Used Durst 138S or a New Zone VI : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all,

I am in the process of shopping around for an enlarger to do my 5x7 work with. I've come across a used (advertised as in excellent condition)Durst 138S with all the necessary condensers, no lens board and no lens, but a three lens turret. I am also considering a new Zone VI with a VC head, which I suspect may end up costing a bit more than the used Durst, or close to the same once I pay a huge amount of money for shipping the Durst.

Does anyone have any opinions on which would be the wiser choice, the used Durst 138S or a new Zone VI? Are there any other options for 5X7 that I'm missing as I am new to large format? Thanks to everyone for your help and input!!!!

-- Steve (, February 13, 2002


I had a Zone VI VC setup and sold it. It was OK for 4x5, but with only blue & green light, I had trouble fo"cussing" smaller formats. You should realize that you are wasting 95% of the light on a 5x7 diffusion head when printing 35mm, which explains why the image was so dim. Also, the bellows didn't compress enough to make very large enlargements from smaller formats.

So I can recommend the Zone VI for 4x5, and it would likely be fine for 5x7, but don't expect it to handle all formats equally well. And, at least for the way I work, it had some drawbacks. The VC light source, though, was just fine.

On the other hand, I wanted to tighten the focussing mechanism because it was slipping a little, and couldn't get any real support out of Calumet.

I've always liked working with Durst products, so I suggest you check it out. If reasonably priced, I'd probably opt for it.

I saw a used Beseler 57 (kind of like a 45 on steroids) at my local photo store. It looked OK, so you might keep your eye's peeled for one of those.

-- Charlie Strack (, February 13, 2002.

Holy Cow, this one is a no brainer. THE DURST.

Durst enlargers are unquestionably what the real serious folks use. I asked many before I acquired my two Durst enlargers. All you would have to do is take a look at each and it is over. Durst are heavy, over engineered precision instruments for which you will need some space to use them as they are tall standing units. Nothing against Zone VI, but they are simply not in the same league. Be thankful that the Durst enlargers are becoming available as they were expensive as hell when they were imported from Italy and would cost a small fortune to replicate today. Good Luck!

-- Michael Kadillak (, February 14, 2002.

I have a Zone VI type 1 enlarger, and I like it a lot for 4x5 on down. I'll offer my input in bullet form:


>> If interested in 5x7 B&W, DO NOT get the Type 1. It doesn't cover. Get the current Type 2. If buying used, the Type 1 has one column to the negative stage, and the type 2 has two columns to the negative stage.

>> With the Zone VI Beseler (yes, Beseler) adaptor, I was easily able to adapt a D2V Omega condenser head to my Zone VI. (I prefer condenser for smaller negatives.)

>> Also with the Beseler adaptor, color is possible for 4x5 on down. Nothing available in color for 5x7, however. (i.e. Beseler color heads.) You will need the Aristo Beseler adaptor.

>> Current Zone VI 8x10 B&W heads will fit either the Type 1 or Type 2 enlarger, regardless of what Calumet might say. I have the 8x10 head, and with a very minor change in procedure, it fits great on my Type 1.

>> For diffuse lighting on smaller negatives, consider getting a high- intensity Aristo. I've heard the Type 1 5x7 heads don't have enough light for smaller negatives. (Long exposure times.) Type 1 heads are brighter, but I've not tried to use my Type 1 head on smaller negatives.

>> Zone VI can be used as a counter top enlarger, if one purchases the base. It's an excellent base, very sturdy. But, reinforcing the top to the wall is always a good idea.

>> Zone VI heads for the current Type 2 enlargers are oversized. You do know need to worry about light falloff.


I don't know too much about the Durst, but would offer the following:

>> I know that one can't use them as a counter top.

>> Not sure if one can adapt an 8x10 to them, if that's of interest.

>> I'm pretty sure that one can obtain any possible combination of heads, light sources to obtain 5x7 on down for color or black and white, condenser or diffusion. So, that's a plus.

>> Dursts can be found for reasonable prices, since a lot of labs are getting rid of high grade enlargers and opting for digital.

