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Sunday, 10 November 2019


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I'm very patiently waiting and hoping for a new enlarger and various bits-n-bobs (but no lens) to arrive, via a Kickstart project. It can be used for 35mm; 120; and 4x5. Oh, and it can also be used as a 4x5 camera. But the main thing I want to use some of those bits-n-bobs for is, the light source and frames for digitising 35mm and 120 films, in conjunction with a digital camera (DSLR - remember those?) and macro lens. I've had enough of scanning and colossal TIFF files, and the whole lot was relatively cheap, with the possibility of playing about with enlarging/printing and lightweight and 'inexpensive' (cheap) entry to large format photography, someday.


Wow! I have a lightly used 670D (dichroic) and a 50 f4 El-Nikkor in the back of a wardrobe, that I've thought worth nothing, but cannot bring myself to throw out.

I'll now make an effort to find it a home, although there'll be a pretty small audience here in NZ.



I bought my Beseler 45MX from Fred Picker in 1979 that included an Aristo coldlight head. I replaced that head with an Aristo CL4500 (requires VC gels) for VC printing around 1990. Timer, enlarging lenses, neg carriers, etc all purchased long, long ago. The only piece I had trouble obtaining fairly recently was a 6x4.5 neg carrier. Everything still functioning perfectly to this day. Matter of fact, I just used it several days ago. I love B&W silver gelatin prints and find working in the darkroom to be very relaxing.

It was probably 10 to 15 years ago that I went on an eBay enlarging lens buying spree. My intent was to try out various enlarging lenses and keep the one(s) I liked best. Alas, I never did any testing of them, and used a few casually only.

But, one of those was an APO Rodagon 50mm. There was just something magical about that lens, even just looking at the image on the baseboard. At the time I wished my abilities were better matched to that lens. Sadly, shortly after getting the lens was the end of my darkroom work - I still have the enlarger and lens, but I may be fooling myself at this point thinking I will set up another darkroom.

I'm (kinda) glad I got to partake in "the darkroom experience-" even if the "fun" quickly dissipated...

In the end, I had a Mint Cond Omega C760 I had to literally give away with the rest of my darkroom inventory. What really hurt was giving up the Time-O-Lite Master- loved that toggle switch!

I must admit that after I gave away my 4x5 enlarger, I doubt I'll ever want one again. I do find myself tempted by film (I really miss 6x6 rangefinders :) ) but if I do it, I'll do the hybrid route because good scanners (Say a Nikon Coolscan III or IV) are cheap enough on E-Prey these days.

I am glad I still have my (mothballed) enlarger in my darkroom, which has of course become a junk room. I intend to clear it out so that my grandchildren can have a go. They are unlikely to see the magic of the image appearing in the dev tray ever again. The enlarger is a Meopta Opemus 5a with Meochrom colour head. Built like a tank and easy to maintain. One of these would be a good secondhand buy. For 35mm I used a Minolta 50mm CLE and for 6x6 I have a 75mm Schneider (can't remember what the model is).

Could there be anything more quixotic than buying a NEW enlarger in this time period? I'm about to find out. I sure hope you're right.

Here's something of interest for Darkroom Dawgs. Heiland Electronic has a LED cold light source for many enlargers, including Kaiser and Omega. Replace the current light source of your enlarger with a long-term stable modern LED panel light. Individual adaptation is supplied by Heiland electronic.
Using LEDs with the primary colors red, green, and blue allows controlling white light for focusing, as well as controlling any color separately.
. https://heilandelectronic.de/led_kaltlicht/lang:en

I'm not a Dawg, so I prefer Platinum/Palladium prints. Bostick and Sullivan Na2 Platinum/Palladium Kit For Digital Negatives. I'd like to make some 12x16 Platinum/Palladium prints from iPhone files.


Let me tell you, get the one with the Apo-Rodagon. It is worth every penny. I got mine for a song when a pro lab went out of business, but those days are over (lost it in a divorce. The decree specified that I got all photo equipment, but she categorized darkroom as something else, and by then it was almost done and I was sick of her BS.) It is a magnificent lens, although the El-Nikkors I had were good too.

My jaw dropped when I read what an LPL 7700 will cost you new.

I bought one more than 30 years ago in London with a condenser head and a colour head. I went to the photo shop to buy the more popular Durst that everybody bought, but the salesman convinced me the LPL was better value. It is built like a tank.

It was a good buy and served me well, even when I did theatrical photography professionally for a few years. It now sits unused the attic room I had built as a darkroom.

Enlargers seem to be worthless here in Italy right now, just like those super Kindermann stainless steel reels and developing tanks that cost me a fortune.

But I wonder if we might see a return to analogue photography and wet printing, just like the Vinyl LP seems to have returned from the technological graveyard.

In the early 60s when I started doing 35mm darkroom work, I bought a used Leitz VALOY II enlarger with Leitz Focotar lens for about $200. I used it for 30+ years, until I quit B&W processing and sold it for maybe twice that. I also used it as a copy stand with the head removed and adapted the Leitz lens to my Nikons. The lens was great for copying.
Just looked on eBay and I can buy one back for the same $200! What a bargain.

I've had my eye on the Kaiser enlarger for a long time... But I kind of wanted the multigrade B&W one. I've obviously not pulled the trigger yet.

I guess the young lady to whom I gave my LPL got a pretty good deal.

