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Focomat enlargers for b+w

Eric Kim , Jul 04, 2004; 07:30 a.m.

I am looking for a Focomat enlarger for black and white pictures. There are Focomat Ic, IIc and V35. Which one is good for b+w? Ic and IIc are condenser type and V35 is diffuser type. What are the pros and cons between these two types? What are the reasonable price for these enlargers with a good working condition and original focomat lenses?


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H. P. , Jul 04, 2004; 10:50 a.m.

General speaking, condenser enlargers give greater sharpness while diffuser or cold light enlargers mask dust and spots. I've only used the Ic and that about thirty five years ago. Fitted with a Componon 40 it produced 20x16s that were sharper than I could have wished for but Oh! How it showed up the smallest spec of dust!

Given a suitably good enlarging lens, I'd imagine you could be very happy with any of these but you'll want a good spotting kit to go with it.


Bill Mitchell , Jul 04, 2004; 10:55 a.m.

From a final-results POV there is nothing to choose between these superb auto-focus enlargers. The V35 has a variable contrast head available, as well as a colorhead which can be very effectively used with VC paper. Be sure to get a unit with the original lens, as the auro-focus cam only works with that one lens. (For straight prints on graded paper, there's much to be said for the old reliable Ic.)

Ronald Moravec , Jul 04, 2004; 10:55 a.m.

11c never came with a decent lens for 35mm. Large and heavy. Later ones had better lenses for 6x7 or 6x9 what ever the max size was. Most being sold have a v-elmar and it is not as good as the 100mm Focotar 2. The 60mm focotar works best for 5x prints and can not be replaced with a modern 50mm or the auto focus will not work. Someone also posted the is also a size limit which makes modern 50`s incompatable.

1c`s were for 35m only. No good way to add vc filters to the older models except under the lens. Later grey rather than black ones had a rather egg shapped head. These took standard bulbs as opposed to the shortneck european bulbs which are hard to find. They also had a port to which a filter drawer could be added. The ones from the factory with the filter drawer were called Color Focomats or something close to that. They auto focus from 3.5x to 10x with manual focus for bigger prints. Short and tall colums were available.

Older Ic`s had a lens coded DOOCQ which was again designed for 5x prints. Quality falls off rapidly above 7x. Next came a five element still called a focotar, but made by Schneider. This one has a very large front element, perhaps about 5/8 inch as opposed to DOOCQ which is about 1/4 in. The Schneider one is excellent. Last was the Focotar-2 50 mm. It has excellent resolution and contrast, but they gave up some field flatness typical of Leitz designs.

The V35 has was available 3 ways, no module for black and white, color module the most common, and vc module. It`s contrast for black and white is about equal to the 1c so it is higher than most diffusion machines. The vc module was available separately, so I have both. VC work can be done with the color module. 40mm 2.8 focotar is excellent. Only buy one with these two upgrades

1.Phillips 13139 bulb $35.00 You need an unavailable adapter to upgrade from the older bulb.

2.Modified light box which has TWO diffusers to even out the center to edge lighting. It can be identified by a very small pin prick mark in the corner of the bottom diffuser.

If you e mail I will give you a website showing the older 1`c.

Please keep in mind these are getting old and parts and accesories are hard to find. You need a voltage stabilizer for the v35.

A modern enlarger with good lens will make as good a picture, but will just be a bit slower to operate as they do not autofocus. The focomats were designed to be production machines.

Jay . , Jul 04, 2004; 11:27 a.m.

The Focomats are *not* autofocus machines in the sense we now think of autofocus! They were calibrated for one lens, and then no matter how you positioned the head vertically, a cam affair repositioned the lens to keep the image theoretically in focus, and it works very well. The other unique feature of the early Focomats and the Valoy I and II is that the condensor itself contacts the neg and keeps it flat. However that created two other problems. One is Newton rings, which Leitz solved with an anti-Newton condensor upgrade, and that would defitely be one thing you'd want. The second is that this made the condensor more vulnerable to scratches (from cleaning, just like lenses, except there's no way to put a UV filter over the condensor!)and scratches show up in the print. So again, something to check for, as condensors for these machines are no longer available from Leica. A third feature of the Leitz enlargers is helical focusing, which is theoretically more precise and reliable than a bellows.

The big problem with Leitz enlargers today is that whereas most enlargers can be had for anywhere from next-to-nothing to nothing because so many have gone to scanning and inkjets, the Leitz enlargers are still commanding some pretty good prices at least partly because of their heritage.

Alex Lofquist , Jul 04, 2004; 11:39 a.m.

The Focomat I enlargers can be calibrated for "AF" with lenses slightly different than that intended. There is an adjustment for the cam at both limits, and in conjunction with the manual focussing barrel, can give quite accurate focussing. (It does take a little while to go through the routine, though.)

Ray . , Jul 04, 2004; 11:55 a.m.

I've got a V-35 and it's a beautifully designed and smoothly operating machine, more solid and stable than any other enlarger I've used. As mentioned either VC or color head can be used to make black and white prints from variable contrast paper. The VC head is a little more efficient, but it's usually an added cost item sold separately. The enlarger is a modified diffuser design which gives sharp prints with very little in the way of dust problems. I think prices have gone down slightly since I got mine 2 years ago, you should be able to pick up a good one (with color head and original Focotar lens) for $450-$600. Check condition carefully before buying.

My understanding is that the other Focomats are also very nice enlargers.

Al Kaplan - Miami, FL , Jul 04, 2004; 12:06 p.m.

I've done a lot of printing in my life. The amount of time you save in a typical day with an auto focus enlarger wouldn't be enough to hand roll a cigarette! Get a good rock solid Omega B-22. Make sure it has the third condenser for the 50mm lens. The best lens, in my opinion, is probably the 50mm f/2.8 Nikkor but Schneider and Rodenstock produce great optics too. If you can buy the B-22XL you can even print a moderately cropped 16x20 right on the baseboard!

Ray . , Jul 04, 2004; 12:14 p.m.

Al, autofocus is far and away not the only reason to use a Focomat. "Rock solid" is a V-35's middle name. It just about takes a bazooka to get one of these things to budge. Omega is good too, I agree, and a fine solution.

David Lee , Jul 04, 2004; 01:17 p.m.

i have a v35 and it is an excellent enlarger. i use the vc module and a close friend of mine has one with the color module, and it`s a delight to use also. tony rowlett has one also,and his comments on the full frame carrier with black border made buy one ( 300.00+). the results are incredible.go for it! p.s. there is one on e-bay right now.

bill: the one my friend has came without lens. he got it later in germany and it works like a charm, so as long as the lens is a 40mm focotar the autofocus will work.

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