It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time.

Round two, of 2015, in the darkroom.

After Pedro managed to bring it back to life I decided to use the big Kaiser VMP 6005. It already has built in Multigrade filters for controlling contrast, a nice negative holder and lamp/light intensity control. It can also take 35 and 120mm, up to 6×7 negatives.

This is the guy, solid machine, made in Germany, tough to beat!

They sell for about 200/300 USD in good condition, with lens, if you can find one.


Here is the Multigrade control of the Kaiser. You just have to select the desired filter. Believe me, this is very handy!


You will need one of these too. It controls the exposure time. Usually this does not come included with the enlarger.


However after a few tests I began to hate the Kaiser. I was doing everything right but things were not coming out as intended.

It’s one of those things. Despite tools being just tools, I feel more comfortable using specific ones and on top of that my son said to me: Dad I’m not feeling the vibe you know.It’s not you, it’s the enlarger!

Oh! The most heart warming excuse for my lack of skills!

So we moved to another enlarger. The Durst 370 BW. It has a much more primitive negative holder and it can only take 35mm negatives but it’s a damn fine machine to work with. Timers work with every enlarger, the one attached to the Durst was also much more primitive than the one on the Kaiser but it did the job nicely.

The Durst 370 BW sells from 50 up to 300 USD and a nice timer will cost you from 5 up to 20 USD.

However don’t forget, the enlarger is just like a camera, it needs a lens. The better the lens, better the results if you are looking for a certain kind of results of course. The price of enlarger can vary depending on the lens.


Since the Durst does not have built in Multigrade filters I had to use the Multicontrast filter set form Agfa. They are just like the Multigrade from Ilford. They increase contrast from “Zero” up to “5”.



Personally, I think it all depends on the negative. As standard printing I like moderate contrast so I use filters number 2 and 3 a lot. The usual exposure tests are always cool to make and they will help us decide about the final exposure time, the contrast and if any masking is needed.

_MG_6029 copy


The final print, filter number 3, 22 seconds exposure.

When you expose the paper to the light and you put it in the developer for about 1:30, 2 minutes, depending on the developer and the dilution of course, something will happen. Either the test comes out well balanced or totally off.


Back in college, my old photography teacher would slap me in the hands, true story, if I tried to take the paper out of the developer, before the given time, because it was becoming too dark.

Lesson learned 25 years ago: exposure is controlled by enlarger not by the time you leave the paper in the developer.



Once the final exposure time is decided, the contrast is set and I if any masking is needed and the timer makes that final “Tlok”, I know exactly what I have in my hands. After 30 to 40 seconds something will start to appear… after a minute it’s all there and all the sudden the thought that something is wrong comes to mind… must… resist… temptation… of taking… the paper… out… wait, wait… it seems to be slowing, maybe everything is right…

Trust mathematics and trust magic made of silver and resin coating… after 2 minutes here it is.




I’m not trying to teach anyone how to print. After being away from a darkroom for 20 years it’s amazing to be back and I’m taking small steps trying to learn from reading, from friends, from my own mistakes.

I aim only to share my enthusiasm for this process.

    • How I wish we lived closer, period. 🙂
      Also have a very special print for you dear J.

      • I feel very honoured that you would make a print for me Paulo. Muito obrigado caro amigo xxx

      • My pleasure 🙂
        We will talk in a more private way. I’m sending it this week.

      • Dear J, I’ve been so off! Sorry a million times. I will ask for it of course. It is not forgotten. 🙂

  1. bodegabayf2 said:

    Very cool!

  2. I reconnected with the joy of printing when I returned to NY in 2012. The thrill of making test strips and then the final print is great.

    • Having a red light on the wall is always a sign for… joy 🙂

  3. Borja said:

    Visiting your blog is always a treat because there is always something new to learn. I applaud your efforts. Bravo! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. Eu já tenho o ampliador funcional há quase um ano, e só o mês passado é que reparei que a cabeça de cor que estava a usar me estava a tirar imenso contraste às fotos.. conclusão, vou ter de “aprender” a fazer todas as fotos de novo!
    A foto a aparecer no papel continua a ser magia, a meu ver 🙂

    Entretanto descobri um truque para fazer os testes sem gastar tanto papel, mas aqui é complicado explicar..


  5. Dan Onidi said:

    God article: try taking a look at Gene Nokon’s book “Photographic Printing” – I think that his zone system is an excellent way to get better prints. And if you can find one in Portugal – look for RH Design’s Zone Master Timer. All the best from England.

    • Dan, thank you so much. I will look into both books as I need to improve (a LOT) my darkroom skills.

  6. One of the finest enlargers i ever used was the meopta magnifax i loved it. I had the durst m670 before it the meopta was agricultural in comparison but i preferred it. They had very cheap lenses as well but they were equal to my nikkor, i did prints using the anaret nikkor and a leica and the anaret did not disgrace itself in such exulted company.

    I always found it theraputic when i was printing, the slow, meeasured moments were always valued I do miss it, that said i still use film but have to now scan, which to be fair has its own unique quality.

    • I totally understand. I also like scanning and yes, it has a very unique quality and, also, creative possibilities, out of reach when in a darkroom.

      I’m very fortunate for being able to explore both worlds. 🙂

      Thank you my friend.

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