This may not be a reasonable or fair thing top say; but I gave up on Besslers in the 60's when I printed (B&W) for a couple of fairly well known photojournalists in Chicago. This might have something to do w/ the fact that the main 4X5 enlarger I had used from the time I was 8yrs old was an Omega usually a II or 2. But @ ~ age 22, I found that I was constantly fighting the Besslers. I was constantly running in to the standards w/ the easel or they were doing some flaky thing that took way too much time to work around. When I finished their darkrooms sessions, I would be ready to scream. I now suspect that Bessler has improved their enlargers. I can see that the columns are more slanted to move the easel away from the columns base as the head is raised.
Having said all that, I tend to believe that many Bessler users of your model haven't had your problem. I find the angle / tension of the tension members very interesting, but have no idea if that has anything to do w/ U're problem. Having worked in machine shops, including in a nuclear reactors, worked on cars, built precision racing engines, worked on motor cycles, & bicycles, I have usually found that when a truly long term confounding problem appears, it's usually that I failed to figure out the exact operation of mechanism(s) behind it's operation, or that some structural part had partially of fully failed, & I couldn't see it. It could be due to ware of mechanical parts (too much slop) or distortion ( bending) of a structural part. Or just out & out unseen failure (cracking / tearing), softening of the part to do repeated loading. (Although that's supposed to, to work harden the metal) but it doesn't always go that way. There is usually something I didn't see until I let all preconceived ideas go of what the problem is. I have often gone to sleep asking relevant questions & bingo, the next morning the answer popped into my mind.
Now I have a probably unanswerable question: What are the most stable enlargers for holding alignment? I suspect Durst, (For the experience I’ve had w/ Dursts), I love them, but expense & difficultly getting parts here in the US eliminate them.
2. When aligning various brands/ models, which are the most reasonably easy to align & keep aligned? I suspect when all is said & done; Omega; but that may be my > 60 year predijust ;-/
Thank you for your thoughts, Jay Drew
I got the LPL 4550 about 8 hours ago, assembled it, aligned it, tested and it is now in my darkroom. It was pretty close right away even with the fact that the seller took the head off of the carriage instead of following the directions of taking the whole head assembly off of the column. After about 30 minutes of testing and shimming, it is pretty close to perfect at any height.
I took the head assembly apart and cleaned everything real good, including the fan which had some but not a lot of dust. I am still waiting on a 50mm lens board for my 150 Apo-N, but wow, even using my regular flavor 135 Rodagon the image looked perfectly sharp corner to corner and side to side....what a relief!
I took care of the light leaks that were no where *near* as bad as the 45MX with a glass carrier. I got my Stopclock hooked up, all seems good and I am really glad I made the move.
Wow that drew a rousing response. Let me put the question another way: How many of the readers of this forum have had to align an enlarger? Was It easy? Or was it hard bordering on impossible. How many hours did it take to align? What model enlarger & what alignment equipment were used?
For the 2nd part How long in terms hours of use did it stay in alignment? I'm sure no one kept exact records of the times, just your best guess.
This information would be of great use to me & I suspect many others.
Thank you, Jay Drew
It took me 30 minutes to assemble and align the 4550XLG. In terms of the 45MX, I'll have to think about it.
Originally Posted by J Drew
PKM-25- I am curious what you had to shim.
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I shimmed thin aluminum tape under the back of the removable lower plate at the neg stage and then one tiny piece under the left side of the lensboard mount. The Z axis or main column was consistent throughout the full travel so I figured setting the neg stage to the baseboard would be best and it was. The lens stage was about 2mm to the right at full extension using a Versalab Parallel so that was an easy fix with the tiny shim.
Originally Posted by Patrick Robert James
I will print with it next week but so far, it looks really good, the laser going out 1-1.5mm off center at most. That is immensely better than I ever got with my 45MX. I'm sure brand new would be dead on or at least close to it, but that's 4 grand.
