Grain Focusers & Enlarger Alignment

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by M Carter, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Well hello - finally stopped lurking, and here's my first post!

    Returning to the darkroom after a 15 year or so absence. Using a Beseler 67c, Single column. It's got some minor alignment issues.

    I've got it fairly well dialed in using a black 35mm neg with a grid scratched into it. Used a Magna Sight to get this far.

    Just got a 25x Microsight. Man - that thing's intense! I have to stop down to f8 or so to avoid frying my retinas. Nice! But... when I've got roughly a 16x20 area going, I can see grain even when the micro is placed several inches off center - eventually I'll have sort of a "quarter moon" of grain, which shimmers until the eye is aligned just right. But - I can see grain far enough from the center to notice I could still do some fine tuning.

    My question is - if I can see grain, is it accurate for focus - or is only the center going to be correct for focus, and are the edge focus issues I'm seeing a product of the micro sight being off-center? Anyone know? I've emailed the manufacturer, so far just got a reply of "helping them with emails, I'll ask someone". I'd love to buy a top-of-the-line, full field focuser, but the Mrs. is wondering why all the huge eBay boxes every day (I'm working towards 3' x 5' emulsion on canvas prints...)

    By the way, this forum's been a daily search for me - so much friendly knowledge here. If anyone needs to know how to dupe your color slides onto 8x10 velvia sheet film, just let me know (that was my last enlarger usage, for my commercial portfolio pre iPad and website days...) Thanks all.
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Welcome to APUG.

    I have a similar grain focuser, except mine is x15 or x20.... (I can't recall) With mine, like yours, if I get too far from center, there is nothing to see. I did see well enough to notice mine was off-alignment because grain wasn't sharp off center. Yes, I do believe, if you can see the grain SHARP, then it is good enough focus AT THAT LOCATION. But since we can't get far enough off center, it's no use.... What really matters is what happens around the four corners.

    What's even worse, trying to align enlargers using grain focuser is pretty much impossible. So I ended up (after months of frustrating experiments with less than ideal methods), get a laser alignment tool. It was fairly easy with this tool but even with that, I had to deal with repeatability (or lack there of) of results.
     
  3. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    If the grain is in focus then the negative will be too. Bear in mind that the definition of the grain will deteriorate the further out from the centre you will go but I focus on the centre and then stop down to F8-11 with my Nikkor 50mm and it will be sharp all over. This all depends on the quality of your lens too. Get the best that you can afford and it won't let you down. Nikon, Rodenstock or Schneider are the ones to aim for.

    The best focussing aid I have ever seen is one made or at least marketed by a company called 'Peak' There may be the same focussing aid sold under different names but this one has a rocking eyepiece which you can use to focus on the image/negative from the very corners to see how for it is 'out'. I have one that has seen better days but still does the job.

    They do occasionally turn up for sale 2nd hand so expect to pay around £80 or $120 for one in tip top condition.

    If your enlarger has a movable head it may well be worth checking that it is truly vertical and parallel with the baseboard, by using a small spirit level on all the vertical and horizontal surfaces.
     
  4. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    If you see grain that far out, you will be fine.

    Keep in mind that you actually increase the depth of field on the paper the further you stop down.

    And of course... if you stop down to far you start to lose sharpness from diffraction.

    But I would say you are now at the point where it will behoove you worry more about making a beautiful print as opposed to one which is in focus.
     
  5. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Thanks guys - my enlarger has an adjustable negative stage; the lens board is attached to that. Difficult to adjust and then tighten without it falling back off. I got things basically aligned with a spirit level (bubble level in the states!) and found I needed to shim the lens board. Using an El Nikkor 50mm 2.8. After using the Magna, I'm amazed at the magnifying power of the micro though.

    I'm aware of the peak focuser, but will try to get by without one for now - they seem to get grabbed up quickly when they appear. I see a slight focus shift when I get about 4" from center (on a 16x20 so I'm fairly close to the edge). You can still tell that it's grain and see the structure - it's pretty minor. I'm sort of mentally designing something like a lensboard with tapped holes and small thumbscrews to fine tune the lens board angle - shimming's such a hit & miss process vs. "dialing it in".

    I feel like I have the thing reasonably close and to a point that all this may be moot when stopped down, and I'll do some materials tests at 20x24 and see how everything goes. At some point I'll need to build a sort of level-adjustable combination easel & dev. tray of "rather large size" (I'd like to use materials up to 5'), and I'm curious to see what effect DOF has going very big. Anecdotally I've heard the focus tolerance increases for projected prints, so I may be fine. Thanks again!
     
  6. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

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  7. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Thanks Silver... I've read a lot of love letters to the versalab; when I start running some large prints we'll see. If I have any frustrating issues, I'll likely talk myself into one. (I tend to compose and record the music for edits I do so I'm surrounded by electronic audio gear... my wife has pointed out how I seem to love "any gear with blinky lights on it". Anything with a red light on it has just upped its value by 90% in my eyes!)
     
  8. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I use one of those, but I have 7 enlargers to align. Well worth the gray hair it saves.
     
  9. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The Nikkor 50mm 2.8 that you have will give a quite non-flat field when used for 16x20 and larger. Assuming your enlarger is aligned, you can focus the center and far edge by moving the enlarger head up and down (don't touch the focus knob). Then set the enlarger head at the linear midpoint between the two points of focus and stop down to about f16. You should be able to make a reasonable print, but if you intend to do a lot of images that size you might want to look at the HM Schneider or the Rodagon-G.
     
  10. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Interesting - I tracked down the Nikkor because they seem universally well regarded and are plentiful. My heart is really set on prints around the 48" and up size though. Food for thought.
     
  11. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    48" from what size negative?
     
