Enlarger recomendations

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Jayd, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. Jayd

    Jayd Subscriber

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    Is there one enlarger that does all things well?
    While my primary interest is B&W 110 up to 6X9, 6x7 required, it would be
    Nice to have a color head and be able to easily do color printing as well.
    My preference is a compact sturdy design with parts easily and cheaply available in the usaUSA. I have read some say only a condenser enlarger can do high quality B&W and obliviously a dihoric head is the way to do color.
    Please help me sort this out.
    I apologize for duplication with my past post but it seems to have disappeared before I got a good understanding of the subject.
    Thanks
    Jay
     
  2. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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    Hi Jayd.

    My preference is for the Kaiser brand of enlarger, made as the name suggests in Germany. They are very sturdily built and being modular, all heads are interchangeable. Mine has a multigrade head since I never print colour these days, but if that ever changes I can fit a colour head. I recommend it 100%. I really like the interchangeable negative carrier masks and use double glass in mine to keep the negative flat as possible during printing. The light source on the colour and multigrade heads is a combination of diffuser and condensor. Best of both worlds.

    Regards John.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2009
  3. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    An enlarger should produce excellent results for all the formats its compatible for but I would say that it is not equally convenient for all formats. I use a durst L1200 which can do everything from 35mm to 5x4 inch. The results are equally as good for all formats because my lenses are all first class but 35mm, 645 and even 6x6 are a bit of a pain due to the large negative carrier. In fact I bought a Durst Modular 70 for the smaller formats for the sake of convenience (and it was cheap for what I bought - namely colour and VC head and a Schneider Componon S lens).

    I cannot agree wtih the view only a condenser enlarger can produce high quality B&W. IIRC Ansel Adams used Besselers with cold light heads, Larry Bartlett used a Leitz V35 with a VC head, Barry Thornton used a Meopta Magnafax with a VC head and Edward Weston used a light bulb. The list goes on and on.

    My personal view is that for B&W you can't beat the convenience and consistency of a dedicated VC head. The results will not be inferior with a colour head but a VC head makes things a lot easier, especially when you want to dial in fractions of a grade. As I'm British the two most available top end enlargers are Durst and De Vere. In the USA I would imagine it would be Bessler or Durst with Bessler being the most prolific. I've never used a Bessler but there are plenty of APUG members who are. I'm sure you will get more input from them.

    Good luck in your search.
     
  4. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    There are slight differences between the final output of either a condenser or diffused head. It's the nature of getting the same end result with different systems.

    Think Manual gearbox and automatic gearbox in a car, they get there, but do it via a different method.

    Having used quite a few different amateur and commercial enlargers of both persuasion, I would suggest that a diffused enlarger, fitted with a colour head capable of handling your largest format, is the way to go.

    There are also diffused enlargers with different modules for either B&W or colour. The B&W module will give you a slightly greater range of contrast in the extremes, compared to a colour module (head) but if you have reasonably normal negatives, then virtually any colour head should be able to give you sparkling B&W prints, and, if you so desire, sparkling colour prints.

    Realistically, a 4x5 enlarger would possibly be a better alternative if you can accommodate one. That size of enlarger is designed to a commercial standard, and as such is capable of working with various format sizes, usually 35mm right through to 4x5.

    I cannot suggest what to look for as I don't really understand the major formats used in the USA market.

    Mick.
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    By far, the brands with the easiest to find parts here are Omega and Beseler. The Beseler 23C's will do up to 6x9 and are plentiful on ebay and Craigslist. For 4x5 I prefer Omega to Beseler. They are both very common though, and easy to find parts and accesories for.
    That said, Dursts and LPL, especially the 4x5 are quite nice and easier to work with than the Omega and Beselers, but parts and accessories are a little more of a challenge.
     
  6. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    I would strongly consider a 4x5 enlarger such as the LPL 4550 XLG that I have that can also be used for MF, then you will have it if you decide to make the jump to LF. It's completely modular so you can put a color module in it and it can be fitted with 35mm and 6x7 mixing chambers for use with those formats as well.
     
  7. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Jayd, you've concealed your location, so it's hard to give you intelligent advice. Buy a brand of enlarger for which there is a plentiful supply of parts and accessories in your country--whatever country that is. In the United States, life is easier for Beseler and Omega users, but in other countries, things are different.
     
  8. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I'm assuming you are in the US....the two I've owned that would work are an Omega D2v (up to 4x5) and the Besslar 23c. Of the two, I''d go with the 23c if you are only doing up to 6x9. Either of these 2 choices are cheap, plentiful and nice to use. The LPL mentioned is also quite nice, but more expensive and not as common. I prefer a color head to a condenser head any day....all I do is B&W
     
  9. OP
    OP
    Jayd

    Jayd Subscriber

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    Sorry I should have said I am in the USA and Bessler and Omega are the most plentiful. From what I have seen the LPL would be my choice if I could find and afford one but they are rather hard to come by and expensive here if not everywhere, Durst avalibility is spottyand strangely Phillips enlargers show up here and there.I have to say the Phillips is a nice looking enlarger. Seems while enlarger prices are down a lot accessory prices don't nessarily follow.
    Thank you all for the advise and dispelling the ideal that a color enlarger would not make good B&W. The sense I'm getting is that the condenser head is just going to be a little more efficent due to the more intense light: meaning shorter exposure times and a bit higher contrast on low contrast negaitives.
    Thanks again
    Jay
     
  10. OP
    OP
    Jayd

    Jayd Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the help, what about Phillips ?

    Sorry I should have said I am in the USA and Bessler and Omega are the most plentiful. From what I have seen the LPL would be my choice if I could find and afford one but they are rather hard to come by and expensive here if not everywhere, Durst avalibility is spottyand strangely Phillips enlargers show up here and there.I have to say the Phillips is a nice looking enlarger. Seems while enlarger prices are down a lot accessory prices don't nessarily follow.
    Thank you all for the advise and dispelling the ideal that a color enlarger would not make good B&W. The sense I'm getting is that the condenser head is just going to be a little more efficent due to the more intense light: meaning shorter exposure times and a bit higher contrast on low contrast negaitives.
    Thanks again
    Jay
     
  11. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I currently use one diffusion/color enlarger (Leitz) and one condenser (D2). The only real difference is convenience. The diffusion makes using VC papers much easier to use and reduces spotting required. I see -zero- difference in quality of the print or the enlarging time. I do need to develop my negs about 10% more, but that is about it. I'm currently looking for a VC/color head for my D2. Remember, you will need to get a set of VC filters if you get a condenser enlarger reducing the cost difference between the color diffusion and the condenser enlarger.
     
  12. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

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    I love my LPL/Saunders 7700MX - I'm even able to print 6x9 with an adapted universal neg mask. (Just remove the blades). Head rotates for extra large printing (not that I've needed to just yet). Colour head, Rodenstock lenses (50mm & 105mm) and it's perfect. Cost me $695 for the enlarger, but I've since since seen them in Australia for as little as $350.