Advice on MF enlargers
This is just a tentative feeler question really;
I currently have a Meopta Axomat 5 enlarger, which I really like- it's well built, has an angled column, and the focus stays where you put it.
The downside is that it's limited to 35mm, and I have an increasing number of 645 negs that I want to print.
Thus I'm looking around for a bigger machine, without spending too much.
I'd like to stick with an angled column if possible.
I've been looking at the Opemus 6, which seems to be around £200 with a standard head.
What do people think of these units?
Can anyone recommend any other suitable enlargers?
Lens caps and cable releases can become invisible at will. :D
How large do you think you will want to print in the future? If you are going to upgrade your enlarger and there is any chance that you will want to go larger than 6x6 in the future (which I think is the max for the Opemus 6), I would suggest getting a 4x5 enlarger. They are typically going to have greater stability than a smaller format enlarger and you don't want to get trapped by maximum negative size and have to buy yet another enlarger down the road. I use the Beseler 45MXII and really enjoy it, but aligning the lens stage has been a pain. I was able to pick up mine in like new condition with the condenser head and a 150mm Nikkor lens for $300USD used - if you aren't in too big a hurry, these deals can be found.
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The meoptas are very highly regarded as simple well amde units. They come up used here and there too. If you scour ebay there are plenty of Dursts, the very occassional Kaiser and a fair few LPLs. All are pretty good and if I were you I would look at what crops up on ebay and then google them. Many enlargers will be fine and so I would keep an open mind and watch out for bargains. I got my Durst 138 (for 5x7 negs) for 50 quid...but then again I had to collect it from Dunbar, Scotland! If you think you might leap to 5x4 at some point, a Dever 504 would not be a bad bet! work great for MF too.
Any of the Omega D series enlargers would be quite good too. Any will handle negatives up to 4x5, and parts are relatively easy to come by. An assortment of light sources, both condenser and diffused, is available as well. Don't sell them short. They are sturdy, reliable, and relatively simple machines with not much to go wrong.
I'd take a look at eBay. As Tom has mentioned there are plenty of bargains on there. I've got a Kaiser which I'd recommend, very well built and excellent quality. I've seen one recently go by on eBay with no bids and a starting price of £100. You should be able to get a decent newish LPL 7700, Kaiser, or Durst for £100, probably less. Then if it doesn't come with a lens, a good 75mm or 80mm Nikon or Schneider lens shouldn't set you back more than 20 or 30 quid.
As far as 5x4 goes, well only you can decide there --you'd need a bit more room and I'm sure that if you wanted to upgrade in a couple of years they'll still be around on ebay, probably even cheaper than they are now.
You don't see many Omegas and Beseler's, they tend to be North America only.
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FWIW, I've got a Philips PCS130 with PCS150 light source/control unit. This is a well-built enlarger that can do up to 6x7 with the right condensers (many on the used market only come with condensers to do up to 35mm, though). It's an unusual unit in that the PCS150 uses three separate bulbs to provide independently-controlled red, green, and blue light rather than the more common white light with (for color enlargers) cyan, magenta, and yellow filters. The PCS130 is solid and has some nice features, like a tilt head and perspective control.
The downside to this unit is that it's long been out of production, so spare parts are hard to find. The bulbs are unusual 14v 35W halogens. They're still available (they were -- and perhaps still are -- used in certain medical and dental instruments), but they're a bit pricey -- US$10 to $30 apiece.
If you're not going larger than 6x9 (medium format), and like your Axomat, I think you'd be more than happy with a Meopta Magnifax (model 3 or 4). Try to get one with a diffused head ("Meopta Color" or something) - so you don't have to mess with different condensors - that is, if you don't mind diffusion enlarger heads. Bear in mind that if you get a color head, you should also get the diffusion boxes - at least the one for 35mm and 6x9 formats (6x9 will also work for smaller formats - 6x6, 645 and 35mm).
Added bonus with the color head is that you don't need additional filters if you use VC papers.
Meopta Magnifax is a sturdy machine, a lot better than your Axomat. Those should be plentiful in UK - search ebay and other usual sources (ads, etc.), it should cost you well below £200 (more like £50!) for a used one with a couple of lenses, transformer, the whole shebang...
I found a Beseler 45MCRX with 3 lenses, 3 film carriers, a condenser head, and a dichroic color head on Craig's list for $225. The dichro head has a separate exhaust unit that attaches to the head with a flexible hose (to eliminate vibration from the exhaust fan). Buying a 4x5 enlarger on ebay, the shipping could be $100 or more.
Originally Posted by Peter Williams
I use Magnifax 4 (old model, over 20 years old, new model is 4a), and I have both b/w and colour head (Color3, new model is Color4). Works with negative sizes up to 6x9cm. It is very simple made machine, but it means it is sturdy, not many things can go wrong (be broken) and if something go wrong, simplicity of making means simplicity of repairing (people make they own spareparts). I bought all original spare parts (negative carriers, mixing chambres, additional condenzor lens - included is one for MF, but if you work with 35mm you need replacement one and replacing is easy, you just pull condesor draw from enlarger and put other in, no need for unscrewing head or else) directly from Meopta for really affordable price, even for that old model they had original spare parts (well I think it is because I belive new model, 4a use same parts as old model 4, but check if you are interested, I can't promise it is true ).
I also have Opemus 5 (up to 6x6cm) which is even easier, you don't need to change mixing chamber or condensor lens when swiching between 35mm and MF, you just change enlarging lens for negative size you work with (or b/w - colour head if you want to swich graded - MG/colour papers).
Dursts or LPLs or others "westerners" are better looking models, maybe smoother during work, and I would like to have some of them. Meoptas are like old USSR things: Because made in pour former communist countries for pour people they are ugly but made to last and for people which can't buy new things every now and then, so they are made to last lifetime, or to be easy to repair/adjust/modify if needed. And made to use easy to find, standard materials (well in case of enlargers it is only a bulb, so no room for error there ).
Only problem you could have is problem with enlarger bulb for "regular" b/w head, Philips not manufacture them anymore. There is one thread about possibility of other manufacturer to manufacture them and to be available throug regular Philips selling channels or at fotoimpex.de so check at fotoimpex for that.
Colour/multigrade head use halogen lamps which are for now easy to find, but I would make stock of them too, new EU regulations and things could make them unavailable too in future...
And one more thing: Magnifax column is not angled, Opemus column is (but at old model Opemus 5, I don't know for new model)...
P. S. Just checked at www.Meopta.com new models are Opemus 6a (up to 6x6cm) and Opemus 7 (up to 6x7cm) both have angled column
Last edited by haris; 06-21-2007 at 06:23 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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I've been using an Opemus 6 with colour head for umpteen years, and it's just great.
Even if I also have a Durst 138S, I still prefer the Opemus for negatives up to 6x6cm!
I have only the one mixing chamber, for 6x6, and use 50 and 80mm Meopta Anaret-S lenses.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist