a lot of good enlargers available but I don't know what you can get in Ireland.
     
  8. Bruce Appel

    Bruce Appel Member

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    My only advice, not knowing what models/brands are available where you are, is to get one that is bigger format wise than you think you will need. In the states, darkroom stuff has gotten cheap enough where you can get a really good 4X5 machine for not a lot of money, and you will not be needing another later on when you want to do large format stuff. They will also be bigger and beefier, meaning more stable, a good thing. Whatever you choose, check to see what is involved in getting, and keeping it in alignment. The base board, negative stage, and lens board all need to be parallel, and some machines do not make this easy to do, some do. Buy one that does.
     
  9. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member

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    I scored a used Durst Pictocrom at an amazing price. It appears to be a variation of the 1200 model just more bells and whistles such as powered rising and lowering of the head & powered fine focusing. It also has a closed loop color head that compensates exposure times if you change grades. It also has an internal iris for precise print exposure, etc. This thing is the Ferrari of enlargers if you ask me. I'm hoping one day I can find another one for a backup.
     
  10. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    For 35, a Leitz Focomat. It's a completely different business than anything else, a V35 with a dichro head. Not long ago,it would have been like buying a Range Rover. Not anymore. For 120, a Durst or Meopta, great choices.

    good luck..
    don
     
  11. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member

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  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    My 2 cents: First, a "decent but not unlimited" budget is a bit vague. To the average high school student, that might be $50. To Bill Gates, it might be $50 million. If you could narrow it down, that might help others give better recommendations. Similarly, it'd be helpful to know if you're looking to buy new or used. Most of the replies to date seem to assume used, probably because that's where you can get the most bang for the buck (or Eurobuck, in your case).

    Second, if buying used, condition is at least as important as brand. You can buy from a reputable dealer, as others have suggested, or just take your chance on eBay (or wherever), and if you get a dud, try again. Buying locally has the advantage that you can examine the merchandise yourself before buying. That might limit your available options, though. You might want to see if there will be any camera shows in your area in the near future. You might find a good bargain at one.

    Third, if you buy used, and especially if you buy a model that's no longer in production, be sure it comes with all the accessories you're likely to need. These include negative carriers, condensers or mixing boxes, filter holders, etc. Such things can be expensive to add later, especially if they're no longer available new.

    Fourth, check on the bulb type the enlarger uses. Make sure it's still available, ideally at a low cost. Some enlargers use oddball bulbs, some of which are no longer available. I've seen descriptions of ways to jury-rig certain models to use alternative light sources, so it's sometimes possible to work around such problems -- but you might as well avoid the hassle if you can.

    Fifth, you may want to narrow the field by deciding on certain design features, such as the maximum negative size the enlarger can handle, whether you want a diffusion or condenser enlarger, maximum physical size of the enlarger, etc.

    Sixth, the lens is very important, but because used lenses are so cheap today, you shouldn't pay too much attention to the lens that comes with the enlarger you buy. If it's a terrible lens, you can just buy a new one. As has been mentioned, 6-element designs are generally the best.

    Finally, as Dave Miller says, most people will recommend whatever they use. In the year or so I've been doing my own enlargements, I've owned two enlargers: a Durst C35 and a Philips PCS130/PCS150. The Durst was the bottom-of-the-line model from about 20-30 years ago. It handled 35mm only, although there was apparently a kit to enable it to do medium format, as well. The Durst C35 had built-in yellow and magenta filters, but no cyan filters. This made it (barely) adequate for color work. Exposure times were a bit long with it, and it used a bulb that's no longer available (although I found an adequate substitute). Mine was showing its age and so I eventually decided to upgrade (hence my writing about the Durst in the past tense; I sold it).