Despite what many say about this enlarger not being adjustable, there are actually several really good places to shim it. All the bolts are properly torqued and it is not going to move so I think I am in good shape!
I do have a question though. On the VCCE head is it normal for the filter pack to still be partially visable through the light path when in focus mode? When I was inspecting / cleaning the module, I noticed this, mostly the ND filter covering about 1/3rd.
Last edited by PKM-25; 03-30-2013 at 03:54 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Before you get the idea from this thread that a Beseler is an unadulterated POS relative to, say, a Saunders, a couple of things should be mentioned about using lasers to check alignment and how depth of field and depth of focus practically affect the need for precision alignment. A laser device like the Versalab, if not defective itself, allows you to check for parallelism of the three planes of an enlarger (base, negative and lensboard). If the reflected dot lines up with the bullseye, you have perfection; but if doesn't, what does that signify? The answer depends on negative size, aperture of lens and lens to negative and lens to baseboard distances, as is really well explained in the book Way Beyond Monochrome for example. However, given that we are usually enlarging rather than reducing, the two winners in the critical parallelism category are the lensboard and the negative stage relative to one another; it is far less critical that they both be parallel to the baseboard down where the print lays.
The negative holder and the lensboard stage on the Beseler are castings that slide relative to each other up and down an accurately machined and ground bar of steel. If the castings were beefy enough this would be an ideal design. They are not beefy enough as they are made of rather thin aluminum or pot metal, but they are usually good enough. Once you put the adjustable lenboard on, you can quickly adjust the two planes to be parallel and they will remain so. This presupposes that the stages are in good working order with their bearing surfaces (brass and later plastic) properly tightened with those little screws. As discussed above, this is the critical part of alignment and Beseler did a good job of handling this issue. Less well handled is keeping this whole fixture parallel to the base as the motor whirs the whole assembly up and down. Suffice it to say that the engineering on this aspect is not very good, depending on a fairly flexible frame work of thin steel frame and struts. But this is less critical as the depth of focus at the paper can be half an inch. The laser doesn't know which measurement is more critical and will scare you unnecessarily as you watch the red dot wander around. So before you haul your 45M away or put a sheet over it in disgust, get the adjustable lensboard and relax.
Hypocrite alert: I mentioned before that I have both a 45M and a Saunders. In my darkroom, currently set up, is the Saunders, but if I had more room they would be side by side. However, I bought the Saunders (at many times the expense of my $50 45M from the '50's) for the convenience of the VCCE head and the fine focus + extension - before I bought the Versalab and got hypnotized by red dots.
EHM2, great post and I fully agree. And like I said, I am keeping the 45MX with the intention of getting another one for student work. It's certainly not a POS and had worked fairly well for me up until the point I put the 45S head on. I still do not know what happened to make it to where I could not align it but at times, depending on height, it was way off, like lift the baseboard an inch off the lower structure to get it sharp off, really bizarre.
Those slick adjustable lensboards would have worked except for two things.
1. It would not have worked with a 150mm F4 Apo Rodagon N as it will not fit and the rear lens cell is also rather large for a enlarger lens, pretty critical.
2. If things are set up correctly and there is no structural kludging going on, you really should not need it so I think you are essentially using using "Fix a Flat" instead of actually fixing the flat.
The usual size I print is 16x20 and 20x24 from both 120 and 4x5 negs using an f-stop that is between one to three stops from wide open. I could get away with the depth of field you cite at F/11 with an 11x14 print, but not in using my preferred sizes and methods.
The Saunders is not perfect either, little things like having to replace the carriage lock knob with one that won't split and not being able to see the contrast setting between burns when doing a localized contrast change are still less than ideal, but I was not after ideal, I was after having more easily controlled consistency. In my opinion in using an enlarger to make prints in a professional production arena, being able to have consistent results that directly reflect a desired input is essential.
