Good Afternoon, Nicole,
I agree with the suggestions for getting a 4 x 5 enlarger first; otherwise you'll probably end up buying at least two enlargers eventually. In addition to Omegas, I'll put in a vote for a 4 x 5 Beseler.
I don't think you will regret getting stainless steel processing reels; a lot of people start with plastic, but eventually end up with stainless steel. In addition to Hewes, consider Kinderman stuff which is usually available at good prices on E-Bay. Avoid any reel with a spring device in the center; a spike or clip is far preferable.
Consider a four-blade easel instead of a two-blade. The Saunders Universal is a good example, but there are others. Get one which will handle up to 11 x 14: you'll grow out of anything smaller, and the larger ones are bulky, heavy, awkward, and little-used.
Buy only high-quality enlarging lenses, which, again, are available at rock-bottom prices on E-Bay.
I'm going to disagree just becuase of this "Western Australia". How common are Beselers or Omegas down there? How about parts?
My suggestion take advantage of what falls into your lap. In todays world quite a bit of high quality stuff from all makes is being dumped.
Devere,Omega,Durst,Beseler are all good. Some are better. Some are worst. But a used one in good condition with all the parts will be better then one that's not in great condition or that you can't find parts. If somebody offers you a 5x7 enlarger and you've got the room take it. OTOH if somebody offers you a nice complete MF enlarger grab that.
I agree on a used enlarger--as long as you can locate one that has all the parts with it. Getting a discontinued enlarger without all the condensers, negative carriers, anti-Newton ring glass plates or a lens board can lead to a lot of frustration. Luckily, there are lots of good quality enlargers out there at bargain prices these days. A 4x5 enlarger is a good choice only if you intend to go to 4x5 film later on or if you can get one cheap. There are a number of enlargers that will print up to 6x7 or 6x9 that are well-made and, usually, less expensive.
A good easel is important. A 4-blade easel can make impressive photos but a 2-blade is a lot less expensive and will work.
Get a set of trays that are a little larger than the prints you are making. Believe me, if you don't you will quickly understand why you should have.
Start simple. Use easily obtained, standard chemicals. Don't experiment with a lot of different photo papers until you figure out how one paper responds to your negatives. Variable contrast papers can save you money and offer an advantage with split filtering techniques. It may be best to start with RC papers to save time in processing. You can always try fiber based paper later.
You can wash your prints in just about anything as long as there's water available. A Kodak tray siphon is pretty cheap and it's efficient to use with an oversized processing tray. A dedicated archival print washer is even better but not necessary in the beginning.
For processing film, you can choose plastic or steel. Plastic reels are easier to load than steel. If you step on one, it will break. Steel won't break but it will bend. A broken plastic reel and a bent steel reel are the Steiglitz "equivalents" to useless. I'd say start with plastic and switch to steel if you decide to. Both work.
Get a good thermometer and check it against one you know is correct. I've been using the same thermometer for 30+ years and adjusting other thermometers to match its readings.
You don't need a film washer. You can buy one of those cheap shower sprayers with a hose like those at Home Depot. Take the shower head off and throw it away. Keep the hose and the rubber slip-on connector. It makes a good film washer when used with your processing tank. I dump the water occasionally just to be sure.
You're gonna get a lot of advice. Good luck.
I agree with most of what has been suggested. I'm not sure how cheaply 5 x 4 enlargers are found here though, but I'd suggest starting with an enlarger such as the LPL C7700 MX which will take you up to 6 x 7 cm and into colour. I started with a second-hand 35mm enlarger and various other bits I got for about $150 AUD. Personally I've never tried stainless reels, so I'd recommend starting with plastic. And that clear plastic tubing you buy by the metre at hardwarde shops works fine for washing.
I think that you should get an enlarger like Sean's. It leaves plenty of room for expansion.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
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People in these forums time and time again keep suggesting 4x5 enlargers to EVERY-AND-ANYBODY. Silly! If one does not do 4x5" then one does not need a 4x5" enlarger. Why stop with 4x5"? Why not 5x7" ? Or why not 8x10"? Hey.. you never know..
Originally Posted by Konical
With very rare exception nearly all 4x5" enlargers are less comfortable and more hassle for handling 35mm negatives than enlargers that have been more optimized for the format..
