Beseler 45M Lens Question

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by ben_hutcherson, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. I'm finally more-or-less finishing out my 4x5 kit, and have made an arrangement to buy a Beseler 45M.

    This isn't the enlarger I WANTED, but at the same time it became available locally(the single biggest consideration), was a reasonable price, and the manual seems to indicate that it's a basically just a larger version of the 23C that I've been using for a couple of years.

    The enlarger is coming with two lenses-a 50mm Schneider that will likely get repurposed onto my Focomat V35(I don't have the 40mm lens for that enlarger, and I'll see if it's any better or more importantly to me matches the focus cam better than the El-Nikkor on it now), and an "Eldeet" 135mm f/4.5.

    I have always followed the general rule of thumb of an enlarger lens that one should pick a lens that's ABOUT a standard lens for the format. I use 50mm for 35mm, and 75mm for medium format(which admittedly seems a bit short, but works fine for 6x7). That would also translate in my mind to 150mm for 4x5.

    In reading the manual for this enlarger, it lists 6 3/8"(163mm) for 4x5, but lists 5 3/8"(~135mm) as an alternate focal length. It also goes on to state that 135mm will give up to 5x magnification(which should allow 20x24 by my math, using the typical enlarger convention of magnification ratios referring to an increase in one dimension) while 150mm gives 3.5x(I'm assuming these are max at the baseboard, and that your darkroom/wall is your limit you want to turn the head and do wall projection). I don't see a lot of 20x24 prints in my future, but at the same time in my book it's kind of pointless to spend the time and money on 4x5 when I can get a perfectly good 16x20 from 6x7.

    With all of that said, though, I also see a note about how a 5 3/8" lens can cause vignetting with 4x5 under "some conditions." Is this a serious concern, and if so can it be compensated by stopping down or other tricks?

    Even good enlarger lenses are cheap these days-I'm wondering if it's worth my while to get a 150mm Rodenstock or Schneider to go with this enlarger.
  2. Rodenstock and Schneider both made different grade lenses with different model names. For instance Rodenstock made the following in 50mm:

    Rogonar S
    Apo Rodagon N
    And for 30% larger magnification at the same head height as a 50mm
    WA Rodagon
    If you can find one and afford it:
    45mm Apo Rodagon N

    No 75mm will give you the best quality prints. They are budget low end lenses. For 67 for best results you need one of the following:

    Or the WA 60mm

    For 45 best results would be:

    135 Rodagon
    120 WA Rodagon

    If you want huge prints (30x or more) you need a lens like the Rodagon G

    Best performance from any enlarger lens will be 2 stops down from wide open. Enlarger properly aligned and the film in a glass carrier and printed at the optimal magnification range for the lens.
    If you donโ€™t do this then the lowest grade lens will probably suffice.

    Leitz used the Apo Rodagon N to replace the Foctar when it was discontinued.
    No lens, other then the lens the cam was cut for will auto focus on a mechanical focus enlarger. Even if you had, for instance, the Kaiser electronic AF enlargers you would have to reprogram it if you change lenses for a different one, even if it is the same model lens.
  3. Get a 135mm lens Ben. Even a 20"x16" print is only a 4x enlargement, and means that the lens is racked out to an EFL of about 165mm. Much longer with smaller prints, obviously. So no issue with coverage at all.

    With many enlargers, you run out of column trying to make a 20"x16" with a 150mm lens. As I found with my old Durst L1000.

    The extra image circle of a 150mm lens doesn't hurt. It just means you're working with the head a lot further up the column than necessary. (And getting neck and arm ache from stretching up with your eye to the focus-scope.)

