Q. My question concerns selection of an enlarger, primarily for black and white printing. I have been looking at the Beseler 23CIIXL and the Dichro 67SDXL. The latter would be a better deal since it comes with a color head. Although the 23CIIXL is somewhat more versatile, equipping that model with a color head is an expensive proposition.
Would the quality of my black and white enlargements or the ease of B&W printing suffer in any way should I choose the Beseler color head 67SDXL?
I have read that some photographers prefer diffusion to condenser printing and the Beseler color enlarger is advertised as being equipped with a diffusion head.
I have for a number of years been using a Durst M600, which has recently become plagued with the flaking of black foam in the enlarging head. I've not had much luck finding someone to fix it. Most seem to deal only in camera repairs, thus my need for a new enlarger.
A. First, about that Durst. In its day it was state of the art. But several people have reported those flakes of insulating foam as well as other mechanical problems. Don't throw it away, but I agree it's time for a new enlarger.
I personally own and use a 23CIIXL Beseler with the dichoric color head. When I purchased it several years ago, I had looked at and tested half a dozen enlargers. I wanted to get back into color printing, but realized that I wasn't going to give up black and white.
I find the 23CIIXL sturdy, accurate and easy to maintain.
I particularly like it with black and white, because all I need to do is use variable contrast paper and dial in the correct filtration with the color controls. My Beseler dealer gave me the color correction needed for each grade. I use that as a starting point and then use other settings on the color head for different effects.
I too like diffusion head printing, but having been originally trained on a condenser head enlarger, there are times I want the crispness it gives. I have both for my Beseler.
Economics, however, can be a factor. The 23CIIXL with no color head costs almost as much as the 67SDXL. Adding a color head might double the price. And, although I've not used it, reports I've received on the 67SDXL are all good. One other thing: I have found the XL feature invaluable. That extra long extension allows me to make prints up to 30 X 40 inches with no strain at all.
Q. My son has enrolled in a photography course. His teacher says that he has to have a fully manual camera, with f-stops and shutter speed control. I have a Minolta 7000i that I have had for two years and I think it's wonderful. I can do manual exposures with it easily, although I admit I use the automatic features most of the time.
Can you tell me if fully manual cameras are still made? Isn't this concept a throwback?
A. Fully manual cameras do still exist. I have just discussed this subject with several retailers and have two choices: the Pentax K-1000 and the Ricoh KR5 SuperII. The K-1000 has been around for years and has proved itself to be a great beginner's single-lens reflex. It is extremely rugged and I believe that when archaeologists look at our culture in a hundred years, they'll find working K-1000s.
The Ricoh SuperII is a newer model, and extremely easy to use. Ricoh cameras are also built to last.
Both are very forgiving; they can take the accidental bumps and bangs that happen to a beginner.
I do agree that a beginner should start with a manual camera. If a student is serious about pursuing photography, he has to learn the basics first. He has to see that when you open the aperture, you need to increase your shutter speed. Until all of the nuances of exposure are studied and learned, there will be less opportunity for creativity.
Incidentally, I agree with you about the 7000i. It's a great camera but does a lot of the picture-taking work for you. I'M STARTING TO review equipment and accessories for holiday shopping. There are several photo shows upcoming in the next few weeks and many new products will be introduced.
I'll try to tell you about some of them as the shopping season comes along, but here's a question for you. What's on your wish list? Are you interested in a new camera? Is there a special gadget or accessory you've been eyeing? Drop me a note and tell me what's on your mind, and I'll try to tell you what's out there to suit your fancy.
Write Carl Kramer c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.