What do you get in a 'better' enlarger.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by digiconvert, Nov 4, 2007.

  1. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    I have 'rescued' a colour head for my Opemus enlarger from the college skip and for the price of a bulb have a functionong colour / VC enlarger. It does me fine and Meopta are bombproof (just in case many other parts of the defunct enlarger are stored around the house as spares :smile: ) . I was just wondering what I would get (Other than formats bigger than 66) in a more expensive enlarger .

    Cheers CJB
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Nothing really.

    Except with many De Vere's and Fujimoto's and probably some US enlargers you get ease of focussing and height adjustment, with front controls or motors.

    Ian
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You usually get more accessory options--different types of neg carriers (glass, open, with masking blades, etc.), different heads, condensers for specific focal lengths of enlarging lens and formats, long columns, and maybe attachments for non-enlarging functions like copy work or slide duplicating.

    A feature I like on some better enlargers is a tilting negative stage, so you can tilt the easel to correct converging verticals and then tilt the neg to bring it back into focus using the Scheimpflug principle.

    A very fancy feature is a closed loop enlarging system that measures actual light output and filtration (for color) and adjusts exposure time and filtration for greater consistency from one print to the next. I use a Metrolux timer for B&W, and with a cold light head this produces much more consistency.
     
  4. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Depends what you want to print. With a larger format enlarger, you can have a choice of different lenses which can affect print quality to some extent. I use a medium format lens for 35mm enlargements, because I like the look of a larger lens's "sweet spot" with the 35mm film format. Not a right or wrong, just what I like to print with for 35mm. A bigger negative needs a bigger enlarger, lens, paper and of course, more money. As long as you have a solid platform, a decent lens and a parallel lens / easel relationship, you can print most things well. As Ian has mentioned, there are some features on a more spendy enlarger which can make it easier to focus, faster to set enlargements, more fun or more confusing to work. Since I'm an amateur, it doesn't really matter to me.

    I do enjoy the color head on my old Omega D5XL for VC papers, but don't use it too much as I'm happy with what I have in film development 90% of the time. The solid column is a plus for rigidity, but then again, the stereo can affect print quality somewhat, as the speakers are below the platform. Perhaps I should pour a concrete table for a work surface to get better prints? Best, tim
     
  5. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    As David says, you mainly get more accessories and fancy features -- fine-focus knobs, tilting heads, built-in color analyzers, negative carrier options, etc.

    More expensive enlargers also tend to be more sturdily built, which can improve image quality by reducing vibrations. I'm not sure I'd call this a feature of more expensive enlargers, though; it might be fairer to say that lack of this feature is a deficiency of cheap enlargers.

    I'm not sure where your Meopta falls on any of these scales. If you've still got a well-stocked photo store near you, or if there's a photo equipment show that comes to your area, you could try dropping by and checking out the more expensive enlargers just to see what they offer that yours doesn't.
     
  6. haris

    haris Guest

    You get precission.

    Try to move negative carrier in Meopta enlarger and see how much it "wobble". Also look at negative inserts in carrier and how they fit into carrier. Then, look at vertical/horizontal movement scales. On my Magnifax scales are painted with so thick lines that you can easilly make error of few degrees. There are stops for vertical/horizontal zero position. Set enlarger to zero position (until head can't move anymore) and look if enlarger is aligned...

    Things like that...
     
  7. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    IMHO, the only thing that you get with "better" enlargers is more things that can break.

    A selection of accessories are not neccesarily only in the realm of "better" enlargers as even pre-Cambrian Elwoods and retro Omegas have a lot of optional stuff available.

    A "better" enlarger, IMHO is one thats aligned, dosen't wobble or fry your negatives, and has the best enlarging lens you can afford.

    It can be any make or model. The rest is up to you!
     