    +1 to a Rodenstock Rodagon or Schneider Componon-S. Why stint yourself when used LF enlarger lenses go so cheaply these days? Watch out for signs of cement separation with Rodagons though. This usually shows as a silvery crescent moon shape at the perimeter of the lens in its early stages.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
  4. AJG


    When I got my first 4x5 enlarger (an Omega D2) the advice I got was to get a 150 mm lens for 4x5. I bought a 150 f/5.6 El Nikkor and have been extremely happy with prints up to 16x20, the maximum size that I have been set up for. I'm surprised you have been satisfied with a 75 for 6x7 negatives, I have always used a 105 for that format. Cropping 4x5 is something I have almost never done since I compose carefully with a view camera on a tripod. I could print 20x24 on the baseboard of my Zone VI VC XL but I never have due to the practical difficulties of processing and washing 20x24 fiber base prints, the only kind I would want to bother with if I printed that big.
    One thing to check for whatever lens you buy is that you have the correct condensers/settings for it. My Omega D2 came with a set of condensers for the 163 mm lens that was mounted on it. With a good 50 mm lens on 35 negatives that set of condensers caused extreme vignetting, so I replaced the condensers with a cold light and solved several problems at once.
  5. The Beseler 45M series uses an adjustable height setup - essentially it is focusable - so the one condenser system works for everything.
  6. Thanks folks-the enlarger is here and has been shoehorned into my tiny darkroom...I'm thinking that the 23C needs to go now, as I don't want to get rid of my Focomat but this seems to more or less duplicate it. It does seem to really just be a larger 23C, albeit with motorized height adjustment. As Bill C mentions, both this and the 23C allow you to adjust the condenser to get coverage for every format the enlarger is rated for. BTW, I did get a 35mm and 6x6 carrier with the 45(in addition to 4x5).

    In any case, I'll go shopping for a better 135mm or 150mm lens-I agree that there's no reason to mess around with sub-standard lenses.

    As for the 75mm lens-I'd forgotten that I primarily used that for 6x6. I honestly don't shoot THAT much 6x7, but had set up a board with a 110mm Kodak projection lens(in M39 screw mount).

    Also, I know that the Focomat will only AF correctly with a 40mm Focotar(at least without changing the cams) but I've found that in the 4x6-8x10 range it stays close enough that I can adjust it using the fine focus control on the enlarger. The column can also be raised and lowered if I need adjustments outside that. Even though autofocus doesn't EXACTLY work, it gets close enough that actually getting the image in focus doesn't appreciably change the size on the easel-it's saves a lot of work over the adjust height/focus/adjust height/focus dance that happens with other enlargers I've used.
  7. The nicest LF enlarger I've worked with was a DeVere. Built like a tank, but with front-of-table wheels for adjusting lamphouse height and focus. The gearing made it silky smooth to adjust. With a modicum of skill you could hold the lens still and rack the head up and down to focus, thus holding the magnification fairly constant. No stretching or reaching required.
  8. Yes, many people fall into the trap of doggedly following the old 'lens FL must => the format diagonal', but that's only if the lens is racked in to infinity focus. An enlarger lens never is. Therefore you can use a shorter FL for small enlargement ratios, and since a 20"x16" print is only a 4x mag. with a 5x4 negative, a 135mm lens does just fine.

    The conjugate focii needed mean that a 135mm lens is nearly always racked out further than 150mm from the film. Any closer and you're probably going to be projecting on the floor or a wall.
  9. Except your 4x print may not be within the lens optimization range while it may be within the normal lens range.
  10. AJG


    You may well be right--all that I know is that my prints came out well with good sharpness from corner to corner and the greater height/reduced cropping ability never bothered me.
  11. Huh?
    A 4x enlargement is a 4x enlargement, no matter what focal length is used.

    It would be a poor general-purpose enlarging lens that wasn't optimised for enlargements in the 2x to 5x region. And a 135mm enlarging lens is a normal lens. As explained above, it doesn't need to be a wide-angle type.

    A 4x enlargement with a 135mm lens requires an extension of 168.75mm, which gives us a half-angle of just under 24 degrees coverage. That's well within the designed coverage angle of any standard enlarging lens.

