How to Convert Camera into Enlarger? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was reading in Stroebel last night that it is possible to convert a large format camera into an enlarger. Is this really possible?

I have an Arca-Swiss camera, and Arca make a copy board which looks like an anlarger base and column to which you can mount the camera (designed for copying artwork etc).

I suppose all(!) you would need is an enlarger lense, a negative carrier, and a light source.

Has anyone done something similar?

-- David Nash (, August 07, 1998


David, I tried this with an old 8x10 field view camera years ago, and it works! In fact it worked so well, I later ended up making my own 8x10 enlarger.

I set the camera (enlarger?) up, on a sturdy tripod, to project horizontally onto a vertical vacuum easel. I did not have a copy board sturdy enough to support the weight of the contraption, or tall enough to give me the magnification/print size I wanted.

The taking lens used for the negative in question should work fine as an enlarging lens. I used a 305 G-Claron--same lensboard, and all. The view camera's front and rear standard base tilt movements allowed me to carefully align the lens, negative, and printing stages.

Depending on the type of negative carrier you intend to make/use, particularly with 8x10 negatives, a horizontal orientation will prevent the negative from sagging in the center, resulting in loss of print sharpness. I suppose you could use a negative carrier, with sheets of glass sandwiching the negative, to avoid sagging if you use a vertical set-up. It probably would not matter much with 4x5.

I ended up cannibalizing an old, wooden 8x10 sheet film holder; I cut out and removed the holder's backing plate, and had an instant glassless negative carrier I could insert snugly into the camera back. I then removed the ground glass from the camera's back and replaced it with a sheet of white, transluscent plexiglass, to act as a diffuser for the light source.

Finding and adapting a workable light source was a bit frustrating. After jury-rigging and duct-taping a number strange-looking contraptions (several lightbulbs in boxes, and other Rube Goldberg-type devices) to the rear of the camera back, I ended up with something that worked, though not too well. It provided uneven illumination, too much heat, etc.--it got so hot I was afraid the whole deal would burst into flames!

After several failures, I ended up buying an Aristo 8x10 cold light light source, and adapting it to the rear of the camera back. Worked great. BTW, B&H sells Aristo light sources (cheaper than ordering one directly from the manufacturer, if you can believe it) of all types and sizes, even an 8x10 variable contrast model. You can contact Aristo directly for their catalogue.

I used this thing for a while, and satisfied myself that an 8x10 enlarger was not such a complicated thing after all. It was then that I decided to build my own horizontal 8x10 enlarger. The only original bit of equipment I kept to use with this enlarger was the Aristo cold light source.

If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly. Hope this helps, good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, August 07, 1998.

All you need is the "Graflarger" back manufactured by Graflex for use on Speed and Crown Graphic cameras. Linhof also made one for Technika's. The back goes onto any "international" or "Graflock" back and includes negative carriers for 6x9 and 4x5" sheet films. The latest version of the Graflarger used an Aristo cold light element but earlier ones emitted blue/green light that prints B/W fast but is poor for colour. If you have a fairly modern, symmetrical derivative lens it will enlarge just fine. Stop it down to f/16 or so and enjoy yourself. I mounted an older Schneider Componon 135mm lens in a shutter and use it as a taking lens, too.

-- chris hale (, August 15, 1998.

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