Covering The Photo Beat; Enlargers And More Page 2
This is an area where novices often go overboard, buying more lens than they need. Enlarger lenses are optimized for a specific magnification. If you seldom make prints larger than 11x14", then a good four-element design is perfect.
Six-element designs will be superior at larger magnifications, but offer no advantage with smaller prints.
· If purchasing an inexpensive "starter" enlarger for a youngster, many economical three-element lenses will deliver excellent 5x7" and 8x10" prints (and the lens may be included).
· Lenses with illuminated aperture scales are genuinely useful, and are much preferred to "illuminated lensboards" with "light pipes" that seldom put the light where you need it.
· Expensive, optically "fast" enlarging lenses (e.g., an f/2.8 50mm lens, rather than an f/3.5 or f/4 version) offer little practical advantage, other than when focusing at high magnification with a dense (overexposed) negative; in practice, you will always print at a smaller aperture, in the interest of corner sharpness.
· Choosing lens focal lengths slightly longer than "normal" for a given negative size (e.g., 65mm instead of 50mm for 35mm negs, 90mm instead of 75mm or 80mm for 6x6cm negs, etc.) will often yield prints with superior corner sharpness and less light falloff.
· When not in use, keep a lens cap on your enlarger lenses, and check the rear elements frequently for dust and debris settling down from the negative stage.
There are a few features that were much more prevalent in years past than now, particularly autofocus, power focus, and power carriage lift. One medium format Kaiser enlarger can still be had with autofocus and power focus, and a couple of large format Beselers can be had with power lift and/or power focus, but that's about it. The last 35mm autofocus enlarger, the Leica Focomat V-35, was discontinued several years ago. These features are valued mainly as production boosters in commercial film labs, and can be essential aids for wheelchair-bound darkroom workers.
You now have the knowledge necessary to make an intelligent enlarger buying decision. Even though camera magazine pages are now devoid of enlarger ads, rest assured that there is still a wide variety of makes and models available in all price ranges. Check the Manufacturers/Distributors list to determine likely sources for the type of enlarger you're looking for. If you're on a tight budget, this is a great time to contemplate buying a used enlarger, considering the large numbers presently on the market due to many hobbyists having switched to digital darkroom setups. Several long-time Shutterbug advertisers of used photo equipment can be of valuable assistance in this regard. In any event, enjoy shopping for your enlarger; as the saying goes, "anticipation is half the fun," and you'll be gaining a deep-rooted appreciation for the "magic" that only a traditional, wet darkroom experience can provide.
Reasons To Consider A Traditional "Wet" Darkroom
· Keeps you in touch with photography's roots.
· Silver-based prints have a "look" all their own.
· Provides a greater sense of "hands-on" involvement and accomplishment.
· A darkroom provides a refuge and alone time not afforded by an inkjet printer.
· Chemical processes will amaze and mystify your all-digital friends.
· "Retro" is "in."
· Being eccentric is fun.
Charles Beseler Corporation
One Ethel Ave.
Edison, NJ 08818
fax: (800) 966-4515
Calumet Photographic, Inc. (Zone VI)
900 W Bliss St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Freestyle Photographic Supplies (Holga)
5124 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90027
(800) 292-6137 (North America)
(323) 660-3460 (International)
fax: (800) 616-3686
HP Marketing Corp. (Kaiser)
16 Chapin Rd.
Pine Brook, NJ 07058
fax: (800) 282-9010
OmegaSatter (Durst, Fujimoto, LPL, Omega)
1041 S Carroll St.
Hampstead, MD 21074
fax: (410) 374-3184
TruTrak Imaging (De Vere)
101 Enterprise Dr.
Hurlock, MD 21643
fax: (410) 943-1200