    The Philips PCS130 is definitely a much better enlarger, but it dates from roughly the same era. Equipped with a PCS150 control unit and light source, the Philips uses an unusual additive color system, meaning that it has independently controllable red, green, and blue lamps. (Most color enlargers use a white light source with cyan, magenta, and yellow filters, which is referred to as a subtractive system.) Additive and subtractive systems are both effective for making color enlargements and for controlling the contrast with variable contrast B&W paper. Although there are some oddities in the Philips additive system, overall I find it easier to work with than the Durst's subtractive system. The enlarger's also much sturdier and much more flexible (it supports up to 6x7 negatives with the right condensers, can do wall projection and head tilting for perspective control, and so on). The biggest minus for the Philips is that it uses some rather odd bulbs. They're still available, but they're pricey (~$20 apiece). It's also long been out of production, so if the unit you get lacks accessories you want, you'll have a hard time finding them. If you're interested, Yahoo has a discussion group for these enlargers. The PCS130 itself was reportedly made by LPL, with the electronics in the PCS150 made by Philips. These were also sold under the Paterson brand name. The PCS2000 is a similar enlarger, but it uses a diffusion design rather than the condenser system used by the PCS130.
     
  13. leeturner

    leeturner Subscriber

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    You'll find a lot of Durst equipment on Ebay. I picked up two Modular 70 enlargers plus a 50mm 2.8 Nikkor lens for £50. These will handle up to 6x7 and are still supported by Durst. I also have an old Durst L1000 but parts are now getting hard to come by, even the opal bulb.
    If you've got the money try for a Durst L1200 (like the one in the link that Sean posted). I've seen them going for upwards of around £100. The only problem is that the carriage might be more than the enlarger.


    As for lenses it is sometimes better to buy from a retailer, such as Nova. I've got 6 lenses that have come from Ebay and they vary from excellent to shoddy. However at an average cost of around £10 per lens the shoddy ones can be binned.
    Another option is to go for a complete darkroom package. There are quite a lot of these on Ebay and the carriage isn't much more than the enlarger shipping cost. You'll then have a turnkey solution and won't have to hunt around for the other bits.
     
  14. thefizz

    thefizz Member

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    Hi there, give Gunns Camera Shop in Dublin a ring (01 4781226). They may have some second-hand equipment available or can inform you of other places to try. Louise Gunn is very knowledgable and will help in any way she can.

    I got my Fujimoto enlarger, RZ67 camera and other equipment from Ffordes.com in Scotland. They have a large selection of used gear and are good to deal with. As far as I can remember, most of their second-hand stuff comes with a six month warranty.

    Peter
     
  15. melmoth

    melmoth Member

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    Thanks Peter and all.

    Much food for thought. At the moment, my budget is provisionally about 600 us dollars.
    Saunders/LPL seems popular. What is a fujimoto enlarger like?
    Does anyone have experience of Kaiser enlargers?
    Again, thanks for all replies. M.
     
  16. thefizz

    thefizz Member

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    My Fujimoto is the G70 model which has a reversible Diffuser/Condenser light source. Instead of using filters for B&W printing, you simply dial in the filtration using the Yellow & Magenta dials. It can print from 35mm to 6x7.

    I have never heard anyone say bad things about Fujimoto, Durst, LPL or Meopta and I have used all four of them in the past. They are all good makes. I have no experience with Kaiser but have heard others speak highly of them.

    Peter
     
  17. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    There's a really nice Kienzle on ebay.de right now - they're at LEAST as good as the durst in all the important ways. DeVere's are GREAT and should be dirt cheap over there. But I suppose I'm suggesting total overkill for a novice printer maybe...! oh well.
     
  18. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    oops! forget the possibility - they want to sell it for 1400 euros.
    http://cgi.ebay.de/HEILAND-SPLITGRA...oryZ8277QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Fujimoto enlargers have been very popular in Japan. I've never used one before, but my only complaint is that in the Japanese market it's labeled as "Lucky" instead of "Fujimoto."

    No offense to anyone here, but to me, it sounds like a name of someone's pet. :D
     
  20. davetravis

    davetravis Member

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    I've owned two Beselers. The 67 and the 23CII. I only print color, and think very highly of their Dichro Color head. It's accurate to within 1 ymc of adjustment. The enlarger itself is easy to adjust for flatness of field, and the lensboards swap out quickly. From 6x7 cm I can go up to 24x28 without tilting to the wall.
    Good luck and welcome to the dark!