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Thread: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

  1. #11
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Heck no. I've seen some of the cheaper ones even shimmed for height using circular cardboard cutouts under the base, which change thickness with humidity. The Peak Critical Focus magnifier is the one to get. If you can't afford one, at least try to borrow one to check lesser models. The tilting mirror serves a valuable secondary function: you can see the corners of your projected image to verify enlarger alignment or lens performance.

  2. #12

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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    The tilting mirror serves a valuable secondary function: you can see the corners of your projected image to verify enlarger alignment or lens performance.
    I'm a MICROMEGA CRITICAL FOCUSER user myself and it's GREAT. It has a long mirror with a flip up cover because it is a front-surface mirror and easy to scratch. I believe they made two versions. The important thing is to get a magnifier with a long OR tilting mirror for the reasons mentioned. The brand name is not important -- compare the features that you need. For example, I also have a Paterson TALL (abouit 18") focuser for when I make large prints and can't put my eye on the MICROMEGA CRITICAL FOCUSER and reach the enlarger focusing ring at the same time!

  3. #13
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Two things that really helped me get better prints: A Peak / Omega grain focuser that seems to have better eye relief and overall quality, and the (recent) discovery that looking into the focuser "sideways" with the angled finder looking left/right on the baseboard enables me to look at focus at all 4 corners of the print. I don't know why, but aiming it toward me made it much harder to see into the focuser and also blacked out on the far edges. No one ever told me this and since I've never had formal printing education I guess I just didn't know, or it's a quirk of my setup/eyes. I wear glasses but I tend to focus without them on (I have very bad nearsightedness).
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  4. #14
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Peak made things under numerous private labels. My favorite Peak loupe has been also marketed under Horseman, Nikon, and Wista labels. Micromega was another private-label for certain Peak items. The also had a non-tilting version of the same grain magnifier, at about half the price. But I'd rather use a strong pair of reading glasses than a cheap grain magnifier. The Peak optical elements are very well corrected for color fringing and not just grain, which can sometimes be yet another benefit. A lesser lens might focus different wavelengths at different points. Since I have made numerous critically enlarged dupes and internets, this is a valuable feature. Another characteristic of a good magnifier is a front-surface mirror having no secondary reflection or distortion. But just be awfully careful cleaning these babies, or checking the mirror condition of a used unit.

  5. #15
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    I use the Peak for the last 20 years but I used many others in labs I worked at and I never saw a difference.

  6. #16

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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Agree with Bob in the sense that one doesn`t need a Peak to be happy... I currently work with a large mirror Peak and a Microsight. Over the table also a short Paterson and another Peak (two darkrooms). Used several others, LPL, Scoponet, Laik, tall Paterson, etc.

    In fact, I like the Paterson a lot because is extremely light and small. Very confortable. The Peak is great, no doubt on it, but heavy, delicate (as mentioned above, check for mirror cleaning marks) and somewhat clumsier to use... and I`d say with a inherent tendency to be dropped on the concrete. The blue filter is absolutely useless to me, the corner checking ability is nice but fix nothing (much better to have a good alignment device). The Microsight is also good, but most times I don`t want such magnification (25X).

    For a first buy, something like the Paterson can be had for a song and works (there are many other cheap ones that works equally good). Check and adjust if needed. Save your money for other stuff (alignment device, easel, guillotine, dry press or so, sink, more safelights, paper, chemicals... ).

  7. #17
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    for years 76-80 I did thousands of colour enlargements the focusing device was very tall with a mirror about halfway up that you could eyeball from a standing position.. made of plastic ... no complaints about sharpness.. I have not seen this unit again on the market...

  8. #18
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    [...]Another characteristic of a good magnifier is a front-surface mirror having no secondary reflection or distortion. But just be awfully careful cleaning these babies, or checking the mirror condition of a used unit.
    While Peak's focuser might be discontinued, their long mirror is still available at a very reasonable price. I replaced one just last year.

    It is a surface mirror. B&H's photo shows it flipped upside-down.

  9. #19
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    Since we are discussing grain focusers - they work by focusing on an aerial image, right? What is the generally accepted way of ensuring the grain focuser is focusing on the right point in space? This has been nagging me for a while during print sessions.
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  10. #20

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    Re: Are all grain focusing tools created equal?

    It is made to focus on an image at the same distance as the plane of the base, this is fixed by design. What IS adjustable is the eyepiece focusing, both the Patersons and the PEAK (and MICROMEGA) include adjustable eye focus for the target (crosshair or graticule line).

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