Beseler Enlarger focusing Issues

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by RyanDunn, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I have been printing on the same enlarger, an old Beseler 23cii (universal color head model) with the regular Condenser Head. I also have a newer Beseler 23cii enlarger. Until I can get a diffusion or cold head (which are the same right?) for it, I'm working with this. I have noticed since I started Lith Printing an issue I can't seem to fix - where edges of the image are slightly out of focus. When I sweep my grain focus-er across the easel (VTI-1400) or base, as I near the edges the image won't even shine through the focus-er lens, if I tilt it I can get the image to reflect through. This occurs on 2 different grain focus-ers. When I get the center of the image grain tight, as I sweep from side to side & front to back the grain softens, even when the lens is stopped down. I have tried just about everything I could think of & have read about to try & resolve this problem. The strange thing is this happens on both enlargers! I use a Negetrans negative carrier, but have also tested this on the regular carrier as welll. It did this with the old 50mm Schneider-Kreuznach Componar 4.5 lens, I wanted to upgrade so installed a 50mm Rodenstock Rodagon 2.8 lens in it's place, having to use the lens board from my other enlarger as the old lens had a 25mm(I think?) mount. Here's what I've done to try & resolve this: I installed a new baseboard to make sure the surface is level. I adjusted the lens stage alignment & made sure the Condenser assembly is level with the board. I tried adjusting the Condenser assembly (shifting it from side to side), but nothing fixed this problem. Trying all these I put the old lens on as I adjusted everything to see if the problem was fixed. The newer Rodenstock Lens is different than the old el-Nikkor hazy lens - when it is tightened down to the board, the top of the element sticks up 5mm or so above the board.
    Can anyone help me out with what is going on? I've read threads about adjusting the lens-board, but the screws holding the brackets in its place don't shift the lens board at all. Ive tried loosening one side or the other, & tightening them down don't shift it at all. Any responses would really help. I've spent the last couple weeks driving myself crazy trying to fix this! :mad: Do I need a different lens board?

    I don't know why I haven't joined this community until now, I have been gained so much knowledge over the years from everyone who is a part of this fantastic community, I can't wait to help answer questions I know the answer too.:)
  2. If you are using a 50mm enlarging lens you must be working from 35mm negatives. Unless these negatives are held in a double glass negative carrier the film will lie curved (bowed?) slightly and exact focus cannot be held simultaneously for centre and edge. A glassless negative carrier will also allow the negative to "pop" when the heat of the enlarger lamp gets to it. What was in focus is, a few seconds later, now out of focus. These effects are most obtrusive for big enlargements.

    Use a glass focussing target in the negative carrier when checking enlarger alignment or lens quality. This eliminates the confounding effects of bent or moving film.
  3. Ohh, yeah I am using 35mm. With plans to go up to MF (6x7 prob) soon. I was wondering what was going on. I figured the negetrans held the negative fairly tight. It did seem worse when I raised the head, as I'm getting ready to make some 11x14's. So to get it nice and sharp across the board (especially when exposing for several minutes) or prints larger than 8x10's, a glass negative carrier would should fix this problem? Is that what you mean with a glass focusing target? I've used a piece of glass in the carrier & level to check the alignment & to make sure it's level with the base.
  4. AJG


    Negative popping is probably the answer to your current situation, since a condenser lamp house is probably the hottest running version that your enlarger could have. I have printed for 30 years with cold lights and glassless carriers, in part to avoid negatives popping and going out of focus. Diffusion is also helpful for minimizing dust spots and I found that when I switched from a previous condenser enlarger (Omega D 2) to cold light that it was easier to get a long smooth tonal range in my prints.
  5. Thank you so much Maris & AJG, I have been wanting to switch over to a diffusion head for a while now. I've read all about the benefits in using that type of system. Considering some of my older negatives already have a curl in them. Not to mention scratches, or the cost of a single anit-newton carrier. I'll do some research on them to see what would fit my enlarger. I noticed my 6x7 carrier is very tight, but my 35mm one is spring loaded? Is that just the design of those carriers (8053). Perhaps I'll look into a new system that already has a cold head. If I stuck with my Beselers, seeing I have 2, are there a good selection of aftermarket cold diffusion heads that would fit?
  6. Beseler had/has a heat absorbing glass for the 23 that's almost essential. I did a lot of fine tuning on mine and it was pretty good. Some info on my site in both the Beseler article and the darkroom measurements article.
  7. I recall reading MANY years ago, that when a grain focuser is used near the edge of the frame, it does not work well.
    It had something to do with being beyond a certain amount off the axis of the lens.
    You need a special grain focuser to handle the off axis focusing.
    Maybe one of the techies can tell us about this, as the math an physics is beyond me.
  8. Conrad, I saw that on B&H a while back, but up until recently I didn't see the need for it. I now see how that would really help. I've seen your name plenty on different forums, but couldn't find my way to your site just now.
    Gary, I thought that at one point while I was going mad. I have been printing straight B&W prints for years with that enlarger & had never noticed any signs of this problem before when focusing or inspecting my prints. Although I am just now venturing to larger format, & working in long exposures as Lith Printing requires, I started seeing the effects of this. I did tighten my focusing knob some while working on it. But I haven't done any printing yet. Although I am going through old negatives from years ago that have some curl to them, & at the edges of the "drop off" I can see difference in the tightness of the grain with my focus-er. It certainly could be another factor
    On Ebay there's an anti-newton negative carrier branded ZBE 35mm a-n glass carrier for enlarger AN. I couldn't find any enlargers nor have heard of that brand before. Do you guys know if that would fit? it's hard to tell from the pictures. But $99 sure beats the Beseler $239 anti newton carrier.
  9. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    try adjusting the height of the condensers? if they are not focused properly you will get distortion and light fall off at the edges.

