First enlarger for darkroom virgin
Complete rookie alert - I have been interested in photography for over thirty years but never tried developing and printing.
I'm considering setting up a darkroom in a spare room and wanted some advice about a suitable enlarger.
I mainly shoot 35mm but it would be good to get an enlarger which is also usable with 120 roll film and possibly 645 format if possible or at least is easily upgradable.
I'm thinking B&W to start with.
Any recommendations or advice would be welcome so I can do some more research - and so I don't end up with a lemon
Yeah........what he said.I'm in the same boat.I developed in high school so I have an idea of how to screw up.
I am in US and here, we seem to have an endless supply of Omega D-II and D-2 in varying degree of completeness available. I actually have two - one is complete, the other one being rebuilt. These are big, heavy, and nearly 50 years old. They are pretty cheap, too. I can find them anywhere from free to $50 or so complete with lens and negative carriers. That's what I would recommend.
If you can find a good one without damage, they can be cleaned up and put back in service. It will do 35mm, 120, and 4x5. A key here is to make sure you have all the right condenser unit and to get ones with good bellows.
One caution is that they are quite large and heavy. If you can't have a semi-permanent setup and have to move them every time, it will tire you quickly.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
In the US - Beseler 23C's are good. Well built and plentiful. 23C, 23CII, or 23CIII are all good. They all take the same carriers which are relatively easy to find. This is good because when you get a used one, it might not have the carrier you want. They go up to 6x9.
I have mine on a microwave cart and wheel it into the bathroom when I print. Pick one up on craigslist. I found a brand new unopened 23CII for $75 on craiglist.
Oh, and Beseler is still in business, so you could get parts from them.
Look for a medium format Durst. Others to look for are Meopta (cheaper but very good quality), Kaiser, Dunco, Devere. If you are on a tight budget look for a Krokus (Polish) or one of the Russian models. You should be able to pick up a Gnome (UK made) for close to nothing.
Beseler and Omega are common in the states but not so much in the UK. If you are going to get one of these it is best to get the 4x5 models.
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Omega B22, or better yet, B22 XL: common (perhaps the most common enlarger ever), cheap (if not free), and good enough.
This being said, a brand new (imagine that!) Omega C-700 is not a bad deal at all at under $400 from Freestyle with a lens (Arista 50mm f/3.5). You'd need to get a neg carrier and a lens for medium format, however, and they are $70 for the carrier and $60 for the lens (again, Arista brand).
A timer would also be nice, but a Gra-Lab processing timer (dirt cheap if not free), while a bit annoying to use, will do the trick at first.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
Given that you are in the UK, Nicholas' advice seems spot on. If you can live with just 35mm, you might consider a Leitz V35 enlarger. In the US, you can pick them up for around $300 with lens and they are very nice.
Do make sure you align the enlarger properly. Aligning basically means that the negative is held parallel to both the lens board and the easel. There is always some way to do this (but some are really difficult!). This is probably more important than which enlarger you get. Also, make sure you get a good lens. Most modern 50mm f2.8 lenses are fine for 35mm (Nikkor, Rodenstock, Schnieder). One more thing....make sure that you get the negative carriers and lens/lensboard with the enlarger. Getting the needed accessories later can add up.
My comment was directed at Martin, since he's in the US.
Also check out the Saunders/LPL 6x7 enlargers. (MX & 6700)
Have modified a universal carrier on mine to allow me to print up to 6x9.
I can recommend Kaiser. very modular, you can change and modify nearly every part. It is no problem to install a taller column or larger base board if you decide to print larger. You can easily convert an s/w enlarger to color or multigrade. As the system has stayed nearly the same since 30 years or so, it is no problem to use second hand parts to upgrade. They are also very well made. The 6000 series is suited for 35mm and 6x6. Second hand enlargers are so cheap nowadays ...
You should also look for a Rodagon or Componon lens, which do not cost a fortune any more on the used market these days.
Best regards, Benjamin