I shouldn't have done it. I already had three enlargers and my darkroom was cluttered to the point of being largely unusable. But it was potentially such a great deal and it had a famous name and, and…I just wanted it! It was another successful bid at a local auction that saw the Leitz Focomat 1C crossing the Robbins thresh-hold and stopping briefly to pose for an arty iPhone pic in the hall before being whisked upstairs.
Of course, given the state of the darkroom, it had to hang about outside for most of the day while I set about creating some space for it. The three enlargers already in place were the Leitz V35, the Durst L1200 and a Paterson PCS130. Sadly for the Paterson, it wasn't glamorous enough to make the cut so it was decommissioned and stored in a corner of the room with developing trays and tanks piled high on its baseboard. It's actually a very capable machine with a light source that ensures the print exposure is the same regardless of paper grade filtration, a useful feature indeed. It'll not be going anywhere as, for some reason, they don't fetch much money at all. I saw one go recently on Ebay for, I think, £4.99. Criminal.
|The Focomat 1C - a handsome beast.|
With a sudden burst of creativity I also managed to find homes for the stuff that was littering the work surfaces in the darkroom and covering the floor so the 1C has had the beneficial side effect of forcing me to knock the room into some sort of shape for printing. This was something I was determined to do after Marty in the comments recently said he missed my "darkroom antics". And it's true: the blog has been more like The Online Scanner in recent months so thanks, Marty, for the kick up the bum!
So what's the Focomat like? In a word, it's superb. This one is in great condition with hardly a mark on it. It even came with the rare Leitz plastic dust cover and a German-made Hauck timer. It's a beautifully made piece of equipment dating back to about 1972, around the zenith of the machine age. Everything on it is made "just so" and it's unbelievably smooth in action.
|An LFE (large front element) Focotar. The best or second|
best of the three 50mm Focotars depending on how you
value sharpness against a flat field.
|A new one on me - a Hauck timer. Seems to work just fine.|
I was pleased to see that it had an anti-Newton attachment on the underside of the condenser. The condenser sits on top of the negative and some darkroom workers - not all by any means - have been plagued by Newton's rings. This was an accessory that not everyone bought. The 1C is an autofocus enlarger that requires careful setting up. A quick look at it revealed that some tweaking is required but it's dead easy to do and I'll get it fixed shortly.
The 1C was made from 1950-77 and featured three Focotars over the years. The first Focotar lasted until 1970 and was said to be very good for modest enlargements but apparently didn't have a very flat field.
|Much to Phil Rogers' chagrin, I managed to find a space for the 1C. Phil quite|
fancied it if the darkroom turned out to be too cramped.
The second Focotar was introduced in 1970 and lasted four years. It's the one I have. It's identifiable by a larger front element and is sometimes known as the Focotar LFE. This was sharper and did have a very flat field.
The final Focotar, which lasted until 1979, surviving the demise of the 1C, was the Focotar-2. It's reckoned to be sharper than my version but didn't have quite as flat a field. For my purposes - enlargements of around 6x9 inches on 10x8 paper, the LFE probably makes most sense.
|A great triumvirate. I'll need to do them justice now.|
When I collected the 1C from the auction house, there was quite a lot of dust on it so that had to be cleaned off with a damp cloth. There was also some light rust on the column which responded well to the old scrunched up tin foil and water rub down. I'll smear some vaseline on the exposed metal parts as recommended by Leica to keep them healthy. It's now on the bench in my darkroom looking almost new. Being a thing of beauty, I fully expect it to be a joy forever.
So with the darkroom looking quite tidy again and the floor cleared of tripods, camera bags and God knows what else, I'm itching to get back to doing some printing. Hopefully I'll have something to show you before long.