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

Solar Enlargers
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Introduction

Solar was the brand line of enlargers sold by Burke & James. I don't know whether B&J actually manufactured these enlargers themselves or simply purchased and branded them, as they did with many of their other products.

From what I've seen, I put these in the same category with Federal: they were low to mid-level enlargers aimed largely at amateurs who worked at home and needed a solid machine but couldn't afford the quality stuff.

I've never seen a Solar enlarger. In fact it wasn't until I began collecting old photo magazines that I became aware of them at all.


Quick Comparison

Model Country Era Format

Baseboard (inches)

Head Focusing Autofocus Column Ref Notes
120 USA Late 1940s thru 1960s 2-¼ x 3-¼" 22 x 25" Adjustable double condensers Rack & pinion No Single post 2, 3  
35mm USA Early 1960s 35mm 22 x 25" Double condenser Rack & pinion No Single post 1  
45C USA Late 1940s 4x5" n/a Double condenser Rack & pinion No Single post 2  
45C Press Autofocus USA Late 1940s 4x5" n/a Double condenser Bellows Yes Single post 2  
45 CR USA 1960s 4x5" 20 x 27 Double condenser Rack & pinion No Single post 3  
45 DR USA 1960s 4x5" 20 x 27 Diffusion Rack & pinion No Single post 3  
45QL USA Late 1940s 4x5" n/a Double condenser Rack & pinion No Single post 2  
57 USA Late 1940s 5x7" n/a Diffusion with light equalizers Rack & pinion No Single post 2  
57HC USA Late 1940s 5x7" n/a Double condensers Rack & pinion No Single post 2  
Auto II—120 USA Late 1940s 2-¼ x 3-¼" n/a Adjustable condensers Bellows Yes Single post 2  
Auto 66 USA Late 1940s 2-¼ x 2-¼" n/a Double condenser Bellows Yes Single post 2  
Solarmatic 120 USA Late 1940s thru 1960s 2-¼ x 3-¼" 22 x 27 Double condensers Rack & pinion No Single post, parallelogram 3  

Quick Comparison 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:

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.

Quick Comparison References

  1. Modern Photography magazine, October 1962
  2. Modern Photography magazine, December 1949
  3. Modern Photography magazine, February 1965