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Friday, 02 February 2024


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To enlarge things?

Can’t think of one

Nostalgia. For all practical purposes, there is no reason to get an enlarger. People will go on about something special about a real black and white print, just as they did about all of the discontinued papers back in the 70's, and how all of the new stuff was just junk. Ehh, whatever. Let go of the past, embrace the present. You can't go back, it's gone.

There is no reason to get an enlarger now.

[There is one. Can you guess what it is? --Mike]

To convert it to a copystand used with a light source and digital camera to photograph/digitize the hundreds, perhaps thousands of 6X6 and 6X7 negatives stored in my basement.

Because you need one

1. Because you find amazing gear for cheap.
2. You really want to be frustrated.
3. Because Mike posted about the V35 that you've been obsessed about since...1991?
4. Because you won't be able to at some point.

To more easily use variable contrast silver gelatin paper when making contact prints from 5x7 and 11x14 negatives. I admit though that I usually scan 5x7 negatives and digitally print them. Heresy, of course.

At least three reasons:

* Used enlargers are very reasonably priced.

* An enlarger is the best way to get a beautiful print from a b&w film negative.

* You can say “would you like to see my darkroom?” With the proper inflection and maybe a raised eyebrow, you can usually get a laugh.

Ummm - because you found the brand new one that was sitting a box in your basement and want to get rid of it?

To make photos bigger than your negatives :-).

Hi Mike. Long time. Just opened a show of Paris street work tonight in Fairbanks, and good turnout even a -45ºF! Gotta love where I live. :-)

I'll answer your question with a question:

Why buy paints and brushes?

They're very inexpensive?

Because you want to set up a darkroom that requires one now.

To collect enlargers. Or to make prints at home.

the memory of days bygone

Because I only became a photographer because I love darkroom work. Now that everything is digital, photography has become so boring I don't bother anymore.

So you can remove the head and fit a camera (or phone) - then you can digitise those old prints. Cheaper than a purpose-made device…

I used to spend hours in the darkroom at work when I was single. I loved it. Whilst I do have a 35 mm enlarger in the attic I really don't have the time, energy or space to go back to darkroom printing.

Scanning and inkjet prints may not be acceptable to the purist but they're certainly good enough for me.

To print BW on silver gelatine paper. At least, that's why I recently got one (again).
Besides, it is still easy to get a good one for very little.
I see several darkrooms advertised every week in the local classifieds.
My Durst M600 with accessories was the equivalent of USD 50 including Rodenstock & El-Nikkor lenses for medium-format and 35mm. (It does help to be able to pick it up in person, as shipping is a pain with these.)
I don't have space for a permanent darkroom, but this specific model quickly packs down into the original box, the size of carry-on luggage.

For parts. You have one already but it is no longer in production and parts are hard to find.

To make analog photographic prints? I'm not sure what your point is. I bought a Beseler 23c III for $50 a few months ago with the intention of building a darkroom in the basement. Why? Because I want my kids to see how it works and experience the magic of the process. And also because there are qualities in the darkroom print that I've never been able to achieve with ink jet.

Historical artifact?

No longer being made?

Industrial art piece?

To have a fourth one in my attic?

If you want to get into traditional black and white printing, amazing gear can be had for cheap. Where I work, the darkrooms were disassembled and everything was being surplussed so we set aside an Omega 4x5 enlarger with a three lens turret, negative carriers, etc and will use it for a class this spring.

Boat anchor?

To feel the magic watching your image come up from blank photo paper in the chemistry under the safelight. You retreat from the world and watch as you do what Weston, Adams, Man Ray and so many others have done for so long.

Nothing matches watching the print emerge in the darkroom.

It is "hands on" in a way no computer will ever match.

Would it be that you have one for sale?

[Ha! No, actually I've decided to keep the enlarger I have till I die. The reason being that they are so hard to get now. At least in new condition, with all the accessories present. I may never use it again, and I hope not to saddle him with too many responsibilities following my demise, but that's one thing my son will have to either sell or throw away. --Mike]

What’s an enlarger? Is it some type of device or medication for…ah, well, you know?

Anyway, as the kids say, jk. I’m old enough to have actually used one when they were state-of-the-art for print making.

Tried a few years back to go back to analogue photography, but found it tedious. But that’s just me. I still see a lot of excellent contemporary analogue work.

Take all that junk off and you've got a perfect copy stand...


