Best enlarger for the Ilford 500 variable contrast head

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hadeer

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During a workshop I was introduced to using the Ilford 500 variable contrast head in combination with an RH Design 500 analyser. As this worked very nicely I am considering switching to this system, but I am wondering which would be the best enlarger to go with it. I have seen Beselers, Dursts, Leitz's and DeVere's in the threads here on Apug but I don't have sufficient knowledge of them to make an educated choice. I am aware of the fact that each has its own adapter plates and lightboxes, so I would rather look for a complete system than buying head and enlarger in separate packages.
Currently I do 4,5x6 and 6x6 but I might do 6x9 in the future, so I would need a rig that can take that format as well.
Any comment or advice would be hugely appreciated.
 

Jim Edmond

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I think the key is getting the right match, as you've said. It should work well with any quality enlarger. I bought the Ilford 500 (and the RH analyser) for my Omega D2, but it didn't have the right adapter for the D2. I had to kludge it on - it does work well though.
 

Trevor Crone

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It should work well with any quality enlargers. As said, getting the right match is I feel important, for starters it inspires confindence that it wont let you down at some point.

I have a 500 MG head factory fitted to my DeVere 504, came with all light mixing boxes and plates. However I always use it set for the 4x5 negative even when printing from the smaller negatives. Such a versatile system for split grade printing, a real pleasure to use.
 

Jim Edmond

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I have the 4x5 and roll film boxes, but I use the 4x5 box even when printing 35mm. Works fine - in fact the printing times are often too short for ease in dodging/burning.
 

edtbjon

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A Leitz Focomat IIc is never wrong. :smile: Just see to that you get a fairly modern version. Given you live in Holland, which is really close to Germany, these machines should be easy to find at a decent price. There is a guide somewhere on the 'net where the different versions are described.
Else, maybe you can find some version of a Durst AC or maybe M which takes 6x9 negatives. The larger Durst machines are very well built too and readily available in Europe.
Both the Durst and the Leitz are condenser lens enlargers, which give very crisp sharpness, but maybe also somewhat more retouching. I would personally never even consider using a softbox on my Focomat, but that's me.

//Björn
 

paul ewins

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I bought one on an Omega which I swapped to my Beseler 45. I then bought a faulty unit on a Durst L1200 to use as spares (it was only $200) only to find it was the later unit and completely incompatible with mine. I liked the L1200 so much that I swapped the good unit over to it. I've since bought yet another early unit on a Durst 138s (again, around $200) so I now have plenty of spares and two extra enlargers. The L1200 is a precision instrument compared to the Beseler, however carriers and lensboards are expensive and uncommon. The Beseler is a little more crudely built but the extras and spares are readily available and usually dirt cheap. They are also very simple so you could easily build a custom part with hand tools if you needed it.

Of course if you live in Europe this might be completely different, and Durst and Devere parts might be available in every corner shop. For me in Australia, eBay is my only source of spares. I have actually started modifying some of the Beseler carriers so that I could use them in the Durst and had built a replacement lens stage so that I could use the Beseler 4x4 boards instead of the Durst Lapla. I'm still looking for a Femoneg AM (4x5) to replace the standard Femoneg (9x12) and would like a 6x7 or 6x9 insert as well but most of these parts would cost me more than the entire enlarger so I may persist with the modified Beseler parts.
 

Ian David

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Like Trevor, I use the 500 head on a DeVere 504 enlarger. Together with the RH Designs StopClock 500, it is a lovely setup, and built like a tank.
Ian
 

youngrichard

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A Leitz Focomat IIc is never wrong. :smile: Just see to that you get a fairly modern version. Given you live in Holland, which is really close to Germany, these machines should be easy to find at a decent price. There is a guide somewhere on the 'net where the different versions are described.
Else, maybe you can find some version of a Durst AC or maybe M which takes 6x9 negatives. The larger Durst machines are very well built too and readily available in Europe.
Both the Durst and the Leitz are condenser lens enlargers, which give very crisp sharpness, but maybe also somewhat more retouching. I would personally never even consider using a softbox on my Focomat, but that's me.

