Darkroom Enlargers

Two key machines of photography are the camera and the enlarger.
The enlarger is the central component of a darkroom. It is used to make prints from your negative. Most darkroom work has been monochrome, black and white (B&W). An enlarger is simple complexity.
A light source, a film carrier, and a lens are the points of the enlarger system. Each enlarger maker solved the problem of holding a piece of film in the light path in few variations. Common enlargers in the US were Omega and Beseler.
Other companies: Durst, DeVere, Kaiser, LPL, Saltzman, ZBE.


At the 4×5″ level, all manufacturers were producing durable, long work equipment. The things to avoid would be something  incomplete or broken. Omega uses SAE hardware which is a plus or minus depending on the tools at your disposal.


most common US enlargers were Omega and Beseler.

hardest enlarger sizes to find are sheet film, which were used in many MFA programs and custom print labs. These are enlargers suited to 4×5, 5×7, 8×10 film.

In the 8×10 size, Elwood was in many dye transfer labs. Kodak also had an 8×10 enlarger mainly sold to dye printers.

Significant makes, less found in US, are Durst and DeVere. Durst sold many 6×6 enlargers in the US. My first enlarger was a small Durst which served me well until I need to make dyes. I kept the Durst but added an Omega D2V which I loved, keeping it for more than 20 years and several thousand miles of moves.




classic enlargers : http://classic-enlargers.com

Durst / secondary source


And advanced, onto the edge electronics enlargers


Beseler 45 Enlargers

The Beseler coding is….

  • M= Motorized elevation.
  • X= X shaped reinforcing rear struts.
  • C= Originally came with condenser head, with filter drawer.
  • R= Originally came with Resistrol (an adjustable dimmer for the enlarging lamp)
  • T= Turret ready (the newest lens stage & untapered square focusing bellows) These are improved for focussing & more adjustable for alignment.
  • D= Originally came with a Dichroic color head.
  • The CB-7 was the chassis with power focus, elevation and  built-in timer; controlled from the front.

Beseler made 1) condenser, 2) diffusion, 3) point light as well as the 4) tricolor 45A light heads. The other brands also had the first 3 head styles. The Beseler 45A was a product of Beseler-Minolta with Minolta doing most of the production.


Beseler 45 Colorhead

Two versions: the dichro 45 with LED readouts to the left of the switches and dials. It is labeled “dichro 45 color computer.” This is the one that has problems with turn-on time delay in many production units. The other unit is the 45S, a manual operate unit without LEDs. The display/readout is above the dials. It is still listed for sale ($2,300) but is often “out of stock.” Repairing the dichro 45 is dependent upon electronic technician’s diagnostic skill and ingenuity with replacement parts.

Beseler Dichro No Light?

Error symptom of the dichro 45 head: doesn’t light immediately. You start the timing cycle, and the lamp doesn’t start. Eventually, it will not light. Upon examining the enlarger bulbs they seem good; maybe you’ve even replaced them with known good bulbs. This is the reason most units are scrapped. A part on the board is defective. That part is a “vactrol,” an optical isolator with a neon bulb in it. This neon lamp has burned out. Since it is in a sealed can, you won’t see it. A small fix for a technician. One giant pain for the average darkroom printer.

Vactrol Analog Optical Isolator
vactrol in beseler head

The replacement is an upgrade; it is longer lasting than the original vactrol; in fact, much of the board can/should be upgraded with more recent components. Capacitors and connectors used in last century’s boards were rarely the best grade available. Upgrade using the VTL-5C3.

VTL5C3 pins

Homebrew the whole deal with this circuit:

Vactrol Circuit
analog Opto Isolator circuit

Beseler Negative Carriers


1 5/8 x 15/8″ 4×4 127 film


6×6 120 film


2-1/4 x 3-1/4″ Film Pack


2.25″ x 3.25″ (6×9) 120 film


2.25″ x 3.25″ Sheet Film


2.25″ x 4.25″ Roll film


3-1/4 x 4-1/4″ Film Pack


3.25″ x 4.25″ Roll film


3.25″ x 4.25″  Sheet Film (H 3


9x12cm Sheet Film


4×5″ Pack FIlm


4×5″ Sheet Film (H54CN)


Minolta 16 – 12 x 17mm


126 film 28mm x 28mm


6×7 roll film


Hasselblad 70mm 2 1/8 x 2 1/8″


35mm Negatrans (4×5 enlargers only)


2-1/4″ x 2-1/4″ Negatrans (4×5 enlargers only)


645 120 film


110 film


Kodak Disc Film


Negaflat 4×5


4×5″ Sheet Film Glass carrier


Universal Glass carrier


4×5 Universal Anti-Newton Glas


3-1/4″ x 4-1/4″ Glass Lantern Slides


2″ x 10″ Glassless Carrier


2.25″ x 2.25″ Glass Carrier


2.25″ x 3.25″ Glass Carrier


Polaroid Type 665 73x95mm


XPan 24x65mm 35mm film Panaora