Wrapping up my marathon printing session (see last week’s entry) made me think about how much I enjoy using my Devere 4×5 enlarger for a range of negative sizes. One of the key features for me is the option for using glass negative carriers.
Many years ago, like most people, I used glassless negative carriers in my enlargers, but I eventually came across a very fine book called the “Edge of Darkness” by the late Barry Thornton. One of the things he discussed was the importance of using glass negative carriers along with other measures (such as proper enlarger alignment) to ensure the sharpest image possible when printing. What’s important is that he provided sound reasoning and solid proof concerning their benefits.
Thornton asked why go to the expense of having a top-flight enlarging lens if your negative is not perfectly flat? But what about dust that lands on the glass surfaces? No big deal. What little dust happens to be on the glass is easily dusted off. The real dust attractor according to Thornton was the film itself, and he was right!
Once I read about this I immediately tracked down a special Devere “master” glassless carrier holder that would accept two pieces of glass. Then I purchased anti-newton ring glass to use for the top piece and several clear pieces of glass for the bottom. On each one I taped a black paper mask with a format window cutout in the middle. So when I print 35mm I use the 35mm masked piece of glass. 6×7 has its own masked piece of glass, and so on. That’s just the way it worked out with this particular enlarger. Other enlarger’s may allow better or more elegant solutions, but I would never trade my Devere!
Once I went to glass I never looked back and I am certain I am getting the most out of my Schneider Componon HM enlarging lenses and making the sharpest prints I can.
My other enlarger is a beautiful Leitz Focomat V35 dedicated 35mm autofocus machine that I purchased after I bought the Devere. The same people that brought you Leica cameras made it. Enough said! One of its best features besides the exquisite Focotar-2 lens is that beautiful little negative carrier. It has an anti-newton ring glass top plate and a glassless bottom plate with containing the 35mm cutout.
Given a choice, I would never own an enlarger that does not provide an option for glass carriers, or that doesn’t have the ability to be retrofitted for them.
If you are currently using glassless carriers I recommend doing your own research on this subject and look into the possibility of getting glass. And if you are getting ready to take the darkroom plunge and are considering purchasing an enlarger, then I would definitely get one that can use glass.