Advice on a 4x5 enlarger

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david b

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Hi all,
I am looking to buy a 4x5 enlarger and would love to get some opinions on what is available.
Right now I shoot medium format but will probably be shooting 4x5 in the next few months or so.
Let me know what you have and why you like it or you don't.

thanks,
david b
 

Eric Rose

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Anything but Bessler is a good starting point. I have used Bessler, Saunders, Durst and Omega. Any of the latter 3 are good solid performers.

david b said:
Hi all,
I am looking to buy a 4x5 enlarger and would love to get some opinions on what is available.
Right now I shoot medium format but will probably be shooting 4x5 in the next few months or so.
Let me know what you have and why you like it or you don't.

thanks,
david b
 

bmac

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I think by the time you get up to 4x5 enlargers, any of the main brands will do fine. Some have nicer features, etc. But the build quality shouldn't be much of an issue. The major "Micky Mouse" enlargers are mostly 35mm models aimed at students.

FWIW, I use an Omega D2v and have had no issues with it. They can be found rather cheaply.
 

Jim Moore

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EricR said:
Anything but Bessler is a good starting point.

Hmmmmmm..

I would have to disagree with that statement.

I have a Beseler 45V-XL. It is rock solid and I have never had any problems with it.

Jim
 

wdemere

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In the research I did about 6 months ago (concentrating on cheap and used and doing medium format, 35mm and 4x5.) I found that the Omega D2V is the cheapest and the Saunders is probably the best (in the cheap and used category anyway). I couldn't find a Saunders, but I found a D2V locally for $100 with 2 135mm lenses and a 50mm plus other darkroom stuff.

I have used the Besseler too and it seems OK, but heavy to ship and it seems to cost more on that auction site.

Good luck,

William
 

kwmullet

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I got my Besseler 45MCRX off ebay for $380. To avoid shipping problems (I guessed that shipping a 4x5 enlarger could easily cost around a hundred bucks), I only bid on in-state enlargers. After I won the auction, it was a wonderful trip (four hours each way) to the seller's location to meet at a remote Dairy Queen and "do the deal".

I've used most of the major brands of enargers except Saunders. I hadn't used a Besseler motorized enlarger like this before I bought it, but so far it's been pure joy, unless you count that time I was cleaning the dust off one of the electrical cables with a damp rag and the cable crumbled in my hand and sent a jolt of 110vac through me. Easily fixed (the cable, not me. :smile: ).

-KwM-
 

Donald Miller

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In my experience there is a marked difference in design and results obtained between differing manufacturers.

I have used Bessler, Omega, Saunders, and Durst. I have observed work produced by other photographers on other brands of enlarging equipment as well. The prices for all of these various brands and designs have ranged from several hundred to well in excess of $60,000.

I would rate the two manufacturers first listed as the least desireable to me and the two last listed as most desireable to me.

Beyond manufacturer, one needs to determine the light source type as well. My preference, in the work that I do, is a well designed condensor light source as opposed to a diffusion or cold light source. I find that one can not obtain an equal result with a cold light/diffusion source in terms of local contrast and print sharpness to what a well designed condensor light source can and will produce.
 

Konical

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Good Afternoon, David,

I have used a Beseler MCR-X since the mid-1970's for everything from 35mm to 4 x 5. It has been completely trouble-free. I'll ditto jdef's comments about the negative carriers and add that specialized carriers for odd-sized negatives are easy to make from 1/8 inch Masonite. As noted, the Negatrans for 4 x 5 is great.

I suspect that just about any good-quality 4 x 5 enlarger will deliver results practically indistinguishable from those of any other of similar type; e. i., condenser/condenser, diffusion/diffusion. I'd be much more concerned about using the best lenses I could afford and checking the condition of any used equipment.

Konical
 

John McCallum

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david b said:
Let me know what you have and why you like it or you don't.
Can only comment on the Omega D3VC. Simple, robust gives great prints.

Came with 2xSchneider for 35mm and med format, and 1xJapanese 150mm lens for 4x5's all in excellent condition for US$280. :D After replacing the 150mm lens with a 2nd hand Schneider, gives nice contrasty edge to edge crisp prints up to large sizes. Can even do posters on the floor if you wish to.