In my younger days in the 90s, I managed to acquire, not just one, but two old Kodak Precision enlargers. I used the pair as endtable lamps for my futon. Made for good conversation pieces with guests. So I know what I’d do with two of them.

Ok, I actually printed photos with the one, but then I couldn’t help myself when I stumbled across the second one at a used camera store. They sure had a look to them.

I like what Kirk Tuck has been doing, using a rig from Negative Supply to copy his negatives to digital. He reports better results than from scanning. That's on my wish list, but only after I can get a carbon inkset inkjet printer setup working, so I can make really nice black and white prints.

Probably not the answer you are looking for. I just picked up a dusty and a little rusty Omega enlarger from my local Buy Nothing group which I plan to convert to a copy stand for “scanning” negatives with a digital camera

1. If I were to acquire or start a museum - and it happened to include photography.

2. If I were the sort to make a lamp out of a once useful, techie thingie.

But wait! Neither of those things is true. And — I still have that odd little Czech enlarger in the basement.

No, thanks.

Always been surprised by your admiration of RC prints, always thought them second rate, plastic wonders not worthy of anything more than work or quick turn around commercial prints. I'm generally not the snob when it comes to most photographic materials, practices, etc (or maybe I am), but there was something about them that always turned me off...

Because I have a Besler 4x5 to sell.

Making prints from old negatives is a good way to spend time, and also retirement when the time comes.

When photography went digital, I did not jettison any of my film cameras and darkroom equipment. Like you, I still have my 50mm and 80mm Apo-Rodagons. They are now hard to get and very expensive.

It is easier with hybrid workflow and digital inkjet printing from negatives and I'm getting lazy.

However, it's only a matter of one hour, I can get my darkroom set up (at night only) and running. Turn on the air conditioning, blue tooth through the Cello or Baroque music, and I'm in the mood.

I switched to film in 2008, and for the first decade, I scanned the negatives and created inkjet prints. The prints looked good, but I had a psychological problem with them; ink on top type of thing. This irrational aversion applied only to my prints, not others’ inkjets. So about six years ago, I started making darkroom prints. It’s been a slow learning process, and setting up and breaking down often conflicts with my laziness exacerbated by my job’s life draining effect. I still scan to post online, plus the scanned photos provide a blueprint for my darkroom work. Photoshop allows greater flexibility with greater ease (should you want, you can dodge an object a couple pixels wide). And darkroom work can be frustrating, going through a number of not so cheap sheets before getting the print. And spotting, that I’ve yet to master. But the overall satisfaction with both the effort and the aesthetic results leaves me no other choice, and that’s fine.

Well, you’re actually serious. Well. The thing is I wrote a snarky comment which the better side of me decided not to submit.

Wait a minute. OK, the gist of the comment was that an enlarger, specifically the big Focomat, or the V35 would be worth buying as decorative or intriguing objects, making them conversation pieces for guests to reminisce about the semester either in high school or college they spent on a film photography course. But mostly they would brag about the sex they had in the darkrooms.

Ah yes, those film days.

I just scanned a number of my 1974 35mm negatives using an Epson flatbed scanner. (50-year old photos, to be posted on my blog.)
They all require a lot of spotting, but the good thing is, once you've done it in Photoshop, that's it. I remember using Spotone dyes to spot each and every print. And now it turns out that those dyes weren't light stable!

My partner and I have a far more modest collection of negatives – maybe around 6,000 between us, mostly from university. We’re in the process of digitising the keepers and I’m convinced the process of identifying those would be a zillion times easier if we had access to a good darkroom. Even sloppy scans take a tonne of effort versus smashing out a quick work print. That’s a *great* reason to have an enlarger.

I once had a 5X7 (inches) Elwood enlarger. 4 feet tall and 60 pounds of cast iron. It was a pleasure to give it away.

Starting in the 1970s, I worked as a professional printer. Made more money than most professionals who just shot for a living. "Graduated" to running a photo department for many years. As a professional printer, making final prints was not a drudgery of making multiple test prints, but achieving a final print in the second or third print. I still enlarge prints in my darkroom and just enjoy the time spent making them... it's not a chore or challenge but actually a pleasurable experience. Monitor calibration, printer calibration, and more replaced by experience... a much preferred method of making prints.

