My 2 cents: First, a "decent but not unlimited" budget is a bit vague. To the average high school student, that might be $50. To Bill Gates, it might be $50 million. If you could narrow it down, that might help others give better recommendations. Similarly, it'd be helpful to know if you're looking to buy new or used. Most of the replies to date seem to assume used, probably because that's where you can get the most bang for the buck (or Eurobuck, in your case).
Second, if buying used, condition is at least as important as brand. You can buy from a reputable dealer, as others have suggested, or just take your chance on eBay (or wherever), and if you get a dud, try again. Buying locally has the advantage that you can examine the merchandise yourself before buying. That might limit your available options, though. You might want to see if there will be any camera shows in your area in the near future. You might find a good bargain at one.
Third, if you buy used, and especially if you buy a model that's no longer in production, be sure it comes with all the accessories you're likely to need. These include negative carriers, condensers or mixing boxes, filter holders, etc. Such things can be expensive to add later, especially if they're no longer available new.
Fourth, check on the bulb type the enlarger uses. Make sure it's still available, ideally at a low cost. Some enlargers use oddball bulbs, some of which are no longer available. I've seen descriptions of ways to jury-rig certain models to use alternative light sources, so it's sometimes possible to work around such problems -- but you might as well avoid the hassle if you can.
Fifth, you may want to narrow the field by deciding on certain design features, such as the maximum negative size the enlarger can handle, whether you want a diffusion or condenser enlarger, maximum physical size of the enlarger, etc.
Sixth, the lens is very important, but because used lenses are so cheap today, you shouldn't pay too much attention to the lens that comes with the enlarger you buy. If it's a terrible lens, you can just buy a new one. As has been mentioned, 6-element designs are generally the best.
Finally, as Dave Miller says, most people will recommend whatever they use. In the year or so I've been doing my own enlargements, I've owned two enlargers: a Durst C35 and a Philips PCS130/PCS150. The Durst was the bottom-of-the-line model from about 20-30 years ago. It handled 35mm only, although there was apparently a kit to enable it to do medium format, as well. The Durst C35 had built-in yellow and magenta filters, but no cyan filters. This made it (barely) adequate for color work. Exposure times were a bit long with it, and it used a bulb that's no longer available (although I found an adequate substitute). Mine was showing its age and so I eventually decided to upgrade (hence my writing about the Durst in the past tense; I sold it).
The Philips PCS130 is definitely a much better enlarger, but it dates from roughly the same era. Equipped with a PCS150 control unit and light source, the Philips uses an unusual additive color system, meaning that it has independently controllable red, green, and blue lamps. (Most color enlargers use a white light source with cyan, magenta, and yellow filters, which is referred to as a subtractive system.) Additive and subtractive systems are both effective for making color enlargements and for controlling the contrast with variable contrast B&W paper. Although there are some oddities in the Philips additive system, overall I find it easier to work with than the Durst's subtractive system. The enlarger's also much sturdier and much more flexible (it supports up to 6x7 negatives with the right condensers, can do wall projection and head tilting for perspective control, and so on). The biggest minus for the Philips is that it uses some rather odd bulbs. They're still available, but they're pricey (~$20 apiece). It's also long been out of production, so if the unit you get lacks accessories you want, you'll have a hard time finding them. If you're interested, Yahoo has a discussion group for these enlargers. The PCS130 itself was reportedly made by LPL, with the electronics in the PCS150 made by Philips. These were also sold under the Paterson brand name. The PCS2000 is a similar enlarger, but it uses a diffusion design rather than the condenser system used by the PCS130.
You'll find a lot of Durst equipment on Ebay. I picked up two Modular 70 enlargers plus a 50mm 2.8 Nikkor lens for £50. These will handle up to 6x7 and are still supported by Durst. I also have an old Durst L1000 but parts are now getting hard to come by, even the opal bulb.
If you've got the money try for a Durst L1200 (like the one in the link that Sean posted). I've seen them going for upwards of around £100. The only problem is that the carriage might be more than the enlarger.
As for lenses it is sometimes better to buy from a retailer, such as Nova. I've got 6 lenses that have come from Ebay and they vary from excellent to shoddy. However at an average cost of around £10 per lens the shoddy ones can be binned.
Another option is to go for a complete darkroom package. There are quite a lot of these on Ebay and the carriage isn't much more than the enlarger shipping cost. You'll then have a turnkey solution and won't have to hunt around for the other bits.
So many drummers, so little time.
Hi there, give Gunns Camera Shop in Dublin a ring (01 4781226). They may have some second-hand equipment available or can inform you of other places to try. Louise Gunn is very knowledgable and will help in any way she can.
I got my Fujimoto enlarger, RZ67 camera and other equipment from Ffordes.com in Scotland. They have a large selection of used gear and are good to deal with. As far as I can remember, most of their second-hand stuff comes with a six month warranty.
Thanks Peter and all.
Much food for thought. At the moment, my budget is provisionally about 600 us dollars.
Saunders/LPL seems popular. What is a fujimoto enlarger like?
Does anyone have experience of Kaiser enlargers?
Again, thanks for all replies. M.
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My Fujimoto is the G70 model which has a reversible Diffuser/Condenser light source. Instead of using filters for B&W printing, you simply dial in the filtration using the Yellow & Magenta dials. It can print from 35mm to 6x7.
I have never heard anyone say bad things about Fujimoto, Durst, LPL or Meopta and I have used all four of them in the past. They are all good makes. I have no experience with Kaiser but have heard others speak highly of them.
There's a really nice Kienzle on ebay.de right now - they're at LEAST as good as the durst in all the important ways. DeVere's are GREAT and should be dirt cheap over there. But I suppose I'm suggesting total overkill for a novice printer maybe...! oh well.
oops! forget the possibility - they want to sell it for 1400 euros.
Originally Posted by Sparky
Fujimoto enlargers have been very popular in Japan. I've never used one before, but my only complaint is that in the Japanese market it's labeled as "Lucky" instead of "Fujimoto."
Originally Posted by thefizz
No offense to anyone here, but to me, it sounds like a name of someone's pet.
I've owned two Beselers. The 67 and the 23CII. I only print color, and think very highly of their Dichro Color head. It's accurate to within 1 ymc of adjustment. The enlarger itself is easy to adjust for flatness of field, and the lensboards swap out quickly. From 6x7 cm I can go up to 24x28 without tilting to the wall.
Good luck and welcome to the dark!