Durst, Beseler, or Zone VI

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I am in the market for a new enlarger. I am considering the Beseler 45V XL w/ Aristo head, the Zone VI 5x7 and the Durst L1200 Multigraph. The Multigraph is a quartz diffused light, the others are cold light VC heads.

I don't particulary need 5x7 but 4x5 is a must. Is the Durst really that much better than the others? I have heard that the Zone VI needs alignment regularly (every few weeks) and the Beseler is a tank.

I would appreciate any comments and suggestions.

Thanks Bill

-- Bill Smithe (bs1@aol.com), May 29, 2000


The Durst is a much heavier built machine than the Beseler. They are designed for heavy use in a professional lab. I used to work with an 8x10 Durst in the studio I apprenticed in and considered it a joy to use, never an alignment problem. I would also consider the LPL enlarger before the Beseler or Zone VI.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), May 30, 2000.

Durst enlargers tend to be exceedingly expensive. The ones I've use (smaller formats) have been a joy to use, though.

I owned a Zone VI and sold it to buy a Saunders/LPL. If you're shooting 4x5 and 5x7, the Zone VI is OK. Don't count on using it for smaller formats, though. There just isn't enough light to focus easily. But it is a solid machine. The variable contrast head is easy to use.

Beseler are rigid. They are the only enlargers I've seen that have a focus lock.

I like my Saunders/LPL. It has a very bright light source. It moves as smooth as silk. It has a decent remote focusing wand. The 4500II series is reasonably priced at $1600 discounted. You'll spend more for a Beseler with the Aristo VC head, less with the single tube head. And it has an accessory masking negative stage, which I got. I don't like sending out light I'm not using. It can only cause flare.

Good luck.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), May 30, 2000.

I have a Zone VI 5x7 and recommend it for the following reasons.

o It's solid and easy to use.

o With the Beseler attachment ($75), it can be used with Beseler color heads and the 4x5 Aristo (Beseler adapted) cold light heads. (No different from Omega or Beseler.) This might be considered an option, if you wanted to wait and purchase the 5x7 VC (or non-VC) head later.

o Also with the Beseler attachment, it's possible to easily adapt a D2V condensor head with this enlarger. (Involves gluing an inch wide, 1/4 inch thick piece of rubber around the base of the head, at the proper height.) I've done this on mine, and it works great.

o As implied, if you start with a 4x5 head, you can upgrade later to a 5x7 or 8x10 enlarger.

o Although I haven't tried, I suspect one could use variable contrast filters (cut to size) with the proper Aristo 4x5 cold light head. It should be a matter of lifting the head from it's housing and dropping in the appropriate filter.

As a word of caution, DON'T get the Zone VI older Type I enlarger; get the Type II. (Applies only if purchasing used.) The Type II has two posts connected to the lens stage, whereas the Type I has one.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@worldnet.att.net), May 30, 2000.

The Durst is indeed a heavier unit. You will pay big dollars for the computerization technology that goes with this unit. The biggest draw back is that you will get zero support from Durst on this unit. I speak of the contrast grade tables that are loaded into the memory of this unit. Specific paper is tested by Durst and a contrast grade table is created. Many of the papers are not available in the U.S. This new cold tone Ilford paper that is due out or the New Seagull paper...forget it. I was told that if I wanted the contrast grade table for a paper to be worked out by Durst, that I would have to supply them with 50 sheets to do the testing with. Now that's what I call good PR and product support!

-- Rick Obermeyer (obermeyer_rick@si.com), June 01, 2000.


I really must disagree with Charlie. I have owned and used almost every enlarger manufactured in the past 30 years. I currently use the Zone VI as my enlarger of choice. The variable contrast cold light head along with the Zone VI Compensating Enlarging Time is a joy. Focussing is never a problem. I can not understand what Charlie means by focusing is difficult with smaller film formats. Perhaps he does not change lenses?

The enlarger is solid as a rock. The baseboard is a huge 30"x30" and exhibits no discernable flex. The enlarger has zero light leaks. That's right, the only enlarger I have used that came out of the box with no light leaks. From time to time, I do change and replace the foam gasket that seals the head to the negative carrier. This is a simple matter of buying some foam weather stripping at Home Depot.

Alignment is a snap. I have only had to align the enlarger twice in the past two years. Once I did it just for the heck of it, although it was not needed.

The negative carriers are oversized and allow the entire negative to be printed.

My only complaint.......I wish the head would swivel or turn for wall projections.

Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Bill Rennaker (bhr1245@aol.com), June 11, 2000.

Let me add a word to my admonishment not to get the Type I enlarger.

I have a Type I, and it works great for 4x5. It was originally designed as an oversized 4x5 enlarger to reduce fall-off near the edge. Calumet has also commented to me that the VC head for Type I is brighter than the VC head for the Type II, and better for smaller negatives. (Probably because the transformers are included in the very large control unit, versus in the head.) For 4x5 and below, I prefer it to any other enlarger available.

However, the original Type I does not cover 5x7, and I'm told that the Type I 8x10 adaptor is also not very suitable for 8x10. Apparently, the Type I bellows doesn't permit enough extension for an 8x10 enlarging lens.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@worldnet.att.net), June 11, 2000.

I have to say that if cost is not an issue the Durst L1200 Multigraph is the way to go. Remember, i said that if money is no object as this puppy along with the needed accessories will set you back $6,500 big ones. With that said the Durst has a built in computer which sets the paper grade and adjusts density based upon the filter. It has burn in and dry down adjustments and a myriad of other computerized features including a density probe.

This is one of the only enlargers that I know that has zero light leaks out of the box! The negative carrier is very well made, has masking blades, and can be fitted with masks for any film size. It pushes into the enlarger head and snaps in place with small stainless steel spring glides.

This puppy weighs in at 170 pounds and is solid as a rock.

Since you asked, I thought I would give you the upside and the downside (cost).

-- Mike Kravit (mkravit@kravit.net), June 28, 2000.

I regularly use my Zone VI (type 2) with the VC head and I am quite pleased with it. I also have a pair of Omega D5s. If I am printing for gallery, the Zone VI is the machine I use. If I could fault it, I would complain about the negative carriers. They are all set up for landscape. I had to make my own set for portrait layouts, since I hate to print sideways. I would also prefer to have some type of extension on the focusing knob for those extreme enlargements. One additional advantage that sold me was that you can fit the Zone VI 8 x 10 head on the same chassis, giving you the possibility of printing those 8 x 10 negs. Rob

-- Rob Rielly (ArtFlic@aol.com), August 16, 2000.

Bill Rennaker (or anyone else with a Zone VI enlarger), I looked at one for the first time at Calumet yesterday, and was disturbed by that crumbly foam, as well as the apparent reliance on foam compression springiness to maintain lensboard alignment.

What exactly do you mean by replacing the foam "from time to time?" I'm really curious how often you've had to do this, as well as what environment (temperature, humidity, smog) your enlarger lives in.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), August 01, 2001.

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