Ollinger's Guide to Photographic Enlargers: Leitz Enlargers
Ollinger's Guide to Enlargers

Leitz Enlargers

Leitz Focomat V35Introduction

The German firm of Ernst Leitz is most famous for its Leica camera line, but they made a number of other things as well, including a line of enlargers. As with anything Leitz, I can't afford them. And as with anything Leitz, they have a strong enthusist base and they're well documented.

I have a few of Instruction Manuals and brochures available for download. click for manual


Quick Comparison

Model Era Format

Baseboard (inches)

Head Focusing Autofocus Column Ref Manual Notes
Focomat Ia 1937-1949                  
Focomat Ib 1946-1950 40x40mm n/a Single condenser Bellows Yes Single post 2 No  
Focomat Ic, Ic Color 1950-1977 35mm 16x21 Single condenser Helical Yes Single post 1 Yes  
Focomat IIa, IIa Color Late 1940s 2-¼ x 3-½" 20-½ x 27" Double condenser Bellows Yes Single post 2 Yes  
Focomat IIc 1974 2-¼ x 3-½" 20-½ x 27" Double condenser Bellows Yes Single post 3 Yes Modern Photography review April 1974
Focomat V35 1979 35mm 21-¼ x 27-½ Diffusion unknown Yes Single post 3 Yes Reviewed Modern Photography Oct 1979; Reviewed Darkroom Photo magazine Jan 1980 (Vol 2 #1)
Valoy II 1958 35mm 15-½ x 17-¾ Single condenser Helical No Single post 1 No  

Key

Leitz Valoy II adEra: It's nearly impossible to get actual production year spans; I've provided this simply to give an idea of when an enlarger was in production.

Focusing:

Autofocus: not to be confused with what we think of as autofocus today; these enlargers don't focus themselves. What they do is offer a sort of tracking control so that once the image is focused, it stays in focus as you change the elevation of the head for cropping.

Column: all columns are assumed to be vertical unless oblique is noted. Oblique columns (i.e. angled forward) are nice at higher head elevations because the image won't expand back across the column post when the head is at the top of the post. On smaller enlargers this wouldn't be a problem, but at larger magnifications (and with lenses with shorter focal lengths), this can become a concern.

References

  1. Modern Photography magazine, October 1962
  2. Modern Photography magazine, December 1949
  3. Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 3 #5, September 1981

Manual: Instruction manual available.

Model Notes

Focomat IIc

The following unsigned review appeared in the now-defunct Modern Photography magazine, April 1974. The title of the review was "The Most Expensive Enlarger We've Ever Tested." I've edited it for brevity.

Manufacturer's Specifications: Leitz Focomat lIc Enlarger. Features: Accepts all negatives 12 x 17mm to 6 x 9cm (2-1/4 x 3-1/4 in.), cam-guided autolocus operation, parallelogram construction, rapid shift lens turret, equipped with Leitz 60mm Focotar and Leitz 100mm V-Elmar lenses, illuminated magnification scale, adjustable for easel thickness, Osram 150-watt lamp, red filter, filter drawer, heat-absorbing glass, adaptable to distortion-correction device, copying back for reproductions down to 1:1, white-surfaced baseboard and negative mask storage drawer. Price: $1,806 (with lenses).

If we had to name one enlarger that ranked first in design, quality of construction and performance, this would have to be it. The basic design concept, the fit and finish of the individual parts and the overall performance all add up to place the Focomat lIc in a category that is mighty lonely. There's only one enlarger in it, the Leitz Focomat IIc.

As a rule, we first discuss the enlarger under test in terms of its basic design. Then we talk about the various performance tests before making a final evaluation. But in this case we would like to reverse this procedure.

In terms of alignment among baseboard, negative and lens, the Focomat IIc tested out at nearly a zero discrepancy between all three planes. Actually a 1/16 bubble length (using our standard alignment tool) was detectable between negative and baseboard in the lateral plane. No detectable error was found in any other alignment measurement. To put this in perspective, we regularly run into 1/4-bubble length errors in all planes of many machines previously tested.

