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Thread: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

  1. #1

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    Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    I would like to be able to produce small-ish (up to ~8x10") darkroom prints from sheet film at home. The problem is that there is no real darkroom - just a small bathroom that I can black out temporarily. Adequate for developing film and small prints but no way to permanently set up a full-size enlarger there. As it is, I can do contacts and direct positive prints from 4x5"/9x12cm. They are neat but obviously a bit small.

    So I'm considering two possibilities. One is moving to a larger format camera for better sized contacts. I'm in a pretty decent position to do this. Most of my LF lenses cover 5x7 anyway. One or two could even be useful for 8x10. I have a Paterson Orbital daylight tray that can develop two 5x7s or one 8x10 sheet at a time. I have a big tripod that could easily carry a bigger camera.

    On the other hand, going larger would mean much higher film costs and worse, great deal of extra weight and bulk to lug around. So this is where option two comes along.
    I think I could put together an ad-hoc setup to provide a limited range of enlargement from 4x5 that could be taken apart for storage. Intrepid has a Graflarger-like enlarger attachment coming up which shows some promise. I also have the frame of an old 35mm enlarger that could probably be hacked into carrying a Graflarger+camera combo with more repeatable alignment than just a tripod with head pointing down.

    So...
    * are there any gotchas specific to small-ratio enlargement or Graflarger-type camera attachments? (I do realize the Intrepid unit is not available yet)
    * are there other ready-made solutions that would be a good fit for the problem (~2x linear enlargement from 4x5, compact, easy to dismantle or fold for storage)?
    * would contact prints have a clearly visible advantage even against this modest level of enlargement?

  2. #2

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    * The gotcha with a camera-based enlarger attachment, IMO, is arriving at and maintaining alignment between the film plane, the lens plane, and the paper plane. I say this from experience of building a horizontal setup, using my 8x10 camera, to enlarge 8x10 negatives. It's certainly not impossible to do, but does require careful work.

    * The issue you'll run into with 4x5 enlargers is that they're BIG, heavy, and not easily moved. Have you considered generating 8x10 digital negatives, and then contact printing them?

    * Do contact prints have an advantage? IMO, that's a strong YES! Many years ago, I shot the same scene using my 4x5 and 8x10 cameras, same film, same processing, etc, then enlarged the 4x5 to 8x10 and contact printed the 8x10. The differences were subtle, but I much preferred the 8x10 contact print and, from there on, used only the 8x10 for over a decade. To this day, I still revel in the look of a contact print.

    Smaller contact prints can be lovely, too. I had a photo friend that once did an entire project of 4x5 contact prints and they were exquisite!! If I had your limitations, I'd shoot scenes that fit the smaller 4x5 size and contact print. Making your prints bigger will not make them better.

  3. #3

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post

    Smaller contact prints can be lovely, too. I had a photo friend that once did an entire project of 4x5 contact prints and they were exquisite!! If I had your limitations, I'd shoot scenes that fit the smaller 4x5 size and contact print. Making your prints bigger will not make them better.
    +1

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    Hello Estonia! My daughter goes there once a year.

    Look deep into this this website for ideas. Start here.

    And this large website full of ideas.
    sin eater

  5. #5

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    Hi from just across the Sea :-)

    I have a homebrew camera-as-enlarger setup:

    https://i.imgur.com/KhixWF4.jpg

    And my print results are decent, at first i had hot spotting problems but i have since changed the lightsource for a Godox LED panel and i'm happy now.

    I use the column from my Durst 35mm enlarger and a Nikon 135mm enlarger lens to decrease needed column height.

    With the combination 8x10" prints aren't a problem and quite convenient.

    Alignment isn't so bad, spirit gauge, check for squareness of image and the result is for my purpose good enough (i can see grain on all 4 corners).

  6. #6
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    Quote Originally Posted by ottluuk View Post
    …The problem is that there is no real darkroom – just a small bathroom that I can black out temporarily. Adequate for developing film and small prints but no way to permanently set up a full-size enlarger there…
    Have you considered a "two-room" darkroom?

    You can put a 4x5 enlarger in a nearby closet (room #1). To save room here, the enlarger's baseboard can rest on the floor, if you're willing to kneel while you work.

    Once you expose the paper, put it in a light-proof box and walk to your bathroom (room #2) for development.

    With a large enough safe-box and development trays, you can print up to 11x14 or even 16x20 with clever placement of the trays.

    Better, you can say you have two darkrooms and impress your friends. ;^)

  7. #7

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    If you consider going the Graflarger or LED head route, and only have a small space, try to find a decent medium sized copy stand, as you can hold a camera and head on it and can be tweaked to make for ok alignment if your camera zeros out the stages well (a Speed Graphic works pretty well for this)... Add an enlarger lens with a lensboard, and you can align a well squared camera with a very square block on the baseboard by moving the lens down very close to it (just a tiny gap), and note how even the gap is... You have side to side rotation at the tripod screw mounting, and if front to back is off, you can loosen where the copy stand column and baseboard meet and stick some sheet wood, metal, film, paper, etc to make up the difference...

    Another thing to note is that with the Graflarger, the neg area is more like 3 1/2 X 4 1/2", so not full frame, so find out how full frame your LED head carrier is, and how much they promise the corner illumination will be...

    Steve K

  8. #8

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    When I was starting out in 9x12, (some 70 years ago), I did it with a Graflarger. It works, but not a pleasant way to practice photography, (Lab Rat makes good sense).
    Except for the weight I love the 5x7 format. I'd recommend that route.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  9. #9

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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    If you are only looking to enlarge up to 8x10 and the largest negative will be 4x5 you can get a Brownie enlarging camera Number 4. These fixed sized enlargers with take up to a 4x5 negative and will produce a 8x10 print. No dodging or burning but you can use masks if needed. I use mine when I need to get a large print out of a 4x5 negative.
    Questions and comments are always welcome

  10. #10
    Between here and there
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    Re: Setting up for modest enlargement from 4x5 vs going larger and contact printing

    Here are two ideas for enlargers:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...built-enlarger ("shelf enlarger", perhaps you can install something like this in your darkroom?)

    https://www.photrio.com/forum/thread...larger.146616/ (a simpler contraption)

    Perhaps I am overlooking something in the finer details, but a rigid box like the old Kodak Vest Pocket enlargers might be something to check out too for inspiration.

    The Intrepid enlarger Kickstarter might be of interest, too.

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