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Thread: Enlarger choice

  1. #1

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    Enlarger choice

    Hi all,

    I am new to this group. I would like to ask if anyone here could give me some advice on choosing enlarger. I am going to build a small darkroom at home for b/w printing. Any resource from the internet that I can do some comparison on brands and most importantly my budget is limited ~500USD for enlarger.

    thanks in advance,
    eric

  2. #2

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    You start with the size of the negative you want to enlarge and then you look around.

    Enlargers are heavy, that means high shipping-cost.

    I would look around localy first and see what is available.

    The enlarger should be complete, check that all the negative cariers are there, it is a nightmare at times if you are missing one.

    As important as the enlarger itself is a good lens ! I prefer the Rodenstock Rodagon's, but that is personal.

    Good luck,
    Peter

  3. #3
    Jesper's Avatar
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    If the second hand market in Hong Kong is anything like Europe and North America any enlarger will propably cost more in shipping than purchase. Start looking locally as Archphoto suggests.
    You may want to start with small format, but many enlargers can take 6x6 without being very much bigger and more expensive so even if you do small format today it might be nice to have the ability to do 6x6 (when you move up to 6x9 and beyond the enlargers become much larger).
    Make sure it is complete and that you still can buy lamps for it. This is very important. Spare parts may be very hard to find.
    You will want to have a good lens, but you don't have to let the lens decide what enlarger since they are easily interchangeable and you can get the lens of your choice later.

    If you use multigrade paper, and you don't want to use separate filters, get an enlarger with a colour head.
    A lot of labs are closing down and schools are switching to digital. If you are lucky you will get what you need for free just because the euipment would have been scrapped otherwise. Look around.

    Good luck

  4. #4

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    This information was invaluable to me during my recent search for an enlarger, it may help you as well: http://www.jollinger.com/photo/enlar...-enlargers.htm

  5. #5

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    US$500 is a lot for a used 35mm or MF enlarger; these often sell for $100 or less. IIRC, I got my Philips PCS130/PCS150 for $25 plus $24 shipping. If you want to do large format, you might need to pay closer to the $500 price you mention. $500 might also be a reasonable budget for everything you'll need -- the enlarger, trays, tongs, safelights, developing tanks, chemicals, etc. New enlargers can also easily hit the $500 mark, but with used enlargers in excellent condition flooding the market, why buy new?

    As you're a beginner, I'll add this: Options in enlargers are many and varied, and some major design differences are matters of personal preference. For instance, some people get quite worked up over the difference between diffusion vs. condenser enlargers. (This has to do with how the light is "smoothed out" to illuminate the negative evenly.) Since you're just starting out, you have no way of knowing what you'll prefer. Thus, given today's market, I'll provide an opinion that's contrary to one that's been given earlier in this thread, at least if you're tempted to buy a big expensive enlarger: Buy something that's just adequate for your needs. When you get the hang of it, you'll be better able to judge what you want and need, and you'll be able to make a better-informed choice about a bigger and more expensive enlarger if and when you decide you need one. It's better to spend $50 today and $300 in a year on enlargers than to spend $300 today and $300 in a year because you buy something today that's not right. That's not to say you should buy something that you know is way too little for your current needs, though; if you currently do 6x6 photography, for instance, be sure to get an enlarger that can handle that format. OTOH, if you currently do 35mm and 6x6 photography, why pay the extra for a large format enlarger that may not be the best for your needs if/when you get into large format?

  6. #6
    jnanian's Avatar
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    hi eric

    i would go to photo labs that have usually done
    darkroom work. more than likely they are getting rid of
    their enlargers and you can pick something up very inexpensively!
    i say this because where i live a handful of labs have gone under
    ( or switched over to digi printing, and gotten rid of their traditional stuff)
    and they have sold off the contents of their shop for very little.
    i agree that you should probably look for at least a 4x5 enlarger ...
    if it is distant from where you are, have the person ship it intact ..
    boxed ( bubble wraped ) in the belly of a bus. that is usually inexpensive
    and easy to do, no matter where you live

  7. #7
    Mark Fisher's Avatar
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    All good advice so far. I'd try to find one locally that is reasonably common and will fit into the space you are going to use as a darkroom. I own or have owned a Besslar 23C, a Leitz V35, Omega D2 and an LPL 6700VCCE. If you are always going to shoot 35mm, the Leitz is hard to beat. If you are unsure, an LPL is a great choice too. Lots of people like Durst too, but I couldn't find what I wanted in the US so I decided on the LPL. I'd also recommend getting an enlarger with a color or variable contrast head. I've used condenser heads with VC filters, color and VC heads and I'd definitely recommend using a color or VC heads.
    I'd have to disagree with SRS5694, though. Get a decent enlarger. I spent $300 for my Leitz and about the same for my like-new LPL and $50 for the D2. All of them came with multiple carriers and lens boards. It is not hard to get a good enlarger for not much money.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    I'd have to disagree with SRS5694, though. Get a decent enlarger.
    You make it sound like I was advising the purchase of junk. I wasn't. I was simply saying that there's little point in spending a lot now on an enlarger that other people like when the poster doesn't know what he will like. Personal preferences are so important in enlargers that it's easy for a newbie to spend too much on something that'll turn out to be suboptimal for the purchaser, even if it's the best enlarger in the world for somebody else's purposes. Factors like diffusion vs. condenser design, color and B&W filter options, and the presence of exotic features like Scheimpflug correction, can all be important for some people. A newbie today can't know what will be optimal on these factors, since they're subjective.

