Enlarger for a Novice-Intermediate Photographer's Bathroom Darkroom


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Nov 11, 2021
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Hey all,

I am not into photography AT ALL - most I've ever done is take very casual pics on my iPhone.

My wife is really into film photography (mostly black and white, but dabbles in color here and there) and has been wanting a dark room at home for quite some time.

We just moved into a new home with a spare bathroom that doesn't get much use, so I am trying to build her a darkroom-on-a-cart type deal like the one in this video for her birthday (). Completely lacking any photography knowledge (film or otherwise), I am clueless as to what type of enlarger to get. All of her past prints fit well within a 17" (diagonal) frame...

Any suggestions for an enlarger would be greatly appreciated - would like to keep budget below $500 if possible.

Thanks in advance!
I'd look for a used Beseler 23C, 50mm Nikkor or Rodenstock lens and a Gralab 450 digital timer.
I'd look for a used Beseler 23C, 50mm Nikkor or Rodenstock lens and a Gralab 450 digital timer.
Exactly what I was going to say. I tried to get by with less, but this is what you, (she), will be happy with. Get some color processing drums and motor base too. They can also do B&W prints and take up way less room on the counter than 3 or 4 16x20 trays.
First, make sure that she is going to do B&W ONLY.
Color printing is a whole complex ball of wax, with different darkroom requirements.

Then look for a book on B&W printing, to educate yourself on what stuff she will need.
Discuss this with your wife, as she may have her own ideas. This is NOT something to surprise her with.

I presume you live in the US. So enlarger choices would be Beseler or Omega.
I have a Durst, but spare parts in the US is MUCH harder and expensive than in Europe. Besides Durst is long out of the enlarger business, so the used market is the only source for spare parts.

What is the BIGGEST film format that she will likely print. You need her input here.
The reason is, if you get her a B22 like in the video, you max out at 6x6 cm film. If she then gets a 6x7cm camera, you have to get another enlarger that will cover that film format.
But bigger is not always better. A 4x5 inch enlarger is BIG and HEAVY. I doubt the cart that is in the video could reliably support one. A heavy duty cart will easily be more than $100.

The enlarger lens is dependent on what size film she shoots.
Example: 35mm film = 50mm lens, 6x6 film = 80mm lens.
Today you can get GOOD used lenses at reasonable prices, so I would not go for the cheap lenses.

One enlarger type that I would recommend is the Variable Contrast B&W enlarger.
You would turn a dial to dial in the contrast you want, rather than deal with filters, as I have to. MUCH easier to use.
But they are harder to find used, and thus are more expensive, and would bust your budget.

I second Rick's recommendation for a color drum to process the prints. Get an 8x10 and 11x14 drums.
If she hasn't used a drum, it will take her a bit to get used to using one.

The video did not mention a print washer.
Those are more clumsy to deal with. But at that point, the paper is not light sensitive, so you can wash the prints in the kitchen or laundry room, where you have more space.

Make sure the bathroom has a decent exhaust fan, and that you can make the room LIGHT TIGHT, but still have a source for incoming air. Without incoming air, the exhaust fan isn't going to suck out much.
I recommend painting the bathroom WHITE, so that the darkroom is easier and more pleasant to use.
Then put a flat black board behind/around the enlarger, to control stray light from the enlarger.

gud luk
You bring back some memories of when I used to develop some of my own stuff. It was rare for me to do enlargements but I routinely developed my one negatives and made contact sheets for evaluation. Usually someone with more experience made the prints but I did make a few. Good luck on your endeavor and let us know how it turns out.

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