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

LPL Enlargers

Introduction

LPL is a British firm owned by the electronics giant Philips. In the UK (and presumably the rest of the world) they are known simply as LPL. But in the United States they were for years imported by a company called Berkey Marketing, and Berkey decided to co-brand it with one of their other brands, so in the USA these enlargers were typically known as Saunders/LPL.

Berkey also owned Omega (and for awhile they co-branded a line of easels under the name Saunders/Omega). When Berkey went bankrupt in the 1980s, the company was purchased, sliced, diced, and reorganized a couple of times, and eventually emerged as OmegaSatter. They still import LPL, but now they're sold as Omega/LPL (but don't confuse it with the single-brand Omega line, which is different). One model still retains the Saunders/LPL name; only a marketer could understand why.

To avoid unnecessary confusion, I simply call these enlargers LPL regardless of each unit's official US badging.


Quick Comparison

Model Era Format Baseboard Price Notes
67C or D 1983 6 x 7cm 17-3/4 x 23-3/4 Condenser $209; Dichro $329 67C is the condenser version; 67D is the Dichro
670CXL or DXL 1983 6 x 7cm 17-3/4 x 23-3/4 Condenser $289; Dichro $459 Same as 67C/D but with extra-long girder, oversize baseboard. -- Reviewed Darkroom Photography, Mar 1983 (Vol 5 #3)

Model Notes

670DXL

The following review appeared in the late, great Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 5 #3 (March 1983). It was written by the great (and still with us) Ctein.

LPL 670DX adRoll films sometimes seem the orphan child of the darkroom. Inexpensive 35mm enlargers are abundant. Many professional enlargers handle 4x5 or larger film, but you pay truly pro (i.e. high) prices. The medium format photographer, however, has trouble finding moderately priced equipment with pro features.

The Saunders Group is importing the LPL 670 DXL enlarger to fill the gap. It's a moderately priced machine offering interchangeable black-and-white and color lamphouses, a special fine-focus control, a lensboard that both tilts and shifts, and a universal negative carrier which uses metal or glass inserts to accommodate formats from 110 through 6x7 cm.

Another pro-style feature sure to be appreciated by the serious user is an extra-tall vertical column that permits almost 18X enlargements with a 50mm lens, and over 10X with an 80mm lens. The location of the column limits you to prints less than 18 inches deep, but the print can be as wide as your easel will allow. A 16x20 print presents no problems from any format. And, should you want to avail yourself of even bigger enlargements, the enlarger can be converted to floor projection in about two seconds--just loosen a knob and rotate the column. Anyone who's ever hassled with reconfiguring a conventional enlarger for floor projection will appreciate this elegant feature.

The column bracket attaches to the baseboard with four Allen screws and small nuts. Sounders thoughtfully provides an Allen wrench but the little nuts are rather hard on one's fingers. The other components connect with either thumbscrews or large knobs, so assembly is very simple and quick. The enlarger, nonetheless, is satisfactorily rigid, though at the greatest magnifications you must let it damp down after touching it.

The black-and-white and color lamphouses both attach to the focus assembly with two thumbscrews; interchanging heads takes only a minute or two. During shipping, the faceplates of the color head and power supply are covered with protective plastic film--a considerate touch.

The quartz-halogen dichroic color head runs off a separate power supply. One cable connects the two components and it cannot be plugged in backwards. The power supply is unstabilized, so meticulous color printers will want to add a voltage stabilizer. Changing enlarger bulbs, a tricky business with some color heads, is easy on this machine: just remove a latched cover, slide back a panel and the lamp is exposed. The lamp's bracket is even keyed so that the bulb only fits in one way.

This foolproofery is marred by one small flaw: both the power supply case and its switch are labeled with the words "on" and "off," and the labeling is done in such a way that you can get confused, at first glance, about whether the power is on or off. Fortunately, you won't blow fuses (or worse!) by plugging in the supply while it is switched on, but that kind of ambiguity is a potential hazard. There's an easy way to deal with the problem, though; just place a small piece of opaque tape over the labels on the switch.