Illumination tests are designed to check evenness of illumination across the print area. The Leitz Focomat IIc with the 60mm Focotar in place checked out as follows: Corner-to-corner discrepancy--zero. That is, if there was a difference it was not readable on our Lektra PTM-7a photometer, and it is calibrated down to 1 /10 of a stop. The center-to-edge error was about 1 /10 of a stop. These are the best illumination specifications we have ever come across in our testing.

The Focomat lIc is a dual-format enlarger. While it covers negative sizes down to 12 x 17mm (Kodak Pocket Instamatic), it is basically designed for the man who works with 35mm and has a second camera using a larger format negative. It can be anything up to 6 x 9cm, but more likely it would be 2-1/4 in. square or 6 x 7cm ideal format. The 6x9 maximum capability, however, makes this machine especially useful in some professional graphic arts applications. It is autofocus for all formats.

The lamphouse looks like a simple spherical metal stamping. That's deceiving. Actually it is double-walled, providing heat insulation and ventilation. The inside is silver and the 150-watt bulb is adjustable over a short range. The lower section of the lamp-house is also double-walled with large vents to provide convection cooling through the lamp-house.

The entire head from negative stage upward can be removed completely by just loosening a knob and lifting the head. This facilitates cleaning, but basically it is to accommodate the accessory negative-tilting device to be used for the correction of converging verticals. This device was not tested by Modern's editors. Note that most enlargers made in Europe are equipped with this feature. Most enlargers made in the U.S. are not. And since we have never met a single serious photographer who uses this correction device, we feel that its elimination from enlarger design makes sense. In the Focomat IIc you can take it or leave it.

In order to appreciate this machine fully, you need only examine the details. The filter drawer, for example, is well made, slides in and out smoothly, but is prevented from being pulled all the way out by a rod with a gravity catch. It can be pulled out for installing filters. To remove it completely, just depress the catch and out it slides. The heart of the machine is the autofocus system. Let's trace the action of printing a negative. And let's start by removing the carrier. It is a large, heavily-built unit, hinged at the back. The glass plates that keep the negative flat are set into the carrier and recessed. They are held in place by chrome strips and a steel spring-loaded pressure arm. The front of the carrier has a lower lip and an upper hinged arm. We place the negative between the glass plates, close the carrier and slide it into the enlarger. It goes in on four tracks. A large pair of springs holds the carrier in place. The hinged bar separates the glass plates so that film may be shifted without scratching.

The opening on the carrier is 6 x 9cm. If we are using 35mm, we select a 35mm mask from the rack under the baseboard and slip it in place under the carrier. Ten masks are available to cover all possible sizes from 12x17mm to 6 x 9cm. Let's assume we are enlarging a 35mm negative. We have already set the collar at the base of the upright to the 35mm position to accommodate the height of the Leitz easel.

Now we shift the lens turret to the left to position the 60mm lens in the light path. This automatically actuates the Bowden cable which puts the proper cam into position. The enlarger is now in perfect autofocus throughout its usable range. To get the image size we need, just Ioosen a large knob to the right of the lamphouse and lift or lower as needed and the image stays in focus. The head is so well counterbalanced that the action is smooth, silky and effortless.

To work with the 100mm lens we just push the lens turret to the right and we are ready to go.

The price of the enlarger we tested includes an illuminated magnification dial that Iights up in the dark. Without this dial the price drops to a mere $1,730. Add $204 more if you want a Leitz 12 x 16 easel. One I accessory that we do recommend is the 35mm carrier with no glass on the bottom plate. It reduces dust problems. We don't know its price at this writing, but we consider it an essential adjunct to the Leitz Focomat IIc.

Focomat V35

Leitz Focomat V35 enlargerThe following review appeared in the now-defunct Darkroom Magazine, Vol 2 #1, January 1980. It was written by Norman J. Tennefoss. I've edited it a little for brevity.

The new Leitz Focomot V35 enlarger isn't anybody's idea of an economy model. In its basic black-and-white configuration, it lists for a cool $1,500, including lens. For the color head, tack on another $300 or so. A lot of money for a 35mm enlarger, you say? Well it is quite a machine.

The enlarger column is a vertical metal cylinder with a large, cast-metal foot that bolts to -the baseboard. This foot houses a transformer which supplies the required 12 volts to the halogen bulb in the lamp housing. All wiring is internal, with only a detachable power cord on the left side of the foot.

