Which enlarger

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Despite the digital onslaught, I still want to make a foray back into the darkroom and explore the delights of B+W. Do many Leicaphiles still use B+W? I lament the loss of Agfapan 25, but Agfapan 100 and Ilford Pan F are fine. My original enlarger, long gone, was a Polish Krokus which did Sterling duty. I now have a Hansa, which ain't too bad but somehow lacks that precision feel we all love. Results aren't too bad, but could be better. I have two choices: a used Leica Focomat or a new Durst, both for the same price. Another option is a cheaper secondhand German brand I haven't heard of. Can't even recall the name offhand - made in Stuttgart. But the serious choice is Leica v Durst. Which is best?

-- David Killick (Dalex@inet.net.nz), November 13, 2001

Answers

I haven't used all the Durst models and I know they make excellent enlargers but I personally think you'd have a hard time trying to get a better enlarger than the Leitz V35 for 35mm work. They are beautifully made, rock solid machines and the Leitz Focotar 40/2.8 lens is truely a fantastic lens. They also have the auto-focus feature which is really handy.

-- sam smith (Ruy_Lopez@hotmail.com), November 14, 2001.

The design of the Focomat allows you to have room for an easel on the board when making big enlargements. Some enlargers with an upright column (Durst 305) make this impossible. The Focomat also allows black borders and the prints are outstanding with the Focotar.

-- Peter Mackay (pm@novonordisk.com), November 14, 2001.

I vouch for the V35, as long as you're only printing 35mm. Having used Saunders, Omega and Beseler I find the V35 easily the most enjoyable to use. The lens is very good, sharp out to the edges and very useable wide open. Surprisingly I really appreciate the autofocus. When making large prints (16X20+) it can be a stretch to focus accurately while bent over a focus scope. It is possible to adust everything at, say 8X10, rack it up to a large size and it truly does hold the focus...

-- Bob Todrick (bobtodrick@yahoo.com), November 14, 2001.

Perhaps I fell an ideal setup, while at university I bought a mint condition Durst M3?? (can't remember it's always in the dark) with a Leitz 50mm enlarging lens. The print quality is superb, I use Kodak Polymax filters. But to rub salt into the wound I bought it for 25 this was 8 years ago, the absolute bargain of my life!!!

-- Philip Woodcock (phil@pushbar.demon.co.uk), November 14, 2001.

I have both a V35 with colour and VC modules and a Durst M670VC. For B/W 35mm, they V35 is a joy to use and , I feel, without peer. The Durst is very satisfactory, but I only use it for medium format. Both enlargers have very well made negative holders which fit into the enlarger with great precision, unlike many enlargers on the mar

-- George L. Doolittle (geodoolitt@aol.com), November 14, 2001.


Thanks, the Focomat sounds like the answer, but I'll check it out thoroughly to see it is in good condition. Certainly looks like a sturdy beast. Prices here in NZ seem to be cheaper, but not down to 25 pounds unfortunately! I agree the negative carrier is vital - some don't seem very stable at all. Thanks for the speedy replies.

-- David Killick (Dalex@inet.net.nz), November 14, 2001.

David. I considered a used Durst M605 recently - bought a used Saunders 6700 Dichroic instead. I think it's fabulous. I'll admit that from what I read, everyone says that the Leica is the ultimate but I think if you get a sturdy enlarger and mount some decent glass under it, EL Nikkor or Schneider, you'll be hard pressed to see any difference. With the money you save you'll be able to get a nice used Leica lens or a second body and of course, lots of paper on which to practise your craft. Take it easy.

-- bo pryszlak (natabo@aztec-net.com), December 02, 2001.

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