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

Philips Enlargers

Introduction

Philips is a European giant but it's less known in the USA, largely because it's often cloaked behind other, more familiar brand names which it owns. Around 1979, Philips decided to enter the American market with enlargers under its own name.


Quick Comparison

Model Era Format

Baseboard (inches)

Head Focusing Column Ref Price Notes
PCS 130 1979 6 x 7 cm 17½ x 23½ Condenser or Dichro Rack & pinion Single column lift & lock 1 $314 (condenser head) - $560 (dichro) Geared fine focus control; tilting lensboard and carrier; dual focusing knobs; PCS-150 electronic Tri-One colorhead includes voltage stabilizer and timer, perfmits filtration chang w/o exposure compensation -- Reviewed Darkroom Photo Mag July 1979 (Vol 1 #3)
PCS 1000 1983 6 x 6 cm 14 x 18 Semi-diffusion     2   Electronic timer operates enlarger shutter (max 50 seconds)
PCS 2000 1981 6 x 6 cm 17½ x 19¾ Diffusion Rack & pinion Single column 1 $699 Tri-One Electronic Color System with voltage stabilizer and solid-state timer; system allows color filtration or B&W changes without exposure changes; tri-color printing with single exposure -- Reviewed Darkroom Photography, Jan 1982 (Vol 4 #1)

Key

Era: 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:

  • Bellows means that the lens stage is connected to bellows that expand and collapse, and the bellows are typically moved via a wheel using friction (as opposed to using rack & pinion gears).
  • Helical focusing means a collar around the lens is turned, and the lens housing is threaded so that the lens moves up and down.
  • Rack & Pinion means that the lens stage moves up and down via a knob that turns gears.
  • Tube means that the lens is set into a tube that moves up and down (as opposed to bellows).

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. Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 3 #5 (Sept 1981)
  2. Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 5 #5 (July 1983)

Model Notes

PCS 130

The following review appeared in Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 1, #7 (Dec 1979). It was written by Norman J. Tennefoss.

Philips PCS 130If you've been shopping for an enlarger lately, you know that many fine models are out there. So when I heard Philips of Holland, a company better known for its electronics equipment and records, was introducing a new 6x7cm enlarger, the PCS-130, into the United States, I wondered why. My curiosity aroused, I requested one to test.

When I unpacked and checked out the basic enlarger chassis, I found little to distinguish this new contender from more established competitors. But when I came to the accessory color head . . . wow! Philips has really come up with something new; more precisely, they've come up with something old and made it stunningly contemporary. But before I explain what that's all about, let's take a look at the basic PCS-130 enlarger in its B&W configuration.

The first thing to catch my eye about the PCS-130 was its vertical rather than inclined support column--a sign of its European heritage. To raise or lower the head, you loosen the handle on the right side, then push or pull the spring-balanced head into the position you want. Because of considerable lateral slack where the column and head meet, I found I had to tighten the locking handle to keep the head level.

The PCS-130 sports focusing knobs on either side, one for right-handers and one for southpaws. And it's got an interchangeable fine-focus knob too! You simply unscrew one of the regular knobs and insert the special fine-tuning knob, which is supplied with the enlarger.

The PCS-130 uses only one negative carrier; format changes are courtesy of interchangeable stamped metal masks. Only the 35mm mask comes with the enlarger. You also have the option of inserting glass instead of the masks (the two required pieces of glass are supplied with the enlarger). Spillover light from around the negative is controlled with four built-in masking blades.

If you like printing mural-size, just rotate the head and project away. This movement combined with the enlarger's tilting lens standard permits excellent distortion control as well. You'll find standard 39mm Leica threads on the lensboard; that means the PCS-130 will accept most brands of enlarging lenses.

The PCS-130 is supplied with condensers covering up to 35mm film; appropriate condenser sets are available for larger formats up to 6x7cm. Just above the condensers, there's a filter drawer. Alas, I found it very difficult to open. The drawer has no handle, and its tight, flush fit makes changing filters a real chore.

After finding nothing much to write home about in the enlarger chassis, I next turned my attention to the PCS-150 color head. There I was in for a real treat.

Philips calls its design the "electronic Tri-One color system," and it uses the additive method of color printing. So instead of employing the subtractive primary colors (yellow, magenta, and cyan) to adjust color balance, you use the additive primaries (blue, green, and red). Rather than subtracting unwanted color from a white light source, the additive system uses only the colors to which paper is sensitive, selectively adding color to each of the three paper dye layers. In theory this system is more precise and offers better color saturation and print contrast than the subtractive method, but in the past it has met with little success, except with very large and expensive machines. Previous technology forced you to expose the paper separately through each filter, all at different exposure times. If the overall hassle didn't get to you, the problems of focus shift and uneven image registration probably would.

Breathe a sigh of relief, because the people at Philips have solved all that. The PCS-150's novel design incorporates three halogen lamps in a single head, each with its respective blue, green, or red dichroic filter. As a result, the Philips system requires but a single overall exposure, just like conventional subtractive printing systems.

You can vary the intensity of each of the PCS-150's lamps from a separate, baseboard-level, electronic control panel; this gives the paper the proper exposure in each dye layer. Since the light intensities primarily control the color balance, your exposure times tend to remain the same; you can make color shifts as large as 40 to 50 units without affecting the overall print exposure time. The lamps come with a 1,000 hours or 24 months replacement guarantee.

If you're a beginning color printer, sit up and smile. Philips was thinking of you with this one. The additive system allows color negatives to be printed by logic--something usually missing in color printing. If the print is too red, you reduce the amount of red shown on the control panel, rather than by the reverse procedure of the subtractive system. Of course if you're printing positives (slides), the situation changes. To keep you from getting confused, the designers have included a set of colorful stick-on decals for the control panel. The decals provide instructions for printing from positives.

