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Sunday, 05 September 2010

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Hi Mike. A 7700 VCCE was the second enlarger I collected at the local flea market, for a price that reflected the fact that the seller was keen to clear out their old "junk". I think the enlarger was the last remains of a teenager's brief flirtation with darkroom photography before the digital wave swept them away, and the parent had long ago written-off the investment. Mine was in similar state with spiders installed, and I had a fun afternoon pulling it apart, cleaning it and discovering how it worked. That exercise stood me in good stead when I later acquired a Durst Laborator 1200, with CLS450 colour head, which also needed a good cleanup after years of neglect. You'd like the Durst - it is very nicely made.

I recall you wrote a short series for B&W Photography magazine about the imperfections that can creep into enlarger performance over time and how these degrade print quality. As you set up the enlarger in the new darkroom could you write about the necessary setting-up checks and what's needed to get the best performance? Cheers!

Nice enlarger Mike and thanks for the detailed, ad hoc 'review' of it's construction.

What gets me is when I got my enlarger, a like new Omega D5-XL from a guy who'd bought three of them for nothing at a hospital liquidation, I missed out on the 2 he had with the Omega cold light VCCE heads. Both came with the latest sophisticated looking timers/supplies to boot. He was selling for $100 each. I, in my infinite wisdom, chose the old fashioned condenser head enlarger and I'd just use my old clunky Kearsarge timer.

I wish I'd known better then what those other two funny looking ones were! Ouch! Not that my condenser isn't a good enlarger, I just didn't know the difference.

Mike:

A local friend is a glass artist, using dichroic glass in jewelry and art pieces. If I understand her correctly, dichroic glass essentially has the color built into it's structure - if the filters are intact they're the same color (or, more accurately, they pass the same color) as when new.

LPL was certainly smart to look at the work of Durst. I recall a college darkroom that had 12 or more different Durst enlargers, and I mean different. They have engineered at least 100 entirely different enlargers in the 50 years that really mattered. I have the 1840, quite a machine, and quite a truck. But working with it reminds me that northern Italy produced the greatest musical instuments, art and armaments (armour, swords, guns, you name it) of the second half of the second millenium.

Dear Mike,

Don't worry about the dichroics. They don't fade. If the coating gets damaged in some way or gets crud on the surface, there's a very obvious color change.

I've seen darkening in diffuser boxes. I used a Super Chromega Dichroic D for over 20 years. After about fifteen, I started seeing some unevenness in prints. Took me longer than it should have to notice and too long to track down, but it turned out to be yellowing in one of my diffusion boxes.

Just another in a long list of equipment 'gotchas'.

pax / Ctein

About 20 years ago I had the Beseler 45MXT with a Zone VI cold light head. I'm curious about your story. Please do tell.

I have a 4500-II with the VC head. I love it. I had a 670 VCCE, and could not stand it. It was the ND filter they used to equalize exposures using the lower grade filters to the times needed to expose the higher grades. It made exposures unreasonably long. My late father-in-law had the 670 with a dichroic head for color work, and it was a great enlarger. No similar problems, because it does not use the neutral density filter.

I chatted with John Sexton about this during a workshop, and after looking at my negs, he thought that things did not sound right. He gave me a contact to talk with at Saunders. Saunders was great and sent me a different sample in exchange, but it had the same problem. So, after talking about the ND filter issue, Saunders took back the 670 and sold me a refurbished 4500-II, the one I love. Its the additional horsepower (wattage) that makes the difference.

One trick to remember with the LPL enlargers: They are not always in alignment, even though they are supposed to be perfectly aligned. Try a Versalab Parallel or similar device to make sure you are in alignment. I used shims of 120 film at the base to align mine (another tip from John Sexton).

>> One trick to remember with the LPL enlargers: They are not always in alignment, even though they are supposed to be perfectly aligned. Try a Versalab Parallel or similar device to make sure you are in alignment. I used shims of 120 film at the base to align mine (another tip from John Sexton). <<

I've got shims tucked under the corners of the masking attachment. :-)

The LPL enlargers are amazing. I bought mine, the medium format version, on Ebay a couple of years ago. I didn't really need it as I had a very serviceable Omega with a dichro head, but the VCCE head seemed like an even better idea. I'm not sure how I did this, but I got it for less than $70. Including a El Nikkor 50mm f2.8 lens! Actually came out ahead when I sold the Omega with its identical lens. Well, I did have to spring for a negative carrier which I couldn't find on Ebay and which cost almost as much as the enlarger did.

I bought the smaller, medium-format Saunders/LPL 670 VCCE

I used to have one of these but some time with a Leitz Focomat convinced me that the latter was superior. Sorry!

No need to be sorry, Stephen. I'm not trying to claim some sort of status here...the LPL is a utilitarian piece, modestly priced, a sort of Toyota Camry of enlargers. I'm just more impressed with it now that I used to be, is all.

I still would love a brand new full-dress LPL 4x5 enlarger, but it has almost always been priced beyond my reach--despite the fact that I did own one for a few years in there. And it continues that way, what with the price increases of recent years.

Mike

I have an LPL 670 VCCE sitting on the workbench in my office, patiently waiting for me to set up my darkroom again. It has a glass carrier with adjustable masking, is the best enlarger I have ever owned and has produced some of the best black and white prints I have ever made. Perhaps we will once again team up to do great things.

I still use a Saunders 670 MXL dichroic enlarger that I bought years ago and I love it! In combination with my 50mm Schneider Companon-S lens and my Leica-based negatives, I get perfect prints all the time!

I remember an article I read after the Leitz Focomat was changed dramatically from the huge ol' one with a point light source to the modern one with color filters. The article said that it had styrofoam in the light mixing box, and the Leitz engineers said that they had tried everything, but the cheapest simply was the best!

I've been using a pair of Saunders LPL 670 VCCE enlargers for about 10 years. Very nice and easy to dial in just a fraction of a grade of contrast via the dials. Glass negative carrier is nice too and can print full frame with a little filing. One thing to watch out for with these enlargers is that they can leak a bit of light, mostly out of the back near the cord.

I had a LPL 4550XLG with VCCE head but sold it because I didn't have room for it when I moved and didn't care for the fan noise.

Wow, a whole new line of enlargers, essentially new since I was in the darkroom.

It was Besseler for most people and Omega for 4x5 (with a small side of Durst; my first enlarger was a Durst, an M35, but I never did like the 600 much) when I was paying attention (call it 1969-1985).

I've still got a D5 condenser enlarger in boxes, bags, and just standing around in the basement. I should find the lenses and make sure they're okay, and figure out a way to put one of them (probably the 135) onto the PB-4 bellows for macro photography.

I think my favorite was a D3 with the "autofocus" option, in the Alumni Office darkroom at college. It didn't actually autofocus, but it maintained focus as you ran the head up or down. Not perfectly, you had to fine tune, but close enough that getting the size right wasn't at least three trips around the adjustment loop any more.

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