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  1. #1

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    Enlarger - first thoughts

    Hi all. I am considering to get and enlarger a longer time already, but finely in the near future (after I move) I should have the possibility to get one.

    The caveat is - I have no experience with darkroom enalrgers so I am lost among all the types and features/accessories.

    - I plan to enalrge BW only.
    - According to what I have seen I would be preferably using glossy fiber based papers (how to dry them properly ?)
    - I will probably not have a separate darkroom so the space will be a concern.

    I shoot 4x5 and 6x6 and maybe 6x7 in the future (depends whether Fuji will bring their new camera or not). Up to now - all my printing was done from scans or in the case of 4x5 also with contact printing (a bit small for my taste). I am aware of the fact that 4x5 enlarger will be bigger/heavier than 6x6 (6x7) and I am not sure whether I should limit myself only to enlarging of the medium format.
    The print size I would like to be able to get is up to 16x16 or 16x20, although I would probably start with 8x10 only.

    My problem is - which types and what are all the needed accessories and parts? What to look for and what to aviod? Any help or direction to a good general information source would be helpfull.

    thanks


    P.S. I am located in Germany
    Last edited by Matus Kalisky; 02-19-2008 at 10:17 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: more info

  2. #2
    keithwms's Avatar
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    I think the safe thing to do is pick up a complete 4x5 system, in good functioning condition, including lamp, a few spare bulbs, a simple timer, and a minimum of two enlarging lenses- one short and one long.

    I don't know how things are over there now, but in the States, I have recently acquired two fully-functional 4x5 enlargers for about $300 each. You will save a *lot* of money if you can find somebody who is packing up their darkroom, there are a lot of little tidbits that can cost you a lot of time and money to track down, it's best to invest in a fully functioning system that was in fairly recent use.

    RE: glossy papers, I like them for quick prints but for my "real" prints I much prefer matte fiber. Now, those are somewhat harder to work with in terms of washing and flatness and drying etc, but IMHO they are well worth it in the long run. Anyway, go ahead and start with RC glossy, it is the easiest and you can learn quickly and do processing very quickly with no special washing or drying procedures. For matte fiber you will probably eventually want a proper easel, an archival washer and a dry mount press.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  3. #3

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    [QUOTE=slnce-z-gsi;589647]Hi all. I am considering to get and enlarger a longer time already, but finely in the near future (after I move) I should have the possibility to get one.



    - I plan to enalrge BW only.
    - According to what I have seen I would be preferably using glossy fiber based papers (how to dry them properly ?)

    - I will probably not have a separate darkroom so the space will be a concern.

    I shoot 4x5 and 6x6 and maybe 6x7 in the future (depends whether Fuji will bring their new camera or not). Up to now - all my printing was done from scans or in the case of 4x5 also with contact printing (a bit small for my taste). I am aware of the fact that 4x5 enlarger will be bigger/heavier than 6x6 (6x7) and I am not sure whether I should limit myself only to enlarging of the medium format.

    The print size I would like to be able to get is up to 16x16 or 16x20, although I would probably start with 8x10 only.

    My problem is - which types and what are all the needed accessories and parts? What to look for and what to aviod? Any help or direction to a good general information source would be helpfull.

    4X5 enlargers are going to be heavy, if you dont have a dedecated darkroom you may want to start with a 6X7 then upgrade once you have permentate space. Their are many very good used 6X7s on the market, for graded paper you will not need a color head, but a filter drawer for VC filters is still a good idea. Some of the consumer models such as Vivitiar, Bogen and Drust can be had for a song, be sure and get a good lens. When buying used make sure that the enlarger has all of the negative carries, 35mm, 6X6, and 6X7. If you look though ebay you will see many differnt models.


    Federal made several 6X9 enlarges that came in a case which acts as a base easy to store, but they will need a modern lens.

  4. #4
    Dietmar Wolf's Avatar
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    Durst, Kaiser, Leitzfocomat. All good stuff. Buy the best one you can afford. If you buy a enlarger of a good label which is suited for 6x7, you cannot make big things wrong, they are all professional tools.

    A condensor makes harder light, so for pure bw maybe better, a color head has the advantage of no extra filters needed and softer light.