The PCS-150 control panel offers a function not usually found on color heads: a built-in timer, calibrated in 1-second units from 5 to 40 seconds. Four illuminated dials control the timer and the red, blue, and green channels, which are calibrated in Kodak color correction (CC) units. The control panel is also voltage-stabilized. By combining so many functions into a single unit, Philips has successfully minimized the gaggle of wires that form a prominent part of many color printing setups.

A switch above each color dial lets you turn off the power to each channel separately. This allows you to use the color head for precise contrast control on variable-contrast black-and-white printing papers, a technique well explained in an addendum to the owner's manual.

In the lower left-hand corner of the control panel you'll find the "expose" button for starting the timer. Then comes a three-position switch for standby, adjust, and focus functions. Standby brings the panel lights to half power; this is your setting during exposures. You use the adjust position when you want to see your color corrections on the easel as you make them; the panel lights are at full power then. Adjust is also the position you would use with a color analyzer. The focus position brings all the enlarging lamps to full power, allowing you to focus with white light.

I must admit I was impressed by the technology of the PCS-150 color head . . . and by the richly colored prints I made with it. My only complaints are that the numbers on the timer and color channel dials could be a little larger, and the three-position switch could be larger too. Also, a foot switch accessory option would be helpful, and would probably lend a professional touch to the entire unit. But in spite of all the enlarger's idiosyncracies, I applaud Philips for developing an additive printing system that's really feasible.

PCS 2000

The following review appeared in Darkroom Photography magazine, Vol 4, #1 (January 1982). It was written by Norman J. Tennefoss. It's been slightly edited for brevity.

Philips PCS 2000Nearly two years ago I reviewed an enlarger that created a new direction for color printing technology. The Philips PCS 130/150 Tri-One enlarger/color head was (and is) the first truly workable additive color enlarger. Utilizing the latest electronics and three specially designed enlarging lamps in the PCS 150 color head, Philips managed to side-step all of the pitfalls of both the old additive process and current subtractive techniques. The result was a color enlarger of unsurpassed accuracy, repeatability, and ease of operation; at least until now. Philips has borne a little brother to the PCS 130/150--the PCS 2000--that carries on these family traits, but delivers them in a different package. . . . Since the machines are both similar and different, I will mention the older model quite a bit.

At first glance the PCS 2000 looks awfully similar to its older brother. Both have the same striking gray-and-black paint scheme and unusual middle-gray-tone baseboard. But the column of the PCS 2000 is not as tall as the 130/150's, the head and chassis carriage system is not the same, and the electronics package is handled in a different way, as evidenced by the smaller control panel and separate power supply. Let's examine the electronics first.

The PCS 2000 is a diffusion color machine with no provision for condenser printing, while the PCS 130 is a condenser enlarger to which the optional PCS 150 color package is added. Therefore, the PCS 2000 comes with all of its electronics installed--even the control panel is permanently attached to the enlarger head. A second cord in the head plugs into a very common-looking power supply which in turn plugs directly into the wall. Yes, I said wall, not timer; the PCS 2000's control panel contains a 5-40 second electronic timer.

That power supply threw me a curve because the arrangement looks for all the world like your common un-stabilized variety. Thinking that the lack of a voltage stabilizer was a step backward from the original PCS 130/150 design, I telephoned GMI Photographic, distributor of the Philips line, to talk tech.

Steve Camp at GMI explained that, yes indeed, the PCS 2000 is voltage stabilized. A printed circuit board concealed in the carriage section of the enlarger head takes care of that chore, and the power supply simply provides reduced voltage to the unit. The arrangement is not as tidy as the everything-in-one-place design of the PCS 130/150 control panel, but it's a lot cheaper to produce.

The control panel itself measures roughly 4x7 inches and is very light in weight. Four cylindrical dials, adjusted by thumbwheels, display the calibration marks for the color channels and the timer. A new safety on/off switch will automatically turn off power to the enlarging lamps after two to three minutes; this switch will surely help lengthen lamp life. A positive/negative switch allows you to select the appropriate filtration system for printing either slides or negatives. The effect of the switch is to reverse the color controls so that adjusting filtration in either mode is just a matter of following the color wedges painted on the dials.

Each dial controls its own lamp, and the three lamps are arranged side by side in the head behind their respective red, green, or blue narrow transmission-band dichroic filters. The lamps are aimed into a light mixing chamber from which the diffuse light is delivered to the negative. A three-position switch on the control panel can turn all three lamps up to full power, regardless of filtration setting, for ease of focusing and composition. The same switch allows the filtered light to be displayed for measurement by a color analyzer, and provides a stand-by position for paper positioning and actual exposure. In the interest of economy, the individual color channel on/off switches found on the PCS 130/150 were deleted from the PCS 2000 design, but the safety switch is new.

It's also worth noting that the largest negative format accommodated by the PCS 2000 is 6x6cm, as compared to the 6x7cm format of the PCS 130/150. A new, smaller head casting permits the use of a shorter column while maintaining an identical maximum enlargement size to that of the PCS 130/150.

The PCS 2000 is a lean, well-built, no frills machine. In use I found it very comfortable except for two small problems. First, the enlarging lens axis is too close to the column to permit proper use of my favorite four-blade adjustable easel. If you use two-blade, single-size, or borderless easels, you'll have no problem. Second, there is no provision for a footswitch on the PCS 2000, just as there was none on the PCS 130/150. It's a simple accessory, but one very necessary to my printing method.

At a list price of $699, the PCS 2000 is priced about $175 below the PCS 130/150 system. Philips believes that this rather substantial savings will be appreciated by folks for whom distortion control, condensers, and 6x7 capability hold no value. Why pay for it if you aren't going to use it?