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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fun with Negative Carriers: The Sequel

Like John Sexton, I use an LPL 4500II enlarger, though mine has the color head instead of the VCCE. But where he likes to be free to print the whole picture area or crop from there, I often like to print full frame with a black border all around, which makes me even more finicky about negative carriers than he is.

For 35mm, I used a metal file to enlarge the opening in the corresponding LPL glassless carrier. For my medium format negatives from 6x4.5 through 6x12, I use the LPL 4x5 glass sandwich carrier and put up with the dust hassles. 4x5 is a problem, though. My LPL glass carrier has an opening of 94x120 mm, which isn't enough to cover the 96x120 image area of a typical 4x5 negative, let alone the full image with a border all around. Some 6x12 cameras and rollholders, notably the models from Noblex and Linhof, produce a negative 120 mm wide as well.

I fiddled with a variety of home-brew solutions but ultimately bought an Omega E- series 5x7 glass sandwich carrier. No, it's not designed to fit the LPL 4500 series, but it will slide in and there's room to position it so that the negative can be centered within the film gate of the enlarger.

Doing that leads to another discovery about the LPL. There's a reason the negative carrier is cut so tight: the light source itself is designed to just cover the image area of a 4x5 negative with a teeny bit of margin around, and no more. So while FFWB printing from 4x5 is possible, it is a bit of a pain—everything has to be lined up just so.

There's one other problem that I'm surprised John didn't mention. He's a big fan of T-Max 100 film, which is distinguished not only by its exceptional sharpness, fine grain and smooth tonality, but also by its shiny emulsion side. Most glass sandwich carriers these days, the LPL among them, include a textured anti-Newton upper glass to eliminate Newton's rings generated where the glass touches the smooth surface of the film base. The emulsion side of virtually all B&W negative films, on the other hand, has enough texture that Newton's rings are not an issue. TMX is the exception, and is the only film I've ever used that can produce Newton's rings from the emulsion side.

To deal with Newton's rings from TMX I replaced the clear lower glass in my LPL carrier with a piece of Denglas, an anti-reflection coated glass usually found in professional frame shops, where it's used for high-end framing jobs. High-end, because Denglas is expensive stuff—it's priced by surface area, and you could spend hundreds of dollars for a piece of Denglas large enough for a modest-sized painting. Fortunately, a small piece like 4x5" is within reason—I paid $20 for mine. Because Denglas is prone to minor surface defects that are irrelevant in framing applications but problematic in the optical path of an enlarger, you'll need to find a frame shop that's willing to let you sort through a few pieces until you find an unblemished 4x5" area that they will carefully cut for you. Anti-reflection coated glass is also available under the Tru-Vue AR* brand. Be careful to ask for "anti-reflection" and not "anti-glare" glass—the latter typically has a surface texture that will show up in the print if you use it as the lower glass in the carrier.

Posted by: OREN GRAD

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