On the other hand. going even to large format does NOT even tend to demand an enlarger.. Let us recall that many of the photographers held so strongly in esteem in these forums did/do contact printing. Sure some of the 4x5" cameras offer a lot.. but then that's why most people use them with rollfilm backs (and that's 6x9cm and not 4x5").. and if the urge is really to larger format then I'd say skip that 4x5" and go to (at least) 8x10".... You see it really is not so clear-cut where one may go.. better to follow the path of where one is..
Just as one tends not to get just that "one camera" (because there are NO IDEAL for every application cameras) one should be prepared to accept the notion that one may, over time, replace an enlarger or maybe get another one or two depending upon one's needs.. In my little darkroom I have, for instance, 3 operational enlargers: A Focomat Ic I use for 35mm B&W, a Minox I use for B&W Minox negatives and a Durst 900 I use for everything else (to which I have colour head, cold light and various condensors etc.). . I don't do large format at this time so I'm set up to handle nearly everything up to 6x9cm.
To add "insult to injury" as Nick as pointed out.. not only do you guys keep chiming in with the 4x5" disinformation (which does little but confuse beginners that really don't understand what 4x5" entails ) but then keep throwing out these "local" brandnames (often not terribly good ones at that) as if the world was these America brands--- which are, compared to some of the brands more widely available in many countries are vastly inferior (Agfa, Durst, DeVere, Homrich, Leitz, etc).
ok Ed what do you propose we should do? Since we here in the great unwashed only can "give" of our experiences, I will leave this to you to tell everyone what it is YOU want them to use. I had not ever heard of any enlargers but Besler and Omega until I started reading on the internet. It is still hard to get some of the brands you mention in your blast. As to 4x5 disinformation, I have used a 4x5 machine for 30-35 years and it is not anymore inconvienant than any other machine of a smaller size and is generally more stable.
Don't get hung up on getting it perfect - build it, use it, replace it.
It's easy to spend years putting together the perfect equipment, and in the mean time defering from ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING. In a previous thread this was identified as loading to "darkroom anxiety" - you won't print until it's perfect, and of course it never is. Once you start doing stuff you'll quickly figure out what YOU want from a system. You'll also be in a better position to grab bargains as they turn up rather than having to buy stuff right now.
I paid £200 for a complete system with everything in it (A durst - pretty nice), but you can get cheaper on ebay. Sure one day I'll and something bigger (acutally at one point I was looking for something SMALLER as it doesn't handle 16mm negs too good!). £50 will buy a complete setup, and then you can START WORKING. When you need to upgrade parts you've got a basis to work from.
I don't want them to use anything in particular. In Scottsbluff Nebrasha, Oshkosh Wisconsin or Abilene Texas you are going to probably end up finding different gear than in Hobart (Tasmania) or Darwin.. just as the supply is different in Los Angeles, New York City, Sydney or London.. and, of course, Munich, Cologne, Berlin or Amsterdam etc. or Kiev to Turkmenistan or Kabul. Beslers and Omegas might be common in your corner of Texas but they are very exotic, for instance, here in Munich..
Originally Posted by lee
Nicole is in "Western Australia"... Not quite around the corner from your parking space in Texas... Texas might consider itself a big state but its not the planet (even if some Texans believe otherwise).
Originally Posted by lee
The Durst L-1200 is hardly more stable than my DA-900, except that my 900 is 1) Better made 2) uses better materials 3) higher precision 4) has autofocus 5) only goes to 6x9cm 6) Is brighter since the colour head is the same as on L-138 models and is designed for 4x5" etc. etc. .
Originally Posted by lee
But for 35mm.. the handling of my Focomat Ic is really much nicer..
as 127 said:
Don't get hung up on getting it perfect - build it, use it, replace it.c
I have to disagree with you, In North America every photo school as well as every photo lab , as well as professional photographer darkroom that I have encountered has a 4x5 set up as normal.
For a young photographer, If Nicole decides to intern or work in the professional world , being competent with a 4x5 enlarger is an advantage for her.
I have been using 4x5 since 1973 photo college days, in fact using the same brands, omega, durst and deveere. all 4x5 and above that I use today.
They all deliver the power to create decent time and apeture when making fine art prints.
As Lee pointed out , the question was asked and we responded.
On a practical note, I recently accepted and young man from sery. small village near geneva (switzerland) to work here in Toronto for 10 months. His first main learning curve was how to set up the various enlargers. We have 17 different analog enlargers all 4x5 - 11x14. I would have been extremely pleased if he knew how to set them up , rather than having to teach him.
Funny how quickly he picked up on using the gear even though he had never been in a analog darkroom in his 20 odd years