Yet another enlarger alignment post
Just would appreciate a sanity check on my methodology here. I recently wall-mounted my D5XL and tuned it up, but have yet to print (sink is still under construction.) It's rock-solid in the studs, and I have wires at the top also. Here's what I did:
1) Laser level the column right and left with shims.
2) Laser level the negative stage right and left, fore and aft (taped a thin cedar slat to extend out for better reference).
3) On a 6X6 neg carrier, taped fishing line in a cross-hairs pattern (corner to corner).
4) Raised enlarger head to the top, about 8 feet off the floor. Suspended 1/2 oz fishing sinker on a line, from the cross-hair on the neg stage through the bellows and down to the floor. Marked the spot on the floor. (Obviously, no lens installed.)
5) Remove the plumb bob and install a 150mm lens. Focus the cross-hairs on the floor. Cross-hairs should cross on the spot of the plumb bob.
6) Check square of the light pattern on the floor.
So, if the square is symmetrical, the crosshairs are on the plumb bob mark, all at a distance of 8 feet, I can call this enlarger aligned, right?
My concern is, it was so close without any adjustment I don't know if I would have noticed the difference. I.e., if something is this easy, I must be doing something wrong.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
For me, the main goal in enlarger alignment is to make the image on the easel sharp, corner to corner. This is easiest achieved by shimming the negative carrier or perhaps the easel as necessary. If you include the negative's film gate rebate in your image, the extra steps you performed should help in keeping the image perfectly squared in the easel. It also may get you close to perfect image sharpness.
Well, if you are the type of person who is mighty persnickety, I would say you're doing it right. The last time I aligned my enlarger I got out a level, checked everything out and put a small piece of wood under one corner of the baseboard. It works for me, but I don't make anything larger than 11x14 anyway. Some people need to have everything just right and there is nothing wrong with that especially when you are making huge prints. Peace of mind will make you a better printer. Enjoy.
I haven't built the enlarging table yet, but that should be easy enough to make level. And I'm working on the assumption that the floor is level.
Picked up one of these Bosch laser levels when we built the house and I cannot remember what life was like without it! Everyone should get one of these when they get a SSN.
I used a torpedo laser level. remove the lens. replace the negative carrier with a mirror aimed downwards. Place your laser level on the baseboard shooting up into the mirror. Note where the laser beam returns toward the level. Rotate the level about it's z axis and note again. If they return to the same spot, then the baseboard is level. If that spot is not where the laser beam comes out from the level, then the enlarger lensboard is not level. Adjust as necessary. Test again with a mirror where the lens would go.
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Maybe I way over simplify it... I don't use a level or laser or GPS or... I just put a 6x6 holder in and focus on the base board till I have a crisp 16" square projected and use a tape measure and adjust till sides are all about equal and square.
lasers, plumb bobs, quantum physics......
Similar to Declark, I just put a piece of transparency film in the neg carrier with X's at each corner, raise it all the way up, adjust the neg stage until all four corners are sharp. I've been doing it that way for about 15 years but I've only moved my equipment twice. My prints are sharp and that's what matters. My floor is not level.
I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about gettin' it.-Hendrix
This enlarger configuration projects an image that is perfectly sharp on all 4 corners.
And it is very slimming for portraits
“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 didn't realize I had any alignment issue until I tried to print a 110 negative to 11x14 with a 28mm lens... Then the tension mounts and alignment becomes critical.
For a sanity check, you could make a full-frame (filed carrier) print, and check the print borders are square and true.