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Thread: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

  1. #1

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    Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    OK, so I stepped out the last darkroom of my life in 1985. Marriage, kids, graphics, music career, whatever and so on and then back to digital photography in 2016 and then film again in 2018 and then large format for the first time.
    But all of it hybrid, that is, scanning all my negs and then printing. I'm pretty happy with that. Got a nice Epson 7880 that give me nice enough and large enough prints.

    But then again, wouldn't it be nice to to try some darkroom prints too. Isn't there some sort of special magic to that?
    Well, I'm probably better at Photoshop, and life is too short to get it right, but it would be nice to try too.

    And then I found this enlarger at a Swedish auctions site, A Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head, three lenses, light boxes for 4x5 and 6x6 and more...
    And I haven't got a clues of what is good and usable.

    https://www.tradera.com/item/1406/53...-durst-vls-501

    If I'll get an enlarger it has to close to usable, don't have the time and energy to renovate too much.
    Would it be usable as it is for 4x6 and 120 and 135?
    It's a pickup so there is a 700km drive to bring it home.

    I know this is off any tangent but insights, thoughts or refections would be much appreciated.

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    These enlargers can be tricky/difficult to service, and parts seem to not be available anymore...

    If it was close and cheap, you could test it beforehand, but I have serviced heavily used units, and critical parts were damaged by just use...

    I would avoid it...

    Steve K

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    1,879

    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    That's a very usable enlarger and it seems to be in excellent condition as well. Moreover, this setup is not one of the 1980s-high-tech electronics contraptions that have become a maintenance nightmare by now; this one is more of a mechanical device and Durst's mechanics are generally very high quality and long-lived.

    In short, if the price is right for you, I'd consider this a very good option indeed.

  4. #4

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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    It had better be usable.....i have two of them !

    Fantastic enlargers and spares aren't too bad in Europe.

    Mike

  5. #5

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    Reykjavík, Iceland
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    If you were offered a Ferrari for a decent price would you then worry about the parts you might need in a distant future ? I have had many enlargers and none of those compares to the Durst 1200 with the VLS 501. I have had mine for almost 30 years and until now I have not had any need for spare parts.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    France
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    This is a great enlarger. VLS501 is a diffusion head.
    You can find diffuser on auction site but they are not cheap. The same for the film masks, but you can also make them in 3D printing.
    Very reliable, weak point may be the spring band if rusted (it may break and be dangerous) and nylon gears that command height and head adjustement.
    The EST500 transformer (I do not see it on the links...) is very rare. If you can, a good advice is to swap old capacitors with new ones in this transformer.

    Another advice may be to look at the bulb socket that can be a source of bad contact. It's a ceramic socket that you may find easily.

    I like very much mine (except it goes "only" up to 4X5 ;-) ) The head can be tilted to make wall projection and it is capable to correct perspective.

  7. #7
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    All 10X10 enlargers are simple machines well built

    They have 2 major parts

    The Thing itself and the Lamp

    Most 10X10 were made to mount a variety of Lamps and now we have LED

    Years ago a very active member made 12X15" enlarger out of simple off the shelf bits, if fact he used shelves

    The young are making new Things too, such as Ethan a member here
    Tin Can

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2017
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    It's a great enlarger and it looks in fabulous, well preserved condition. It's true that the transformer isn't visible in the pictures but with so much available, it's probably just an oversight.
    They don't often come up in such nice condition and if you're serious, be prepared to put in a realistic bid.

  9. #9

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    May 2019
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    Quote Originally Posted by s389 View Post
    The EST500 transformer (I do not see it on the links...) is very rare. If you can, a good advice is to swap old capacitors with new ones in this transformer.
    The text states that it comes with a TRA 500 transformer. I don't know if there is a difference of that and the EST500?

  10. #10
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
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    Re: Is a Durst Laborator 1200 with a VLS 501 head a usable enlarger?

    I believe TRA uses an iron core transformer. EST may be a regulated switching power supply.

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