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Dichroic Dysfunction
Q. I teach high school photography. We have 17 Saunders LPL 670 MXL Dual Mode Enlargers. We have purchased these over the last six years, two or three at a time. When new, the color filters work fine, but with use they fall out of calibration. The settings will vary widely from machine to machine. Some will show strong magenta at a setting of 40, while the next will need to be cranked up to 150 for the same strength. I have taken several apart trying to reset the filter glass, but there does not seem to be any way to adjust the glass inside the enlargers. The distributor is of no help. Do you know the proper adjustment method for these machines?
Joe Baltz
Joliet Central High School, Joliet, IL

I sent your question to our darkroom expert Darryl Nicholas. Evidently your problem is rather common. Here's what he said: "I have never heard of a `calibration' technique for any dichroic enlarger...which is probably one of the many reasons that no one who ever used one was very thrilled with it's repeatability...between backlash in the gears and changes in the bulb's Kelvin temperature...dichroic enlargers are simply a paper manufacturer's that the only way to get good prints is to make tons of test prints (using lots of paper) until you finally get lucky and get a good one! I suspect that the filters are fading, resulting in a shift in their color characteristics. Normally in these machines the manufacturer uses `dichroic' filters. A dichroic filter performs its function by reflecting all unwanted light wavelengths back to the source. But, if they are not made correctly, the infrared heat from the source could cause the filter to break down or deteriorate over time. And, if the manufacturer has used `absorption' filters, the fading problem gets worse. If the manufacturer still offers them you should simply order replacement filters and install them. Sometimes the manufacturer will supply a simple little drawing showing how to replace the new filters. If not, it really isn't all that difficult. Just get a screwdriver and start disassembling the housing. If you're worried about taking it apart, use a digital camera and take pictures of each step as you go along. Alternately, you can use a home video camera and shoot short video clips of each stage. Keep the screws in paper cups to prevent them from getting lost. It is my understanding that OmegaSatter now owns and/or makes parts and accessories for the Saunders LPL enlarger. You might try contacting them concerning replacement filters: OmegaSatter, 1041 S. Carroll St., Hampstead, MD 21074; (410) 374-3250;"

Vacation Tips
Q. I am going to be taking a family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. What are some special steps I should take to protect my Nikon D80 while on the beach and at the airport? I have already made sure my camera pack will work as a carryon.
Randy McNeeley
via Internet

Digital cameras and the spare memory cards that store images are far easier to take along when flying than film cameras since the security detection equipment does not adversely affect digital items as it can do to extra film or film inside a camera. Thus, you should not have any problems with your carryon backpack. Just be sure the LCD screen on the back is well protected from accidental scratching with some soft material. You can purchase soft wraps (OP/TECH USA is one firm that offers many wraps and pouches) and soft cases (Zing is one brand and OP/TECH also has them) that will do the job. At the beach you might want to further protect the camera stored in its soft wrap by enclosing it in a plastic Zip Loc bag. When the camera is not being used this will protect it from fine sand. Have a good vacation and take lots of pictures. And don't change lenses at the beach, especially if there is any wind blowing.