New enlarger or just a better lens?
Old 08-04-2007   #1
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New enlarger or just a better lens?


I recently started using a leica rangefinder and returned to shooting B&W. I love the camera and was thrilled with the sharpness and clarity of the negs that it produced. But, the oophm that is obvious in the negatives is not really crossing over to my prints. I'm using my old Durst B30 with a NEOTAR f3.5 lens and I'm guessing that the final piece of glass is letting the whole team down!

So, now I'm wondering whether to upgrade to a better enlarger or whether a new enlarger lens on the Durst is likely to do the trick? I would love to get my hands on a Focomat, but they are hard to come by in this part of the world (ie Ireland). What other types should I consider for good quality 35mm work?

Thanks in advance for any advice...
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Old 08-04-2007   #2
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I would be tempted to try a different lens, maybe Nikon or Minolta-Rokkor. If you have difficulty in Ireland, postage from UK won't be as scary as for a Focomat if you pick up a bargain on flea-bay.
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Old 08-04-2007   #3
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get both! prices are low
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Old 08-04-2007   #4
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Shall we resume? Buy an EL-Nikkor or the Rodenstock or Schneider equivalent. If you get really lucky you might find a Focotar at a decent price. Ignore the fact that the Focotar has a modest maximum aperture, like most Leitz lenses they're designed to work well wide open. EL-Nikkors work best at two stops down from wide open in my tests. The enlarger is fine if it's straight and sturdy. I have three EL-Nikkors, 50, 63 and 80mm. They're great and cost about 60 for the lot, highly recommended!
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Old 08-04-2007   #5
John Noble
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I use a Durst F-30 (predecessor to your B-30?) with a 50mm f/2.8 EL-Nikkor, and I'm pretty confident that any defects in my prints are evidence of my poor technique, not my enlarger or lens. I stop down to f/8 most of the time, and use a very stable ceramic base for the enlarger (OK, it's a toilet). I have problems getting the tonality I want, but no problems with sharpness.

I bought my lens for $79 used (boxed, near mint) from B&H. You could do a lot better if you look around.
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Old 08-05-2007   #6
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Some of the Leica screw lenses can also be used in enlarging.
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Old 08-05-2007   #7
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Thanks for all the advice!
An el-nikkor sounds like the way to go. After that, I'll have to keep one eye out for that focomat...
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Old 08-05-2007   #8
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Get a modern El-Nikkor, not the really nice old El-Nikkors in the metal barrel. The modern EL-Nikkors are coated. That makes a big difference in printing.

BTW, I would not worry about getting a Focomat enlarger. Enlargers are simple machines and there are plenty of better models from other manufacturers.
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Old 08-05-2007   #9
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Assuming your enlarger is complete and properly aligned, a good lens is a
cost-effective upgrade. Fuji, Minolta, Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider all
made excellent enlarging lenses. Check for something suitable.

Enlargers are costly to ship. Camera shops here can't give used ones away.
If you find a good deal locally make sure it's complete, has a good bellows,
and is a model for which accessories (e.g. negative carriers) are available.

Good luck!
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