Classic enlargers

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We hear about classic lenses, cameras, films, developers, papers, and so on all the time. But how often do we hear about classic enlargers? Sometimes, maybe, but not nearly as much as we hear about those other things. I'd like to hear about the enlargers other forum members would put into that category.

Here's my 2 for the list.

Omega D2/DII - they can be had for next to nothing, can be adapted to do just about anything, are somewhat bombproof, and can be modified in just about any way you want.

Leitz Vaoly II - I got mine for free back in high school. I still feel indebted to my high school photography teacher for realizing that this enlarger (among with some other things that had been given to him to do with as he liked) would just get trashed if he put it in the school darkroom. I am convinced there is nothing like it for enlarging 35mm b&w. I have mine set up with a 50mm Nippon Kogaku lens and under-the-lens filters and I swear this thing makes the sharpest, snappiest, and generally sweetest prints I've ever been able to make from a 35mm negative. The condenser holds the negative perfectly flat, the helical focusing is a godsend, and that lens is crazy sharp. Leitz enlargers = :heart:
 

Jim Chinn

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A suppose a Focomat (Leitz) 35mm would be one. Robert Frank used one to print The Americans and Ralph Gibson used Frank's enlarger for most of his work.
 

DrPhil

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Beseler 45MXX series enlargers. Adams used them. Lots of people have them. They are simple and reliable. Perhaps the best thing about them is that they are adaptable. Perhaps the largest variety of heads are available for this enlarger.
 

baronfoxx

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my choice is the leitz focomat v35 with the helical auto focus and the 40 mm f2.8 lens.
this unit forms part of my all Leica system and is a joy to use, I have also had the Heiland split grade motorised head fitted with the computer analzer.
I can highly recommend this system to any dedicated 35mm only user
 

Seele

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My two-cent's worth:

I have a liking for some British enlargers, such as those by MPP (the medium and large format camera people), Gamer (later Gamer-Congreave), Wasp, etc. I bought my 1949-model 5X4 Wasp a few years ago and it was old and a little battered, with missing negative carrier, for A$50; that's US$30-something. I had it dismantled, hand-finished all the parts, paid special attention to parallelism, built a hybrid-type negative carrier with glass on top, got an adapter made to take a superior Componon 150mm lens in lieu of the less capable Wray, with which I produced the finest prints out of 4X5 negatives imaginable, even with the same lens I was having a little difficulty replicating the same quality out of a floor-standing Durst Laborator 35 (maximum 5X7 negative size). The other Wasp enlargers are also just as capable, and are miles ahead of the comparatively common Welsh-made Gnome enlargers; if I could find a Wasp Junior DeLuxe (6X6 format) I would be very very happy indeed!

Many Durst enlargers can be considered classics, of course, I run the darkroom of a photographers group and it is equipped with three Dursts for three different formats, and they are all sterling performers, and would be quite inexpensive to procure nowadays.

I still regret not having acquired a 5X7 MPP enlarger with helicoid focussing about 15 years ago; I was apprehensive because it was in a huge cardboard box in component form, covered in what looked like an inch of dust.
 

Flotsam

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I use a 23c that is orginally painted grey. I don't know how old... um, "classic" it is but I don't remember a time that they weren't painted Blue.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Philips (the line later taken over by Paterson) seems to deserve a place in this lineup.

The additive color system that used three lamps beamed through three high quality color filters was an innovation. The straight single column design and rectangular-box style head a 45-degree mirror to reflect the light through the condesors and isolate the heat from the film and the incorporation of a tilting head and lens stage were precursors of today's Saunders LPL heads. Other neat features are a micro-focus knob and standard glass negative carrier with integrated four-blade mask.

I have a Paterson PCS 2500, which I believe is equivalent to a Philips PCS 130.
 

Flotsam

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David A. Goldfarb said:
Philips (the line later taken over by Paterson) seems to deserve a place in this lineup.

I never used one but I remember the Phillips being a very nice enlarger.

A long time ago, I had the chance to print additive at a place that I worked that used the Beseler/Minolta strobe head. It was an interesting change and the strobes allowed you to burn and dodge just like subtractive. I wonder if the folks that bought those heads can still get replacement tubes.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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I don't know about the Beseler/Minolta, but I'm fairly sure the Philips additive head uses a halogen bulb that's still available. There used to be a good site on Philips enlargers here, but I get a page-not-found error there now:

http://members.aol.com/Centuri98/philips.html
 

Flotsam

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The B/M used three separate flash tubes that flashed the separate RGB exposures in rapid succession for the duration of the overall exposure. I'm sure that they were totally proprietary and probably were expensive to replace even back then.
 

photomc

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Actually, the B/M flash tubes are still available from Beseler and ColorBat. Would agree that they are proprietary, strange looking little things actually look like the tube in a flash (which I guess they really are). Not cheap $31 US...ouch, knew there was a reason I wanted to sell the one I have.
 

glbeas

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I have one of those babies stashed in my darkroom with a supply of new tubes. Thing I didn't like about it was the controller. If you were doing Forte paper ofr a big print you would have to fire it off multiple times at it's maximum exposure to get anywhere. It's still pretty nice for what it was designed for though, printing color.
 

doughowk

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Durst Laborator 1000 with Pavelle 401 color head. Picked it up in S. Florida last year. Came with neg carriers for 35mm, 120mm & 4X5. Need to improvise something for 2X3 sheet film. The Pavelle color head leaks alot of light on side so I've draped a black clothe on one side down to base-board. Also the separate fan for head (has 2 halogen bulbs which can get pretty hot) is very noisy & vibrates; so hope to replace it with quieter model. If I ever get some extra money, would replace color head with maybe an Aristo light source - saw them at Clyde Butcher's darkroom in Venice, FL.
 

