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Hi, I hope someone can help.

I have been using an SL and M10P for a while now but have always had a desire to do B&W prints in the darkroom and so I recently bought an M6 and the film processing gear and I am now looking to make the next step and buy an enlarger and the printing gear. I have no intention of ever doing colour as my passion is B&W and have started to look at enlargers on eBay but have no idea what to buy. I don't want to buy anything cheap and have to upgrade later. Rather buy something quality which will last I am not going to outgrow.

There is a vast range on eBay from loads of manufacturers - I would be grateful if someone could point me in the right direction as to which manufacturers and models of enlargers and lenses would be good. Being a Leica man, I have been looking at focomat V3's but really don't know anything and am a complete novice in terms of Darkroom.

Thanks

Graeme

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For fifty years my favorite enlargers for 35mm and medium format have been Leitz with Schneider and Rodenstock lenses. I use a Valoy for 35mm and Focomat IIa or IIc for medium format.

Edited by pico

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I spent too long in darkrooms and they hold less attraction for me that they did and so I have not set one up again despite attempts and sometimes thinking it would be great to produce some 'proper' prints again:D. To set one up requires some consideration and researching of what is available in terms of paper - and how much time and effort you want to put into it.

My thought would be to go for a V35 a with multigrade head, but if you do so you need to buy it with its lens as a package - don't buy one without a lens as getting a lens after will probably be an expensive solution. The V35 should be a good system which is suitable to start on but still effective later on. Earlier enlargers are beautifully built, but can take time to sort out and get all the bits for especially if you want to use multigrade paper. Just my thoughts.

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I used an Omega B22XL for 50 years. Back when new they were used by a lot of newspapers and such as real workhorses. These were condenser enlargers for 35 mm & 6x6 negatives, without autofocus and good for B&W. The XL version has a tall column that can easily do 16x20 prints.

After I retired and set up a darkroom again I found a Focomat V35 with both heads (might try color again), and was also given a Focomat 1b. I like the simplicity of the older Focomats. Many of the V35s around used have broken plastic parts.

Having tried these again, I return to the Omega most of the time, as the condenser design gives a bit more punch to the prints, and makes grain focusing easier.

 

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I have a Focomat 1C for 35mm.   Despite what others might say I have found the normal 50mm Focotar lens to be really good, both as an enlarger lens and as a copying lens. I also have a Valoy 11 but this is kept set up as a copy stand, but others use it as an excellent enlarger.  If you buy a Leitz enlarger get the latest one you can find as some of the earlier ones (with a round, rather than elongated, lamp house) use short bulbs which are tricky to find these days.

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For those who wish to make great enlargements from 35, may I add that my particular Valoy has an extended center column, an extra-large baseboard and an interesting cooling bonnet/vent to permit the use of high wattage bulbs. If you plan top print large I highly recommend the same version.

Perhaps choosing an enlarger lens for high magnification deserves a separate topic. There are significant differences.

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Thanks for the help.

I have now found a Focomat V35 for sale nearby. It looks in very good condition with the 40mm lens and has a colour head with holders for the filters.

Sorry, but I am a complete beginner - I will only be using this for B&W printing. Will this be okay to use the colour head?

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17 minutes ago, fielden said:

Thanks for the help.

I have now found a Focomat V35 for sale nearby. It looks in very good condition with the 40mm lens and has a colour head with holders for the filters.

Sorry, but I am a complete beginner - I will only be using this for B&W printing. Will this be okay to use the colour head?

For black&white it will be just fine. If you use multi-grade papers (and you should) look for the colour head settings for your chosen contrast or just use plain white light with supplemental filters placed below the lens. I use Ilford filters below the lens.

 

Edited by pico

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Proper bulbs for the V35 are out of production. I tried the supposed replacement, and it is dimmer. I did find a couple of old bulbs by Internet search.

There is also an LED replacement head by Heiland, and a special SplitGrade version that is excellent - if expensive. But it solves the bulb problem.