    LF isn't like smaller formats where you're regularly using 6, 8 or 10x or more magnifications.
  12. Straight from the horse's mouth. A screenshot from Rodenstock's own datasheet:
    The other advantage of the 135mm lens is that it uses the industry-standard 39mm Leica thread and will fit a standard lensboard. Most 150mm lenses have a custom thread that needs a special flange or board.
  13. I had both the 45M and the CB-7 and I used the EL-Nikkor 135 f/5.6. I didn't have vignetting problem although I didn't really print 4x5. I shot 4x5 sheet film in the Polaroid 150 which gave me 3.5x4.5 image area.
  14. You never get a 5"x4" image from a 5x4 camera. It's more like 3.75" x 4.75" (95mm x 120mm) needing an image circle diameter of 154mm.
  15. I've been using my Beseler 45 daily with Ilford 42" paper...for larger prints: 27 by 40 obtained by projection printing. The condenser does not quite cover the 4 x 5 negs but the ZONE VI cold light does (Schneider Kreuznach 135). I suppose if it was recessed then it would cover for the condenser. There is just a smidgen of vignetting with the condenser head, so I use a 150 for that. I certainly get better contrast, and can see the image better with the condenser. The ZONE cold light requires at least a thickness of 1/8" plexiglas to evenly distribute the light. I wish it was brighter because some of my exposures are up to 8 minutes long: condenser exposures are generally about 35 seconds stopped down to a perfect negative @ f/16. (on left, bottom one is colored with oil sticks) portrait.JPG
  16. Chris, your work is truly impressive, both for the images and for the sizes.
  17. I too, use the 4x5 Beseler with the cold light head, but the condenser head is about one-stop faster but I don't use the condenser very much. I also have a point light source head but I have never used it.
  18. Over the years, I've used Nikkor, Schneider, Rodenstock and Fuji enlarging lenses. Unless you get one that's been dropped or otherwise mistreated, it's very hard to pick out differences between the various manufacturer's top-of-the-line lenses. Although, of course, opinions will vary.

    I just bought a Fujinon EX 135mm f5.6 lens (their 6 element, 6 group, multicoated best ever enlarging lens) for $57. I think this was in the $400 range when new.

    So, as someone said up stream, there's really no reason in 2019 to use anything but the very best enlarging lenses.
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.
  19. If you are not using a glass carrier with a properly aligned enlarger and printing within the optimal f stop range and magnification range you would not see a difference.
  20. A bargain indeed!
    Fujinons are great lenses. I believe they were fitted in a lot of commercial printing machines. However, a lot of those lenses have fixed apertures, making them less than convenient to use for general enlarging or copying.

    Other lesser regarded lenses can be good too. Komuranon and Hoya enlarging lenses are very good in my experience. I used a 50mm f/3.5 Komuranon-E for many years for my personal 35mm printing. It was later replaced by a 50mm f/2.8 Componon-S, which didn't show any noticeable improvement apart from slightly brighter viewing and snappier focus.

    Komura produced a Komuranon-E and Komuranon-S series of enlarging lenses. Both are 6 element designs and look identical. Whether this was just a renaming exercise or not, I haven't been able to determine.

    Durst Neonons are other 'dark horses'. Nobody seems to know for sure who produced them. Some are marked 'Made in Germany' and some 'Made in Japan'. They seem to vary greatly in quality, and I have a 50mm f/2.8 Neonon that's pretty awful, and an 80mm f/5.6 Neonon that performs brilliantly. Probably safer to stick to the big 4 of Rodagon, Componon, Fujinon and El-Nikkor.... with some reservations over certain El-Nikkors.
    I beg to differ there Bob.
    There are some pretty awful 4 element enlarging lenses out there, and even in a cheap amateur-grade enlarger you can see that they're inferior. Some are even made by the big names. Componars and Rogonars, for example, quite readily show their made-down-to-a-price (lack of) quality. And the British made Wray Supar is only fit for a paperweight.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019

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