Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Beseler 23C Enlarger

Sorry for the above print size but blogger would not let me make it any larger. I tried to make it bigger but to no avail. Hopefully you'll be able to read it.

Perhaps one of the best known pieces of darkroom equipment is the Beseler 23C enlarger. Yes, there are others available but this particular model appears to be more of the well rounded units suitable for a number of negative sizes and types of projection.

THe 23C is heavy but also very steady and stable. There's no vibration which would yield poor negative printing. The elevation handle (10) is well geared so that once you crank it and then stop, it stops with no further travel. There's a measuring rule on the right side of the frame, where the handle is located, so that you can take note of the negative/cropping height for each print. Very convenient for me. The baseboard is large enough so that you can easily move an 11 x 14 easel into position as you seek the print crop you desire.

There are a number of negative sizes which the 23C can handle:
  • 8 mm - 16mm and 110
  • 35mm - 126
  • 2 1/4 x 2 1/4
  • 6 x 4.5
  • 6 x 7
  • 2 1/4 x 3 1/4
Each of these sizes requires a negative carrier specific for that size negative. They're well designed and easy to use. You simply put the negative into its carrier and then insert the carrier into the negative stage (6). Once in place you're free to rotate it any way you wish in order to get the crop/print you're looking for. 

Another great feature of this enlarger is that you don't have to change the condenser with each change of negative size. There is a condenser stage guide (13) built into the unit and all you need do is turn the condenser stage adjustment knob (12) to the correct marking on the guide that reflects your appropriate negative size. Simply raise or lower the condenser stage so that it rests at the correct point. This point is the one that provides complete light coverage of the negative area, with the proper flatness of field and the avoidance of "hot spots".

The 23C has a bracket which will hold contrast filters that swings under the lense so that you can make variations to your final print. I use Ilford MultiGrade IV RC paper and always start with a Beseler #3 filter. Multigrade IV is a warm tone paper so the #3 filter helps me achieve stronger blacks. For me, it's a good place to start on my way to a completed print.

Printing with the 23C has always been a pleasure. With my darkroom timer, I have 3 easy settings. The first is focus which I use to crop my neg and then get it into focus with a grain focuser. Next is the safelight setting which allows me to take my paper from the light safe and put it into my easel. Lastly, the print setting turns on the enlarger bulb and turns off the safelight. Then it's time to put that paper in the developer and watch the "magic", something that still fascinates me after all these years.

My 23C was purchased back in the late 1970's from a retailer in NYC. The package included the enlarger, the frame, the baseboard, 3 lenses, 3 lens boards, 3 negative carriers, and a box of contrast filters. The reason I remember so well is that the "package" cost me $333.00. Forty years have gone by and so have these prices.  

Obviously, I'm not qualified to comment on your darkroom budget but if you want quality equipment that will stand the test of time than the Beseler 23C deserves your consideration.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Mamiya 645 Medium Format Camera

Of all the film formats I've used over the years, I tend to enjoy the medium format 645 size the best. It offers me both portrait and landscape orientations as you would find in any 35mm SLR camera. The 645 negative is about 3 times larger than a 35mm negative which works well for me in my darkroom using a Beseler 23C enlarger. There are also many choices of film in the 120 format so I can pretty well photograph with whatever I like. Needless to say, all my film work is done in Black & White.

My current camera choice is a Mamiya 645 first introduced in 1975 and discontinued in 1987. Unlike later models, mine does not have removable film backs. That's ok since I'm not shooting weddings where the demand for film was constant. It's really not that much larger or heavier then some of the 35 mm work-horse cameras of today. With a handle grip attached to the body, it's as comfortable for me as is any other camera. Another benefit is that my camera repair pro says that there are still repair parts available, at least for now anyway.

Some of the features that I enjoy about my Mamiya 645 are:

  • Large negative quality
  • Compact design
  • Bright viewfinder
  • Flat film plane
  • Available lenses
  • Multiple exposure provision
  • Mirror lock up switch
  • Two shutter release buttons-conveniently placed
  • Metered prism
  • X sync connection for external Flash
When all is said and done, whatever camera you choose, film or digital, just go have fun and enjoy your type of photography!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Gossen Digisix Light Meter

In my search for a lighter and smaller light meter, I found the Gossen Digisix to be my answer. It's 2 1/5" top to bottom and 2" left to right. Easily fits into a shirt pocket. Equipped with a neck strap, it can be worn all day with no fatigue whatsoever. The Digisix uses a CR-2032 battery which is readily and the unit only weighs 40g including the battery.

The Gossen Digisix is an ambient light meter set up to take both incident and reflected light readings. The diffuser is conveniently mounted at the top of the unit making it easy to move as needed for either of the two types of light readings.