In actual darkroom use, the color head performs admirably. Filters dial in and out smoothly and reproducibly, with no sudden jumps between white light and low filter values. The filters return to exactly the same positions after the white light lever is released. The marked filtration range is 0-200 units for magenta and yellow; 0-170 for cyan.

I do have two minor complaints about the color head. First, the white light lever doesn't latch very securely in the 'white' position. I kept nervously checking it to make sure it hadn't popped out (it never did, I must admit). Second, the front panel lights are too bright. Conceivably they could fog super-sensitive materials such as Ektachrome 14 paper. The problem is easily rectified by removing two of the three (!) illuminating bulbs.

These issues aside, the color negs printed beautifully. An 8x10 Ektaflex print, from a normal 6x7 Kodacolor II negative, required an exposure of 30 seconds at f/11 with a Leitz Focotar 100mm f/5.6 lens. The 57M + 63Y filter pack was within 10CC of the pack my professional 4x5 enlarger demands, indicating the accuracy of the unit's filter calibration. And the print showed absolutely no density falloff in the corners, indicating even illumination.

Handling-wise, one of the nicest things about this enlarger is its accessory Fine Focus Control. It's a well-made reduction gear that enabled me to adjust the focus to perfection with great ease and no 'tweaking.' I wish every enlarger had one. Another thing that pleased me was that the enlarger was well aligned; it was off by less than 1/8 of a degree, which is very good.

I have some gripes about the 670's negative carriers, though. While the 35mm glassless carrier works fine, the glassless 6x7 carrier is cut too short for 6x7 images; it crops a bit off the end of the picture whether you want to crop or not. One could take a file to the well-blackened metal of the carrier, but the manufacturer should have provided a 70mm aperture in the first place.

There is also a Universal Masking Negative Carrier, which accommodates glass inserts and is equipped with four cropping blades to eliminate stray, flare-producing light. In combination with the glass inserts, this should be the perfect glass carrier suitable for all formats. Unfortunately, the blades don't open to the full 6x7 frame size--several millimeters are cropped off the length and width. Worse, the reversible lens mounting disk has an unblackened ring of shiny, machined metal about the threaded hole. That ring reflects light straight back at the negative, where the lower carrier glass bounces it back down, through the lens, and onto your print paper. The developed print thus sometimes shows a faint dark ring, about 8 cm across on my 8x1 Os, in the middle of the paper. If these two flaws were corrected, I would rate the Masking Carrier highly, but I can't recommend it as is.

While the dichroic head can also be used for black-and-white printing, either with white light and single grade papers, or with the dial-in filters and multigrade papers, the 670's Condenser Lamphouse is a handy alternative. This 100-watt, dual condenser head uses a special opal teardrop-shaped lamp whose position can be adjusted for best uniformity of illumination. I set the condensers for maximum coverage to provide the most uniform light and still could print a Technical Pan 35mm negative on 8x10 paper with an exposure of 30 seconds at f/11. Although LPL supplies a supplementary condenser to further intensify the light for 35mm format, the illumination is so bright I don't see any need to use it.

Condenser enlargers often show noticeable light falloff in the corners of the field. Not the 670--I couldn't see any difference in uniformity between prints made with the dichroic (diffusion) and the condenser heads. That is exceptional performance.

As I indicated at the outset, the 670's sophisticated lens stage can be undamped, permitting not just swings, but lateral shifts as well. I corrected a set of converging parallels in my Technical Pan negative by raising one edge of the print easel 5 cm. Without a tilting lens, I would have had to stop down to f/64 to keep the entire print sharp; at that aperture, diffraction effects would have given me anything but a sharp print. By tilting the lens, and recentering the image with the shift, I could use f/11 and still get sharply rendered grain from edge to edge. Furthermore, wnen I relocked the lensboard in its normal position, a check of the alignment showed the whole system was still aligned within that 1/8 degree. Very impressive!

In summary, I feel the designers of the Saunders/LPL 670 DXL have come up with a machine that performs well overall, while committing a few small but embarrassing blunders on details. Nonetheless, the 670 is an all-around fine performer with many useful features and offers excellent value for its price.