Enlarger choice for B&W and color
I appreciate that this is a frequently-asked-question and have searched the forums and the web generally for an answer, but I thought that I would ask again about some specific enlargers. I am very new to their use (used one in grade school, some 50 years ago), though I have a little photo-lab experience (developed tmax and E6).
I favor the local Craig's list to avoid shipping charges and the hassle of a possible return. Someone locally is selling a Beseler 23CIII-XL Dichro for $100+. Since I will be mostly doing B&W (I might get into color if the materials continue to be available after I get up to speed), is this a good choice? It is set up for 35 mm - I will be doing 120 exclusively and will need to buy an (80 mm?) lens of good quality and the negative holders, etc.
There are also a number of Beseler 67 systems, some with dichro heads being sold for a similar (or lower price) and a few B&W 23Cs, including one with a cold light head (this comes with several lenses and negative holders). Finally, there are a number of Saunders enlargers of various descriptions.
I am trying to avoid excessive accessory costs by buying a complete system (with trays, times, etc). It is interesting that the enlarger market is so soft that the prices are extremely low and there is little competition (for the buyer). The task for me is to get a good, serviceable system which meets my needs. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.
I'm in a similar position. My wife is encouraging me to set up a darkroom at home in the garage but I haven't taken the plunge yet. I'd be doing 135 and 120 (6x4.5, 6x6, not sure about larger), mostly black and white (though maybe color some day). I did some b&w work in high school but am not well versed in what hardware to watch for. As I'm not in a rush, I can wait for something very nice to come my way.
Basically, are there any resources listing mid to high end enlargers? Or anything specific models I should keep an eye out for?
Last edited by Brian Legge; 07-19-2010 at 03:09 PM. Click to view previous post history.
You will want an enlarger that will cover all the formats you currently shoot, and possibly larger. There may be a time when you step up to a 6x9 or 4x5. In the meantime, Beseler 24 or Omega C-700 or any other that will cover up to 6x7 negatives are cheap to next to free. accessories are easy to obtain for these models especially due to the numbers of them. Negative carriers for each format and an appropriate focal length lens for each format(e.g. 50mm for 35 and 80mm for 6x4.5 and 6x6, 90mm for 6x7). Then you need trays for 8x10, and all the other DR gear.
I own a Beseler 67C that I bought new in the late 1970s. It served me well for decades. About 5 years ago I bought a dichro head for it, and used it for about 3 years.
About 2 years ago I bought a used Omega D6 with an Ilford Multigrade 400 head and controller (plus lots of lenses, carriers and other accessories). It is what I'm using now, but I'm not getting rid of my Beseler 67C.
I've worked with other Beseler enlargers (23C series and 45 series) and other Omega enlargers (D2 and B22) and would say, in general, that for the North American market almost all the enlargers made by either company would be a good choice, if they are in good shape. In some cases, accessories are more widely available for some models as compared to others, but that problem is rare when it comes to Beseler or Omega.
Many will recommend that you start out with a 4x5 enlarger, due to the fact that they are very robust, and they are both relatively plentiful and relatively cheap on the used market. If you have the space, and find a good, well equipped one, they can be a great deal. I think though that it would be a mistake to wait for months or years for the perfect deal, if good examples of something as robust as a Beseler 23C-II or Beseler 67C are at hand, with accessories, and if you aren't planning to shoot formats larger than they handle.
EDIT: 2 other points:
1) there are other great enlargers around. Durst, Devere, Meopta are examples. It is just that the availability of these enlargers and their accessories is better in Europe than in North America. If you were in Europe, I'd be cautioning you about the availability of Beseler and Omega equipment;
2) my only complaint about the Beseler 67 series enlargers is that the largest size they work with is 6x7. The Beseler 23C series works with sizes p to 6x9, so if you like old folders or ...
Last edited by MattKing; 07-19-2010 at 03:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Originally Posted by warrennn
A color enlarger is a perfect choice for B&W. Color filters can effectively be used for B&W contrast control. You are welcome to a free copy of:
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Originally Posted by Brian Legge
Listen to the woman, and make sure to do whatever she says!
You got yourself a winner there, lucky fellow.
Are you sure she doesn't just want to get him out of the house.
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
I purchased a 23C XL new many years ago and think they are great enlargers. Although I mainly use a Beseler 45 for all formats up to 4x5, it has not changed my favorable opinion about the Beseler 23C. Prices will very with location, condition, what is included. I know new, with color head, no lens, I paid around $900. In today's terms, probably would be $1200. So, $100 sound doable.
A color enlarger is a great choice for anyone wanting to print color or B&W. Even if you do not want to use the color filtration to control contrast, you can set the light source to white and use traditional B&W contrast filters.
Thanks all for your responses.
I will wait until a Beseler or Omega enlarger with a dichroic head becomes available with accessories (including timers, trays, etc.) on our local Craig's list.