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Enlarger help..

Randy Smith , Oct 03, 1997; 10:33 a.m.

Ok, its been almost 20 years since I had the darkroom habit and I want to dive in again. Other than improved chemicals and papers, a lot looks familiar. But.....

What would you suggest as a good bet for an enlarger? I'm going to start out in B&W, but I may want to play around with ilfochrome in the near future. Should I just get a color head? Or skip it and add one later (or use filters later)? Also, I need it to handle both 35mm and 6x7 medium negs. Oh yeah, and I would like to be able to work in sizes up to 20 x 24.

Any suggestions?


R Smith


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Peter Pflasterer , Oct 03, 1997; 11:54 a.m.

If you are going to be serious about darkroom work, definitely get a color head now. It prints B&W like a diffusion head and allows you to easliy change variable contrast paper grades. You'll need it for Ilfochrome in any event. There are several good 6x7 color enlargers out there. Search photo.net for darkroom or enlargers, I know there have been several threads.

Stanley McManus , Oct 03, 1997; 01:06 p.m.

My momma always said I had the devil in me so let me play the devil's advocate. Have you thought about getting a digital darkroom instead of a traditional setup? From what I can tell we seem to be only a few years away from having consumer priced digital printers and scanners that will equal traditional prints. Digital 'film' seems much farther off.

This seems like an intersting discussion and I don't want to throw your topic off so I will post another question about this subject.

Tim Brown , Oct 03, 1997; 02:28 p.m.

I strongly second Peter's advice to get a color enlarger. The diffuse light saves alot of time spotting prints. I've printed the same negative on a condenser and diffuse with the same lens and after compensating for the difference in contrast the print from the diffuse enlarger looks just as sharp. When printing with B&W variable contrast paper you don't have to worry about keeping VC filters in pristine condition or shuffling filters in and out of a lamphouse tray. There are lots of used Besseler and Omega enlargers out there that are just fine, but condition is everything. I myself set up a darkroom about a year ago after being away from it for about 10 years. I bought a used Rollei-Nikor 6x7 color enlarger (currently Saunders) with 2 neg. carriers and a 50mm EL-Nikkor lens for $250. Added an 80mm Componon-S for $50. It works just fine. I haven't printed bigger than 11x14 ... yet. I have no plans to go color. The occasional paying work I do has almost paid for it all.

Nick Chronis , Oct 04, 1997; 06:58 a.m.

If you're pretty sure you'll print color, follow the above advice for a color head. If you're like me and will be strictly printing b&w, look into the Saunders 670 VCCE. It has a variable contrast head, with 2 built-in filtration sets available (Kodak & Ilford). Of course it can be used with other variable contrast papers also. The diffuse light source eliminates a majority of the spotting from dust and small scratches. Very well made construction. Most importantly get a good lens for it. That's where the big difference will be.

Gary Thomas , Oct 06, 1997; 04:49 a.m.

I have owned a Meopta enlarger (manufactured in the Czech Republic) with colour head for a number of years now, and can whole-heartedly recommend this solution. The enlarger is very well built and sturdy, and costs a lot less than most of the competition.

The model I have is the Opemus 6 (which prints from negs. / chromes up to 6X6cm). However, I understand there is now a version out which will print from 6X7cm.

Darron Spohn , Oct 06, 1997; 09:42 a.m.

Most of the responses above seem to have missed one criterion you listed: the ability to make 20x24 enlargements. If you are going to do this on the enlarger's baseboard, you will need a 4x5 enlarger. The 6x7 enlargers on the market simply will not go high enough to print 20x24. Even if they did, they would be so unstable you would not get a sharp print.

Check out the Beseler 4x5 enlarger. With the color head it will do everything you ask.

Randy Smith , Oct 07, 1997; 10:27 a.m.

Boy! Thanx for all the input. I found a great deal on a used 23CII with a color head. I think its going to work out fine.

ONE last question. Several of you have mentioned that this way I can use the color head filters on B&W polycontrast. Which filters are used? Is this documented somewhere?

Thanx again...


Barry Pehlman , Oct 07, 1997; 10:41 a.m.

Hope it isn't too late, but Darron is correct about the 4X5 enlarger.

Peter Pflasterer , Oct 07, 1997; 01:14 p.m.

Randy, glad to hear you got a good enlarger. As far as B&W VC filter settings go, both Kodak and Ilford print filter settings charts on the instruction sheet that comes inside the paper box. These settings are good as a starting point, but some experimentation will be required because dichroic color settings aren't standardized among enlargers.

Basically, you use no filter for a #2 grade, yellow filtration for grades softer than #2, and magenta to obtain grades harder than #2. It is also possible to use combinations of yellow and magenta that keep the exposure time approximately constant with changes in contrast grade.

A has been pointed out, it's going to be impossible to make the larger print sizes on the baseboard of your enlarger because the column isn't long enough. This is easy to get around by arranging the enlarger to project onto the floor or turning the head 90 degrees to project onto a wall. I have a Rollei-Nikor enlarger and with an 80mm lens, I can't make a 16x20 print on the baseboard from a 6x7 negative because of shortness of the column.

Have fun!

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