//Björn

What's a softbox in this context? Do you mean the Ilford 500 diffuser box? I don't understand.
Richard
 
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hadeer

hadeer

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Thanks everyone for the comments. It seems that maybe the best thing I could do is to look for an existing and working combination. That would save me the hassle of finding the right softboxes and adapters. Might take some time, but as we say here, patience is a thing of beauty.
Somewhere I think I read that the DeVere 504 can rotate the negative. Is that right? And does it work also with strips of, say 4 negatives? It would be very convenient as I mostly do 4,5x6 and I always have to bend my neck in an uncomfortable position to see if the horizon is level when doing landscapes on this format.
Hans
 
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edtbjon

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What's a softbox in this context? Do you mean the Ilford 500 diffuser box? I don't understand.
Richard

The diffuser box is a "soft box", but still the light gets condensed by the Leitz condensers. I've seen solutions where someone built a diffuser which should replace the condenser of the Focomat. (If I recall correctly it consisted of probably 3 layers of opal glass.) While the results were acceptable they had totally lost what I personally interpret as the "Focomat signature". I.e. (still in my mind) they were softer in both sharpness and contrast.

//Björn
 

Ian David

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Somewhere I think I read that the DeVere 504 can rotate the negative. Is that right? And does it work also with strips of, say 4 negatives? It would be very convenient as I mostly do 4,5x6 and I always have to bend my neck in an uncomfortable position to see if the horizon is level when doing landscapes on this format.
Hans

Hans
On my 504, I have a glass 4x5 sandwich (as well as the standard metal holders for the various formats) so I can clamp my negatives in the carrier whichever way I wish, with the only barrier being the back edge of the carrier.
Ian
 

Andrew4x5

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The Ilford Multigrade 500 system fits many enlargers - however, each enlarger needs a dedicated adapter (and, for some enlargers, such as Beseler, dedicated mixing boxes).

In practice, the best solution is to buy a working system (enlarger + multigrade head)
 

DAP

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I would second the recommendation of buying an enlarger with the 500 system already installed. One warning though - make sure you get the mixing boxes and the plates that the boxes rest on with the enlarger/ilford head (it is not uncommon to see ilford 500 equipped enlargers sold w/ the mixing boxes missing - they tend to get lost in the shuffle when these systems change hands...and tracking them down can be a royal PITA). In the States, Omega D/ilford 500 setups seem to be the most popular ilford 500 variants by far (something to keep in mind if you need to track down mounts, boxes, etc.) I would imagine that in your location Dursts and DeVeres would be the most common variants. In any case, you made a good choice...the Ilford 500 system is a joy to use (and enough of them were sold to ensure that 2nd hand parts/donors will be available for quite awhile)
 

youngrichard

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The diffuser box is a "soft box", but still the light gets condensed by the Leitz condensers. I've seen solutions where someone built a diffuser which should replace the condenser of the Focomat. (If I recall correctly it consisted of probably 3 layers of opal glass.) While the results were acceptable they had totally lost what I personally interpret as the "Focomat signature". I.e. (still in my mind) they were softer in both sharpness and contrast.

//Björn

My Focomat 11c has the 500H mounted directly over the negative stage. I think Ilford must have sold 2 adaptor kits for the 11c as I have seen pictures of 11cs with the 500h mounted above the condensers. But mine is not a bodge job, it is a genuine Ilford adaptor kit. It saves height as I have limited ceiling space.
Richard
 

edtbjon

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My Focomat 11c has the 500H mounted directly over the negative stage. I think Ilford must have sold 2 adaptor kits for the 11c as I have seen pictures of 11cs with the 500h mounted above the condensers. But mine is not a bodge job, it is a genuine Ilford adaptor kit. It saves height as I have limited ceiling space.
Richard

I've seen those too and they are good but (in my eyes) a tiny tad softer than the condenser version. But again, that is my opinion.

About the OP's question: The advice of finding a complete enlarger with an already fitted 500H is very good advice. As the OP lives in Holland, I recon that Durst, Leitz, Agfa and possbily DeVere are more common than the american enlargers (Beseler, Omega ...).

//Björn
 
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