Best 35mm & Medium Format Enlarger?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by justin_halim, Sep 7, 2014.

  1. Hi everyone, I would like to start my own darkroom, and am having trouble finding an enlarger. I would like to enlarge 35mm, 6x6, and 6x7, all in B&W. So far, I have looked into Beseler 23C's and Omegas, but don't know which model would be best. There seem to be plenty of Beseler 23C II's (the black ones) on eBay, but sellers are either asking extremely high prices in addition to high shipping costs or only allow pick ups that are too far from me. When it comes to Omegas on eBay, I can't seem to find any models that enlarge up to 6x7. Craigslist is even more empty.
    The only enlargers I have managed to find were a blue Beseler 23C, and a local Omega D2. The sellers say they are in very good condition, but should I trust enlargers as old as they are? Does anyone have recent experiences with either of these enlargers and would recommend them? Or are there any other good enlargers that would cover my needs and budget (~$150)?
    Thank you.
  2. In general, very old enlargers may well be serviceable but are likely to have filter drawers for gelatin filters instead of a color or multigrade head with dial-in filters. The big thing when buying an old enlarger is to make sure that all the accessories you need are included - finding a missing neg carrier or condensers can be very hard. There have always been enlargers available for 6x9, which of course are fine for 6x7 too. Can't comment specifically on Beseler and Omega, since these are common in the US but not in the UK, which is where I am - here Meopta enlargers are common and very good.
  3. Uh, 23 CII's are selling for USD 50-150 on eBay, depending on type of head. I had one, and it was practically indestructible. Not all are local pickup only--shipping won't be cheap, but it shouldn't break the bank either. I will PM you with a link to the one I would buy--I HAVE NO CONNECTION TO THE SELLER.
    none have color heads.
    years ago I used the durst m300 ( filter drawer) with filters to make prints from slides( no reversal paper now)
    and from negatives. ( still do-=ab;e)
    I worked wth a friend who had a beseler 23 and color head- it was very nicer.
    but i did ok with filters.
    I would suggest the beselker 23, as the color heads are dicrotic -- not gelatine filters that fade.
    many of the om,ega enlargers used gelatin filter color heads.
    omega d2 came as a d2 ( fixed condensers) and d2v ( third variable condenser)., If shipping a D2V i WOULD STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT THE THIRD CONDENSER BE REMOVES and paxked in a sturdy box.
    the d2 series are 4 x 5 enlargers.
    You cam make enlarged Proof sheets of nine 35mm frames.
    there also was an adapter kit to use a MF color head
    on the 4 x 5 chassis.
  5. For some years, I used a small Durst for 35mm and an Omega for 4x5, but the specific models are long gone out of my (living) memory. I'm afraid we didn't do anything in the 6cm line, but the Durst was equipped, supposedly, for up to that size, as I do dimly recall.
  6. My favorite is the Omega D-6, prints 35mm through 4x5 easily and parts are not hard to find. I prefer the regular B&W head and use filters, never really cared for using a color head for B&W work.
    Rick H.
  7. AJG


