Advice/comments from members who print pushed negatives sometimes...

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Juan Valdenebro, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    Hello. I have not printed for the last 8 years… I kept my Ilford filters and my 50 Nikon and 80 Rodenstock, but I gave away my 6x6 enlarger because it was really expensive bringing it with me when I moved from Spain to South America in 2010. I haven’t bought another enlarger since.

    I’m asking for advice here… I’m no expert: the only enlarger I ever owned was an east Europe one, common during the 90’s… It was called Meopta Opemus 6a: I used it for many years and it never gave me any problem.

    Here’s what I need from an enlarger: first, I won´t print color, just B&W… Even though most of my prints will come from 35mm negatives, I need a 6x6 enlarger because I use my Hasselblad too. But honestly 99% of my prints will be 35mm, and here’s the key to think and decide what to buy: in my case, the general rule is printing negatives that are a bit higher in contrast than normal… I do street at 1600 with the lens stopped down, commonly HP5+ in Microphen stock or in very diluted Rodinal without agitation, because apart from trying to control contrast, I like sharp grain on prints. HP5+ is great for well done pushing, but although the look is close to natural, the case is all my negatives are slightly pushed… So, if we add El-Nikkor 50mm isn’t precisely a soft contrast enlarging lens, I think I might be needing an enlarger that’s good for contrasty negatives… Back in the 90’s, and talking about common negatives (not pushed ones), that Meopta with the Nikon 50 gave me horribly contrasty prints with filter #3, and I had to use filters 2 and 1 ½ al the time, so I guess this is where I need advice from you guys who have printed a lot more than I have… I don't want way too low contrast filters every day, and I hate flat muddy prints.

    There’s nothing I can buy around here, so I’ll have to buy from USA or Europe… No problem with me buying used equipment if it’s OK… Knowing about what´s good for me from a quality/low price point of view, would be great, so all comments, recommendations, links to articles or posts, will be really appreciated: I never had the chance to visually compare condenser/difuser heads (a huge story it seems) so that subject is perhaps an important one for my pushed negatives…

    For my personal work I use Bergger Fiber VC Warm and Agfa Neutol WA (Rollei these days), and for my students any RC VC paper with Dektol.

    Thanks a lot everyone!
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Negatives that print well at the equivalent of grade "2" are not problem negatives - they are normal negatives. So I wouldn't be too worried about them.
    A diffusion light source works really well with contrasty negatives, and helps with dust too.
    A dichroic colour head makes an excellent diffusion source, and includes contrast adjustment as well. So if you find something that offers that, don't be dissuaded by its suitability for colour.
    There are/were many enlargers that offer interchangeable light sources. You can even buy Beseler enlargers new that offer that, but they are quite pricy.
    Ease of local availability of things like accessories tend to motivate my recommendations, but if you are willing to look worldwide, that may not be as important for you.
    I've always liked the medium format Durst enlargers - the M601 and the like. When they were in production they were more common in Canada and Europe than they were in the USA, so that affects current availability.
    Be careful about bulb requirements. There are a few enlargers that take hard to find bulbs.
    Don't reject out of hand a 6x7 or 6x9 capable enlarger. They handle smaller formats well.
    I would suggest wandering through the new and used equipment pages of KHB Photografix' website. It is full of information. They also sell new and used equipment, but their used prices reflect the fact that the equipment has been fully serviced and is supported by a warranty. Note that being based in Canada, prices in their online store are in Canadian dollars.
    Here is their website - a great information resource: http://www.khbphotografix.com/
     
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    Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    Matt, thank you!
    I'll check the site and read...
     
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    Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    Question; I've read some condenser enlargers for 35mm only, show light falloff in the corners of the print... Are there good condenser enlargers (35mm & medium format) without light falloff, and with a type of light that doesn't produce too much contrast? I guess not all of them are exactly the same in that regard... Some people talk about double condensers, etc... Which brands or models are the best options if we put aside dichroic heads and diffuser heads?
    Matt, I ask this because I need one for myself but my city state university wants me to work with them and they want me to recommend them which MF enlarger to buy for their darkroom (they have 8 small LPL ones I haven't tried, but they looked small and flimsy to me (compared to an Opemus 6a), so in the end I may end up buying 2 identical ones or 2 different ones, so I need to learn a little more before deciding... I guess at least one of them will have dichroic or diffuser head...
    Thanks.
     
  5. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    i've always thought that Durst were really well made machines, sturdy, rigid etc. Parts & accessories are much more common in Europe than the US but
    considering your location, Make sure whatever you buy comes with ALL the bits & pieces you think you'll need. Lens boards, condensers tend to be uncommon but not rare.

    LPL are a little less precise than Durst but are very usable. By less precise I mean that Durst used a lot of castings and newer machines use more stampings.
    For a school, think about at least 6X7cm machine, you never know when someone will pop up with that size negative.

    Light falloff in a 67 or 66 enlarger shouldn't be a problem with 35mm negatives. If there is it may be from a condenser in the wrong location
    in the lamp head.
     