Adrian Twiss

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I would like to add the Meopta range of enlarger. Not pretty but very tough and simple to operate. There is a comprehensive range of accessories (including a truly excellent VC head). I used an opemus 6 for a long time and had nothing but excellent results with it.
 

Ole

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Adrian Twiss said:
I would like to add the Meopta range of enlarger. Not pretty but very tough and simple to operate. There is a comprehensive range of accessories (including a truly excellent VC head). I used an opemus 6 for a long time and had nothing but excellent results with it.

I'll second that. I have an Opemus 6 with colour head which I use for everything htat will fit in the holder, as well as a Durst 138S for everything bigger. I have negative holders for everyhting for the Durst, but the Opemus is still my favorite tool up to 6x6.
 

Doug Bennett

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Hmmm............. I'm in the market for an enlarger, as I'm currently using a borrowed Omega B-22. I thought I had settled on Durst, but I may give Meopta a look.
 

Seele

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Doug,

The Meopta enlargers are very competent machines, regarless of age, the all-metal construction helps to prevent dust too; until recently I was still using an original Opemus made for 4X4 negatives and the results were stunning, not a lot of enlargers from the late 1940s of the same quality can be found at such giveaway prices.

Talking about current models here: if you are going to use the standard lamphouse (with Photocresenta bulb), you might have to get used to its hybrid optical system which combines a very rough diffuser with condensers; many people also like to use either the dichroic colour-head, or the Multigrade head, I do suspect the MG head can always do with a round of calibration before proper work.

I agree with an earlier post that the Anarets can be somewhat suspicious, and the Anaret-S are reliable. The top-of-the-line Meopta lenses are the Meogon series, which are competent too, but if you already have a suitable lens then you would just be as well use that. Also note that Meopta used to have a small diameter lens mount as standard, so be sure that you order a lensboard with Leica screw thread.
 

glbeas

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Anybody have any tricks or techniques to improve the condensor head of the Beseler MX series? Would putting a smaller diameter bulb of the same output make a more pointsource like quality to the light? And how would I go about testing the focus of the setup?
 
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After my Durst M600 was stolen, I went the Opemus way.
Started with a 30 yrs old III, now a 6.
Both all metal, cast alum and sheet steel.
Real bargains.

Jorge O
 

mobtown_4x5

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I hate to ask you to relive bad memories, but I'm curious- how the hell do you steal a med format enlarger?
 

Adrian Twiss

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I must confess that I did not like the meocolour head for monochrome work. The Meograde head was much more convenient with constant exposure through grades 0 to 5 plus up to two stops neutral density for those delicate burning in jobs. The white light lever made focussing convenient.

I started with a Schneider comparon (OK but nothing spectacular) and then got a pair of 6 element nikkors (50mm f2.8 and 80mm f5.6)

I intend to use a durst L1200 for all my monochrome work when I finally get my darkroom built and have a Kaiser VP6005 for colour work. My maximum roll film size is 6x6. Now and again I think back about how convenient my meopta was and wonder whether I did the right thing in selling it :confused: . With regard to the rough condenser/diffuser, I had this set up before I bought my VC head. It was a square of diffuser glass that rested in the filter drawer. It helped hide some of the dust spots.
 
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Mobtown

I never had a real darkroom, so it was disassembled and packed in its box.
The thieves saw a box with what looked like some expensive gear...

Jorge O
 

jovo

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twenty some years ago, i had an opemus enlarger that i absolutely loved. it handled 35mm and 6x6 negs beautifully and was strong, well made and easy to handle in the set-up and take-down continuum of my kitchen/darkroom. then we moved from the apartment to a house where.........i was never able to have a darkroom.

however...moving back into an apartment by myself after a divorce, i decided to again make photographs and decided i could live without a sink in the bathroom and would put the enlarger on a plywood sink top i made. all was in readiness when i went to my ex-wife's house to retrieve the enlarger. i was incredibly eager to set the thing up. i found all the parts which i had dissasmbled for storage and brought them back to the apartment. YIKES!!! there in the lamphouse were cat food kibbles....lots of them!! i also found my negative stage and neg holders had rusted to a state of uselessness. what the hey??? well....apparently a family of mice had found the enlarger made an extremely attractive nesting place. i assume several generations of little furballs had reached their majority in MY enlarger!!....and in the process had peed and etc' for who knows how long and had left the thing in dire need of home remodeling. i was pretty disappointed about it, but eventually recovered my spirits and bought a beseler 23CIIIXL which i've used happily since.

be careful where you store you're goodies!!!
 

Rick Jones

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Dave-never thought I would hear about someone with the exact setup I've used for years. While I've lusted over a V35 I can't quite part with my Valoy II which I bought used in the mid 60's. It's a work of art as far as I'm concerned. I would be curious how you adapted an under the lens filter holder for your Valoy. My solution was to remove the red filter attaching an old Kodak Polycontrast filter holder to a fabricated bracket attached just as the red filter. It easily swings away when not needed. The Valoy is used for 35mm, proofing and flashing. The D2V with condenser head handles my 6X6, 6X7 and 4X5. Both are decidedly low tech but old friends are hard to part with. Would also be curious if you have experienced negative popping with the Omega. If so how did you solve or work around that problem?
 
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