how to check enlarger alignment

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by vedmak, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. vedmak

    vedmak Subscriber

    Messages:
    316
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2009
    Location:
    Chicago
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I was wondering if I could build something to check my enlarger alignment, meaning that the easel is parallel to the negative. Besides using an air bubble and zig-align are there any other tricks?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,005
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I picked up this great Omega alignment level here in the classifieds, but I couldn't say where to find another one. It has a long stiff square metal bar with a very sensitive adjustable level on it, so you can calibrate it to the baseboard and then adjust the lens and the negative stage based on the calibration. Not as precise as a laser alignment tool, but pretty good.

    Another trick that works, preferably with a glass neg carrier is to take a black negative and scratch an X in it from corner to corner, project the neg, and make sure that the corners and the center are all sharp using a grain focuser.
     
  3. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,514
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  4. jmcd

    jmcd Member

    Messages:
    715
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    For years I tried various methods to align my Beseler, including projecting a scratched negative and aligning till it was sharp all over, and a Beseler enlarging tool with built-in levels. Finally I bought a Versalab Parallel alignment tool and I got my enlarger better tuned up than ever before in much less time. It is one of the best investments I ever made in photography tools.
     
  5. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Zone VI sez one can use a sheet of plane, plate glass, plus two brand new pencils as reference lengths. Never tried it, tho.
     
  6. tlitody

    tlitody Member

    Messages:
    186
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm
    fine if the head height is only six inches but proves nothing at 3ft.

    Versalab is the simplest and quickest but not the cheapest.

    You can make your own simply with two strips of mirror. Scratch a little hole in the mirroring on one of them at the end of the strip. Then place non scratched one on easel facing up and the one with a scratched hole in the negative carrier with hole end sticking out and mirror facing down. Then look down through hole. You should see concentric circles if neg stage and easel are parallel. Adjust if necesssary. Then attach mirror with hole under the lens and look down. Again you should have concentric circles. If not then adjust lens to get it on axis.
    Easier said than done cos you have to get your head up there to look down.

    And check enlarger at standard heights for your enlargements.
     
  7. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

    Messages:
    350
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2006
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I just checked Calumet Photo's website, and they still sell the kind of alaignment tool David mentions. Plus a few other kinds.

    One of the alignment tricks I've heard of, but never tried, is to project a negative and measure the image to make certain the parallel sides are the same length. I would assume you would use a glass carrier that would not crop the negative to eliminate worrying whether the carrier cut out was accurate.
     
  8. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,479
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Yes, but both pairs should be checked and you don't really need a negative in the carrier, just focus the sides of the carrier. Another "high tech" approach would be to use a sheet of paper (which obviously has 90° angles) and check that the angles of the projected parallelogram are also 90°. Of course, the same can be done with a triangle, if you have one. In any case, it's easier if the enlarger's head is at the maximum height; the larger the projection, the easier to spot any problems.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,194
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  10. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm in the midst of realigning my Besler 23C-II. I've got nothing more than a spirit level, a steel ruler and a piece of SMPTE PA-35 test film.
    http://www.thedigitalbits.com/articles/robertharris/smpte35pa.jpg

    It's probably going to take an almost complete teardown and rebuild but I fully expect to get near-perfect alignment out of it when I'm through.

    Regardless of the tools used, this is a job that just requires time and patience and a steady hand.

    I have done similar jobs on over a hundred 35mm movie projectors. To be blunt, an enlarger is not much different than a movie projector. Think about it for a second... An enlarger is nothing more than a projector. It operates vertically instead of horizontally and it only projects one frame at a time. But it's got a light source, a film trap a lens and a projection screen. It's just a specialized version of a projector.

    From what I can tell, so far, aligning an enlarger is almost the same. You can use test jigs and lasers to align them but, when it comes right down to it, you still need to do it by hand. You need some tools, some patience and a lot of common sense.

