Hi Nicole,

I was like Lee, believing the only enlargers in the world were Omegas and Beselers. They were/are extremely popular here in the USA, all fifty States, not just Texas and Kansas. As others have observed, nearly every school, from high schools to universities, was equipped with 4x5 enlargers, even though the preferred format for teaching students slid to 35mm many years ago. Maybe the penchant for 4x5 enlargers is a lingering legacy of the USA's tradition of the Speed Graphic camera.

I will offer another plug for starting out with a 4x5 enlarger if you can. I started with an Omega B8 allows up to 6x9 MF sizes. Then along came a 4x5 Beseler which had served many years at the local newspaper. Of the two, I like the 4x5 best. Overall, its easier to work with and has greater flexibility. The 4x5 uses a 150 watt bulb while the B8 uses a 75 watt. This means shorter exposure times, particularly when doing 11x14 and larger enlargements. Its still small enough to be moved around if necessary. That was important for me since the darkroom is also my general Fix-It shop, and a very small space at that. Not hardly an optimal set-up, especially in the Germanic tradition of optimizing everything, but I make it work.

Contrary to what some believe, the brand name on the equipment is not important at all for making good prints. Profociency in using your equipment IS important, so buy some and get crackin'!

As far as paper is concerned, the Adorama brand can't be beat, in my opinion, for learning use. Its cheap, in both RC and FB, high quality, and extremely close to Ilford MG IV in performance.