Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/08/23

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Subject: Re: [Leica] enlargers (long answer)
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999 20:56:55 EDT

Henry & Steve,
 There are 4 different Leica Enlargers available used today. They exist in a 
variety of colors and models but I will be brief about the variations.
Latest version is the V-35 Autofocus, available with either Black/White 
module for multi contrast b/w paper or with the color module for b/w & color 
printing. It has a 40mm Focotar lens, autofocussing and it always reminds me 
of a kitchen appliance. It is a good 35-mm only, enlarger. The main problems 
is that the 40 Focotar lens is not as good as the older 50/4,5 Focotar-2 lens 
and if you put any other lens on it, you forfeit the autofocussing.  These 
enlargers crop up fairly regularly and the price seems to fluctuate between 
US$ 1000 and US$1500 depending on condition and which modules it comes with. 
If you are planning to make prints larger than 11" x 14" it is a bit 
cumbersome to use.

The Focomat 1C is the industrial workhorse of 35mm enlargers. It was in 
production since before WW2 and exists in a multitude of models. The earlier 
ones, the 1A and 1B are OK, but the uprights are flimsy and the internal 
wiring has probably turned to dust and the upright can be rather charged in 
these cases. They are still workable machines, although the lenses were a bit 
weird. They range from Elmar 50/3.5 with adapters up through a variety of 
Elmars with interesting codewords. Would you like to print with an enlarging 
lens that says "DOOGS" on it! These older Focomats have no filterdrawer, 
which makes using multigrade papers inconvenient (you lift off the 
lamphousing and drop the acetate straight on to the top of the condenser). 
The good news is that, barring major industrial disasters, the auto focussing 
on these old Focomats still works. If you are looking at one of these, make 
sure that you get the neg. carrier with it and that the lens is the correct 
one, AND, a very important point, the condenser is clean and scratch free. 
These older 1A and 1B's are usually selling for $2-300, again depending on 
 The later Focomat 1C, with the heavier upright and "color" designation (this 
indicates that it has a drawer for multigrade or color printing filters below 
the enlarging lamp) is a very good buy. Two versions exists, an older black, 
crinkle finished version and a later finished in grey hammertone finish. The 
latter is highly desirable, particularly the version with the 48" high 
upright. The older, black, version usually came with the Focotar 50/4,5 lens, 
very sharp and well corrected. Again if you are looking at one of these, make 
sure that it comes complete with lens, neg. carrier and that the condenser is 
clean. You can still get replacement condensers for these models, but at a 
price! (around $ 400). The price of these enlargers vary, from $3-400 for an 
old black 1C without color drawer and with a standard 50/4,5 Focotar to 
$750-1000 for a late grey Focomat 1C with the 48" post and the very sought 
after 50/4,5 Focotar-2. This lens is a superior performer even by today's 
standards. The god thing is that on the Focomat1C you can change the lens and 
readjust the autofocussing to work with other brand lenses or later versions 
of the 50 Focotars.
 The lower priced alternative to the Focomat 1C is the Valloy 1 and 2. This 
is essentially a non auto-focussing version of the Focomat 1C. It uses the 
same lenses, neg. carriers and condensers as the Focomats, but the auto 
focussing mechanism has been removed.  The later, grey version is very good 
as it has the filterdrawer and a "quick" shift of the enlarging head 
elevation. Usually the price tends to be around $150-250, depending if it has 
the lens or not. Being manual focus you are not as bound by the limits of the 
focussing mechanism as with the Focomat 1C's.
Leica also produced the Focomat 2A and 2C. These enlargers are designed to 
handle up to 6x9 cm negs and have two lenses on them. One is a 95 or 100 mm 
enlarging lens, covering up to 6x9cm and the other is 60mm lens covering 
35mm. The older version, the 2A is available quite often in the $800-1000 
bracket. The problem is that the lenses on this version are older formulas, 
the so-called V-Elmars (60 and 95 mm). They are not bad, but they are old 
designs and tend to lack contrast. The Focomat 2's were designed with matched 
focussing cams to the lenses that were installed, if you change lenses or if 
the enlarger you are contemplating does not have the correct lenses, beware. 
A new set of cams cost at least $150 each and they have to be fitted by 
somebody who knows how! The easiest way to tell the difference between the 
older 2A and the later 2C is to look at the lens mount. On the 2A the lenses 
are switched by rotating the mount on the 2C the mount is a sliding one.
 The latest version of the 2C, the hammertone grey one, is a very attractive 
enlarger. It has become legendary among printers as well as becoming a priced 
collectable (I know, who the hell collects enlargers but this version has 
taken on that status!). It came with the 60 Focotar and the 100 Focotar-2 and 
the latter is an incredibly good enlarging lens as well as scarce as the 
proverbial hen's teeth (probably only 200=250 of these lenses made). 
Unfortunately this is reflected in the price of the enlarger too. A nice 
clean grey 2C with the 60 and 100 Focotar-2 will probably get you very little 
change back on $ 4000.
If you are shooting only 35mm, go for a V-35 or, if you are lucky and can 
find one, a late grey Focomat 1C with the Focotar-2. It might not seem like a 
big deal to have autofocussing on an enlarger, but once you used it you will 
wonder while you didn't do this years ago!
 If you use medium format cameras and Leicas, try to find a Focomat 2C, again 
a later version with the Focotar-2 100mm lens. You will never regret it 
(except if you ever decide to move, the 2C is a substantial enlarger weighing 
in at 80 lbs.!).
 My own set-up consist of a 2C black with a slightly modified mount on it, so 
that I can use the Focotar-2 100 on it and retain the autofocussing with 6x6 
and 6x9 negs. I also have a 1C that is waiting for a space in the darkroom. I 
have small darkroom and currently there are two 2C's in there, one is the 
regular one and the other one is a point-source version of the 2C, way too 
contrasty and not very practical, although it supposedly resolves in excess 
of 275 lines/mm on the easel (about 6 times more than is possible with a 
conventional system). A definite case of Leica overkill as most paper can 
only handle 25-40 lpmm!
 I am quite sure I have forgotten some enlarger information, but at one time 
or another I have used all of the versions listed here, so my information is 
based on experience rather than on the rather sketchy information available 
in the Leica literature or collectors books.
Tom A