    The first thing you do is level the base your projector sits on. If its not sitting level, nothing else will work right. You could work for hours and hours but still not get it right unless you start with a level base. Then you align your lamp, your condenser/diffuser, you film trap, your lens and your easel until they are all centered, plumb, level and square.

    I really can't explain it to you. I don't know of any manual that really gives the full detail on how to do it. You just have to see it done once or twice. After that, the best thing you can do is to get your hands on one and figure out what makes it tick.

    It might sound like a PITA but, if you have ever watched a movie at a top-notch theater like the AFI Silver, you will appreciate the difference.
     
  11. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,479
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Randy, let's assume that you don't have a level baseboard, but it's not wobbly either. Let's also assume that all critical planes are parallel to each other. How could that be problematic?
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's hard to explain without pictures but I'll try. Remember, I'm doing this with just a spirit level and a steel ruler. If I had a jig and a laser level I could probably get it done in 1/10 the time.

    The first thing I have to do is determine whether the enlarger frame is plumb, level and square. Since it is attached to the baseboard, the frame must be square with the base. I could measure my frame relative to the base but every measurement subsequent must be offset by that amount which the base was not level.

    The second thing I do is to level the carriage. If the carriage is not plumb with the frame, it will have to be made plumb. If the base is not level, the frame will not be level. If the frame is not level the carriage will not be level. If I have an offset toward level on the base, that offset must be carried over to the carriage.

    Now, it is possible... PROBABLE, actually... that you will have some small error when you level your "projector's" base. It's not possible to get it 100% flat. That same thing is true when you do a 35mm projector. However, the first thing that must be done when installing a 35mm movie projector is to level it as well as you can.

    You can adjust the lamphouse to be level, independent of the projector frame, but the better you level the base the easier it is to carry out your lamp adjustment and so on down the line.

    Here's a story to illustrate my point.
    One of the first theaters I worked at, I was being trained how to align a Dolby Digital sound system on a movie projector. I was trying to use a long handled Allen wrench to reach into the projector and make a critical adjustment without disturbing other components. My boss came over and asked, "What the hell are you doing?" I was flabbergasted to watch him take a screwdriver and disassemble the entire mechanism, align it piece by piece, from the ground up then make some final, minute adjustments in about half the time I had already spent fiddling on it (and still not getting it done.) He finished up and, with his thick Kentucky accent, he said, "Son, there ain't no use fiddling! If you're going to do this right you're going to have to break some eggs!"

    Unless you know that your projector or enlarger's base is plumb, level and square with the frame, there is no use in trying to fiddle and tweak with the other components of the system.

    It only takes a half a minute to level the base of your enlarger then to plunk a level down on top of the frame and verify that the frame is plumb. If it is, continue on. If all the other components are plumb, keep on moving down the chain until you find what's out of whack. But, if you don't, at least, VERIFY the basics you could end up farting around all day and wasting time.
     
  13. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

    Messages:
    1,275
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Location:
    Downers Grov
    I use a Peak grain magnifier with the long mirror, 4 ". The model goes right into the corners.

    Start with a level to level the base, then the neg stage so they are parallel. This insures a square is a square on projection.

    Then project a grainy image and look at the grain with the Peak at both left and right edges. Raise the Peak to find which side is front and back focusing. Then tip the lens with shims.

    Repeat with front/rear on the lens.

    If you have a glass carrier, The image will be perfect center to corner. And you have a grain focuser to use forever.

    Every enlarging lens is different so every one need its own shim set.

    Have the head on the enlarger when leveling as the weight makes a difference. Set height for 8x10 unless you make very large prints, then go higher. A wall mount or proper enlarging stand eleminates all these problems.

    I use a stick with level on it. Levels are not perfect so always point it the same direction and errors here do not matter.

    All the fancy gadgets are overkill as I can get sharp grain everywhere using these simple tools. The fancy tools are for measuring, and the limitation is the precision of the alignment adjustments and they do not address that issue. Sometimes you are just stuck with bits of paper and tape and patience.