The most common in the USA are Omega D series, Beseler 45 series, and LPL (Saunders/LPL 4500II, 4550XL, Omega/LPL 4500/4550). All will produce excellent enlargements as good as your capability. All are solidly built and parts are available.
My preference is for the LPL because it works very smoothly, and offers some nice accessories, such as a masking frame for the negative carrier stage, and a remote focus wand--ingeniously simple and effective, for when the head is "way up there" and you want to use your grain focuser.
If you can find a Durst 138 series enlarger in good condition it will be in a class by itself. Technically
a 5x7 enlarger but excellent for anything smaller too. Lots of them out there at reasonable prices at
the moment, but its harder to find one that doesn't need some work. Otherwise, I'd opt for one of
the abundant Omega D series. Sometimes enlargers can be had for free. I've turned down plenty of
them. Have too many now.
I am currently using a 45MX with a cold light head and custom filed out glass carriers with oversized AN glass. If I had it to do all over again, I would have got an LPL 4500II with a VCCE head for above neg stage multi-contrast work since finding a similar system for the 45 has proven futile.
Beware though, wet printing this format IE, finding a clean neg that will not leave black spots in skies, etc. on prints is *fully* brutal. Even using such techniques as "Dust-Bracketing" I have still yet to produce a single salable shot that would be worthy of gallery space in my 7 months with the format. And yes, I am ruthless with dust control...
Don't get me wrong, once you actually find your self with a usable neg, they print to 16x20 with nearly zero effort, getting that one is the issue.
So far, from a artist's productivity standpoint, medium format has left large format, well...in the "Dust"....
What gives? Dust can be controlled with any format. Same rules, just different amts of surface area.
120 roll film is probably the worst because it's relatively flimsy and generally made on acetate. But the less the magnification, the less the dust and blemishes themselves show. So in this respect, the larger the format, the better.
Having only used Omegas for LF so take it fwiw, I gotta say nothing beats Devere enlargers and the front dual hand controls for focus and enlargement. and they're built like tanks as noted previously.
What gives is that unlike medium format, the film it self is exposed to more handling and had proven to be very problematic for me in terms of dust. Even my 6x12 backs are a breeze compared to sheet film. Maybe we live in different climates Drew, I took my 4x5 skiing twice today, once this morning at sunrise, -18F and again just now at 14F. Your insights are very valuable Drew, but they do not diminish my daily experience.
Originally Posted by DREW WILEY
And for what it is worth, I did not get into 4x5 to make the same size prints with less magnification, I got into it because I need to be able to make much larger prints.
Not a projection printing problem. That problem has no relation to the format, enlarger, carrier, darkroom dust control (unless you load you holders in the darkroom), head type, etc in printing. Please do not blame it on projection printing! Vacuum your film holders!!!
Originally Posted by PKM-25
Who wants to borrow my Adams Negative Retouching Machine ?
I think one of the worst parts about these forums is that people assume I am doing it all wrong and they are all right. What people don't realize is that I have spent not hours but full days researching this issue and have taken extraordinary measures to control dust, including using individual anti-static bags for each holder. In fact, I am willing to bet that I do a lot more than most to control dust.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
All but two of the pros I have contacted who shoot LF said that they are much happier scanning their film and using other than darkroom prints directly from the negs, even if it means getting rid of the dust in post and then outputting to an LVT for wet printing. These are people I have talked to on the phone like John Fielder, Jack Dykinga and others at that level.
I am not blaming anything on projection printing, I am just warning the guy, dust on the film pre-epxosure can be a *very* problematic thing if you want to wet print. If you scan, it's easily correctable.