8 X 10 Enlarger: Horizontal use

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have a space in my house which is about to become a darkroom. 75% of what I do is contact printing, but I would like to be able to enlarge 8 X 10 negs maybe 25% of the time. The space has only 7 foot ceilings, but at least 20 feet of straight shot uninterrupted space, so I assume I am looking at horizontal use. Questions:

1. Any reasons that mounting an enlarger horizontally is not likely to give good results, or is such a headache that I should give up on this idea?

2. Any companies/makes esp. suited for horizontal mounting?

3. At the print/easel end, how does one generally guarantee flatness, esp for larger prints (I'd like to be able to go to 30 X 40)?

4. How does one deal with the issue of alignment when working horizontally? I assume the table with the enlarger needs to be fixed. Is the easel usually somehow attached to the table with the enlarger, or do you just line things up really well with a zigaline or whatever at the outset?

5. Any references you'd suggest that speak to this specific issue?

6. Finally, any reasonable alternatives given space requirements and the fact that all I shoot is 8 X 10? (easel on the floor? Seems like you'd hate yourself after about a week of crawling around on your knees!)

Thanks as always for the help!


-- Nathan Congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), April 08, 2001



Ansel Adams used an enlarger exactly like the one you have described. Take a look at his series of books: The Print, The Negative, and The Camera.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), April 08, 2001.

Horizontal enlargers come up on EBay occassionally. A lot of labs are getting rid of their 8x10's in favor of digital. For example, the DeVere's horizontal 8x10's. (See http://www.Odyssey-Sales.com/)

At the same time, don't assume that you can't find a vertical enlarger that will serve, at least for B&W. For example, consider the Zone VI 8x10 w/the short 43" column and the Beseler conversion. (Don't know about the quality of the latter.) While my Zone VI is at normal height, I've constructed a free standing base for the enlarger that allows me to remove a 1' partition and lower the easel table that distance to 20" from the floor. At this 20" height, I could use a 10" enlarging lens, achieve a 3x enlargement, and still have my Zone VI head within 7' from the floor. What kind of enlargements do you want to make?

On the other hand, with the kind of horizontal space that you have available, perhaps horizontal is the best way to go.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), April 08, 2001.

There are almost always Ansco Studio Cameras on ebay. I think these could be modified to make an excellent enlarger. You just have to find one at the right price. Some of the people selling those things have the mistaken impression they are worth a lot of money. Be patient and you'll find someone who just wants it hauled away. But be warned: I might beat you to it.

-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), April 08, 2001.

Nathan, Omega makes/made a first-quality mirror which fits below the enlarger lens and projects the image 90 degrees onto the wall. This is by far the best technique short of having a dedicated horizontal enlarger.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), April 09, 2001.

Nathan, my experience with this sort of thing has been limited to 4x5, so I'm not sure how much of this is applicable to you...but do you already have an enlarger, or are just shopping now? In our old darkroom, we made murals with sort of a "poor man's horizontal enlarger", an old Beseler MX tilted horizontally. We projected against a 4x8 plywood sheet that ran along a garage door track overhead. There was a sheet of gatorfoam attached to the plywood, and we would use thumbtacks to hold the mural paper in place. This was for murals though, a 30x40 really isn't that big. We now farm all the murals out, but we still make prints up to 20x24 in house. We have one enlarger set up on a drop table, if we need it. In a few extreme cases, we've had to redo this mural setup in our new darkroom. It was originally designed for murals, so it's really big. This has been a major pain to do, but we've projected the image against this false wall we have, and basically just measured it off & used levels to get it squared up. I think a laser alignment thing would be a huge plus...again I'm talking about big, big prints here. A 2 person job. Alot of enlargers will offer extensions for the focus knobs, etc. So this makes it easier. Another option (besides an old studio camera) might be to look for a used horizontal stat camera to work with. I'm not sure what you'd have to do to get a light source/carrier rigged up though.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 09, 2001.

Horizontal was a common configuration for large (8x10 and up) format enlargers. Durst and Devere made (still make?) such machines. These tend to be very high end and costly. With the increasing use of digital, you make get lucky and get one of these used at a good price.

I would guess that the negative carriers sandwich the negatives between glass and that the print is held in position by a vacumn easel. These enlargers usually have tracks to keep everything in alignment.

