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Thread: Best enlarger you have used

  1. #1

    Best enlarger you have used

    Out of all the enlargers you have used for 4x5, which is the top of the list in your opinion in terms of ease of use, features and functionality? I am new to LF photography and looking for my first enlarger to print B/W for now and RA4 in the near future.

    I have some experience using the LPL 4550 while in school but that enlarger had some light leaks around the head. I wanted to understand if there is anything that is better.

    Thanks

  2. #2

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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Your question has to be divided into two parts: the enlarger chassis, and the enlarger head, since most enlargers will take a variety of heads (light sources). For a chassis, I would put my DeVere 504 in the top tier, since I don't know if there is one definitive best. The DeVere is built like a tank, and I find the baseboard controls very convenient, other designs occasionally need extension arms or motors to avoid the need for very long arms to reach the controls for larger enlargements. I use a ZoneVI VC head along with the matching Compensating Timer which I like, but would not argue is the best. From what I have read, the German-made Heiland head and timer, which is a modern design using LEDs and comes in versions to fit most chassis, might win the "head contest," but they are also very expensive.

  3. #3
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    I agree with Peter. A De Vere 504 is an excellent chassis.
    Please stop feeding the trolls.

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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    My order of preference for reliability, ease of use, quality-build (from personal use):

    1. Durst
    2. LPL
    3. Beseler

    I have never worked with a DeVere, which has a great reputation. I have worked with a very old Omega D2 and was not enthused by spending so much time trying to align it - to be fair, it was in a school darkroom where students cranked the thing to near death.

    The light leaks on the LPL can be dealt with - my guess is that the one you used at school has been handled/abused by inexperienced hands.

  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Yes, most heads leak light, maybe that is part of the cooling system, when all heads were hot lamps. Most still are. DON'T SEAL THEM UP!

    LED heads run cool. cool enough when I was testing DIY LED heads several years ago, I found I could eliminate all light leaks with a cover and gaff tape.

    Which I need when enlarging onto negative film.

    However even Heiland heads are adapted to many types of negative carriers with various ways they are held in alignment, so they may also leak light.

    Do Helland heads need cooling air supply venting?

    IDK
    Last edited by Tin Can; 29-Feb-2020 at 06:32. Reason: Be careful venting hot heads
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    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Most photographers can adapt to whatever 4x5 enlarger they use often. Most of my 4x5 B&W enlarging was done on old Elwood and DeJur enlargers. Appropriate newer enlargers are far better for color film. Hands on experience is a better guide for the lifetime investment in an enlarger than relying on what the rest of us have found through our own experience.

  7. #7
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Quote Originally Posted by shutterboy View Post
    Out of all the enlargers you have used for 4x5, which is the top of the list in your opinion in terms of ease of use, features and functionality? I am new to LF photography and looking for my first enlarger to print B/W for now and RA4 in the near future.

    I have some experience using the LPL 4550 while in school but that enlarger had some light leaks around the head. I wanted to understand if there is anything that is better.

    Thanks
    A little overkill, but you asked for 'top of the list.'
    Here is a L1840 with Larabox 450 mixing box and 210mm lens. This is my 4x5" printing setup.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    Most photographers can adapt to whatever 4x5 enlarger they use often. Most of my 4x5 B&W enlarging was done on old Elwood and DeJur enlargers. Appropriate newer enlargers are far better for color film. Hands on experience is a better guide for the lifetime investment in an enlarger than relying on what the rest of us have found through our own experience.
    There it is!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
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  9. #9

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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    An Omega D5XL with an Ilford Multigrade 500 head.

  10. #10

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    Re: Best enlarger you have used

    Since I've only had one for 40 years and still use it regularly to this day--a Beseler 45MX--I suppose that makes it the "best" for me!

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