Mike, Another related issue that I hope you might take up is the dearth of film processing labs. Even in NYC where I live it's now difficult to find a good lab that will develop and scan film well and affordably. I've tried mailing my film to labs, but that adds many days and additional costs to the process. Perhaps TOP readers can come together to identify and support the good surviving labs. Perhaps, too, TOP can develop relationships with these labs and earn some extra revenue when TOP readers patronize them. Just a thought. - Yiorgos

Mike, you may recall: for photographers years ago who did not want to buy a full enlarger, a few companies made accessory devices to convert their cameras into enlargers. Rollei made such a device, but I think it projected via the top viewing lens of their TLR cameras (probably clumsy and not too effective). Linhof had a stand and light source to convert their Technica camera into an enlarger. I would not be surprised if Graflex made a similar conversion enlarger.

To add a few enlarger companies that are still around, even though not necessarily readily available in the US, for 35mm to 120 the German company Dunco still offers enlargers ( sorry, the web site is only in German), as well as parts for their models: https://www.dunco.de/apparatebau/produkte/vergroesserungen/
Also in Germany, Kienzle makes enlargers for up to 12x15” negatives, as well as parts and heads for certain Leitz/Leica and Durst enlargers: http://www.kienzle-phototechnik.de/home_english/home_english.html
Heiland LED heads, mentioned above, can be had for both Dunco as retrofit and for Kienzle.
I have three enlargers set up in my darkroom, a Zone VI v. 2 with LED head, a Dunco 67 with retrofitted LED head and a Beseler 45MXT with Zone VI cold light head.

I had a full darkroom in my basement up until 2002: dry side with an Omega D5 XL for enlarging 4x5, huge drymount press, etc.; and wet side with a proper sink, archival washer, drying rack. By 2002 it had turned into a storage closet. Every time I went into it (to dump more junk) it made me sad. So I took it apart and converted the space.

It would have broken my heart to throw all that stuff in the garbage, but I couldn't sell it (except for the 75lb drymount press which I actually mailed to someone!) Thankfully, I found a kid who said he'd take it all for his university camera club. He probably sold it for beer money, which would have been fine too.

Fast forward to 2019 and I'm using enlarger lenses again, but this time as taking lenses on a digital camera. Yes, some enlarger lenses make outstanding lenses on a digital tilt-shift camera. So if you're looking for a good quality enlarger lens and you were outbid in an auction, you may well have lost it to someone giving it a new life on a camera.

I too have begun to (re)build a darkroom after many years away. Maybe the best part of this process has been the darkroom porn aspect. I've spent an unhealthy amount of time on Ebay, Craig's List and (best of all) Glennview.com ogling all the Dursts and Focomats I could never afford as a young man.

Probably the best place for any lab rat to get a cheap thrill is here http://www.richardnicholson.com/projects/last-one-out/

What's great about darkroom work now, is that it's entirely optional. Being able to worth through digitized contact sheets(with searchable metadata!) to help refine your print list is a godsend, and while negative scanners are thinner on the ground than enlargers, there's a lot of options using digital cameras for capture out there.Cheaper that neg scanners, to boot.

But you never HAVE to print just to see your work - takes the pressure and the immediacy out of the picture.

Accurate Photo Shop on 5th Ave in the South Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn has a great reputation for developing and scanning. Brooklyn is crawling with photo labs these days.
Also check out Gowanus Darkroom. It's sort of a co-op / darkroom rental / custom lab mashup

I gave away my Durst L1200 years ago, but still have an army Speed Graphic kit in the Halliburton case, all in olive drab with an Aristo cold light attachment that turns it into an enlarger. Just in case.
For some reason on impulse I bought a bunch of 4x5 and 8x10 film developing racks a few months ago. I have no idea why.

I always wanted one of these, with modern digital technology you could make a modern version using a lcd screen as a light source.

Here Is a picture of that analogue electronic HDR enlarger

I just picked up a Rolleiflex 3.5F and if I had anywhere in my house to install a darkroom I would have been all over that eBay auction. BTW: enjoying the recent film-related posts. There is knowledge here that you can't find in too many places.

I forgot to mention that in my other post, for the ultimate lab rat, Heiland now makes a 20x24" enlarger: https://www.heilandelectronic.de/enlarger/lang:en

A video of the setup process is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s5WACD-K8Y&feature=youtu.be

I still have an operational B&W Darkroom, although is now seldom used since I acquired an Epson P800 printer which can produce excellent B&W prints, much to my astonishment. However, I've discovered I can greatly reduce my darkroom time by first scanning my B&W negatives and making various "What If" prints with various cropping, etc. using PS. After I've made my best digital proof, I then make a final darkroom enlargement, thus saving the time and expense of several trial darkroom prints.

When I started my newspaper career in 1976 I worked in various darkrooms. I also pursued my own personal work shooting large format 4 x 5 and 8 x 10 film on my time off. I used the darkroom at the paper for a while but really needed my own space. At one point I a darkroom stuffed into my 600 square foot apartment. Then I moved into a house and converted one of the spare bedrooms into a darkroom. I did that until 2004 or so when I went to a hybrid film/scan system. I found that I could pull detail from the shadows and highlights that I could not achieve making darkroom prints at least for me it was better.

By 2005 my darkroom was downsized, most it was sold although I kept most of my film developing equipment, some trays, and my drymount press. Professionally I was glad to leave behind the darkroom, especially processing C-41 colour film. For my personal photographic artwork, I mostly enjoyed it but I found it a bit tedious after trying to get just one print to look good from a difficult negative after going through up to a dozen sheets of print paper.

I have always wanted to try Platinum/Palladium prints, but I don't need a huge space or even an enlarger for that.

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