I am based in Europe and about to finally start up a darkroom. I had a good look through previous threads about enlargers but could'nt find a specific thread that dealt with the question.
Normally, I shoot b/w on 35mm film and would someday like to extend up to medium film - 6x6 etc. on the same enlarger with colour development an option. I have become - for better or worse - quite serious about photography and I would prefer to buy a good quality machine that will last, instead of buying something basic and changing after 2 years. The budget is decent but not unlimited.
What would should I consider?
I am grateful for any and all suggestions.
Thanks a lot. M.
The first 20 posters will suggest different enlargers, then after the next 30 posters have rehashed the recommendations, we'll start digging trenches.
So I'll get mine in early: Meopta. An Opemus 6 with colour head (and 6x6 mixing chamber only) has been my main enlarger for many years. I'm sure it will be just as good for many more years. Even when I did part-time commercial work, I didn't want another enlarger. The only reason I've got a second enlarger now is that my 5x7" films won't fit in a MF enlarger.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Whatever you find in working condition and are ready to pay for you'll be fine. Seriously, I bought two Meoptas enlargers only becuase I didn't find anything else, and wasn't ready to pay expences for ordering secondhand enlargers from abroad.. Now, when I look at prints made with my enlargers and prints from my friends Leica enlarger larger I can't see difference. Of course I am talking about technical stuff , that is sharpness, ligh falls etc.. not artistic stuff...
Buy enlarger with coulour head mounting option (for colour and multicontrast b/w paper work) with up to 6x7cm or 6x9 cm (or bigger negative size if you have room for it and money), negative carriers for negative sizes you will use, condensers and mixing chambers for negative sizes you will use, Schneider Componon-S or Rodenstock Rodagon or Nikon enlarger lenses for negative sizes you will use , etc... and you are OK. I dont see you will go wrong with Leica or LPL, or Dust or DeVerre, or Meopta, or Vivitar, or...
But, I belive other will have more precise and better answers.
Most people will recommend the same make that they use, so I will recommend Durst, but I know Meopta are good also. Get a colour head as it will give you the option of colour printing. I suppose a good 6 element lens should be high on your list too. Good luck.
My advice is simple: Get one with a decent column (design), which kind of forces you to look into the high-quality models, not the basic/budget ones.
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I'd be inclined to talk to a reputable secondhand seller such as Nova darkroom or Secondhand Darkroom Supplies. Yes the enlargers will be more expensive than e-bay but you'll get good advice, a machine that will have been checked and made serviceable and Nova for one does a very good deal on a set carriage charge of about £5-6 whereas an e-bay seller will have to charge full cost. I'd hate to think what my Durst M605 would cost to transport by parcel post given its weight.
Originally Posted by melmoth
For what its worth there are a number of 6x6 machines out there such as the M605 but if I had my time over again I'd want an enlarger that covered 6x7 as there are a number of 6x7 MF cameras worth considering.
Seems like the biggest concern for you is availability. There are a lot of good enlargers available but I don't know what you can get in Ireland.
art is about managing compromise
My only advice, not knowing what models/brands are available where you are, is to get one that is bigger format wise than you think you will need. In the states, darkroom stuff has gotten cheap enough where you can get a really good 4X5 machine for not a lot of money, and you will not be needing another later on when you want to do large format stuff. They will also be bigger and beefier, meaning more stable, a good thing. Whatever you choose, check to see what is involved in getting, and keeping it in alignment. The base board, negative stage, and lens board all need to be parallel, and some machines do not make this easy to do, some do. Buy one that does.
I scored a used Durst Pictocrom at an amazing price. It appears to be a variation of the 1200 model just more bells and whistles such as powered rising and lowering of the head & powered fine focusing. It also has a closed loop color head that compensates exposure times if you change grades. It also has an internal iris for precise print exposure, etc. This thing is the Ferrari of enlargers if you ask me. I'm hoping one day I can find another one for a backup.
For 35, a Leitz Focomat. It's a completely different business than anything else, a V35 with a dichro head. Not long ago,it would have been like buying a Range Rover. Not anymore. For 120, a Durst or Meopta, great choices.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"