Rolleimat Universal enlarger
On a whim, I bought a Rolleimat Universal enlarger off local craigslist. It came with a pristine EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 lens which was worth what I paid for it. So, the little enlarger was "just to see" if the Rollei was any better, worse, or different than say, an Omega B22.
Observations: First, the condition: The machine was clean, but when I walked in the room, I could see an alignment problem. As has been discussed in another thread, alignment is critical between the negative and lens stage, but this was not the problem. I could clearly see, just looking at the thing from the side, that the head did NOT sit 90 degrees to the column. Since I could also see that the head was attached to a post via a set screw, I guessed (hoped) that it might just not be seated correctly. The head has a sleeve that slips over a round, metal stud (about 3/4" in diameter) that is riveted to the bracket that moves up and down the column. After I got it home and removed the head, I could see that the metal stud was what was not 90 degrees to the bracket! Oops!
I managed to get the column assembly apart and attempted to straighten the stud/bracket misalignment. My guess is that at some point the machine was knocked over and this got bent. Anyway, between vises, hammers, and very gentle nudging (as one does with hammers) I got almost all of the difference eliminated. It's close enough that I could shim the column where it attaches to the baseboard and get the head parallel to the baseboard, if needed.
There is a remote control sort of thing that controls the light and a motorized focus. The light switches are temperamental. Fortunately, this device can be unplugged and the enlarger then operates fully manually. I'm not sure I will take to the motorized focus; it seems that it would be difficult to focus critically, but I'll just have to see with use.
There are separate condensers for 35mm and 6x7. There are (were) "diffusion" modules available, also, apparently. Easy enough. There is a filter drawer above the lens stage and the kit came with cut to size Ilford Multigrade and Cibachrome filters. There was also a separate dicroic light source available which apparently attached to the side of the condenser head. The port is there, but the cap is missing. Big light leak!! The cap off a 35mm film can almost, but not quite, fits. I'll manage something.
The negative carrier is also "universal". It is essentially a 6x7 carrier, and (according to the included manual in six languages) the machine was shipped with inserts for 35mm and upper and lower glass to be used with any format. One of the 35mm inserts is missing, but both pieces of glass, including the top AN glass are in pristine condition. There are adjustable masks built into the carrier for any format. The carrier can also be used with a bottom insert and the top glass, which is the way it was set up by the prior owner.
The lens mount is a set of telescoping tubes, rather than bellows. Works. In fact, except for the hole in the side where the color head is supposed to attach, there are virtually no light leaks. Take that, Omega and Beseler! However, no lens board, just a 39mm threaded insert tube that is made to be removed fir lens changes and turned upside down when switching form shorter to loner lenses. I have already found this to be necessary - there is not enough travel in the tubes for a 50mm vs. a 80mm unless you reverse the tube.
Performance: I have not made a print yet, but I used to print decades ago on a Testrite, and then a Lucky. I can make a print with this thing. However, I can already see how this machine is not going to replace my Beseler MXTs. It's small, and short. Getting anything over 8x10, or much cropping would require mounting the column on something else, or turning the head sideways for "wall projection" - all possible. It's sturdy enough, but just doesn't seem that "precise" in adjustments. The lens tube slides in and out and is held in place by friction. May work, but doesn't seem like it would add to the alignment precision. Of course, there are no adjustments for alignment, so whatever.
Light coverage for 6x7 seems iffy! 6x6 - no problem. 6x7 may just take some fussing, we'll see.
Bottom line: I cannot see recommending this thing over another comparable enlarger. However, if one comes across one, it is small and light weight, but sturdy. It would be very good for the bathroom darkroom where one has to set up and take down every printing session (been there, done that). But in a permanent darkroom, there are better things available. Especially since I would imagine getting parts for this thing is problematic in the USA. My Google search turned up the missing 35mm neg insert, for about 55% of what I paid for the enlarger. Not needed. I'll play with it and put it away. Some day, someone will want to set up a darkroom and learn to do this, and it might be given to them ...