Looking for an enlarger

Marcus McCullough

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I'm looking for opinions as to the best enlarger for my purpose. I'm starting to put together my own darkroom and I don't know which photo enlarger would be best for me. I want an enlarger that would be good for B&W AND color prints. I'm thinking 11 X 14" is the largest prints I'll plan to make. I've only started researching enlargers and I am hoping some of you out there could help me keep from making a bad purchase. It's been several years since I created my own prints and that was only B&W with a Beseler 23C II. So, what would be a good enlarger for a beginner that would make excellent B&W and color prints and would allow me to improve my prints as my skills improve? I would be grateful and greatly appreciate any information anyone would be gracious enough to share. Thank you.
 

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It is completely your choice, but take it from one who started my photography journey in film that there is a much better work flow. Capture your images in film with B&W, color negative or slide film, develop the film yourself then scan it to digital files then do your post processing and prints digitally. You will save yourself a lot of frustration, time and money. Processing film needs care, but it is relatively straight forward and takes the same amount of time every time you process a roll (or several rolls at a time in the same film container). Making prints in the darkroom is a whole different kettle of fish and it can take hours to get one good print.

There are things that are very difficult to do in the darkroom that take almost no time at all in the lightroom. Exposure, white balance, tone curve adjustments, dodging and burning just take the move of a slider. There are things that are virtually impossible to do in the darkroom like focus stacking, sharpening, fixing minor camera shake, or fixing slightly out of focus images that only take seconds in the lightroom. Moving PP to digital gives you tools that allow for greater creativity as well as artistry.

So, IMHO take the money you are going to spend on darkroom equipment and buy a good scanner, color printer and some decent PP software. Use the hours you save to capture more images and create more beautiful prints.
 

terri

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It is completely your choice, but take it from one who started my photography journey in film that there is a much better work flow. Capture your images in film with B&W, color negative or slide film, develop the film yourself then scan it to digital files then do your post processing and prints digitally. You will save yourself a lot of frustration, time and money. Processing film needs care, but it is relatively straight forward and takes the same amount of time every time you process a roll (or several rolls at a time in the same film container). Making prints in the darkroom is a whole different kettle of fish and it can take hours to get one good print.

There are things that are very difficult to do in the darkroom that take almost no time at all in the lightroom. Exposure, white balance, tone curve adjustments, dodging and burning just take the move of a slider. There are things that are virtually impossible to do in the darkroom like focus stacking, sharpening, fixing minor camera shake, or fixing slightly out of focus images that only take seconds in the lightroom. Moving PP to digital gives you tools that allow for greater creativity as well as artistry.

So, IMHO take the money you are going to spend on darkroom equipment and buy a good scanner, color printer and some decent PP software. Use the hours you save to capture more images and create more beautiful prints.
Frankly, this kind of response is not helpful as it doesn't address the OP's question. If he had opened his thread asking to be talked out of buying an enlarger, you might have an argument. But he seems interested in renewing his enjoyment in the darkroom, and wasn't asking whether anyone thought about that.

Darkroom work is different than sitting at a computer, yes, and calls for different skill sets as well as equipment. Respect the choices of others. ;)
 

Strodav

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It is completely your choice, but take it from one who started my photography journey in film that there is a much better work flow. Capture your images in film with B&W, color negative or slide film, develop the film yourself then scan it to digital files then do your post processing and prints digitally. You will save yourself a lot of frustration, time and money. Processing film needs care, but it is relatively straight forward and takes the same amount of time every time you process a roll (or several rolls at a time in the same film container). Making prints in the darkroom is a whole different kettle of fish and it can take hours to get one good print.

There are things that are very difficult to do in the darkroom that take almost no time at all in the lightroom. Exposure, white balance, tone curve adjustments, dodging and burning just take the move of a slider. There are things that are virtually impossible to do in the darkroom like focus stacking, sharpening, fixing minor camera shake, or fixing slightly out of focus images that only take seconds in the lightroom. Moving PP to digital gives you tools that allow for greater creativity as well as artistry.

So, IMHO take the money you are going to spend on darkroom equipment and buy a good scanner, color printer and some decent PP software. Use the hours you save to capture more images and create more beautiful prints.
Frankly, this kind of response is not helpful as it doesn't address the OP's question. If he had opened his thread asking to be talked out of buying an enlarger, you might have an argument. But he seems interested in renewing his enjoyment in the darkroom, and wasn't asking whether anyone thought about that.

Darkroom work is different than sitting at a computer, yes, and calls for different skill sets as well as equipment. Respect the choices of others. ;)

Why not let the op determine if my experience in film and digital photography going back to 1979 and my decades of experience with a major printing company that transitioned from film to digital is useful or not. If the op doesn’t find it useful, fine, but as a member of this forum, I’ve given my best advice, which I think what this forum is all about - different points of view from different experiences presented in a respectful manner.
 

terri

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Sure thing. What enlarger did you use, back in the day?

