how to check enlarger alignment
I was wondering if I could build something to check my enlarger alignment, meaning that the easel is parallel to the negative. Besides using an air bubble and zig-align are there any other tricks?
I picked up this great Omega alignment level here in the classifieds, but I couldn't say where to find another one. It has a long stiff square metal bar with a very sensitive adjustable level on it, so you can calibrate it to the baseboard and then adjust the lens and the negative stage based on the calibration. Not as precise as a laser alignment tool, but pretty good.
Another trick that works, preferably with a glass neg carrier is to take a black negative and scratch an X in it from corner to corner, project the neg, and make sure that the corners and the center are all sharp using a grain focuser.
You can make your own laser alignment gadget. The hard part is aligning it, but if you are clever you can get it perpendicular even if you don't have a perpendicular reference mirror: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum41/5...endicular.html
For years I tried various methods to align my Beseler, including projecting a scratched negative and aligning till it was sharp all over, and a Beseler enlarging tool with built-in levels. Finally I bought a Versalab Parallel alignment tool and I got my enlarger better tuned up than ever before in much less time. It is one of the best investments I ever made in photography tools.
Zone VI sez one can use a sheet of plane, plate glass, plus two brand new pencils as reference lengths. Never tried it, tho.
John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
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fine if the head height is only six inches but proves nothing at 3ft.
Originally Posted by Anscojohn
Versalab is the simplest and quickest but not the cheapest.
You can make your own simply with two strips of mirror. Scratch a little hole in the mirroring on one of them at the end of the strip. Then place non scratched one on easel facing up and the one with a scratched hole in the negative carrier with hole end sticking out and mirror facing down. Then look down through hole. You should see concentric circles if neg stage and easel are parallel. Adjust if necesssary. Then attach mirror with hole under the lens and look down. Again you should have concentric circles. If not then adjust lens to get it on axis.
Easier said than done cos you have to get your head up there to look down.
And check enlarger at standard heights for your enlargements.
I just checked Calumet Photo's website, and they still sell the kind of alaignment tool David mentions. Plus a few other kinds.
One of the alignment tricks I've heard of, but never tried, is to project a negative and measure the image to make certain the parallel sides are the same length. I would assume you would use a glass carrier that would not crop the negative to eliminate worrying whether the carrier cut out was accurate.
Yes, but both pairs should be checked and you don't really need a negative in the carrier, just focus the sides of the carrier. Another "high tech" approach would be to use a sheet of paper (which obviously has 90° angles) and check that the angles of the projected parallelogram are also 90°. Of course, the same can be done with a triangle, if you have one. In any case, it's easier if the enlarger's head is at the maximum height; the larger the projection, the easier to spot any problems.
Originally Posted by Paul VanAudenhove
Harry Taylor at Classic Enlargers designed and builds his own enlarger alignment tool for Omega enlargers (see #17 on the attached list)
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I'm in the midst of realigning my Besler 23C-II. I've got nothing more than a spirit level, a steel ruler and a piece of SMPTE PA-35 test film.
It's probably going to take an almost complete teardown and rebuild but I fully expect to get near-perfect alignment out of it when I'm through.
Regardless of the tools used, this is a job that just requires time and patience and a steady hand.
I have done similar jobs on over a hundred 35mm movie projectors. To be blunt, an enlarger is not much different than a movie projector. Think about it for a second... An enlarger is nothing more than a projector. It operates vertically instead of horizontally and it only projects one frame at a time. But it's got a light source, a film trap a lens and a projection screen. It's just a specialized version of a projector.
From what I can tell, so far, aligning an enlarger is almost the same. You can use test jigs and lasers to align them but, when it comes right down to it, you still need to do it by hand. You need some tools, some patience and a lot of common sense.
The first thing you do is level the base your projector sits on. If its not sitting level, nothing else will work right. You could work for hours and hours but still not get it right unless you start with a level base. Then you align your lamp, your condenser/diffuser, you film trap, your lens and your easel until they are all centered, plumb, level and square.
I really can't explain it to you. I don't know of any manual that really gives the full detail on how to do it. You just have to see it done once or twice. After that, the best thing you can do is to get your hands on one and figure out what makes it tick.
It might sound like a PITA but, if you have ever watched a movie at a top-notch theater like the AFI Silver, you will appreciate the difference.