Ever built an enlarger?

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by JamesD, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. JamesD

    JamesD Between darkrooms

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    I'm looking to set my BW darkroom back up in the next few months, but I'm trying to avoid setting up for 135 or 120, because I know that if I do, I'll wind up with more delays until I can do 4X5 work. Everything except the enlarger is small stuff, and I try not to sweat the small stuff. Unfortunately, as I'm sure everyone who's ever worked in the dark (and many who have not) knows, LF enlargers (and enlargers in general) tend to be pretty pricey. Shipping of heavy, bulky items to Fairbanks, Alaska, is no joke, either.

    So, I've been playing with ideas, ranging from skipping 4X5 and going to 8X10 and contact prints (HA!), buying the equipment locally (virtually zero results after asking around and searching classifieds and online), or building my own. The last option seems interesting to me for a number of reasons.

    So, has anyone every built an enlarger (of any size, but particularly for 4X5)? Using components, or fabricating your own? Condenser, diffusion, pinhole, other? What about parts? Substitutions? Ideas, anyone?

    I imagine quality work will require decent components as well as precision and attention to detail, but I know both of those pretty well, so I'm sure it's doable. Just looking for any advice based on experience or other ideas. And possibly relevant: at some point, not necessarily in the near future, I fully intend to process and print in color. It's down the road, but a consideration.

    Or maybe it's just 3:30am and I need to go to bed.
     
  2. JC1220

    JC1220 TPF Noob!

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    for 4x5 I wouldnt bother with the number of enlargers on the market these days. For a few hundred dollars you can pick up a beseler45.

    You can make an enlarger from your 4x5 camera, remove the back and build a negative holder and light source behind it. I believe AA did just that, described in one of his books, The Print, IIRC.

    And, yes, skip 4x5 and go to 8x10 and contact print, but I am biased on that move :)
     
  3. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Don't do that; we'd never get to hear what's going on inside that brain of yours. ;)
     
  4. JamesD

    JamesD Between darkrooms

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    I knew you were nuts, Terri, but sheesh! :greenpbl:
     
  5. Bobby Ironsights

    Bobby Ironsights TPF Noob!

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    When it comes to a 4x5 enlarger, don't despair.

    I live in Thunder Bay, ON, Canada. I bought my enlarger from a guy who had "pickup-only" on his ad.It was simple, I said..."I'll pay practically anything to have it shipped! And I did! About 175 dollars to ship the midged coffin sized crate from detroit to the Canada/US border in northern Minnesota...

    If he wouldn't have gone for that I'd have simply called a local moving company (local to the enlarger) and gotten a pack and shipping quote from them.

    Don't skip the 4x5 and go right to 8x10 and then contact print!!!

    Contact prints are nice, in fact, contact prints are gorgeous, but 8x10 paper is really only good for 4x5 proofs and 120 snapshots.

    4x5 is the most popular format for a plethora of reasons, and because it's the most popular format, the glass, and all the accessories are much more available on the used market and commonality can make them go for much lower prices.

    Firstly, I'd get a press camera, and go shoot handheld, available light, indoors. Everybody LOVES the graphics, and ANYONE will get their picture taken by a Graphic press camera. People cross the street to see what you are doing when you walk around with a Crown Graphic! (seriously) Use cheap ISO 400 film, and push a stop or two, develop in a low contrast developer. No one will ever know it was pushed unless you enlarge past 11x14 and they too shoot large format. It kills medium format!

    I like press cameras so much I've got three! You often see Crowns demanding more than 400 bucks on ebay, but you can also get them for much less, about $200 if you are patient.

    Secondly, think about 8x10 film holders! Do you know how freakin big and clumsy they are? How about how expensive they are? 4x5 holders are bad enough, at least you can buy them for 10-12 bucks each and carry a dozen or more in a rucksack.

    I'm not sure I could AFFORD a dozen 8x10 film holders, at about $75 each much less want to carry them around WITH my 8x10 camera. I've gotten my 4x5 LENSES for about the same price a film holder costs in 8x10.

    LENSES! 4x5 lenses are numerous and much cheaper, relatively.

    4x5 used to be a joke for a lanscape photographer, I'll admit it, but with modern advances in film technology, and peoples decreasing expectations due to the digital revolution, there is no reason why you can't walk around with some EFKE ISO 25 or 50 and make very large spectacular prints while enlarging.

    Developing is cheap and easy with 4x5, I use the combi plan T daylight tanks and develop while watching T.V. naked. Each tank and holders etc, costs about 40 bucks used, and can develop 12 sheets at a time. There are only 6 slots but you just have to make sure you put them in with the emulsion facing outwards and they come out perfectly (I use divided D-76 for my developer)

    I hope to move up to a larger format than 4x5 someday! I really do! But don't skip 4x5, it's a terrible place to pass by!:(

    I'll probably get an 8x10 monorail, use it for indoor portraiture and still lifes, and outdoors use a 4x10 back for panorama's.

    But only when I've first shot a hell of alot more 4x5 and taken my printing skills to an exponentially higher level.
     
  6. doobs

    doobs TPF Noob!

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    I do believe 35mm is the most popular film format.
     
  7. JC1220

    JC1220 TPF Noob!

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    Wow, I really hope you are joking here. Please tell me you aren't making the argument that it's OK to make less quality photographs than you otherwise could with a little more effort because people are too dumb to notice? That is just plain lazy.

    Making a choice in what film format you go with, at least as an artist, has little to do with the cost, ease, popularity or trend. The choice to use a view camera is a deliberate one, and once you are there the choice to move beyond that is even more deliberate.
     
  8. Bobby Ironsights

    Bobby Ironsights TPF Noob!

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    Ok doobs, you're right, you got me, 35mm IS the most popular film format!:greenpbl:

    And JC1220, the "decreased expectations" comment was more a wry dig at the "blah"ness of digi-prints, than a real justification for a format choice.

    Really what I'm saying though, is suffering for the art is only wise if suffering genuinely results in benefit. If an oversized format is chosen to begin LF photography.....the result could be that instead of the artist suffering....the art itself suffers.

    I have to admit here, that I'm as enamored as the OP with the idea of 8x10 too Someday I want a banquet camera, and I plan to shoot it all over the damn place...but neither it, nor the 8x10 SHOULD be the primary camera for the OP.

    I should also admit that I'm biased because I'm primarily a 4x5 guy. I'm trying to get my hands on a floor model 5x7 enlarger with color head, so maybe in six months I'll be back here raving over the ultimate supremacy of 5x7 while simultaneously hawking all my 4x5 gear...who knows...but for now...I've said what I beleive to be true, as I see it today.:hug::
     

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