I write this late at night about my past weekend, while working away from home and figuring I can use hotel room time to get this jotted down.
About ten years ago I began my home darkroom printing adventures having bought a second hand Ilford Ilfospeed 400S enlarger. I really enjoyed it but after a couple of years of owning it, we moved house, and the enlarger ended up in the garage because there was no where suitable to configure a functional darkroom without an enormous amount of effort. It stayed there for about 5 years! When I retrieved it recently to reignite my darkroom printing I discovered parts of it had seized and in attempt to fix it, I made it worse!
So my hunt for a replacement began. After some Googling and discussion with my photography friend, I set my sights on an Meopta Opemus 6, and I watched several come and go on eBay for typically over inflated prices, and I kept my eye on FFordes.com. After several months, and after missing out several fairly good deals by a matter of pounds or minutes, I noticed the other day that one came onto eBay, sold from Denmark, and was described as “unused”. Unused, I thought? Surely not. I read on and found that the circumstances of the sale were that the person bought it years ago but never got round to using it and is now selling it. P&P was reasonable at £20, and the item was for sale for £140, “Buy it Now”.
“There must be a catch”, I thought, like a missing part or a load of stuff I don’t need being included, or several things I did need being excluded. But the more I reviewed it, the less this seemed to be the case. In fact, one of the issues I was having with the other listings was this : I already have a lens for printing 35mm negatives. Its a perfect condition App Rodagon lens in perfect condition (I kept it in its special box in the house while the enlarger was in the garage), worth now about £200+. A friend of mine was good enough to sell it to me back in 2008 for £50 when they were not worth as much but they are one of the best 50mm lenses for enlarging available, so I am lucky to have it. I used it a lot with my Ilfospeed enlarger. But I don’t have a medium format 80mm lens for printing my Hasselblad work, and I knew that whatever enlarger I bought, I was most likely to end up with an extra 50mm lens, and still have to buy an 80mm lens. But with this listing, the reverse was true – there was no 50mm lens, but there was an 80mm lens! It was an eBay listing of perfection, with all the planets aligned, so I just had to get it. I bought it immediately after noting the sellers positive feedback mark.
Only 4 days later, all the way from Denmark, it was at my front door.
This past weekend I excitedly opened and began assembling it. Not only was indeed totally unused as described and parts were still wrapped in plastic, but it also came with an extra development tank, a bag of clips and tongs, and a huge printing easel. It all went together nicely. The one thing it doesn’t have is the bulb, which did not ship with the enlargers from new, which I found strange, But sure enough it does state in the manual that the bulb is not provided and must be bought separately. Anyway, I found one of those for £12 from General Lamps and it is on its way to me. The lens, sadly, is not in perfect condition. It seems some fungus has grown in it over the years but I am not sure yet if it will effect image quality when printing. Looking through it at a distance against a bright light, the fungus is visible, but when looking through it as a magnifier, it is not visible. So we will see – I might have to buy a MF lens for it yet.
When the build arrives, I can finally turn it on and hopefully try it out. The only minor snag is that I still not not have a darkroom, but I figured that I can and will just have to manage in the bathroom or cupboard under the stairs. I’ve gone without printing for 8 years due not having facilities and have already let that destroy one enlarger. This time, I will be printing.
Pictures of the big reveal are below.