    Either Beseler or Omega enlargers should work well for what you need, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy an older used one. Unlike old cameras, most enlarger parts and functions are right out where you can see and test them, and they are usually easy to repair.
    As for variable contrast printing of B&W, a set of Ilford Multigrade filters for under the lens served me well for many years, and it is more convenient than a dichroic head since you can change contrast without needing as many tests as they have some neutral density filtration built in to compensate for the different exposure due to change of contrast. I found no significant difference in sharpness between prints made with or without filters with good quality El-Nikkor lenses, so if you get a well cared for set, they should be fine.
  8. Beseler enlargers are usually easier to find on the used market, they still sell brand new. I have a Beseler 23C but if I had to do it all over I would chose the Omega.
  9. I have a Beseler 23CIII and I agree that they are close to indestructible. I took classes at a small museum school for awhile before I could build my first darkroom and they had 23CIIs. They'd been used by many different people for probably a decade or so and all worked just fine.
    If you're anywhere near Amherst, MA, I think there were 6 or so listed by someone on Craigslist there this weekend. Also try calling any photo stores near you - they may have one collecting dust or they may know of one. Assuming there are any photo stores near you, of course (I know that might be a long shot).
  10. I have used both Omega and Beseler enlargers extensively. The Beseler is by far the most rigid of the two, and of any I've used. The downside is that the braces limit the freedom with which you use a paper holder. The Omega B Autofocus was by far the fastest in use. You still have to fine focus, but the auto feature lets you size and crop rapidly. The Omega also has better film holders, lens holders and dedicated condenser modules for each format. The Beseler has focusing bellows for the condensor and lens - universal but crude.
    The newspaper had a Leitz too (elegant jewel), and an MF Durst. The Durst, I felt, was too shaky and flimsy compared to the Omega and Beseler (and Leitz) enlargers.
    I tried to set up a darkroom when my kids were in school, but there were very few enlargers available at the time. Ten years later, Great Lakes Naval Base disbanded their darkroom, and put a dozen or so Omega D2 (4x5) enlargers on the local market. By that time, it was too late for me and my kids had left home.
  11. I have three Meopta Opemus enlargers that can handle everything from 1/2 frame 135 to 6x6cm with a wonderful moving-slide mask system that makes cropping simple. My Opemus III was $10, the Opemus 4 with 50/4 Nikkor was $30 and an Opemus 5 with a Meochrom Color Head was $20. The Opemus 4/5/6 models have a drawer for filters, with the Opemus III you have to hang filters under the lens using a Kodak or Ilford filter holder system.
    Meopta also made a wonderful 6x9cm enlarger- the Magnifax. I would like one.
    I have a 1940's Kodak Precision for 6x9cm and Leitz Valoy I and II's plus a Focomat Ic for 135. Information on Leitz enlargers is easily found online.
    I also have a Reid & Sigrist copy of the Valoy I with a 50mm Taylor & Hobson Ental lens. Better made than the original. Apparently during WWII the Brits had a supply problem with Leitz...
    These are all well-made machines and available for peanuts these days.
    Here's a link to James Ollinger's Meopta guide:
    a guide to enlargers in general:
    and a page on the Kodak Precision's:
    Meopta were sold in the US, but were wildly popular in the UK/Australia/New Zealand due to their high quality and relatively low cost. You may be lucky enough to find a Meopta Magnifax or a Leitz Focomat in a skip...
    All of the old Meopta's I've seen still have wiring with intact insulation, but the Kodak and Leitz models from the '50's usually need re-wiring. I am a qualified electrician, but really it's just wiring up a lamp - so just follow how it was done before, point-to-point.
    Now is a great time to be finding this stuff. So much darkroom gear is being dumped. Just buy a few you like and try them out. You will soon amass all the trays, timers, mixing vessels, etc. you need. In another 5 or 10 years enlargers will be hard to find - unless you dig up a landfill.
  12. "The only enlargers I have managed to find were a blue Beseler 23C, and a local Omega D2. The sellers say they are in very good condition, but should I trust enlargers as old as they are"

    I'm coming in a little late on this, but age is pretty much not a factor with these enlargers. My D2 is over 40 years old and I'm at least the third owner but it is still just as rock solid as the day it left the factory. These enlargers (both Omega and Beseler) are built like locomotives. They were meant to last a lifetime and they do. Unlike smaller and newer products that are built only "good enough' to do the job, they are over-engineered to do anything and everything that might ever be required of them plus plenty to spare.

    As for gels vs dial-in color/variable contrast, that is irrelevant. Both the Omega and Beseler have interchangeable heads. Condensor heads are standard, but you can also get diffusion heads, dichroic heads, variable contrast heads and cold-light heads (some from Omega/Beseler, some from third parties).

    I saw that someone mentioned Durst. My first enlarger was a Durst F30. Great little enlarger that I still have. So simple that there's basically nothing to go wrong with it. Only 35mm but there was the F60 that did 6x6. I would still prefer an Omega/Beseler but these are great little enlargers if you are looking for something compact.
  13. I had the spring on my Omega B22 break, but just about everything else, except the light bulb, should last forever.
    For ones that don't use incandescent bulbs, the power supply might fail. Electrolytic capacitors don't last forever, but they aren't all that expensive.

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