  8. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Thanks for the comments - agreed the Meopta is not precision engineered but it does hold the negs steady and produces a good steady light and I have Nikkor lenses . Seems good for me so I'll keep on saving for something else :smile:
     
  9. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    It's all a question of degree. Of all the "better" features mentioned here, the only one I would really rate is the closed-loop metering system, which only comes into play with color. I have used countless enlargers both professionally and as an enthusiast, I am perfectly happy with my Magnifax 4. The only way to totally eliminate movement when inserting a carrier is to have vast mass - if vibration dies away within a second or so of touching an enlarger, where's the problem? Yes, you have to be a little careful to make sure the masks sit securely, again not a problem.

    To put this in context, try using a really lousy enlarger - one that has uneven light which cannot be corrected by adjustment, one that judders like hell during focusing, one where the focusing creeps between adjustment and exposure, one where the lamphouse cooling is inadequate and the negs pop in glassless carriers and fry in glass-type carriers, one where there is no pressure on the carrier glasses, making it impossible to get rid of Newton's rings, or one which is bent and has no facility for alignment. You will find the supposed shortcomings of something like a Magnifax fade to nothing!
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I once worked with a set of Durst autofocus enlargers in a busy darkroom for a large daily newspaper. As long as those enlargers were kept maintained, they were great for getting prints out fast!

    Matt
     
  11. Uncle Goose

    Uncle Goose Member

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    Meopta enlargers are great, I have the Opemus 4 with Meochrom colorhead and it does a very fine job. While they may not as advanced as some later enlargers they are well build and spare parts are easy to come by. The colorhead is really handy to use, don't need to use the clumsy filterdrawerstuff.

    I find that Meopta stuff is quite often underestimated but they great to work with, wouldn't want to trade it for anything.
     
  12. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    Well larger formats are a pretty big plus if that's what you use, as is extra rigidity, but basically a cheap enlarger with a top flight lens is always going to produce better images than the very best enlarger with a cheap lens.

    David.
     
  13. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    The first enlarger that I owned myself, was a Meopta travelling enlarger. It came all folded and pulled apart in it's own suitcase, the suitcase was also the enlarger base. That was a brilliant little system and it lived in the front side of my sidecar and travelled wherever I went. Maximum print size was 8x10", had it for years and years.

    Later on in life I purchased an Opemus 5 with the B&W head, years later I bought the colour head. I worked that enlarger so hard, I was making tram tracks on the column from the wheel that raises and lowers the head. Brilliant enlarger.

    The best quality, but reasonably cheap enlarger is the LPL series, especially the LPL 7700 with the fine focus attachment Their 6700 model is a very basic version of the 7700, it is designed for schools and rough handling. The 6700 cannot do as big an enlargement as the 7700 IIRC. They both handle 35mm right through to 67 beautifully. There were many accessories available for them. These are very good enlargers for the home darkroom where one wishes for some of the finer tolerances, yet space isn't too compromised by excess bulk.

    The best enlarger for a compact darkroom where quality is paramount, would have to be the table top DeVere 504 with the remote wheels in the front. You will be in darkroom heaven with one of those.

    You will be able to make extremely good enlargements with what you have, but you have to work on it. With the more refined enlargers, exceptional enlargements can be made a bit easier.

    Mick.
     
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  15. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    As far as I see it, there are three categories of enlargers. 1. The amateur/enthusiast category, is comprised of enlargers built economically, to be sold at a good price, and are rather lightweight in construction with minimal accessories available. Usually 35mm, and sometimes 120 size negatives are the maximum size printable.

    2. Are the medium-weight professional enlargers, the "standard" so to speak of a working darkroom, and usually take negatives up to 4x5" in size. Typical of these types are the Omega D series, and the Bessler 45 series. Extensive accessories, color heads, cold light heads, many, many different choices in negative carriers, etc.

    3. The Big Boys, Very robust, often floor-standing enlargers that take 5x7 and larger negatives. These are the top of the crop. If your darkroom has the space for one of these bad boys, you have the ultimate, if you can pay the price. DeVere is one brand that comes to mind, also the largest Durst models, and perhaps other names.
     
