DeVere 504 Autofocus Closed Loop... ultimate enlarger?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by peter_yardley, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. There's a DeVere 504 Autofocus, Closed Loop on right now -
    and from what I hear this is the ultimate 4x5" enlarger ever made,
    anyone got any opinions if its really as good as they say?

    I know regular DeVere 504's are considered among the very best, but
    have always lusted after an AF model, but they are rare and seem hard
    to find. any issues I should be aware of?
  2. Help me out - this is not a negative/transparency enlarger. It can only take in digital images which it 'projects' on conventional photo paper.


    How does it perform in comparison to a conventional enlarger? Any rez test outcomes? Limits?
  3. I have a 4x5 DeVere with the colour head (not closed loop) and it's beautiful. DeVere equipment is very rugged, but also very well-machined. They are a dream to use. However, they weigh a ton. Check out the cost of shipping before bidding too high.

    I had an opportunity to buy a 5x7 closed loop DeVere but I passed because I am distrustful of the long term dependability of electronics (yah, I know, the colour head has electronics). Having said that, ANYONE will tell you that such opinions are foolish and that DeVere equipment is very dependable.
  4. The auction being discussed is

    It says that it has '4x5" / MF / 35mm masks' and was made 12 years ago, so it must be a conventional enlarger for projecting film rather than a very new model that projects a digital LCD to the paper.

    I agree with Don, and this also applies to the Durst closed loop models. What happens if the fancy custom electronics breaks in ten years? It might be unrepairable. The mechanices on these enlarger can be fixed by an excellent machinst, but the electronics could be harder, particularly if there are custom parts. This was probably the ulimate enlarger for the pro lab that wanted very high through-put, but how much time is auto-focus going to save the amateur?
  5. I notice they say local pickup. To transport you really need to split the column (unless you get a long van, and several pairs of hands to help!), the technique for moving one of these beasts is discussed in this thread De Vere 504
  6. Of course its a normal enlarger - i.e. optical. For negs and positive.

    The point is that this 504 DeVere co-ordinated the Closed Loop head with the motorised Autofocus mechanism to mean that they work together for better productivity and accuracy. Very different to the regular 504, which you can find all the time.

    I used an AF one once, and you simply tap in the size you want on the keyboard, and then it moves and focuses at exactly the right point. you can set it up with as many of your lenses as you want, from 40mm to 210mm. the AF on that one was always spot on. which for some reason surprised me! The same keyboard controls the color head values, and exposure timer.

    It seems built like a tank, and the AF mechanism is completely over engineered, so thats likely to give decades of good service untouched. In any case the manual focussing handwheels are right there still. As for the C/L color head, well, I know they can be serviced, and in the total worst case, you could just put a regular (non closed loop) DeVere color head on there.

    I have also moved a regular Freestanding 504 before, and its not so bad - put the head to the top, remove the color head and drop table, split the column (4 bolts) and it fitted in my car.

    These were very expensive items new though, and I dont think a lot were made, so kind of surprised to see an individual photographer had one, when you could buy a nice car for the same $.
  7. "Of course its a normal enlarger - i.e. optical. For negs and positive."

    Are you positive? The "closed loop" term is also used to describe their digital projection system.
  8. De Vere had a collaboration with ZBE (in Santa Barbara) and the electronics for both the autofocus and the closed loop came from them. They are prone to problems and there are NO spares available. It is however very easy to use. The "closed loop" refers to sensors in the light chamber that monitors the color of the light and automatically adjusts filteration as the lamp ages or there are voltage changes. If things go wrong, you can always replace the color head with a regular Devere unit
  9. Pico, I am 2000% sure it is a normal optical enlarger.
    is that enough for you?
  10. Raj - I've had two of these exact enlargers for 10 years, and nothing has gone wrong with either of them, not even once. So I have no idea where you get your information from, (durst?) but its dubious. Yes ZBE no longer makes this models guts, but they are still very much in business, and there's plenty of people in the UK who service them and have the knowledge to fix anything, and have parts. But like I say, all I ever needed was the rare service. If it did go wrong, theres always the manual handwheels (like a normal 504 DeVere) so - thats the worst that could happen: having to use it like a regular 504!

    Mine have worked flawlessly for over a decade. seems boring to report it, but thats how it is.
  11. Peter,

    I too have a couple of these incredible enlargers and recommend them highly. The ultimate tag mentioned in the epay listing isnt quite right and would have to go to Zac Bogarts (ZBE) Sentinel enlarger. He took all the knowledge from his time developing the listed enlarger with DeVere, refined the design and made one called the Sentinel. Its manual (available online) reads pretty much like the devere version. The electronics are probably identical I think his improvements were more in the opto mechanical sensors, a streamlined body and of course the Starlite 55 head which is incredible and in my opinion the best colour head ever made (I have one). Its a huge improvement over the Closed loop DeVere variety.

    But Sentinels are almost impossible to source here in the UK and you'd be mad to ship one from the US. Regardless the Ebay listed DeVere is great. I have the exact same one in both floor standing and bench mount configuration plus a bench mount AF chassis with an Ilford MG head. This is my idea of a great darkroom setup.