The only thing that bothers me is the 150mm focussing rail isn't matched with the new lens so I have to pop a spacer in there, but actually not much of a hassel. Also have difficulty aligning the head, but this most likely due to my inexperience - it certainly has the facility for proper alignment. All in all, thoroughly recommend them. Love mine. :smile:
 
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removed account4

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hi there

i also have an omega d3v, but mine is a war contract enlarger so the condensors & everything "up there" is about 1 "+ larger in diameter than the standard d3v ( used to print aerial film :smile: ) it is built like a tank like the other omegas and the d3v is a great deal when you can find them. there is a guy named harry taylor who has parts, rails, board/cones &C if you end up with an omega enlarger, and can't find things you might think you need ... and can't find on FEEbay. his website is classic-enlargers.com :smile:

good luck !

john
 

photomc

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David, all I can tell you is what I know...I have a Beselar 45 and like it very much. That said, if money was not an issue, I would have gone with one of the Saunders, but we do what we can. Have no knowledge about the Durst so could not make a comment about them. If I had the chance, I would like to see each enlarger side by side and most important to me is the ability to fine focus....but that could come from my days working in a hospital lab and using microscopes (even then there were great debates over which was better AO, Nikon, Leitz). Most of all consider cost, availablityh of parts, etc. Good Luck and keep us posted.
 

harveyje

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Back in 1980 (+/_) my wife presented me with a Beseler 45 MRX as a Christmas present. (That's another story!) We have moved several times and I have set up 4 different darkrooms since and it still works very well. Alignment has not been a problem. I have the early model color head which I use for both color and VG B/W. I have had no complaints.
 

Eric Rose

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harveyje said:
Back in 1980 (+/_) my wife presented me with a Beseler 45 MRX as a Christmas present. (That's another story!).

Still got the wife Harvey? LOL. I figured my post would bring all you closet Beseler misfits out!

Just as a comparison to what others are using, in the lab where I have my enlarger setup there are about 13 pros printing. I would say 90% use Omega, some Durst and 1 Beseler. I must abmit however the chap with the Beseler puts out some stunning stuff. Although I do hear some very weird noises coming from his darkroom!

Alas our numbers are dwindling as one by one they get sucked into the digital vortex.
 

John McCallum

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EricR said:
Alas our numbers are dwindling as one by one they get sucked into the digital vortex.
:D Ah - all good! Leaves a surplus of equipment for us! There is a Durst 4x5 enlarger with 3 lenses for sale in a photolab a few miles from my house. He wants $500 for it. It was pretty ratty, so told him it was too much for me, given the condition it was in. 5 yrs ago it was $10,000+ ......
 

argentic

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Hi David,

I have used an Omega DII (not the same model as the D2). And I am now using an Omega D5XL. The D5 has been thought through a bit better than the DII, and has some features that make working with it easier. But both are excellent enlargers, built like a tank, and still reasonably small compared to a Durst (which are excellent too) and a lot cheaper. I would buy another Omega anytime.

Gilbert
 

wfwhitaker

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As others have noted, most any of the available 4x5 enlargers will work well. Shipping can be a bear and most sellers don't want to. Try to find something locally. And try to find something in clean condition. It's a buyer's market for enlargers, so don't settle for something which needs work unless you have a good reason.

General philosophy aside, Omega D2's and D5's are a dime-a-dozen but good solid enlargers which can be fairly easily aligned. They also have lots and lots of parts and accessories available. My personal favorite enlarger, however, is the Durst 138. If you find one, make sure it has all the parts (negative carrier, condensers, etc.) as finding those items individually can be both frustrating and expensive.
 

voceumana

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I had an Beseler 45 (earlier version, bought used), a Zone VI-II, and finally a Saunders/LPL (I guess now it's Omega LPL).

No question, the LPL is the only one I'd buy again. It operates beautifully & smoothly. The chassis is spring balanced, so you can move it up or down with a single finger, and it just works right. At around $1500 new, discounted, for the 4500-II version, it's also the cheapest one. By the time you've added a condensor or diffusion head to the Beseler or Omega, they are $100 to $700 more.

If you get one the LPL, get the focusing extension so you can focus when doing big enlargements. Consider, too, the masking negative stage, as it reduces the chance for flare when cropping. I don't think Beseler nor Omega offer this.

As for the Beseler: this is a fine chassis, and the only one I know of with a focus lock. That's a nice feature. Motorized lift, but I don't miss it with the spring balanced LPL.

Zone VI had some problems for me: I had the VC cold light head (very nice) but it was hard to focus and compose, as the light is all blue & green. Big problem: there is no easy adjustment to tighten the focus friction, and on mine the lens stage wouldn't stay in place if the bellows were compressed too much. Finally, this is really a 4x5 & 5x7 enlarger only. It does not work well for medium & 35mm formats. For example, with 35mm you are wasting 96% of the light which falls on the negative carrier, but not the negative. Also the bellows don't compress enough to do small prints from 35mm. The enlarger has some good ideas, but on the whole isn't thought out thorougly.

