Enlarger recommendations, please
I am a relative beginner to the dark room side of this photo-hobby (I have been playing with it for years, but only a few months ago did I get a make shift set up of my own). I shoot a lot of medium format and would like to shoot more - unfortunately, the hand-me-down enlarger I have (thanks to the generosity of a friend who shares my affliction with photography) is only suitable for 35 mm. It is a MeOpta Axomal 1a, a rather elderly Czechoslovakian product (that country no longer being one in and of itself indicates the age to some degree!). I believe it is a condenser type (light goes through a big lens then through the neg - that is a condenser, right?), and its inability to print medium format is not a limitation of neg carrier or lens. The actual casting that holds the neg carrier has a round hole in it that "vignettes" a medium format neg as it is not much larger than the neg itself - so I can only print the very centers of the image - which as you can imagine is very limiting. Not to mention, the lense is not exactly ideal for medium format. Well, here is my question:
I would love to hear advice and/or suggestions as to what to buy next.
While this old enlarger is OK, I would like to purchase an enlarger that will allow me to print both 35 mm and medium format (6x6 mainly).
What are the most reliable, bang-for-the-buck options available to me in the used market?
I shoot B&W almost exclusively at this point - so the equipment will only need to fulfill that role, and budget is a BIG concern. Thanks for all your help in advance!
Being in the relative beginner area myself I have had a couple of Meopta enlargers in my darkroom already. All of them being Opemuses that will take 6X6 negs.
The first was a Opemus Std that don't have a filter drawer but take multigradefilters beneith the lens. That one is quite sturdy and will take a 50mm lens (for 24X36) on a flat lensboard.
the Opemus 4 does have a filterdrawer looks otherwise like the Std but needs a recessed lensboard for 24X36mm and I have found that it won't take my El-nikor or other 39mm tread lenses
The Opemus 5 is bigger and more heavy and the one I have isn't as vibration free as the Opemus 4. It has the same lens issue as the Opemus 4.
In my oppinion the older Opemus enlargers are quite good. They are quite simple and perhaps you may find that another brand is better but if you can get an Opemus very cheap (they are-) or like me for free they are worth every penny :rolleyes:
The Czech Axomat that you have is a "budget" enlarger from Meopta. The "higher grade" Meoptas are excellent - if bought used, you probably can't beat the price. They are abundant here (Europe), but I don't know about Canada... If you go Meopta route in 6x6 (or 6x9) format, go for the Magnifax (models 3, 3a or 4). Check out manufacturer's site (www.meopta.cz), and see for yourself. The current Meopta enlargers (e.g. Magnifax 4) are excellent, and I suppose, if you get them second-hand, will be relatively cheap.
BTW, those will enable you to enlarge negatives up to 6x9 size (that's in centimeters), WITH borders
I have an older model, Meopta Magnifax 3, and I'm quite happy with it.
Without hesitation I would recommend the Meopta Magnifax with meograde VC head. This enlarger will take negatives from 35mm up to 6x9cm with a negative carrier that will permit printing the whole of a 6x9 negative. The meograde head gives grades 0 to 5 in half grade increments and also allows dialling in to up to two stops neutral density for those delicate burning in jobs where. I had the Opemus 6 with the meograde head and found it gave excellent results with conveniently short exposure times. The negative carriers are superbly made. These enlargers may not be quite as elegant or "slick" as Kaiser or Durst offerings but represent excellent value for money and are more than capable of turning out first class results. I used 6 element EL Nikkor lenses but, by repute, the 6 Element Meogon ranges of lenses are also excellent.
I Might Have a Lead for You
I see that you're in Oshawa...I know a chap here in Quebec City who got 4 enlargers from the local community college when it closed its darkroom. I bought a Beseler 23CII from him for an excellent price. He has a pristine Beseler 45 with the colour head and the computer and all that jazz as well as an Omega DII and an Omega B-22. He doesn't know what to do with them because nobody here wants them.
If you ever come down to QC it might be worth your while...PM me if you're interested.
PS, I have zero gain from this, I just know that the guy has these enlargers.
Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!
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I have a Beseler 23 II... it's a condensor enlarger and I love it dearly! I can enlarge both 35mm & 6x6 med. format. I got it on ebay for a song and I have been a happy camper ever since!
I used mostly Omegas at school, and liked them, too. Many people like using the diffusor head that lets you 'dial in' filtration, but I find the resulting image a wee bit too mushy for my tastes.
It's really a personal preference. Hope you locate one you like!
I would follow Kents lead on these omegas, they are great , it will allow you to move up in size. KHB in Missisauga has all current parts and accesories for these units.This could be a very good bargain for you .
If you drive to Quebec think about one of the 4x5s. I know it seems large but the day may come that you move into this format. Omega and Beseler made alot of these and parts are easy to get. I have an Omega II that is 45years old and still going strong.
Before you make buy I recommend that you consider:
1. How much do I have to spend?
2. What foot print does the enlarger need to fit, and how much ceiling height do I
3. Do I plan on printing color?
3. Beseler, Omega, and Drust are quite common, but some of the older Drusts will
be hard to find parts for, how much time and money do I have for repairs and
I have always liked Omega, grew up on them, but the D (and E and F) needs lens cones, so if you have going print anything larger than 35MM you need a cone for the longer lens. Try to buy a complete outfit. I have not used Beselers very often, but I found that are more difficult to aline and need a genital hand on the positive side they don't require cones or condensers. The Omega's were the enlarger I used in the Military and in College Darkrooms and they are quite rugged. Both have lots of options, cold light, point source, and color heads. Options for other brands are very limited. Durst need seperate condenser sets for each format.
I have used the besselers quit a bit, but when I went to buy one, I opted for an Omega and have been very pleased with the decision. Got it on ebay for a good price and can find parts for it easily.