    I find it really does what it says on the box so long as you ensure everything is precisely recalibrated on a fairly regular basis (not to complex or time consuming). Though it may sound gimmicky to people who havent used this system, being able to go to a precise print size in a flash and in perfect focus is such a time saver. But where it really shines is when start by gettng a good print at say 8x10 then bring it up to something like 16x20 or whatever and immediately bang out a perfect print. The head compensates everything for you including paper stock for it has a number of channels. Then you save your set up which you can return to any time later and after minor touch up to adjust for the inevitable colour processor drift you have the same print. The closed loop function takes care of drift from lamp aging.

    Its also compatible with BBS video analysers (dirt cheap these days). This is essentially a colour head with a sensor built in and mounted upside down ala slide copier. A calibrated video camera shows your neg on a high quality monitor and you adjust the filtration until it looks right then transfer the sensor readout to your AF Devere / Starlite and voila 90% hit rate first print but you do have to calibrate the video analyser daily. Still its great for hard and fast colour printing sessions.

    I can see why these were very popular in Custom labs specialising in high turnover stuff like wedding photos.

    They are built very well, the computer side electronics are relatively basic and serviceable, nothing too exotic. The encoders and motors may be a different story but as mentioned in a post above, this is industrial grade stuff made to work hard and last. It was also designed for quick and easy service.

    The ebay listing is on the expensive side but if you are a pro actually making ends meet in analogue then Id call it a fair deal. I paid a lot less than this.

    All this was ultra cutting edge around the start of the 90s and of course laughably Jurassic in this photoshop and inkjet era but I love it and wont be dropping it in a hurry. I see it as a perfect example of digitally controlled analogue and it works (well most of the time)

    I say haggle, I cant see anyone beating down his / her door at that price.
  12. Yeah, the Starlite head was great, but the sentinel enlarger itself was just a bench version wasnt it ? - I never saw a freestanding one, which means small prints. I think the DeVere chassis was better, so the ultimate would be a Freestanding DeVere like this one with a drop table, and a Sentinel head I guess, but failing that a DeVere Closed Loop is pretty damn close.
  13. Peter,

    The Sentinel came in all three configurations, bench, free standing and wall mount.

    The Sentinel is in my opinion a definite engineering improvement on the Devere. Zac Bogart is an absolute perfectionist and as far as I can see he took all that he learnt from the Devere collaboration and refined the design significantly for his Sentinel.

    Have you ever seen a ZBE Sentinel neg carrier? Its an absolute, impeccably machined engineering masterpiece. His version didn't have interchangeable format inserts like the De vere but instead the system used altogether separate carriers for every format to avoid any minute shift which the Devere carriers are very prone to. This carrier shift is a non issue on a manual enlarger but a huge deal on an AF system thats calibrated to 1/1000th of an inch, something that happens to the de vere carriers with the simple act of changing neg formats. Once it drops out you have to faf about recalibrating the carrier, something that barely ever happens on a Sentinel..

    The Sentinel encoder system was notably improved over the Devere, not to mention inclusion of a lens turret that informs the computer of which lens is active. There are many good reasons to move to a turret in fact Im surprised De Vere didt offer it as an option. Constant attachment and removal of Devere lens panels puts stress on the lens stage which eventually drifts out of alignment (remember, 1/1000th of an inch aint much) and forces you to realign the system fairly regularly. Devere lens plate removal is a clumsy affair and can result in accidental drops by careless employees under pressure. The turret does away with all this and lens change takes all of a couple of seconds.

    Zac Bogarts Sentinel was designed for his brilliant AF system from the ground up. A system that was essentially tacked on to the existing De Vere enlarger. It came together beautifully as the Sentinel and this is definitely my idea of the ultimate techno enlarger ever made, so damn good.

    Id take a sentinel over a Devere any day, but saying this I still love my three AF ZBE / DE Vere enlargers despite a few minor design niggles like mechanical drift. I can deal with this as a non Pro, but it would have been a real wind up in a busy pro lab back in the day. The lab I bought my colour AF enlargers from said that they got so fed up with recalibrating that they ended up using the system to get in the ball park auto size wise then switch into manual for final focusing.

    When treated with respect I find the Devere stays in line pretty well but I wouldnt want to run it hard day in day out. The Sentinel on the other hand is built to take a Pro hammering.
  14. DeVERE 504 manual and help with filter/timer keyboard controller made by ZBE inc. please?
    Does anyone have a Devere504 with closed loop head?
    If you do you use one, would you have the manual for the Power Supply and filter/timer keyboard controller made by ZBE inc. please, or any advice :) ?

    The power supply was had a label underneath (none on front, just two switches and a push button) reads RST Developments repaired by CANLEY.

    My goal is to use a Analyzer Pro (RH Designs) to control the head, and wonder if that analyzer can be attached to control the head, with or without the ZBE keyboard?

    Best wishes,


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