  16. hypogimp

    hypogimp Member

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    Things that, in my opinion, are important for enlarger design:
    1. even illumination
    2. adequate cooling (to prevent negative buckling)
    3. adequate brightness (not too much, not too little)
    4. ease and precision of of alignment
    5. alignment stays put when set
    6. ease of focusing (smooth focusing without backlash)
    7. ease of head height change
    8. head height does slip when set
    9. ease of condenser change or repositioning (for a condenser head)
    10. adequate baseboard area and height for the maximum print size anticipated
    11. filter holders ideally both above the negative and below the lens
    12. availability of negative carriers, lensboards, cold-light head, color head, etc. on e-bay
    12. inexpensive
    My present Omega B8 enlarger meets most of these criteria although parts are hard to find, is not easy to align, and the color head (used only for B&W) is rather dim compared with the cold-light head that use on my old and heavily modified DeJure 4x5 enlarger. Although I can produce high quality prints from 4x5 negatives on the DeJure, it fails most of my criteria (hard to align, focusing has backlash, poor vibration control, parts are unavailable, head height change tends to slip, etc.). One of these days I will replace it.
     
  17. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    My first enlarger was an old Vivitar condenser for 6x6-35mm, the generic kind shaped like a lamp that every photo student has in their garage. It served me well and I printed merrily for a long time with it, but...

    When I upgraded to a Vivitar VI, my photos were suddenly better. You know the effect when you upgrade your sound system and everything sounds so much better, you have to re-listen to all your recordings?

    By better I mean that the enlarger was at least properly aligned, it did not vibrate, etc, so that the projected image was much much better. I have the colour head for it so I also make colour prints.
     
  18. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    What I mainly look for in an enlarger is reliability and consistency. Particularly on a print run I need to have consistency with exposure and grade. That the negative will remain perfectly flat in the negative carrier regardless of exposure time.
     
  19. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    Which enlarger do you use?
     
  20. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    Hi Keith,

    I use a DeVere 504 with Multigrade head. It might be of interest to mention that I use a double glass neg. carrier and both glasses are anti-Newton ring type. Fortunately the DeVere AN-ring glasses do not have an effect on the image. I do this because I use films like T-Max which have a rather shiny emulsion and are prone to Newton rings when useing just a plain lower glass.

    Regards,
    Trevor.
     
  21. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I used to be a really crappy photographer, until I got my new enlarger.. :tongue:

    Seriously, there are lots of technical, and ergonomic reasons one enlarger might be preferred to another, as evidenced by the good and proper responses to this thread. I judge an enlarger by one simple criteria.. after I have printed with it a few times, I don't notice it anymore. Then I know it's a good one.
     
  22. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    What a hassel. I've had to completely dismantle
    my glass negative carrier in order to clean the carrier
    and two glass plates. Tweezer size machine screws
    and lock washers to match. So, which enlarger has
    the easiest to clean glass negative carriers?
    That's the brand to buy. Dan
     
  23. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That's why I'm happy with my Opemus 6 enlarger. The only reason I use two enlargers is that it only goes to 6x6, and I like 5x7" negatives. So the Opemus gets used for everything up to 6x6, and the Durst L138S for everything from 6x7 to 13x18cm. The Opemus 6 is especially good on point 12(b) above, even if I bought it new!
     
  24. haris

    haris Guest

    Agree, my previous post abut Meopta enlargers is not to underestimate them. After all, I have and use Magnifax 4 and Opemus 5, and don't plan to replace them, I am happy with them. They do great job and spare parts are very easy to find for good prices. Of course untill I start LF and find place for 5x7(4x6) or bigger, but that is another story... :smile:
     
  25. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Meopta scores well here - takes about 3 sec. to fit or remove mask or carrier glass.
     
  26. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    I use Ilford films in 35mm and 120, but switched to Kodak 100TMX for the convenience of the single sheet ReadyLoad holder.
    It took a bit of getting used to, but I am now getting good negatives that yield very nice prints.
    An MPP Mk-8 5x4 Camera with a Schneider 180mm f/5.6 Symmar-S and a 90mm f/8 Super-Angulon Multi-coated.
    The Devere 504 seems to be a very popular enlarger on this forum.