  12. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I just had a look at the OP's details. Says he is a 35mm shooter. 48inches from 35mm, wow! Mind you I saw an exhibition of prints from 35mm slides once and from the right viewing distance the prints looked pretty good and the biggest must have been close to 48 inches on the longest side

    pentaxuser
     
  13. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I suppose I'm spoiled.
     
  14. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Nikkors vary in quality depending upon the specific design. The longer large format focal lengths tend
    to be universally good, but for 35mm and MF applications they offered budget versions too. Oddly,
    I found that the 75/4 is excellent for 35mm use, using only the center of the field, though it would
    be a rather poor performer for the 6x6 application it is officially marketed for. And it does have a bit
    of focus shift the first stop down (so I always critical focus one stop down). Their better model for
    actual 6x6 use is 5.6, with more elements. And among their intended 35mm products, the 63 is allegedly better than their 50's. But I only tangle with such things for casual work. Normally I reach
    for my Apo Rodagon or Apo Nikkors.
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Twenty feet wide from 35mm used to be quite common. It's called a billboard. And if you believe all
    that "correct viewing distance" nonsense, it doe indeed look agreeably sharp from four-hundred yards away!
     
  16. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Of course using such a lens for very large enlargements is impractical as the head would have to be very high above the paper to get anything larger than a 16x20, right?
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    In pre-inkjet days there was a franchise that made huge enlargements from small amateur film at very reasonable cost called Bigshots, if I recall correctly. They attached a box-like tower to the side
    of the building reminiscent of a grain silo to get the necessary vertical distance in a small lease space. The better pro labs simply used a big floor space and horizontal enlarger on tracks, since they
    had to accommodate a variety of films, including large format pro sheet film. Most enlarger lenses are
    not intended for significant magnifications. A notable exception would be the Rodagon G.
     
  18. hgernhardt

    hgernhardt Member

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    Not necessarily. If you have a long enough room and an enlarger with a tilting head (think Beseler 23c and its ilk), you can project onto a vacuum easel (or wall-hanging sensitized canvas) by switching the enlarger to horizontal mode. I've considered doing that myself, though I don't quite have the fiscal capacity to experiment with it. Alignment's probably a bear, though.
     
  19. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Regarding the neg size & print size comments -

    I may work from 35 or 6x7... the project I'm obsessing over is likely more about "feel" than technical perfection. Of course, I may find that "feel" requires absolute perfection in printing. Right now, test images shot 35 with pushed HP5+ are pointing me towards some mild diffusion and low DOF; I really love how grain becomes sort of a "paper texture" when there's that many soft gradations, and it's something I worked on extensively in color, multiple exposures with 320T 35mm pushed up to 3 stops - a simply luscious look which I'd then dupe to 8x10 Velvia for client presentation. RIP 320T, I truly adored you. I have ONE roll in the freezer...

    As far as commercial shooting goes, I came up in the film world and shot some cool projects and major brands and got a good rep amongst the shooters in my market as a guy who could light - all that to say, I'm not a newbie to this stuff overall, but this is the first time I've really explored rating B&W negs for personal development, the zone system, etc - commercial stuff was much more about accurate product colors, clean whites, etc., with a personal style and working quickly. So there is some newbie-ism for me (and how cool, learning huge new things after all these years).

    Anyway - I'm somewhat influenced by Jan Saudek, but less of his "humor", not sharp/clean/clear, a little more amorphous. B&W on large emulsion canvas, hand colored and likely distressed all to hell as well. I'm slowly working my way larger, heading for 20x24 this month. I'm a little torn between a sort of hyper-real, exaggerated perspective of some of the european surrealist painters to a more ghostly, dirty look.

    My plan, for those interested, for going really big: enlarger on a raised platform with a 4-way level-able base. A very large exposing and developing "tray", maybe 8" deep, on wheeled platform with 4-way leveling screws as well - some sort of 5-gallon valved wet supply through an inlet baffle, and a 4" quick-drain to 5 gallon buckets, and a wash drain for water. Test prints of the full image at 16x20 to plan dodging/burning, then full-size test sections on large segments of test materials dev'd in 20x24 trays, then finally a full sized take. If I go a little dilute with the developer, I should be OK with draining a tray quickly. Selenium toning if I need more blacks.

    I live in a duplex where we converted it to one big house - my studio/office is the upstairs living and dining. For now there's a 20x15 kitchen upstairs that was just storage and the fridge and appliances removed. It's turning into a pretty killer darkroom space (if ugly) and someday will be gutted into a master bath, so running drains and supply (I have all the PEX tools - that stuff is just awesome!!!) and punching holes in walls and blacking out the windows - the wife is like "whatever, can I pose for your nekkid photo project soon?" I have a really wonderful wife!
     
  20. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Reminds me a lot of what Ken Rosenthal has done. I would love to see a different interpretation.
     
  21. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Well, above all, enjoy the adventure. Be patient with yourself and have fun during the learning curve. You might find yourself experimenting
    with how specific film grain actually contributes or distracts from your intended look blown way up. Good luck!
     
  22. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Thanks guys - looked up how many cubic inches are in a gallon and started calculating chemistry for various tray sizes... gulp. Trying to keep it to 5 gallons... I'm going to have to think up a way to keep coated canvas very flat while wet... maybe I can get away with an inch or inch and a half chemistry depth...
     
  23. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Can you scroll the material? You will need less liquids if you use troughs - and getting the wet material in and out of trays would be less fraught if you have two people and a roll, rather than two people and a floppy sheet.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    1 US Gallon = 0.13368056 Cubic Feet = 230.999904 Cubic Inches
    1 Imperial Gallon = 0.16054365 Cubic Feet = 277.419341 Cubic Inches