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.
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.