The equation for the separation between negative and print is d_tot = f * (m+1)^2 / m. For f=300 mm and m=4, you will need 1875 mm = 6.15 feet. Allowing room for the enlarger head, it won't fit vertically in 7 feet. The other possibility would be to use a wide-angle enlarger lens, e.g., if you could find a 240 mm lens that will cover 8x10, you would only need 4.9 feet between negative and print.

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), April 09, 2001.

I've played with Bill M's idea - it worked - but would recommend a prism over a first surface mirror. When new a prism is no better or worse than a mirror, but they're easier to keep optically perfect over time. Some process cameras used just such a prism to save space, so a little dumpster diving may get you what you want for no or little cost. Otherwise, a simple 45 prism will work, but you will have to invert the neg in the carrier to avoid a mirror-image print.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 10, 2001.

how much money do you have?


-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), April 11, 2001.

Hey, that's not a bad idea...according to my ESECO catalog here, the AF 1010 has a 20 ft. track.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 11, 2001.

now all you'll need is an "engineer Fred" cap...

aren't they beautiful DK? The factory is about 40 miles north of where I'm sitting...

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), April 11, 2001.

additionally ... The HPU device mitch mentions is a first-surface mirror so it's a fragile sucker. It comes with a leather sock to protect it. It's adequate for poster prints with some fine-tuning. It's no substitute for a horizontal enlarger. Stephen Shuart had a gaggle of these NIB for cheap. Might check with him.

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), April 11, 2001.

Trib, I've never seen the factory, where is that, Oklahoma?? But, I have had some experience with their customer service, which was top-notch. We've got a densitometer they made, and the thing's built like a tank. We've got one of their revolving doors too, I'd love to have one of their package enlargers, but man, we just can't afford that stuff on state budgets....the funny thing about our new darkroom is that it was designed like 15 years ago (before my time) as a mural darkroom. The room is huge, bigger than our studio. But they only budgeted $200 for a "horizontal" enlarger. Where on earth are you going to find one for that? An overhead projector maybe, I don't know. I'll bet the ESECO model costs at least 25K, geesh, don't get me started here....ESECO makes great stuff though.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 11, 2001.

yeah DK, Eseco is in Cushing OK... which is just a few miles north of OKC on I35. I've used their densitometers too... the old tube style and man, it is a tank. Like you, I can only drool and dream about chugging 'round the darkroom on rails on one in my engineer fred hat... I think I'd paint it the new BNSF pumpkin scheme and pretend it was a Dash-9. I can envisage a negative carrier tender coupled to it's butt.... choo choo!

probably costs as much as a dash too....

-- trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), April 11, 2001.

Nathan, I use an old (really old) Elwood 8x10 enlarger for both floor use and horizontal use. It is a huge beast, but it is fairly easy to flip it. Yeah, I crawl around on the floor for the smaller prints, but a piece of foam padding or a short stool helps. Believe it or not my back hurts less from this kind of work than from normal counter-height printing. (Less repetitive.) For horizontal work, I project panoramic negs that are 6x12cm on up to 11 inches long, using a 240 G-Claron lens for all of them. Images are 14x42 or 18x36. The homemade wall easel hangs from the ceiling and is moveable on wooden tracks, so I do my size adjustments by moving that, not the enlarger. Alignment is not at all critical. It seems less critical the larger you go. I just measured the four corners of the easel with a tape measure from the lens. I test for grain focusing by doing small test prints in 6 different parts of the projection (too dim to really see it, even with my excellent grain focuser). I highly recommend Agfa Classic MG fiber paper in rolls --- I cut 25x50" pieces and tape them to the easel with black photographic tape - it holds it fine and does not tear the paper when removing it. This warm-tone paper lies flat, even hanging on the easel. If anyone has an old Elwood they will probably pay you to take it away!

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), April 14, 2001.

Nathan, Keep it simple use a 210mm Componon S enlarging lens on a vertical enlarger covers 8X10 for my use, even a 8x10 converted 45MXR or Durst with a color head or cold light head needs little head room. Besides a horizontal solution can become very complex. Andy

-- Andrew Hess (pp000830@mindspring.com), April 17, 2001.

210 seems to me a little short, but already a 240 works fine. I measured the distance between film and easel with the 240 lens for a 24x30 inch print from 8x10 to be just 4 feet.

-- Jan Eerala (jan.eerala@itameri.net), April 17, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