    Buy at a auction which offers the "tools", too. Not only the enlarger. It is really frustrating, time consuming and costly to buy all the things (esp. lenses, easel, tanks, tongues, darkroom light...) seperate.

  5. #5

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    Hello Matus,

    I'd recommend going for a used 4x5 outfit. For B&W printing, probably your best bet is a color head or a cold light head depending on which papers you plan to print on. The color head will work great for VC and a cold light is typically used only for graded papers. I noticed that Kevin Saitta has a Besseler 45MX w/coldlight head listed in the classified...you may want to check that out.

    Good luck!
    Regards,
    Alan Huntley
    www.silverscapephoto.com

  6. #6

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    If the poster is not currently shooting medium or large format I would not recommend a 4x5 enlarger. Twice I have explored large format and found it was not for me. A good LPL MXL enlarger or something similar is a good compromise. That said, I still enlarge small format with a Leitz 1C.
    RJ

  7. #7

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    Thanks. Just a few points.

    - I do shoot 4x5 and 6x6 right now
    - I am located in Europe - Germnay so an enlarger from US makes little sense

    Some more questions:

    - You say - get the best - but which ones are "the best" ?

    - Which models are more stable / easier to align ?

    - What are you experiences - what do you use - likes/dislikes ?

  8. #8

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    Hi Matus.
    RE:Finishing prints.I picked up a nylon sweater drying rack that fits across my bathtub.Perfect.Lppk for one at your local shopping mall (wal-mart type shop).

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Kennedy; 02-20-2008 at 03:31 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Dumb happy face.

  9. #9

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    4x5” enlargers are in most cases made for professional use and most are of high quality. If you use VC paper I would look for an enlarger with a VC or colour head - they make printing a lot easier.

    I use a JOBO/LPL 7450. I’m content with its performance, and the VCCE head is very good for variable contrast paper, but it is hard to align properly and I do think that other brands may be better.

  10. #10
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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    I would agree with Uhner: 4x5 enlargers were mostly intended for professional use so are pretty much all of high quality (when they were made at least). A 4x5 enlarger is perhaps three times heavier than a 6x6 enlarger. The lightest one I have had is an LPL but even that really would not like to be moved around. Dursts and DeVere's are very heavy indeed: a two-man job to move safely.

    If you can find a permanent home for the enlarger but move the other equipment in as needed, that would probably be the best solution. I have read of people moving their enlarger on a wheeled trolley, but I do not know if any were 4x5 enlargers. I imagine it would need to be a very strong trolley for that.

    You could get a 6x6 enlarger relatively easily and cheaply and see how that goes. You can then obtain a 4x5 enlarger when one becomes available at a reasonable price as they are rarer. This also allows you to make sure you enjoy the darkroom before the effort involved with buying and finding room for a 4x5 enlarger.

    When buying the enlarger try to make sure it has the negative carriers for the sizes you shoot (or will shoot) and that it has the corresponding mixing boxes if it is a colour enlarger, or all the condensers if it is a condenser enlarger. Some have "universal" ones, some have different ones for each format - it depends on the enlarger model. I prefer a colour-head even for b&w as it allows you to dial-in the contrast rather than using separate filter gels.

    I'd also recommend buying a complete darkroom setup - they appear regularly on the auction site (in the UK at least - I do not know about Germany) for little money (I'd bought at least 3 of them when there was a particular item or two that I wanted in the job-lot). Don't pay over the odds - a full outfit should be available for well under 200 EUR - possibly under 100. Look out for "Buyer must collect" adverts as that greatly reduces the number of people who will make an offer . 4x5 Enlargers however will cost more than this even now but it's difficult to say how much because the prices fluctuate widely. I saw an Ahel with all the trimmings go for under 80 GBP a few weeks ago but have seen DeVeres and Dursts go for several hundred.

    Drying fibre paper is always a bit of a pain. I dry face down on screens (takes a few hours) but they then need flattening in my heated mounting press. Do a search here for drying methods - lots of people do lots of things...

    Even if you intend to use fibre, I would suggest starting with RC (resin coated) as these are processed much faster and dry flat within minutes. This makes them ideal learning material - and some people prefer them for the finished product too of course.

    Good luck, and have fun! Bob.

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