  6. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    I would probably tell you to avoid condenser enlargers. If the enlarger has a diffusion plate above the neg, your higher contrast negs will be slightly easier to print. I used to have a LPL 670 VCCE which was a variable contrast diffusion enlarger. Hard to beat that one for what you are looking for. The most important thing though for any enlarger is alignment. Spend the bucks on a laser alignment too. It is worth it.

    As far as lenses go, Schneider Componon-S lenses have the lowest macro contrast overall of the lenses I have used in my life. They are still super sharp though. Might be worth the small investment to check them out. Nikkor lenses are on the high end.

    There are ways to tame contrast in the darkroom as well, like flashing and SLIMT bleach. Lots of information here about those. Flashing is pretty well known of course. SLIMT bleaches aren't, but should be.

    If you accumulate knowledge you will always be able to print a neg no matter what. High contrast negs never bothered me at all.

    Hope that helps!
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The small, 35mm only LPL enlargers are quite different than the much more robust medium format or 4"x5" versions.
    And LPL still manufactures new.
    If you are buying for a school, that may make more sense than used.
    And a condenser enlarger should not show significant light falloff for any format it is designed for. If it does, it requires service or has not been set up properly or is missing something.
     
  8. bernard_L

    bernard_L Member

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    Where is the problem ?
    (possibly at grade 0 you might worry about the bumpiness of the VC paper's characteristic curve, but at 1½-2 ???)
     
  9. Huub

    Huub Member

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    It depends a bit on your budget of course, but enlargers are relatively cheap these days i find. A top class enlarger capable of 6x6 or 6x7 can be had for about the price of 4 or 5 boxes of 8x10 paper. Reading your story i would look for an enlarger with either a colour head or a vario-contrast head. These in general print with a diffusion box and render a slightly softer print, typically about half a grade. Don't worry to much about light fall off in the corners, as it can easely be corrected when printing and with a colour enlarger will be often minimal anyway.

    I just had a look at the well known german auction site and when you type "vergrösserungsgerät" several top class Durst colour enlarger are listed for prices starting from something like € 250. Make sure you buy a complete one, with all the parts included as these can be a hassle to trace. Other makers to consider are Dunco (a nice one with a VC head is listed), Kaiser and DeVere. I would shy away from Philips enlargers as they used a different way of colour printing and spare bulbs for this system have become quite expensive. LPL, Omega and Beseler all made very good machines as well. I am not a big fan of the enlargers made in former Eastern Europe, but good results can be achieved with the Meopta Opemus V. Their 4x5 enlargers are also pretty decent.
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Subscriber

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    As you can order from either the EU or USA I recommend getting another Meopta Opemus 6 with a color head for use with VC papers. I have a Meopta Opemus 6 and in the past a few Durst's. Of the 2 I prefer the Meopta due to rangefinder focus. I use the Meopta for both 35mm and 6X6 up to 11X14, my Omega D3 or 6X9 and 4X5. My Meopta came with a storage box so it is easy to put up if I am using another enlarger, an older Federal 6X9 converter to point source. If you think that might move up to 6X7 or 6X9 then a Besler 23C, big heavy machine so shipping will cost. Although I don't have personal experience I hear good things about Kaiser. Or just go big and get a 4X5, D 2 are inexpensive, you would want to get one with a color head or if a condenser head the variable condenser model, and the lens cones for lens up to 150mm.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I advise that one get the largest format sturdy robust enlarger one can get, making sure that any additional parts are obtainable, for the least amount of money. Save the money for good enlarger lenses. If you are going to lurk Photrio aka APUG you will suffer the same fate that I did. I started here happy with one 35mm AF slr and then I infected and now I have single frame 35mm through 4"x5" and the enlarger to handle the full range.
     
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    Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    Hi Bernard,
    I used to dislike something about the tone of Ilford MGIV back then, and with filter 1 1/2 it was really ugly... Last week I read their "new" MG paper came because of that... Haven't tried it yet. But you're right, if prints are fine with 1 1/2, it's OK...
     
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    Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    Thanks everyone for the kind help... Matt, Sirius: it's great having your advice... I've read your posts for years here... Helpful and precise information... Much appreciated!
     
  14. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    The new Multigrade Classic is much improved over IV. I really like the Classic much more than the IV, both at the lower end and upper end of the ranges.

    +1 for KHB, they are wonderful folks to deal with. I would consider the LPL enlargers, still in production, and well made.
     
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    Juan Valdenebro

    Juan Valdenebro Member

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    I agree, sepia... I guess I'll be safer -in a few years- with LPL... Thanks!
     
  16. wyofilm

    wyofilm Subscriber

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    I read all the time of great enlargers being purchased for pennies. I am NOT that lucky guy. After a long search of used, quality enlargers I opted to replace my very crappy Beseler 67 enlarger with a NEW LPL from the fine folks at KHB. One of the reasons I had trouble finding a suitable enlarger is that I am at an undisclosed, remote location in the Rocky Mountains.

    It was tough to buy new at first, but now I am exceedingly happy with my purchase.
     
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