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12 Top Black-And-White Enlargers: Buying Guide!
The enlarger is the heart of the darkroom, a machine that you'll be using for years to come. Fortunately, there are many outstanding models available from the mid $200 range to well over a grand. Here's a brief guide for what's available now.
By Mason Resnick
Beseler Cadet II
The Beseler CADET II is ideally suited for both beginners and experienced amateur 35mm photographers. Its compact, lightweight design, plus ease of assembly, setup and storage offers the perfect solution for the temporary or traveling darkroom. The CADET II comes equipped ready for use, complete with a 50mm Beslar lens, 35mm negative / slide carrier, a filter drawer for 3" x 3" color or variable contrast printing filters, 2-1/4" optical glass condenser, and a 14-1/4" x 11-3/4" white laminated baseboard for enlargements up to 8" x 10". The reversible column allows for floor projection and large magnifications. The column features a counter-balanced elevation control, as well as, an elevation scale for speedy print sizing.
Beseler Printmaker 35
The Printmaker 35 is a full-featured enlarger for 35mm film. It's supplied with an interchangeable Condenser housing. This enlarger's compact size makes it a particularly good choice for use in a small darkroom, and its ease of assembly and storage are appreciated attributes in a temporary or portable darkroom. The Printmaker 35 can produce beautiful prints up to 11" x 14" on the baseboard and much larger prints by reversing the column and projecting onto the floor. The focus knob can be attached for left- or right-hand use. A below-the-lens accessory holder and a calibrated column elevation scale are supplied as standard.
Beseler Printmaker 67
The American made Printmaker 67 is capable of producing excellent enlargements from 6 x 7cm, 6 x 6cm, 6 x 4Â½cm or 35mm film. Its compact size makes it a perfect compliment to small darkrooms, temporary darkrooms or portable darkrooms. It can print up to 11" x 14" on the baseboard or much larger by reversing the column and projecting onto the floor. A column calibrated elevation scale, focus knob for left or right hand focusing and below-the-lens accessory holder are included in the package. Also available with included 50mm lens for $509.95.
Beseler Printmaker 67 VC
$521.95-$682.95, depending on lens configuration
The Printmaker 67VC is a full-featured variable-contrast diffusion enlarger that can produce excellent prints from 35mm through 6 x 7cm negatives. This enlarger is supplied with a state-of-the-art interchangeable 67VC-W lightsource with continuously variable dial-in contrast grades -0 to +5 and bright, white light focusing. The lightsource utilizes blue and green dichroic filters in an additive filtration system for better exposure of variable contrast papers. Its computer designed exposure control device automatically maintains a constant printing speed throughout the entire contrast range, eliminating the need to recalculate the exposure when changing the contrast. Its uniquely integrated diffusion chamber eliminates heat related problems at the film stage and it has an internally controlled power source that requires no external power regulation. (No voltage stabilizer required.)
The 67VC's compact size makes it a particularly good choice for use in a small darkroom, and its ease of assembly and storage are appreciated attributes in a temporary or portable darkroom. The Printmaker 67VC can produce enlargements up to 11" x 14" on the baseboard and much larger prints by reversing the column and projecting onto the floor. The focus knob can be attached for left or right hand use. The package also includes a below-the-lens accessory holder and a calibrated column. The Printmaker 67VC sets the standard as "The most V-C enlarger for the least money".
Also available in Green and Red.
Beseler Printmaker 67 Dichro Color Photo Enlarger
$706.50 ($869.50 with lens kit)
Beseler The Printmaker 67 Dichro is a full-featured enlarger that can produce excellent enlargements from any 6 x 7cm or smaller negative or transparency including 35mm. The Dichro-S colorhead that is supplied with this enlarger has dial-in continuously variable permanent, non-fading 0-200 yellow, magenta and cyan filters, that make it easy to print from color negatives or from color slides. They are also an excellent and convenient way of printing on variable-contrast B&W papers.
The colorhead also has a white light position for fast, accurate focusing. The Printmaker 67 Dichro enlarger is at home in any darkroom, but its compact size makes it a particularly good choice for use in a small darkroom, and its ease of assembly and storage are much appreciated attributes for a temporary or portable darkroom. The Printmaker 67 Dichro can produce prints up to 11" x 14" on the baseboard and much bigger enlargements by reversing the column and projecting onto the floor. The focus knob can be attached for left or right hand use. A below-the-lens accessory holder and a built-in calibrated column elevation scale are supplied with the enlarger.
Beseler 67 XLC Condenser Black & White Photo Enlarger with Enlarging Kit
The Beseler 67XL enlarger utilizes a massively braced column to assure more than adequate support for even the largest magnification images. The included 50mm lens will project 16" x 20" images from 35mm negatives onto the extra-large baseboard. Image size adjustment is by means of a silky smooth crank operated rack and pinion elevation system with lock. The entire projection assembly swivels up to 90Â° for special effects and for huge enlargements via wall projection. Provision for right and left hand focusing is provided. A calibrated column elevation scale is built-in. 67XL enlargers are built to withstand heavy usage. They are a good choice for people who are serious about photography, and is especially suitable for schools and for industrial applications.