You'll need to consider what light source you want: condensor, cold light, or diffussion. I've used all 3, and all work well. I've settled on dichroic color diffusion. Most color heads are diffusion, and these work fine for me for B&W printing, too. There are heavy opinions for diffusion (cold light) and others for condensor--I say ignore those opinions. Any of the heads make fine prints if you've adjusted your negative density to the light source.

If you're getting a new enlarger, go for the LPL if your funds are limited. If you're buying used, get the cheapest of them in the best condition.

The absolute BEST advise is: go to a photo store and operate the enlargers to see how they work for you. Some photo equipment, like cameras and enlargers, just seem to fit individuals differently--like clothes and cars. You really won't know until you try different ones. For example, LPL has 2 medium format enlargers. I like the cheaper, because the more expensive one had filter readouts that were much harder for me to see.


Good luck with your decisions.
 

jd callow

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I've used Omega not sure of the model, Bessler 45 and Durst L1200. The Omega and Bessler are a little easier to operate, but the Durst is, I think, a bertter system. All are excellent, hardy machines.

All are available on ebay for dimes on the dollar.
 

jd callow

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John McCallum said:
:D Ah - all good! Leaves a surplus of equipment for us! There is a Durst 4x5 enlarger with 3 lenses for sale in a photolab a few miles from my house. He wants $500 for it. It was pretty ratty, so told him it was too much for me, given the condition it was in. 5 yrs ago it was $10,000+ ......

I was tasked with selling photo stuff on ebay. I sold 3 vertical Auto Focus Dursts (2 elite L1200 and an elite 960[i think] AF) that were lightly used relatively new, had ALL of the options and a combined price new of over 40k. Each was sold separately withe lenses. We got less than 6k on ebay. We also sold a horizontal 10x10 Durst 2501HL for substantialy less than what its condition (excellent) and original purchase price (kings ransom) should have warranted.
 
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Adrian Twiss

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I opted for a Durst L1200 with Multigraph head (computerised VC with exposure and grade analysis). I paid $1600 for it together with all mixing boxes for 35mm through to 5x4 and negatives carriers from 35mm to 5x4. Not the most intuative piece of kit available and if you use a large variety of papers you will need the settings data for each one. Up to 5 different papers can be programmed at any one time. The chassis is very well made with tensator spring height adjustment fine focus and a focussing extension arm. On reflection If you opted for a durst I would go for the colour headed version.
 

Bob Carnie

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Hi David
I use four different types of enlargers here in our shop and my vote for simplicity of use is the omega variety. ( We lazer align each month the enlargers and the omegas are by far the easiest to re -align. For starting out in your new darkroom I would consider this.
I do agree with some of the posts that the Durst is a better enlarger, very well put together and robust, but I find the omegas more accesable and easy to use with a large variety of printing techniques.
If you plan to set the enlarger up and never move it , and if you have a standard way of printing that you like then buy a durst.(it is extremely solid)
Both of these enlargers are being given away from the large photo labs, now is the time to approach the lab owners and offer to take them away. If you promise to give the enlarger a good home you will find it easy to get a very good deal on a variety of enlarging gear.
Bob Carnie
 

Ian Grant

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Fintan said:


Thats expensive, they are selling for less than £400, approx 600euros here in the UK. They occasionaly go for more on Ebay as people don't realise what they are really worth.

I'm about to replace or mothball my 50+ yr old Johnsons 5"x4" with a DeVere with a closed loop head for less than £400 and there's plenty being taken out of professional labs all over the UK many being skipped.
 

Fintan

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Ian Grant said:
Thats expensive, they are selling for less than £400, approx 600euros here in the UK. They occasionaly go for more on Ebay as people don't realise what they are really worth.

I agree, that particular one didnt sell. I bought mine from ebay from a seller that failed to sell his after listing it 3 times. I asked him a question about weight during the first offering and had his email address. I watched him fail to sell and then made him an offer, he relisted it with a buy now at the agreed price £600 [totally mint 504+multigrade head+4schnider lenses+accessories]
It only cost €105 to ship to Ireland.
 

philldresser

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I just bought a Devere 504 on eBay for £250 including the whole darkroom, 5 lenses, thousands of sheets of paper and the Darkroom sink! So they can be picked up cheaper than that one.

Phill
 
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