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I think you will do fine with a V35 with a 40mm focotar. Highly regarded machine. As noted above, replacement bulbs are not available at the local pharmacy.

I believe that the colour head can be satisfactorily used to emulate multigrade filters (you need to look up the equivalencies), but I understand that it may not be possible to achieve the equivalent of the grade 5 filter.

I have owned and happily used a focomat 1c since the last ice age (no blub problems) – I use Ilford filters under the lens, and most often a split grade approach. Youtube has some interesting videos on split grade printing (see Darkroom Dave).

Edited by Michael Hiles

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I bought a “13139” bulb from the same site a few years ago, and it fits and works, but is not as bright as the Phillips original. Note in the description it states that it is not a match to the Phillips, but “some people do use this lamp instead”

I eventually found a couple of the Phillips, and it made quite a difference.

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If you think you’ll ever print medium or large format in addition to 35mm, a bigger format enlarger can work for both.  Some prefer them even for 35mm, for rugged build, additional features including multiple light sources or motorized head, and even for the convenience of enlarged proof sheets of 35mm negs (nine at a time, for example).  Neg carriers for 35mm are common.

I started with a Beseler 45MXT wth cold light head... built like a tank... later moving to a Zone VI, which served well in several darkrooms.  I did finally pick up a mint Focomat V35 for my last darkroom, mostly to see what the fuss was about, and while it didn’t disappoint, I always preferred my bigger guys.

All that said, it’s most important for any enlarger to have a great lens, a light source that’s consistent with your print rendering style, and one that holds proper alignment.  And these days, good to check for all accessories and replacement parts for known issues.

Jeff

 

Edited by Jeff S

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4 hours ago, TomB_tx said:

I bought a “13139” bulb from the same site a few years ago, and it fits and works, but is not as bright as the Phillips original. Note in the description it states that it is not a match to the Phillips, but “some people do use this lamp instead”

I eventually found a couple of the Phillips, and it made quite a difference.

I assume the difference is only that your print times were shorter with the Philips bulb?  I have some of the replacement bulbs and they seem pretty bright, but I don't have an original Philips bulb with which to compare.

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5 hours ago, Michael Hiles said:

I believe that the colour head can be satisfactorily used to emulate multigrade filters (you need to look up the equivalencies), but I understand that it may not be possible to achieve the equivalent of the grade 5 filter.

The data is given on page 3 of Ilford's technical documentation here:

https://www.ilfordphoto.com/amfile/file/download/file/1824/product/733/

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I would always go for a Focomat Ic. But learn about them before you do it. There are different versions and some make life a lot easier

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23 hours ago, fielden said:

Thanks for the help.

I have now found a Focomat V35 for sale nearby. It looks in very good condition with the 40mm lens and has a colour head with holders for the filters.

Sorry, but I am a complete beginner - I will only be using this for B&W printing. Will this be okay to use the colour head?

Not sure what you mean about the holders for filters? Have a look at this blog page, is the colour module like the one shown near the bottom of this page?

https://gmpphoto.blogspot.com/2016/12/leica-enlarger-leitz-focomat-v35.html

I'm in M40 if you want to see a B&W module on my V35.

Edit: I meant mine is a Multigrade B&W module  - they made a simple B&W - (red filter on/off) module as well.

Cheers, John

Edited by jpattison

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My last contribution: there is no real harm in controlling contrast by other than colour heads. As counter-intuitive it may seem using contrast filters in front of the enlarging lens is good. Best to affirm focus with the filter in place with a grain focus device. Signing out now. :)

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22 minutes ago, pico said:

My last contribution: there is no real harm in controlling contrast by other than colour heads. As counter-intuitive it may seem using contrast filters in front of the enlarging lens is good. Best to affirm focus with the filter in place with a grain focus device. Signing out now. :)

Agreed. I used a set of bare filters for years in the holder under the lens of my Omega B22XL, and it worked great - if perhaps less convenient (for losing loose filters).

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