First Enlarger, What to look for/avoid (Sydney, AU)
I’m in the market for my first enlarger preferably one that goes up to 6x6. My first thought was to buy a new Paterson Universal (can’t seem to find a review). But reading the forums looks like second hand is the preferred method as you can pick up better quality for less money.
However living in Australia the choice is much more limited than the US or UK. There is a temptation to take whatever comes along so I’m wondering, what are the things that can catch me out if I buy a second hand enlarger? I know there can be some issues with parts availability etc.
Are there a couple of models that are preferred that you can’t go wrong with? Any models to avoid at all costs?
Or should I just get a new one that I know will work? It would need to be fairly compact to fit into a bathroom made for ants.
Omega B-22 is a good one. Beseler, if available there. The most offensive ones are the ones that can't deliver equzl light from center to corner. Plus the choice of lens has a lot to do with that. You might place a higher priority on a good lens.
Where at all possible, I would be looking for second hand. New enlargers sill range into the many $1000's, where's a second hand one can range from $0 (if you are lucky) to a couple of $100's
First things first, I would put a wanted ad in here - you never know your luck! While the majority of APUG members are from Melbourne, there are a few from Sydney. I know that there was a NSW member trying to get rid of one not too long ago, but it was a pretty big enlarger.
While Ebay isn't what it used to be, there is still equipment that comes up on occassions at a semi reasonble price. Also keep an eye on gumtree and If you really want to spend a couple of hours every month, you can attempt to read through the tiny ad's in the photo trader magazine .
As for what to look for, that is very subjective. Me, personally, I looked for anything that had was 6x6 or larger (I would suggest going 6x7 at a minimum) that had a colour head. A good all rounder is the LPL 6600 series (Those the other side of the pacific call them Omega's for some strange reason ), especially if it has a colour head. Despite the name, they will do 6x7. These were pretty standard issue, so there are a lot of them around, with a lot of bits and pieces still in existance - I.E., Vanbar still stocked things like AN Glass not that long ago.
Also, as Tom said above, don't discount the lens. Basically, buy the best lens you possibly can and don't be afraid to buy from other states or international.
Just one bit of clarification to hoffy's post.
The LPL's in the US are also referred to as Saunders enlargers, as well as Omega/LPL.
Saunders was/is involved with the distribution of both the LPL and Omega products, and some of the accessories (in particular some of the carriers) can be used in both lines, so at least some of the confusion is natural.
To add to the problem, in Canada we use the international model numbers for LPL - here is the link to the Canadian Distributor's LPL information: http://www.khbphotografix.com/LPL/
“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
You might want to consider enlarger usability as well as makes and models. For example, how high is the ceiling in the room where you will be using the enlarger? And how tall are you? And if you intend to work while standing, how high off the floor must the enlarger baseboard be in order for you to feel comfortable at the easel? And does that leave enough room at the top?
Years ago I purchased an enlarger with an extended column, only to find that I had to place the baseboard on a support far too low in order to accommodate the fully raised head. I'm rather oversized at 6' 6" and 225 lbs. That original space ended up forcing me to have to sit on a low stool sideways and turn 90 degrees to use it. It was very uncomfortable.
Now I have a basement darkroom with a 10-foot ceiling. That same enlarger is now wall-mounted with plenty of head room. And I installed the counter top that serves as a "baseboard" 6-inches higher (42") than the standard kitchen counter height (36") just to accommodate my height. Much, much nicer.
Depending on your unique situation, these are the sorts of things you might wish to consider in advance. Getting them right at the beginning can make all the difference, even if its only a temporary space.
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
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Meopta opemus 6 will do 35mm and 6x6.These should be available in Australia as they are quite common here in NZ. Well made and well regarded.They look just like the meopta axomat [this is 35mm only]on Aus e bay at the moment. Parts are not really an issue with these, they are well made.
This may influence your decision. When I got my first enlarger (a little-known Vivitar V1 by the way, which is an excellent piece of kit), it was the size I wasn't expecting. Enlargers capable of 6x6 are not that small and you certainly wouldn't want to be moving them about all the time, unless on some sort of trolley. However, a 35mm-only enlarger is much more manageable.
fairly compact to fit into a bathroom made for ants
Check dimensions and weight.
Whatever you choose, just make sure that you have all the parts like negative carrier, a working lamp etc. You could bring an old negative and just check to see that you can get an image before buying.
When someone is selling an enlarger they often sell timer, trays, spare parts etc. Check to see what is included.
Almost any enlarger can be a good starter. Get a decent lens and it will last for a long time.
I agree with all the other comments - You should be able to get a Durst, Beseler or similar 6x6 or 6x7 enlarger for about $50... The main thing is to ensure you have all the holders and so-on required. That stuff is all available but quickly gets expensive.
Just as an example of what is currently available in Sydney (on ebay):