View Full Version : Beseler Color Heads: 45S, 45A (Minolta)

neil poulsen
14-Jun-2000, 16:47
There's very little that I've seen that reviews different 4x5 color heads. Has anyone had experience with either the Beseler/Minolta 45A or the more standard 4 5S (computerized or non-computerized version)? How do they compare with each ot her, are they effective, can they be used for smaller negatives like 35mm or 2 1 /4.

The Minolta 45A is the one with the computerized, pulsed Xenon flashes. Does al l of this "sophistication" really offer an advantage.

Doug Paramore
14-Jun-2000, 20:24
Neal: If someone asked me to design the most aggrevating to use enlarger head possible, I would design the pulsed xenon head. I used one at work and despised it. We had both kinds of heads and I could compare one to the other at will. The steady-burn heads are a lot easier to use.

15-Jun-2000, 14:00
I've used a dichroic head, and since, 1989 a Minolta 45A. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Doug obviously hates them. I like my 45A head. It has a lot of nice features that I use regularly, and once calibrated, the color analyzer portion works very well. I think the colors have better separation and appear "cleaner" than with a dichroic head. I don't find the popping noise (capacitors discharging) that they make during exposure aggravating - some people do.

The head is different to use for setting the exposure, and I can see how some people would not like the method. There are 3 separate exposures (RGB) calibrated from 0-250. So you don't dial in a filter pack and then set a separate exposure on a timer for the whole pack as with a standard dichroic colorhead enlarger. As you change exposures for each individual channel, you are setting the total exposure and the color balance. It took a while to get used to using this method after changing from a dichroic head, but, now that I've gotten used to it, the method seems easy.

What I really like, is if I want to color burn in an area, I can use a single color (R,G,or B), or I can use mixtures of two or three colors at different exposures. It's not quite the same on a dichroic head, because if you add cyan, you are dialing in a neutral density. On the 45A head, as you add all three colors together you get "white."

In use, the 45A counts down from your total exposure 100% to 0%, so dodging and burning is really easy as all you have to do is watch the percentages on the controller. There is a "slow" exposure mode where the tube output is cut in half and the flash repetition rate increased. The total time counts down slower so that you have a longer time to work. Also, in this mode, at the end of each 10% decriment (100% to 90%, 90% to 80%, etc.) the head shuts off for about 1 second so that you can terminate the exposure at that point. If you don't the exposure resumes.

If you can alter your thinking on exposure and filtering, and ignore the noise (sounds like popcorn popping) - I think you can get better results with this type of head.

Brian Ellis
15-Jun-2000, 22:07
I liked the 45A a lot for doing color 35 mm work. The feature that I liked the most was the ease with which it could be used to make a ring around. I used to make a ring around for each new photograph and based on that I could usually get a good print on the first try, almost always on the second try. I liked it less when I moved to medium format. The exposure times ended up being very long and I started using up the (expensive) bulbs more quickly than I was used to. I never used the analyzer feature because it seemed unnecessary with ability to make quick ring arounds but others who used it said that it was an excellent analyzer. Although Daryll Nicholas (sp?) maintains parts and does repairs, still I'd be concerned about buying one today since production has been discontinued.

16-Jun-2000, 00:25
I'd shoot the damn thing if it was making popcorn noises. I'm getting ready to shoot the drain in my darkroom sink, which goes shhhhhhlllllllllggggggguuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggglllllllluuu uurrrrgggglllll whenever the water runs.

27-Aug-2007, 21:13
Hey, I love the 45A, I have 3, and have used it extensively (and intensively) for just over 20 years, which is how long that I have been printing my own color from negatives. Most of this work was with medium format and 4x5".
It is additive color, Red Green Blue, instead of subtractive YMC. Each color adjustable to 1/30 stop digitally, great built-in analyzer, and has a great ring-around function that allows you to set deviation from your starting point then gives you +- on each color, and +- on exposure also. This head also allows exposure by individual color for those nutty enough to do dye transfer of other processes that require this.

When I learned photoshop a few years, I was happy to see that Adobe uses the same RGB as the 45A did (does, even on the same scale.)

I freaked when I found out that the focus and exposure flash tubes were not being manufactured any more, so bought about 2 lifetimes of these. The 45a had its own technical newsletter written by Darrel Nicholas of Color BAT (bat stood by By Additive Technique).

I personally prefer using graded papers for B&W, and this head works extremely well for graded papers, but it is crazy good for variable contrast control. With graded paper it is comparable to cold-light sources which I have also.

I also owned a Beseler 45S light source (digital display unit), which sucked big time. Mine could not be calibrated.

This head should not be judged by someone who has not worked with it, as it is an entirely different animal that requires some learning. Someone who is a good technician however will find this head awesome.

If you need more info, please feel free to contact me.

al olson
28-Aug-2007, 10:05
I like my 45A for all the reasons cited above. I have two heads, one with a 4x5 mixer box and one with a 35mm mixer. The flickering does get annoying and if I were working with it all day long my opinion might change.

My concern is finding replacement xenon flash tubes. Does anyone know of a source? I checked several years ago and they were very expensive (around $50/tube IIRC) and it has 7 tubes that require replacement maintenance. I have not located any sources from my most recent searches. I am hoping that someone still has an inventory of old tubes so that I can stretch it out a few more years.