    BTW are you using the heat glass?... put it in the filter drawer, its above the negative at that point..

    get that cold light! I love mine!

    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
  10. "working in longer exposures" is the key here. The Beseler is a problem child in that department unless you use the HA glass or a cold light head. The neg carriers are also an issue, having a subtle problem due to how they're manufacturered. Photography Page
  11. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    BTW Conrad, your article covers everything for that enlarger and should be recommended reading.

    nice site!
  12. There was a great deal of information on your site Conrad! I am going to pick up the heat absorbing glass (plus the lamp for the Ciii) - I didn't realize how much it helped until seeing your graph of the difference at the negative. I do want the option to switch from a cold diffusion head to the condenser, so I tried looking up what would fit my enlarger. I didn't find much helpful info on that, nor could I find many models on ebay or other used markets. The best I found was an Aristo D2-HI cold head w/regulator, but from looking at different enlargers it looked like that model was designed for the Beseler 45MX? But I could be wrong. That being said, what would be some good options that would fit my enlarger?
  13. You cannot judge how sharp the print will be at the edges from a tilted grain viewer. You need to make a print and see if it's sharp.

    I can believe a cheap 4 element Componar won't deliver sharpness from edge to edge, but a Rodagon stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8 should be capable of delivering grain-sharp prints from corner to corner.

    Ignore the grain viewer at the edges. Yes, it needs tilting to view the image, and the tilting lifts it off the easel/baseboard. So of course the viewed image won't be in focus.
  14. I agree with you rodeo. I wasn't focusing like that, just curious why the image would drop of at the edges. I now know (thanks to everyone here!) why I couln't get my image sharp across the board with a print using a negative from years ago- negative curl - Or why I would have to refocus after every print when making Lith prints. Using a roll I just shot (as opposed to a roll from years ago) When I get the image sharp in the middle & sweep out with my grain focuser the image stays sharp across until it drops off around the edges of the frame (plus using my "new" Rodenstock Rodagon 2.8 lens certainly helps) Last night I got out my loupe and inspected some prints. It was sharp across the board, and only a little soft around the edges, but still fairly tight.
  15. AJG


    You're right that a cold light for an Omega D2 will fit a 4x5 Beseler but not a 23C. But don't give up, the quality improvement from a cold light is worth the search.
  16. Something doesn't sound right here. You are using a regular condenser light head and getting out of focus edges. When you are focusing the image wait maybe 5-10 seconds and then focus the image center. Set your f/stop to about 8 or 11. Be ready to turn off the enlarger light, put your paper in place and make your exposure fairly quickly, within 5-10 seconds. If you focused correctly then it should be in focus all around. Soft edges makes me think you are having a lens problem. Unusual for a Schneider Kreuznach to not be sharp and I don't think the Rodenstock is the solution but you might consider trying a different lens and see if the problem persists. A good condition EL Nikkor should yield excellent results. I got stuck in a borrowed darkroom once and using a Rodenstock lens, all that was available. It gave me nothing but soft images I was embarrassed to admit to having made.

    Rick H.
  17. AJG


    Rodenstock and Schneider both made enlarging lenses of different price and quality levels--the least expensive from both of them weren't great while the best (Schnider Componon S and Rodenstock Rodagon) are excellent. My second enlarger came with a 50 mm Schneider Componar that I quickly replaced with an 50 mm f/2.8 El Nikkor with an immediate and visible improvement in sharpness. I have since used Schneider Componons and Rodenstock Rodagons with excellent results, comparable to the set of El Nikons that I own.
  18. Same here. The top end EL-Nikkor, Rodenstock and Schneider are all excellent. Even the lowly 50 mm f/4 EL-Nikkor can make a fine print. Remember that best results are achieved about 1-2 stops down with the better lenses. More than that and you can get diffraction. OTOH, you better have flat film when you print near wide open. I also find reducing the lamp intensity with a Variac makes printing times more sensible and reduces heat.

    IMO, without a HA glass, glass carrier or different light source, it may be impossible to find any timing for focusing and printing that gives sharp (pop-free) results with a 23C.
  19. Your best bet for Cold Light Heads are Aristo and Zone VI. Both are no longer in production, but are usually available on Craigslist or Ebay. If you happen to see the Zone VI head, the last version had a sensor in the head that attached to the Zone VI stabilizer. The unit works without the stabilizer, but if you find one with the stabilizer, BUY IT. Not only does it stabilize the lamp output, but has a "dry down" rheostat when making the final print. You do have to buy the head specifically for your enlarger.

    There are posts in PN about replacement lamps from the company that bought Aristo; Voltarc (LCD Lighting); Louise Kessler is/was the contact. The Zone VI and Aristo lamps are so similar the lamps are interchangeable. Also, most of the time there is no mention of the type of lamp in the housing on the auction sites. V54 lamps were made with spectral output for variable contrast papers. Years ago when I was buying up cold light lamps and stabilizers when they were "dirt cheap", I ended up with three different lamps; High intensity for graded papers, normal for graded paper, and V54 for variable contrast paper. None of the sellers discussed the which "lamp" they were selling.
  20. I'll keep a lookout for those. I've heard about the Zone VI heads, with the controller/timer accessory (f/stop timer?). I see on ebay right now a beseler cold light head P-III (115v 125 w), would that fit the 23c model? Although looking at it I don't know how it would be mounted. I'd really would like to find a Zone VI cold head model. I do have an old Beseler Universal dichro DGA colorhead & regulator, tested it & the fan works, but haven't ordered the bulb to see if it fully works. Although I'm sure even with the fan it produces quite a bit of heat. I would be able to use the diffusion chamber with it though. For now the heat absorbing glass + a voltage regulator I found would help.

Share This Page