    Given the prices of used enlargers today, it's a reasonable strategy to buy something that's adequate, but not optimal, today, with the intention of learning on it and then buying something more capable in a few months. That'll be more cost-effective than buying a much more expensive model now and having to ditch it in a year because it's not what you need. This is particularly true when moving from medium format to large format enlargers, since the latter are still pricey compared to the former.

    IMHO, the advice to buy the "best" enlarger you can afford is a holdover from 10-20 years ago, before enlargers started turning up in dumpsters outside every photo studio, high school, and newspaper. In those days, even a low-end enlarger cost a couple hundred bucks, so buying a unit with the intention of learning on it, but not keeping it long-term, was impractical.

    One other point: Eric hasn't said what sort of space he's using as a darkroom, or what formats he's currently shooting. Some people are blindly advising the purchase of large format enlargers, but enlargers get larger as their intended negative sizes do. A large format enlarger might not fit in a small darkroom. For very cramped conditions (such as a bathroom that's used part-time as a darkroom), something specialized on the other end might even have advantages. For instance, there are enlargers that fold up into suitcases. These tend to be limited to 35mm, though. In short, before recommending specific models or enlarger formats, I think posters need to learn more about Eric's specific needs and environment.

  9. #9

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    hi all, sorry for my late response while i didn't expect the forum is so helpful comparing with local forum. so many thanks to you all giving me many informative advices. special thanks to Ian C for a long message which gave me idea to rethink the necessary of dichro enlarger head. i still haven't decided which to go yet. but before i make any conclusion, i would better tell you all about my background and customized advice would be definitely helpful for my decision.
    i take both 35 and 120 with 6x6 and 6x7. though larger format like 4x5 and 8x10 gears become more affordable for amateur like me in this digital century, i don't see i would get into it in near future while i still have a lot to learn from 35 and 120 and they are relatively easy to manage in taking street photos, that is my major interest. i take 99% in b/w and the 1% color that would go to photo shop for printing. for b/w, i do washing at home. that requires minimum setup although temp. control is a bit difficult in hong kong. however, having a printing process at home is my dream. i occasionally had chance in experiencing b/w photo printing so i have little knowledge in printing process which is learnt by myself. previously, i usually used graded paper with white light enlarger head. knowing that graded paper becomes difficult to find in hong kong, so color head may solve this constraint.
    about my space, it's a small room as you all can think of how small hong kong is. that room was my bed room which is not longer used now and most importantly, that room has air-conditioner installed. i plan to keep the things there and use the free space ( ~ 5 x 6 sq.ft free space) for holding enlarger and processing tanks. what my concerns are:

    1) build a light tight curtain to stop the sunlight coming from the two large windows.
    2) no water source can go into the room unless another 3000USD is spent, so i am thinking the possibility of having two containers (2-bath) and each of them has adequate volume of clear water for the rinsing step.
    3) minimum modification as the room may be changed back to bed room one day.

    when most of you tell me about how cheap and how easy darkroom equipment can be found in the America/Europe, it doesn't happen in hong kong. although the market no longer grows, the price including second hand market is still high. recently, i came across a used Durst M805 which is color head with light density control. That's expensive one which costs me ~900USD (out of my budget in fact). what do you all think about that enlarger? is this price reasonable?

    again, thanks to you all!
    Eric

  10. #10

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    There's a thread here on APUG entitled "darkroom portraits," IIRC, that may give you some ideas about layout, blacking out windows, etc. It's a long thread and I don't claim to have read the whole thing, though.

    Blacking out windows is certainly possible. You'll probably use a combination of a solid block of something (styrofoam, wood, whatever) and a black cloth or plastic sheet.

    Water is more of an issue. You can develop film in a kitchen or bathroom, and just load the tank in the darkroom, so that's not a big deal. For making prints, though, running water is very helpful. As an interim setup, I used a sinkless darkroom, and I was constantly running prints from the developing trays in the darkroom out into my laundry room so I could put them in a print washer. Depending on the layout of the rest of your home, you might be able to get by with a similar arrangement, but my experience was that it was a hassle. You could also hold prints temporarily in a dishpan of water, but resin-coated (RC) papers delaminate after a while in water, so you'd probably want to hold prints there for just a few minutes to an hour or so. Using tanks of water might be an acceptable workaround.

    Temperature control may not be as important as you think, especially for paper. There are developers that are formulated to work at high temperatures, so you may be able to use one of them, if necessary. You might be able to use a more conventional developer even at significantly above the usual optimal 20C temperature -- say, 30C or 35C. Temperature control is more important for film, since film development must be terminated before the process is chemically complete, and this time depends on the temperature. Cold or hot water baths do a good job of this.

    An eBay search on "Durst M805" didn't turn up anything for me, and I'm unfamiliar with that specific model, so I can't comment on it specifically. Certainly very few used 35mm or MF enlargers would command that sort of price in the US, although some exotic LF enlargers might (I'm less familiar with that market). If US$900 is typical of enlarger prices in Hong Kong, it might be worth disregarding the advice that most people have given about buying locally. I don't know what it would cost to ship an enlarger from the US or Europe to Hong Kong, but I suspect it'd be well under that value, at least if you select slow ground/sea shipment. At the very least, it might be worth asking a few eBay sellers about shipping options.

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