The V35 is an autofocus enlarger, meaning that it will actually focus your negatives for you, strange as that might sound. As a result, it requires some provision to adjust the chassis height for the thickness of the easel being used. By releasing a column clamp on the right side of the foot, the chassis may be raised or lowered by a crank located on the top of the column. The column clamp also allows the enlarger to be easily rotated 180° for floor projection, but the baseboard should be counterweighted so that the machine won't tip over.

The lamp housing and enlarging head float above the baseboard on a swing arm. This vertical adjustment arm, as the owner's manual calls it, contains two eccentric rollers linked by a steel bar; these keep the head level throughout its movement arc and drive the autofocus cam which keeps the enlarging lens at the proper distance from the negative regardless of the enlargement ratio. The entire assembly is balanced by a large coil spring in the arm. This arrangement allows the head to be placed at the desired enlargement size with no need to lock it in place. I found, however, that with ratios of 14X or greater, as shown on the illuminated magnification indicator, I needed to use the lock to hold the head securely in place.

The light source for the V35 is a 75-watt halogen lamp mounted in the rear of the lamp housing. The lamp is easily accessible and the housing allows good heat dissipation; almost no heat from the bulb reaches the negative. The bulb and the transformer are protected from an overload or a short circuit by a replaceable fuse. The beam from the halogen lamp first passes through a dichroic UV filter and then into a white light-mixing and diffusing box. Mounted at the bottom of the box, next to the negative stage, is a lens-shaped diffuser which assures even lighting of the negative.

If the enlarger is equipped for color, a color module occupies a slot on the left side of the lamp housing. This unit is a set of dichroic filters (yellow, magenta, cyan) operated by three side-mounted dials. The filters intercept the light path between the lamp and the mixing chamber but may be retracted for white-light focusing by means of a lever. This is by far the easiest-to-install color "head" I've ever assembled. And its illuminated filtration scales, calibrated in density units from 0 to 200, are very easy to see.

In the V35's B&W configuration, the slot on the lamp housing is occupied by a pivoting red dichroic filter mounted in a plate. The filter allows checking the picture area with a piece of black-and-white paper already in place on the easel.

The V35's negative carrier is hinged, with a 35mm opening in the bottom plate and a round piece of anti-Newton glass mounted in the top plate. The glass on the top helps keep the negative flat, but because glass only comes in contact with the base side of the film, the emulsion side is not in danger of being obstructed by a scratch in the glass or a piece of dust. This "semi-glassless" design is an attempt to combine the advantages of both glass and glassless carriers, while side-stepping their major disadvantages, and I found that it worked very well in actual use.

The carrier also provides cutouts covered in red plastic so that frame numbers may be read on the baseboard. Accessory negative carriers are available. There are carriers for formats smaller than 35mm, as well as a glassless 35mm carrier and a carrier for mounted slides.

A pressure plate system assures that the hinged negative carrier is held tightly together and against the carrier stage. A lever on either side of the lamp housing allows the pressure plate to be raised for easy carrier removal.

Masking blades are incorporated in the carrier stage, an unusual location. Their job is to mask unwanted areas of the negative, so the optical system won't have to deal with stray light. On the enlarger I tested, two of the blades, which are controlled by four small knobs on the stage, moved crookedly through their travel, a condition I have been assured isn't common to all V35's. Below the stage the autofocus assembly holds a 40mm f/2.8 WA Focotar enlarging lens. That WA means wide angle and refers to the focal length, which is shorter than the "normal" 50 mm enlarging lens used for 35mm negatives. This Focotar is an example of the trend towards constructing lens barrels out of plastic. It also incorporates the recent innovation of optional clickstop f/stops. By pulling down on the aperture ring, the diaphragm may be continuously adjusted--a desirable property when using color analyzers and other exposure-measuring instruments.

The enlarger clearly shows the kind of design and high production standards that Leitz has always been known for. The V35's autofocus system operated precisely throughout its 3X to 16X enlargement range, and while I checked it constantly at first, I came to accept the fact that it could do the job without me. The baseboard's roominess was well appreciated; never once was the easel even close to falling off the edge. The diffused light from the light-mixing box made printing the highlight areas on contrasty black-and-white negatives easier than it is with condenser type en-largers. And finally, the enlarger's overall finish was excellent and most pleasing to look at.