To the OP: I have an Omega D5 XL, which is no longer made. You can always have a look on ebay, but you'd really have to trust the seller and know what you're looking at. That Beseler that was linked to up there might serve you better.
 

tonyzoc

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Back in the day I has an Omega B22XL with a condenser head for B&W and a Chromega 700 color head for color. My lenses were a Fujinon 50mm f/2.8 and. Vivitar VHE 80mm f/5.6, which I believe was made by Schneider. The B22 had film holders from 110 film to 6x6cm and the XL had a longer arm for bigger enlargements. I don't know how rare they are these days, but I sold my whole darkroom for $100 20 yrs ago...including a color analyzer and color drum processor, timer, lights, trays, everything.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A6013 using Tapatalk
 

flyingPhoto

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when deciding on an enlarger....

what formats do you want to do?

if your camera shoots 6x9 cm negatives that is what your going to hunt down.

Then PARTS is what you consider. If you cant get parts easily, or have to buy a complete second unit to get a special part to repair the first one your not going to be happy.
 

Silversnapper

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Why not let the op determine if my experience in film and digital photography going back to 1979 and my decades of experience with a major printing company that transitioned from film to digital is useful or not. If the op doesn’t find it useful, fine, but as a member of this forum, I’ve given my best advice, which I think what this forum is all about - different points of view from different experiences presented in a respectful manner.
With respect you have chosen to totally ignored the op's question and proceeded to expound on your own reasons why he shouldn't even consider wet darkroom work. Your choice is your choice and I respect that so please have the decency to respect the op's choice/question and provide and answer on topic if you have one.
 

Strodav

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With respect you have chosen to totally ignored the op's question and proceeded to expound on your own reasons why he shouldn't even consider wet darkroom work. Your choice is your choice and I respect that so please have the decency to respect the op's choice/question and provide and answer on topic if you have one.
Thank you for your opinion. which I disagree with.
 

flyingPhoto

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Thank you for your opinion. which I disagree with.
There are no real good options for scanning a medium format negative. Not under 1100$ US that i can find online at the moment.

alot of the more "famous" photographs used in horenstiens black and white photography book, the little brown book of black and white photography is the common nickname for it,,,

all feature out of focus, soft focus, shake, blur, etc that the auto AI on 99% of editing programs would simply remove at the get go.

And who says the OP is trying to make a living wage as a commercial photo printer?
 

Strodav

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There are no real good options for scanning a medium format negative. Not under 1100$ US that i can find online at the moment.

alot of the more "famous" photographs used in horenstiens black and white photography book, the little brown book of black and white photography is the common nickname for it,,,

all feature out of focus, soft focus, shake, blur, etc that the auto AI on 99% of editing programs would simply remove at the get go.

And who says the OP is trying to make a living wage as a commercial photo printer?
I have an older Epson V500 photo scanner, which can scan 8x10 film and prints, and I routinely scan 35mm and 120 b&w and color negatives as well as slide film. A newer v600 is $229 on Amazon. You are right that the new V850 pro is $1200. The scanner removes the antinhalation mask on color negative film. You can adjust the tone curves during the scan. I’ve tried landscape shots with a Mamiya 645 loaded with tri-x 400 side by side with a Nikon D850. The tri-x was processed in HC110 and scanned on the V500. The scanned film looks different than the D850 image, not better or worse, just different. An artistic difference. If you want to display your darkroom prints on social media, you’ll have to scan them anyway.

if you want to publish a printed book of photographs today, the first thing the Printer does is scan in your film or prints (your choice), adjusts them digitally for the print process and paper, then builds your pages digitally with something like Adobe Illustrator. If it’s a smaller run, it will probably be printed on a digital press. If it’s printed with the offset process, the plates will be burned digitally.
 

ac12

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First of all, are you in the US or Europe.
The reason is Beseler and Omega are relatively easy to find here.
In Europe, those brands would be hard to find, but other brand easy.

I am going to guess you are in the US, since you used a 23C

Next, what is the LARGEST film format you think you will print.
Because if you get a 6x6 enlarger, then get a 6x7 camera, you can't print the full 6x7 frame.
But guessing the future is not easy. You could change your mine in a couple of years, and have to get another enlarger.
Or you could go with insurance, and get a 4x5 inch enlarger which will handle anything up to 4x5 inch. But the cost is bulk, size, and weight.

In the US, I would stay with Beseler or Omega.

11x14 on the baseboard may require a XL column. You need to check the specs on the various enlargers.
Omega enlarger usually has an XL version with a longer column.

Do you have the sink SPACE to process an 11x14 print?

If you want to do color, you want a dichroic head.
You need to make sure you have ALL the parts. Many/most dichroic heads have a separate power unit that is sometimes separated and lost, after the owner has passed away. Also the electronics on some of the old ones are "old" and may not be reliable.
For simplicity (KISS), I went with a condenser B&W head for my enlargers.
Without Cibachrome anymore, I have no reason to print color.

Hmmm. Wasted effort. The OP hasn't been on the forum since posting the thread in March. Another post and disappear.
 

TmRm

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I can give you my suggestions based on 50+ years of (very) amateur darkroom work.
First, WOW, you want to make your own - pick your adjective: traditional, wet, real - prints. Welcome back!
Second, whatever you plan to do, go up one size. If you only intend to print from 35mm get an enlarger that will handle medium format. If you're shooting 6x9, go for 4x5. If you think you'll print 11x14, make sure you can do 16x20.
Third, invest in a quality lens, or several if you print multiple formats.
I went through several Beselers before ending up with a Saunders/LPL 4500II (I think they're called Omega now) about 20 years ago - it's a joy to use. Let us know what you get.
 

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