The C6600 Condenser Enlarger for negatives up to 21/4" square is the right choice if your preference runs to B&W. It shares all the same chassis and carriage features of the D6700 and can be upgraded at anytime with the addition of the dichroic lamphouse. Get sparkling prints by virtue of an optical design featuring glass double condensers and 75W opal enlarging lamp. A heat absorbing glass prevents "negative popping" during exposure. Print up to 12X magnification on the baseboard. The C6600 includes a red safety filter. Lens is not included.
With well over half a million Beseler 23C's having been purchased since it was first introduced in 1955, the 23C the most popular medium format enlarger currently being made. Many have been in near continuous use by schools, government agencies and businesses, and countless others have been handed down from father to son, to granddaughter, like the well-loved family possession that it has become. Very few products have proven to be as reliable as has the venerable Beseler 23C.
The high performance Condenser Lightsource utilizes Beseler's patented "Cone-of Light" variable condenser system to adjust the position of the oversized 5Â½" optical glass condensers to maximize the illumination for every format 35mm through 6x9cm, yielding exceptionally short exposure times, a cooler film stage and less negative buckling than with conventional condenser heads. The 23Clll-XL features interchangeable lightsources. The Condenser lamphouse supplied with this model is interchangeable with the Dichro Colorhead (8132-02) and with the Variable Contrast Lightsource (8134-02) The extraordinarily rigid, extra-long twin-girder construction of the 23Clll-XL helps to reduce transient vibrations, which can detract from image sharpness. The lens stage can be tilted to create special effects or for distortion correction and the projection assembly can be tilted up to 90Â°. To assure optimum performance, skilled technicians at the factory carefully align every 23C, using the most up-to-date laser technology. If it can be done with an enlarger, the 23C can probably do it with ease.
Omega/LPL D6700 Dichroic Color Photographic Enlarger
Feature for feature, dollar for dollar, the D6700 is the best value in color enlargers anywhere. Add an inexpensive camera stage and the enlarger converts to a stable copy stand. Reverse the lamphouse on the baseboard for a professional dichroic light source for custom slide and transparency duplication. The mechanical design is superb, with a precision die cast carriage, negative stage and lens stage. The D6700 is an outstanding choice for black and white as well. The dichroic filters can be dialed to B&W variable contrast filter equivalents. What's more, the diffusion-type light is much more tolerant of scratched or dusty negatives, making printing much easier; a worthwhile consideration, especially for school use.
Omega/LPL 670CXL Black & White Photographic Condenser Enlarger
Top of the line for medium format black-and-white There's one word for black and white prints made on a condenser enlarger: "snappy". And none are more crisp than those printed on a 670CXL. Except for the lamphouse, it is identical to the dichroic model (lamphouses are interchangeable and available separately). Though primarily intended for B&W, the CXL is "color-ready" by using the built-in filter drawer to hold color correction (CC) filters or interchanging the lamphouse with a dichroic unit. Priced for the hobbyist, this incredibly rugged enlarger is widely used in schools and for commercial applications.
Beseler 45MXT Enlarger Chassis & Baseboard $1,949.95 The current 45MXT is the latest in a series of 45M enlargers that Beseler has been manufacturing and continuously improving for more than half a century. The triangular truss reinforced, twin-girder frame provides a rock-steady foundation for this classic enlarging system, enabling it to produce tack-sharp prints from 35mm film larger than 16" x 20" (17.5" x 22") on the baseboard, enlargements up to 25.5" x 38.5" on an Adjus-Table and even larger images via wall projection. A neoprene light seal in the upper negative stage virtually eliminates stray light leakage in the darkroom. From the onset, the 45MXT has always been a modular system, so virtually every component and accessory that fits the current enlarger will also fit every 45M enlarger manufactured since 1953. Thus the long term retained value of every Beseler 45M enlarger is enhanced by its non-obsolescence design. The 45MXT chassis can be configured in a variety of different modes. It accommodates the high-output Condenser Light Source (#8121), the versatile 45S Dual-Dichro Colorhead (#8278) and the 8"x10" Coldlight Conversion Kit (#8350).
The high performance 45M Condenser Lightsource utilizes Beseler's patented "Cone-of Light" variable condenser system to adjust the position of the over-sized 6.5" optical glass condensers to maximize the illumination for every size film from 35mm through 4" x 5", yielding exceptionally short exposure times, a cooler film stage and less negative buckling than with conventional condenser heads. â¢ The 45S is a unique Colorhead. It can function in traditional diffusion mode forcolor or variable-contrast B&W printing and, with optional accessories, it can produce spectacular looking, higher contrast images in its unique dichroic Condenser mode. In either mode is has permanent, non-fading continuously variable dial-in dichroic filters with a Y-M-C range of 0-200.
LPL/Omega 4550XLG VCCE Variable Contrast Photographic Diffusion Enlarger
The 4550XLG's extra-long box-beam girder of deep-anodized aluminum is as strong, rigid and vibration-free as they get. Allows you to print 20x24" images on the baseboard with all film formats from 35mm to 4 x 5". Fully counterbalanced carriage for effortless magnification control, plus an extended chassis, puts the lens axis just over fourteen inches from the column, making the enlarger easy to use with a large 20 x 24" professional 4-bladed easel on the baseboard. Its light attenuator control (dichroic module only) allows you to instantly reduce light output by two f-stops, without affecting color temperature. Useful when making small prints or working with thin negatives to avoid excessively short exposure times and reciprocity problems.
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You Really Should Read This First:
How to Choose An Enlarger For Your B&W Darkroom