>> Before purchasing a Durst, I would want to know about possible fall-off at the edges or other possibilities of the light sources being uneven across the negative. Others?

I would defer to other posters who seem to have a high opinion of the Durst enlargers.

-- neil poulsen (, February 14, 2002.

Original Durst condensers are the best in the business (the other are the ones made by Leica). Condensers got a bad reputation because of the Coke bottle-glass used by lesser manufacturers like Beseler and Omega.

No worries about accessories as this company in HillsBor, Oregon manufactures them under licence : . Look at how much it is charging for a re-manufactured 138S.

If the Durst 138S is in truly good shape (and these things are built to last in a commercial environment), and can be had for a great price, spring for it over the Zone VI.

-- Erik X (, February 14, 2002.

Hi Steve, I don't know anything about the Zone VI but I have a Durst 138S and it's a GREAT enlarger! Sturdy, bulky and haevy but you won't need anything else more. With two 240 condensers, one 200 and one 130, you can combine for all negative formats from 35mm to 5X7": _240+240, 210 or 240mm lens for 5X7 or 4X5 _240+200, 150mm lens for 4X5 and under _200+130, 80mm lens for 35 It's better to use the upper lens to avoid the fall off light on the edges.Two drawbacks: It's not as practical as a small enlarger for 35 so, if you have a 35 enlarger, you should keep it for that format. The lens boards for 80mm(or other MF lens) and for 35 are coming inside the turret, so you can't leave your small lenses on the tourret and turn it.Anyway, sometime you need that kind of enlarger even for your 35mm prints. When I want black margins on 40cmX50cm prints from a 35mm negative, I can't use my little Durst 670 because the column is too close to the picture. One more thing, spare parts are still availables from the factory until 2005, but a 138S is quite indestructible. I hope that will helps you. Regards

-- Daniel Luu Van Lang (, February 14, 2002.

Hi Steve, The Durst 138 is the best option. It's sturdy and, most important, condensers are great. For 120 film, 4x5 and pola 55 it's great.

I own a 138S, a 184 and I will NEVER leave them away !

-- guillaume zuili (, February 14, 2002.

Just check if you get all the condensers. The 120 is quite rear, but it's only for 35mm. So you don't really need it. Again, it's the best purchase. Hope that hepls. Guillaume

-- guillaume zuili (, February 14, 2002.

Sounds like a resounding chorus of praise for the Durst, but just in case you hadn't noticed, Calumet has a slightly used Zone VI 5x7 enlarger head on their website currently. Sorry, I can't recall which type, and frankly I wasn't able to figure how much of the outfit they were selling (I think it's more than just the head, but perhaps not the whole rig) when I looked into this a bit myself yesterday. It might even out the prices, even if it complicates your decision.


-- Stephen Longmire (, February 14, 2002.

I have a Durst s 45 EM...and it is a very good enlarger. The only thing I dont care for is the alignment ajust and no extention focus when making 20x24's.But the height ajustable table is cool and the condensors are almost as good as Leica ones. I do up to 5x7 negs on it and get great results.You can also put a 8x10 head on it (customise) if you want,or a cold light.One thing I wish it had is autofocus like my Leica 1c...which is a dream in the darkroom!

-- Emile de Leon (, February 15, 2002.

Some drawbacks of the Durst include impossibility of buying any new parts(plenty of secondhand though), and if you do not own a colour head (hot! hot! hot!) you would need to find the almost impossible to find the special original bulbs (adapting other bulbs doesn't produce the same results as the originals). good luck!

-- andrea milano (, February 17, 2002.

Contact DURST USA at


-- Roger Urban (, February 18, 2002.

I doubt that Durst USA would have bulbs which are out of production in Europe! Unless american Durst models used different bulbs. Durst Italy (home of Durst) doesn't have any bulbs anymore and doesn't provide parts either! greetings

-- andrea milano (, February 19, 2002.

obviously my last commet refers specifically to the 138s

-- andrea milano (, February 20, 2002.

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