Meopta enlargers are great, I have the Opemus 4 with Meochrom colorhead and it does a very fine job. While they may not as advanced as some later enlargers they are well build and spare parts are easy to come by. The colorhead is really handy to use, don't need to use the clumsy filterdrawerstuff.
I find that Meopta stuff is quite often underestimated but they great to work with, wouldn't want to trade it for anything.
Well larger formats are a pretty big plus if that's what you use, as is extra rigidity, but basically a cheap enlarger with a top flight lens is always going to produce better images than the very best enlarger with a cheap lens.
The first enlarger that I owned myself, was a Meopta travelling enlarger. It came all folded and pulled apart in it's own suitcase, the suitcase was also the enlarger base. That was a brilliant little system and it lived in the front side of my sidecar and travelled wherever I went. Maximum print size was 8x10", had it for years and years.
Later on in life I purchased an Opemus 5 with the B&W head, years later I bought the colour head. I worked that enlarger so hard, I was making tram tracks on the column from the wheel that raises and lowers the head. Brilliant enlarger.
The best quality, but reasonably cheap enlarger is the LPL series, especially the LPL 7700 with the fine focus attachment Their 6700 model is a very basic version of the 7700, it is designed for schools and rough handling. The 6700 cannot do as big an enlargement as the 7700 IIRC. They both handle 35mm right through to 67 beautifully. There were many accessories available for them. These are very good enlargers for the home darkroom where one wishes for some of the finer tolerances, yet space isn't too compromised by excess bulk.
The best enlarger for a compact darkroom where quality is paramount, would have to be the table top DeVere 504 with the remote wheels in the front. You will be in darkroom heaven with one of those.
You will be able to make extremely good enlargements with what you have, but you have to work on it. With the more refined enlargers, exceptional enlargements can be made a bit easier.
As far as I see it, there are three categories of enlargers. 1. The amateur/enthusiast category, is comprised of enlargers built economically, to be sold at a good price, and are rather lightweight in construction with minimal accessories available. Usually 35mm, and sometimes 120 size negatives are the maximum size printable.
2. Are the medium-weight professional enlargers, the "standard" so to speak of a working darkroom, and usually take negatives up to 4x5" in size. Typical of these types are the Omega D series, and the Bessler 45 series. Extensive accessories, color heads, cold light heads, many, many different choices in negative carriers, etc.
3. The Big Boys, Very robust, often floor-standing enlargers that take 5x7 and larger negatives. These are the top of the crop. If your darkroom has the space for one of these bad boys, you have the ultimate, if you can pay the price. DeVere is one brand that comes to mind, also the largest Durst models, and perhaps other names.
Things that, in my opinion, are important for enlarger design:
1. even illumination
2. adequate cooling (to prevent negative buckling)
3. adequate brightness (not too much, not too little)
4. ease and precision of of alignment
5. alignment stays put when set
6. ease of focusing (smooth focusing without backlash)
7. ease of head height change
8. head height does slip when set
9. ease of condenser change or repositioning (for a condenser head)
10. adequate baseboard area and height for the maximum print size anticipated
11. filter holders ideally both above the negative and below the lens
12. availability of negative carriers, lensboards, cold-light head, color head, etc. on e-bay
My present Omega B8 enlarger meets most of these criteria although parts are hard to find, is not easy to align, and the color head (used only for B&W) is rather dim compared with the cold-light head that use on my old and heavily modified DeJure 4x5 enlarger. Although I can produce high quality prints from 4x5 negatives on the DeJure, it fails most of my criteria (hard to align, focusing has backlash, poor vibration control, parts are unavailable, head height change tends to slip, etc.). One of these days I will replace it.
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My first enlarger was an old Vivitar condenser for 6x6-35mm, the generic kind shaped like a lamp that every photo student has in their garage. It served me well and I printed merrily for a long time with it, but...
When I upgraded to a Vivitar VI, my photos were suddenly better. You know the effect when you upgrade your sound system and everything sounds so much better, you have to re-listen to all your recordings?
By better I mean that the enlarger was at least properly aligned, it did not vibrate, etc, so that the projected image was much much better. I have the colour head for it so I also make colour prints.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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What I mainly look for in an enlarger is reliability and consistency. Particularly on a print run I need to have consistency with exposure and grade. That the negative will remain perfectly flat in the negative carrier regardless of exposure time.
Which enlarger do you use?
Originally Posted by Trevor Crone
Originally Posted by Keith Tapscott.
I use a DeVere 504 with Multigrade head. It might be of interest to mention that I use a double glass neg. carrier and both glasses are anti-Newton ring type. Fortunately the DeVere AN-ring glasses do not have an effect on the image. I do this because I use films like T-Max which have a rather shiny emulsion and are prone to Newton rings when useing just a plain lower glass.
I used to be a really crappy photographer, until I got my new enlarger..
Seriously, there are lots of technical, and ergonomic reasons one enlarger might be preferred to another, as evidenced by the good and proper responses to this thread. I judge an enlarger by one simple criteria.. after I have printed with it a few times, I don't notice it anymore. Then I know it's a good one.
That's just, like, my opinion, man...