There are 6 functions built into the Digisix. They are:

  1. Film Speed
  2. Exposure Reading
  3. Timer
  4. Watch
  5. Alarm Clock
  6. Temperature
Admittedly, I only use the first two functions but the others are nice to have nonetheless. Once I set my ISO value, taking a reading is easy and quite expansive. The exposure dial that you rotate to match the meter's EV reading then shows you every possible F stop/shutter speed combination for that EV reading. I like that since I may make a judgement call as to under/over exposure. May also want to think about depth of field. A single glance at the Digisix makes all the variables obvious to me. No doubt other meters do the same but I like the compact size and accuracy of this particular meter. It's just light weight, handy, and quick.

The following are some of the Gossen Digisix specs:

  • Shutter Speeds - 1/2000 sec to 4 min
  • Apertures (F stops) - 1 to 32
  • Film Speeds - ISO 6 to 3200 - 1/3 incriments
Retail price for the Gossen Digisix is around $175.

Any comments, questions, or suggestions please post as you wish.  


Saturday, September 8, 2018


Why infrared film? Why Ilford SFX 200?

The use of infrared film has always fascinated me since I first "discovered" it back in the 1980's. It can be quite unpredictable to work with because it's effected by heat, humidity and whatever exposure you choose as with any other film. Nonetheless, when I get it right, I truly enjoy the results. Kind of like a box of Cracker Jacks; you never know exactly what you'll get. Then again, that's what keeps me coming back for more. 

At one time, there were several IR films to choose from among which were Kodak HIE (perhaps most popular) and Konica 750. To my knowledge, neither are still in production. HIE was only available in 35 mm format while 750 was produced both in 35 mm and medium format. "Overhang" was created years ago using my 35 mm Minolta SRT 201 camera loaded with HIE, fixed with a 25 red filter and exposed at "whatever", I honestly don't recall. A minimum of 3 frames would generally yield a printable negative. The results are stunning; deep blacks and brilliant whites. Borders on Twilight Zone if you will. The 2 unique characteristics of IR films are blue skies turned into rich blacks and green foliage that prints as bright white. I love the contrast and often eerie appearance of the final photograph. All film processing and printing is done in my own darkroom which allows me even more print enhancement via enlarger contrast filters if I so choose.

Today, I use Ilford's SFX 200 which is available in 35 mm and medium format. Another choice is Rollei Infrared 400 film. This I haven't tried as of yet. My personal choice is medium format because I find it easier to handle those size negatives rather than 35 mm. SFX is rated at 200 ISO by Ilford but I prefer exposures created at 12 ISO when using an R72 infrared filter because of the filter factor of 16. I'd rather have a darker, stronger negative than one that's underexposed. I always carry 2 meters with me when shooting. One is in the metered Prism of my Mamiya 645 (lowest ISO choice is 25) and the other is a mini-hand held Gossen Digisix meter (lowest ISO is 6). The 645 meter is a reflected type unit while the Gossen has the capability of both reflected and incident light readings. As you may know, reflected light readings are taken at the camera with the meter pointing towards the subject. Incident readings are taken at the subject with the meter reading the actual light falling on the subject. Incident readings tend to be more accurate than a reflected light reading but they are not necessarily practical for say, architecture or landscape photography.

I'll take a reading and quite often will get 2 different answers. Then I'll expose for the 645 though TTL meters do tend to underexpose with an R72 filter attached. Still it's a reference point, Next I'll read the Gossen, and finally a exposure based on my own judgment. Might not be the most prudent procedure but out of 3 negatives I'll get the one I want to print. Recently, I've taken a reading and exposed for 3 stops of overexposure. It's been said that overexposure further enhances the infrared effect. For example, let's say the meter reads F5.6 @ 1/30 in bright sunlight (Ilford's suggested exposure), then I'd leave the aperture at F5.6, trip the shutter and then set the shutter to 1/4. It takes a certain amount of experimentation to arrive at the results you want. When creating these types of images, my 645 is tripod mounted, using a cable release and the mirror lock-up function to avoid any excess vibration.

SFX 200 works quite well as a standard panchromatic film when not using any filters. This is easy and economical for me; one film, two results. SFX yields an acceptable B&W print with no filters at all or, with filters, allows for infrared images. Works for me!

Just recently I broke my right leg and don't have access to my darkroom currently. However, prior to my incident, I did process a roll of SFX-120 format and noticed that the overexposed negatives looked good, at least on the light table. Needless to say, the proof is in the final print; soon!  

Any comments, questions, or suggestions please post as you wish. Thanks!
Respectfully - Hank