Erik van Straten is offline
Join Date: May 2008
A nice read.
The IIc is a formidable piece of engineering, the best enlarger ever built. Read this:
"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 IIc Enlarger.
Features: Accepts all negatives 12 x 17mm to 6 x 9cm (2-1/4 x 3-1/4 in.), cam-guided autofocus 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 IIc 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."