Up to this point, I spent more than half my time in the darkroom aligning the enlarger with every neg and head position change. That is a ton of time that I could have been doing other things like making more salable prints, being outside shooting, spending time with my wife, etc.
I am keeping the kit, will set it up again once I have a proper workspace that I can actually move around in and it will be fine. I am sure I will do some mods to it just like I did with installing the variable speed fan in the 45S head, I enjoy that so when the time is right, the enlarger will be right.
Until the struts are properly set, you will be realigning the beseler enlarger everytime you change the height of the head. In reading this thread again it's apparent that this is underappreciated if not totally misunderstood so much so I now suspect that 99% of the alignment problems that vex beseler mx owners could be traced back to this misunderstanding. Instead of clamoring about alignment tools and adjustable lens boards this dorky debate should really be about the relative merits and shortcomings of a protractor vs. an angle finder.
Originally Posted by EHM2
The Versalab is a convenient albeit pricey tool to measure the parallelism of the three planes. But the degree of accuracy it provides is really only necessary to printers who need or who prefer to expose with their lenses wide open and who are using glass carriers. A piece of safety glass and a bubble level will suffice for instances of enlargement under 20x or for folks who prefer to stop down a stop or more.
In the case of the 150mm apo componon f4, parallelism at the lens stage is accomplished by adjusting the three spring-loaded thumb-screws that retain the lens stage plate to the camera. These adjustments should only be in the order of fractions of a millimeter. If you find that you need more adjustment at the lens stage then you have something set up incorrectly.
Dork responds with more clamor. Dead horse abused.
Wow, "dorky" and "clamoring". I guess that I will need thicker skin to be comfortable in here.
My 45M, bought in 1993, had the original design - the struts in the front so they are in the way and in compression. A focusing rail that could be adjusted fore and aft but not side to side. It had a swinging lens stage that was intrinsically loose and tilted. I have rebuilt this machine from scratch and upgraded it to a focus rail that swings and I changed the lens stage to the latest rigid version. I have used various methods to align it, from a simple level to Beseler's bilateral alignment tool (now $206 from B&H) to the Versalab. The previous poster indicates that if your struts are adjusted to the right inclination, just a tweaking of original hardware on the lens stage will set it right, and, anyways, it won't really matter except for critical work. I agree with the third point. Can you adjust this thing with float glass, rubber bands and a decent level so that you can do a sharp 4x enlargement of 4x5 with your lens at f/11? Probably. I did. I don't any longer because my laser is too much fun.
I was trying to explain how to do it precise and easy and to reassure people on the bouncing red light. Please humor me as I try one more time. The focusing rail can probably be adjusted just once by loosening two screws or bolts depending on the vintage of your hardware. You do this at just one height and you try to get the focusing rail perfectly vertical (or, hopefully, the negative stage perfectly parallel to the baseboard). As you use the bouncing red light, entertain yourself with how the little dot moves as you tighten the screws on this rigid machine. Then you make or purchase (Delta 1's Bes-Board - $51 from B&H) an adjustable lensboard and put your lens on it. Now you adjust the lens until your dot is just right. This will take one minute. If your machine is in good repair you are probably done except for critical work. Should you check it again at a different height or because you just can't leave it alone, you will only need to adjust the lenboard and it will only take one minute. If your machine is not as it should be, it will still take one minute. The trick is to adjust the dot of the lenstage to the dot of the negative stage, wherever it drifted to, and to forget about the bullseye. That is, you check parallelism of lens stage and negative stage (For critical work don't forget about the bullseye). Now you are done, but leave the laser in place and watch the dot move as you touch a stage, insert and remove a film holder, or lean on the table, (pixel peeping and grain watching have nothing on this game).
Finally, back to the OP, remember him? I really don't know why he has such troubles although I believe they are real. If I were to guess, I would think that besides some loose bearings or screws causing wobble, that the hose of his custom remote fan could be exerting a variable lever arm on the head as you change position and the laser will certainly pick this up.