large format enlarger fantasy : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was wondering.... I recently bought a 5 by 7 Burke and James monorail view camera, rebuilt and refinished it. Ive found that large format enlargers are pretty big and pretty expensive, even for 4 by 5. This is what Im wondering: I can visualize using the camera itself as an enlarger to project, horizontally onto a vaccuum-type eazel which would hold the paper in vertical fashion, parallel to the film and lensboard plane. All that would be required is a light source in a box attached to the camera back in a light-tight fashion behing the film which could be held by a modified film-holder with no back. Am I crazy? This sounds too easy. Am I missing anything? Has anyone heard of anything like this before? (I have heard of an old and long-discontinued Rollei accessory that temporarily converts a Rolleiflex TLR into a medium format projector.) Whadayas think?

-- Frank Scheitrowsky (, March 03, 2000


Ansel Adams did this to make his horizontal 8x10 enlarger.

-- Ellis Vener (, March 03, 2000.

Frank: That was a common conversion in the early days. I know that enlargement backs were made for the 4x5 Speed Graphic and may have been made for the 5x7 Graphic. I saw an 8x10 camera and enlarger conversion back at a camera swap meet a couple of years ago. As the other respondent said, Ansel Adams used an old 11x14 studio stand camera for a horizontal enlarger. Aristo may make a 5x7 cold light that you could convert easily to your camera. Except for the studio cameras built onto stands which can be raised and lowered and are quite solid, I think the project would be more trouble than it's worth. It would be difficult to get a monorail camera locked onto a support solid enough to keep it in place while you set everything up for enlarging and vibration would probably be a problem. Incidentally, a studio camera and stand would take up more room than an enlarger. There just isn't an easy way to make large format enlargements without taking up a lot of room. Still, if you want to try the project you can probably find the stuff to build an enlarger from your camera. A cold light system would probably work best. Good luck with it, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (, March 03, 2000.

Go for it Frank...I'ts great to hear from someone who is bold enough to attempt an image from anything other than "store bought" parts!

-- Dave Richhart (, March 03, 2000.

A good quality (large!) copy stand should do the job for mounting the camera and eliminating movement. Then you could use the camera vertically just like a conventional enlarger with a baseboard and eliminate the expense of a vacuum easel. (Another alternative for a vacuum easel would be a flat piece of sheet steel and magnets for securing the paper.) I've seen somewhere that a local neon sign company would be able to whip up something similar to a cold light head to your specifications. If the camera has a universal back, designing something to fit should be no problem. Good luck! ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, March 04, 2000.

Just for the anecdote : Ansel Adams also made a hole in his darkroom wall and with a system of mirrors, used the sky or sun light as a light source! But was very tributary to the weather and passing clouds. Linhof still has a converting set for his cameras, but for vertical use. But think of the time needed to make your adaptation, and then for packing up your camera when you need it. Is it so difficult to find an old used enlarger? I have not used cold light enlargers, but bulb light enlargers require a set of condensers.

-- Paul Schilliger (, March 04, 2000.

Have a look at some of the transparency adapters that you can get for flatbed scanners as a ready made light source. The one I bought for my Mustek scanner has very even illumination, starts instantly, covers 6" x 8", and looks plenty bright enough. I've been meaning to try it out on my 5x4 enlarger, but haven't got round to it yet.

-- Pete Andrews (, March 04, 2000.

There's no reason why it shouldn't work. Finding an even light source will probably present the biggest challenge. Aristo makes all sorts of cold light sources, but they may cost more than a used 5x7 enlarger. From time to time I see old Elwoods for sale for $100 - $200. Good luck, I'd like to know how it works out.

-- David Brown (, March 05, 2000.

Linhof was making a 45 copy camera onto which a condensor housing and lampheads could be SCREWED onto the fittings on the camera back and the entire assembly mounted to a no longer made Linhof large copy stand.

This system is no longer made.

Previuos to this there was a Graflarger 45 lamphousing that would mount to the back of a view camera.

The big problems with using a camera as an enlarger are:

1: Almost impossible to maintain proper alignment between the negative, lens and baseboard.

2: excessive vibration from handling the system, especially when trying to insert or adjust the film in the enlarger negative carrier. Linhof used a shifting carrier to overcome this.

If you are in the Denver area you can see this type of enlarger at S&S Optica as they use them.

-- Bob Salomon (, March 05, 2000.

Cool! I've been pondering the same thing. Although stability would be a major consideration. I have a B&J 5x7 also but its a wood field camera. I can envision construting a wall mount at a predetermined hieght for my most common usage 11x14 enlarged negs. A light source can be made from flourecent lamps(tungsten replacement type) to attach to the back then use an old film holder with the center cut out as a neg carrier. Let me know if you've had any success.

-- Ronald J LaMarsh (, March 08, 2000.

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