So I'm in the market for a new 4x5 enlarger, and I've got a wishlist of features I'd like, but not enough hands-on time with most of the less common models (i.e., not Beseler or Omega) to know what has what and functions how (if that makes sense enough). Here's what I'm after:
Rock-solid construction. Needless to say, this is important across all enlargers. I come from the printing (as in, presses) field, so the difference between sturdy and solid is pretty clear for me. Basically, I'm after something that isn't going to shake or wear itself apart, and can be assembled and disassembled without major headaches, along with the more basic requirement of resisting vibration. Beselers are nice and rigid, but they lack in the precision of their construction.
Precision. Tight, tidy focusing, well-designed and manufactured parts that fit together in clean ways. Fine adjustability and the ability to maintain adjustment are paramount. I want to be able to align it perfectly, use it for a year or two, and have it still be aligned. Beselers never seemed up to this task, not did Omega D2s.
Availability of replacement/maintenance parts. If its got something thats going to wear out or that could reasonably break, I don't want to have to spend 6 months tracking down a replacement part. Similarly, having a good following already would be nice, since whatever I acquire will probably be out of production already, or be gone by the end of the decade (I doubt I'll be able to buy a new Omega D5XL in 2020, but I'll certainly be able to get parts for one with all they've sold). Dursts have plenty out there too, if you can figure out the name of the part you're trying to buy.
Lightsource: If I get steered the Omega route, I'm eyeballing the new LED heads, probably the diffusion one. If its something else, then I'd like something that takes a bulb I can still get. I just went through the hassle of getting a bulb adapter for my Leitz V35 because it was made to take a bulb that hasn't been around for almost 30 years. Other than that, I don't really have a preference of diffusion over condenser/point-source. I don't, however, care for cold-light systems. Too hard to get repeatable results, in my experience. Durst's point-source head for the L1200 intrigues me.
Price: I figure its going to be the last large-format enlarger I'll ever own, so I'm ok with dropping some dollars on it, even if it means saving those pennies for a year or two, I'll at least know what I'm saving for. Lets try not to get into Durst-Pro-USA NOS prices, but I could be swayed to aim close.
To summarize, I'm basically after the large-format equivalent of my V35, or put another way, the enlarger equivalent of my Sinar P2. Precise, sturdy, nothing to wear out (especially now that I can use more common bulbs). I have a feeling I'm going to be hearing a lot of cheers for Omega's later models, Dursts, and the odd DeVere. I'm particularly curious about the Omega D5500, the LPL/Saunders 4550XLG, and the Zone VI (though its cold light head is somewhat worrisome).
What do you all think I'm after? What enlargers have you used that you've thought to yourself "This is a really well-designed piece of equipment"?