For many years I kept an outdated Berthold Staromat Phototypesetter with the hope of turning it into an enlarger after it was eclipsed by digital technology. German-made, with excellent optics, electronic exposures for the shutter, and bearings everywhere. With a moveable, rotatable table, and even tilted to project on a vertical wall. Purchased by my employer at the time for $7,500 back in 1973, now equal to $52,000 today. It looked ever possible that it would work as an enlarger. But a few years ago, I stumbled on a court case on the web that involved Bessler, who made enlargers in the U.S. at the time and Berthold, who was trying to import these typesetting machines. Bessler fought their import and won on the grounds that they were too similar to a photo enlarger and went afoul of some protectionist import laws. Berthold had to make enough changes to their designs that eventually made it difficult to move out of the phototypesetting market. These changes killed my thoughts on converting it, but I saved some of the components and the electronic shutter, which was ahead of its time.

If you want to do 20x24 prints and do not wish to spend several grand on a pigment printer, the necessary kit for a basic darkroom will be a lot less if you shop around.

Because I already miss the Durst L1200 on a horizontal track I gave away less than a year ago?
Thing is that they don’t make portriga rapid or anything even similar anymore, and I’m not inclined to start making 40x50 prints on silver based paper again, and I can’t get Polaroid positive negative film anymore .

Funny thing is that I can solve some of the problems I had back then with LED lights. A 500 watt lamp head needed filtered forced air cooling that was unpleasantly loud.

Might pick up some 70mm film for the KE-4 though.

Why get an enlarger?, To make silver gelatin prints in a real traditional darkroom if that's what makes you happy. I have not made silver gelatin prints for the past 20 years or so. I found that I was able to scan my negatives and make very nice inkjet prints. I was never an exceptional darkroom printer. I would judge my darkroom prints as "adequate".

Your comments about what photo art galleries expect these days, I have no idea. I did have my art photography represented in a local gallery in Kelowna, British Columbia back in 2008. I had some of my silver gelatin prints and also inkjet prints or as the gallery owner liked to call them "giclee prints". I rarely sold any silver gelatin prints although I had no trouble selling the inkjets or giclee prints.

Recently there was another photography show I took part in last year in another city north of Kelowna, Vernon. I showed some of my larger silver gelatin 16x20 landscape prints. Other photographer sold their inkjet prints with no problem. Some people have no idea what a "silver-gelatin" print is. The thing is inkjet prints with high-quality art papers are so beautiful now they can't be ignored, plus they have a longevity of 100 years or more with better quality inks.

I think the market for silver gelatin prints is very small. I have several hundred silver gelatin prints 8x10 inches in size stored in boxes that I have tried to sell on my Etsy store and I think I have sold maybe 2 prints in the last 5 years. But then my experience might be different than someone selling in a gallery in a large metropolitan city and someone who is an established artist.

Respectfully…uh…no. 😆
There are much better ways to get those negatives printed today, Mike, wet or dry. (See Mike Mundy’s (and others’) suggestion.) And galleries? Naw, that’s a separate topic thread.

No, the true answer: Because you just wanna. At our ages that’s enough of a justification!

Aside: This winter I decided to wade into a type of photography that I’ve never tried; using a view camera with movements. It’s all but obsolete but I’ve just wanted to learn it for many years. So I’m doing it as I arrive at my septuagenarian years!

I'm a much better printer digitally than I ever was in the darkroom, even for B&W, so that's the best way for me to print going forward.

So yeah, I've considered converting my enlarger into a copy stand, but the column (Omega D5XL) is kind of overkill for a copy stand.

(One could, I think, believe in good faith that darkroom printing was "inherently" enough better than pigment inkjet printing that, even if one was more skilled digitally today, it was worth committing to switching and learning the other skills. Since I don't believe that myself, I'm not tempted.)

There's that cliche about having a mid-life crisis and the guy buys a red convertible. Well, I want a 4x5 Saunders LPL enlarger. And and a really nice darkroom (with a big sink). To print my own FB prints with really nice deep blacks and crisp detail. You can't beat a FB silver print. Yes, you can easily manipulate an image with an image editor program but the final digital printed output is lacking.

As an investment.

A few year ago you could not give away a Hasselblad 500c or any of the other variants. Now my local dealer is selling them at €1000 +

I guess thre will be greater demand for enlargers as the analoghe photography continues to rise in popularity.

My LPL is in the darkroom waiting for the right price. I sold my old analoghe cameras for peanuts, thing film was dead back in 2010.

Makes perfect sense for any art photographer. Rapid development of AI will lead to the point when most art galleries will stop accepting artworks that passed through a computer at any stage of production. Only traditional paintings, graphics and optically printed film photos will be accepted.

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